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The day when the people of Fitzroy realised this is war

On the 42nd anniversary of the Argentine air force attacks on the Royal Navy Task Force that was liberating the Falklands in 1982, which left 56 British military personnel dead and 150 wounded, previously unseen interviews with those who ran the war have come to light in a Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust archive from a Channel 4 documentary series broadcast in 1992. 

Using hitherto unseen footage, which lay in an English farm barn for more than 30 years, the new 10-minute video has interviews which include: Admiral ‘Sandy’ Woodward, the Task Force commander, Major General Jeremy Moore, the Falklands Land Force commander, General Julian Thompson, commander 3 Commando Brigade and Commodore Mike Clapp, the Amphibious Assault Group commander.  They reveal their thoughts and emotions about the 8th June 1982 Argentine aerial bombing attacks which badly damaged HMS Plymouth, sank the landing craft, Foxtrot-4, with the loss of six crew lives, and put the Royal Fleet Auxiliary landing ships, Sir Galahad and Sir Tristram out of action, resulting in the greatest loss of life amongst British forces in a single incident since the Second World War.

Speaking in 1992, in the run up to the 10th anniversary of the war, the commanders had this to say:

Admiral Woodward RN: (It) was of course horrendous and understandably called a disaster in the press.”

General Jeremy Moore RM: “Of course, one wouldn’t have wanted those men to be there in that ship in daylight, to be subject to an air attack like that.”

Commodore Mike Clapp RN: “The protection was going to come from the low cloud. Unfortunately the cloud lifted.”

General Julian Thompson RM: “I didn’t dwell on it too much because that is the nature of war that you think about your own brigade, and other people’s brigades are their problem and not yours; which sounds callous, I know.

Lt Col Ewan Southby-Tailyour RM (Inshore Amphibious Advisor): “(I) felt so helpless I stripped off to the waist and carried stretchers for two hours.”

The new FMHT video also contains never-before-seen harrowing recollections from two of the medical team who treated the 150 casualties 42 years ago, Royal Army Medical Corps medic Sgt Pierre Naya, who was on board Sir Galahad, and Royal Marine Surgeon Commander Rick Jolly of 3 Commando Brigade, the doctor in charge of the Field Hospital in Ajax Bay where the wounded were taken.

Pierre Naya recalled: “The initial explosion physically lifted me; threw me. And I was dazed. Looked at the people behind me; there’s a lot of people, dying, injured, dead.”

Says Rick Jolly: “We couldn’t treat them all and I had to take this heartrending decision to get rid of those will less than 10% burns.”

Also in the FMHT video is an interview with Fitzroy resident, Bert Ford (nicknamed ‘Toot’), who was with a Royal Marines unit when the Argentinians attacked the Royal Navy Task force, which like the rest of the footage has lain unseen and unknown since May 1991: “I think that was the actual day when the people of Fitzroy really realised this is war,” said Bert Ford. “There’s no game.  They are here and we’re amongst it.”

EDITORS NOTE

Since the interviews were recorded in 1991 and 1992, four of the participants in the Channel 4 documentary series have died. They are:

Admiral Woodward: 4th August 2013 (81)

General Moore: 15th Sept 2007 (79)

Surgeon Commander Jolly: 13th January 2018 (71)

Sergeant Naya: October 6th 2012 (67)