Initial Skirmishes Of The Falkands War

21st April 1982 marked the beginning of the actual conflict to retake the Falklands. On this day, the SAS made an aborted attempt to land on South Georgia.

HMS Conqueror (the hunter-killer submarine which would later sink the ARA General Belgrano) was just off the coast when a Wessex helicopter from HMS Antrim landed a small party from the SBS near the Fortuna Glacier. Their aim was to attack the small Argentine force at Grytviken (some 25-30 miles away) from an unexpected direction.

However, it was not to be – the South Atlantic autumn was setting in, and the party were caught in heavy snow. When they were rescued on 22nd April, two helicopters were lost when they crashed in the thick fog.

A few days later though, a force of around 75 men from M Company, 42 Commando returned along with SAS and SBS, and after a demonstration bombardment from the supporting ships, re-took the island when the Argentine garrison surrendered.

The event was marked by two of the most memorable quotes from the war. Firstly, British Landing Forces’ commander Major Guy Sheridan RM’s message after the surrender at Grytviken:

Be pleased to inform Her Majesty that the White Ensign flies alongside the Union Jack in South Georgia. God save the Queen.

When this was announced back in Britain, the Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s response was:

Just rejoice at that news and congratulate our forces and the Marines.

This initial skirmish in the war wasn’t quite completed without a shot being fired (the Argentine submarine Santa Fe was attacked when trying to leave just before the final assault). But it was still seen at the time as a sign of how the main Falkland Islands might be re-taken with minimal bloodshed.

The main task force was still almost 2,000 miles from the Falklands, and I know that like many of us, my fictional character Jo Elliot would have been listening to every news bulletin, reading every headline and watching the TV news every night. Her older brother Colin was an army bandsman aboard the requisitioned QE2, and close friend Mark Duggan was aboard the (also fictional) HMS Gateshead – a Type 21 Frigate just like ill-fated HMS Antelope and HMS Ardent.

2,000 miles was just over a week’s sailing time – you can read how Jo coped with the events in the South Atlantic in my book, For Love and Glory – currently just £1.91 on Amazon.

FROM PONTELAND TO PORT STANLEY – FALKLANDS WAR 30 YEARS ON

John wearing his Falklands medal by the River Tyne

30 years ago, Geordie matlot John Mew was heading south on HMS Coventry as part of the British Task Force. He didn’t know then that his ship would be bombed and he plucked from the South Atlantic during the Falklands War. We knew him from his involvement with Ponteland Rugby Club in Northumberland where my husband Graeme played in the 1980s and 90s. When he was home on leave John would lead them in vigorous training and fitness sessions – with exacting Royal Navy standards!

After the Falklands conflict, John was generous in talking about his experiences and knowledge of the Navy when I was researching my novel, FOR LOVE & GLORY.

Amy, myself and John by the River Tyne

It is set in Wallsend on the River Tyne from where my husband’s family come. I have them to thank for much of the background information on this vibrant community where many of the world’s greatest ships were built. The Falklands material was inspired by veterans I’d read about – ordinary people who’d shown extraordinary courage – long after the short war was over and out of the news. But in particular, I’m indebted to our brave friend, John.

We met up recently to launch a new version of the novel. It’s now available as ebook for the first time. My daughter Amy is the model for the new cover!

These days it is John’s sons who are playing rugby for Ponteland – but I’m sure he can still teach them a thing or two about fitness!

FOR LOVE & GLORY ebook

The Falklands War of 1982

This week marks the 30th anniversary of the start of the Falklands war, which is being commemorated at the National Memorial Arboretum with the lighting of a single flame. This will burn for the length of the conflict – 74 days:

Several of the hundred ships that sailed for the South Atlantic less than a week after the invasion were built on the Tyne – HMS Bristol, HMS Glasgow, HMS Exeter, HMS Glamorgan, HMS Argonaut, HMS Penelope, HMS Cordella, RFA Omleda, RFA Stromness, SS Atlantic Conveyor and SS Atlantic Causeway.

It was through discussion with my husband’s family who lived in Wallsend, and a meeting with John Mew who served on HMS Coventry that I came to write For Love and Glory.

Over the next ten weeks, I (along with the rest of the British media!), will be covering the events in the Falklands from thirty years ago. Later THIS month, a new edition of For Love and Glory will be published – initially for Kindle, but the paperback version will be ready soon after.