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Whisper Who Dares — Part 1

  • Posted on 17 Jun 2024
  • 14 min read

By Jock Love

[The Airborne Poet Jock Love, detached from 4th Field Regiment Royal Artillery, to A Coy, 2 PARA as a signaller in the Forward Observation Party during the Falklands War, remembers the days after the Argentine surrender on June 14th 1982.

In this first of three short articles about those days, Jock recalls the service led by 2 PARA padre David Cooper in Christ Church Cathedral, Port Stanley on June 20th 1982.

Hermes thanks PRA South-East Regional Secretary David Smart, who first published Jock Love’s writings on his Parachute Regiment HSF website years ago and, of course, Jock Love whose work we are always proud to publish.]

Jock on the far left in the middle row with men of A Coy 2 PARA, photographed at Port Stanley Race Course on June 14th 1982

There was a church service that morning in the cathedral, in Stanley. 3 PARA had finally joined us and were living in whatever empty houses and various places of shelter they could find. Some of them were still living in improvised sangars made from sods of peat turf and built up into quite jazzy little blockhouse affair

Christ Church Cathedral, Port Stanley

We were passing the bottles around, which had been liberated from the Argie ration packs. We had found them in a large blue ship’s container, which we had broken the seals off. It was smack in front of the Governor’s house. They hadn’t contained the LVPT 7s and suchlike that we were expecting to find. Better an empty whiskey miniature hitting you in the back of the head, as opposed to a .50 cal. bullet. No contest regarding which one gives you the biggest headache, though.

We did the rounds and went to see that all the other OP parties were okay and that everyone was still intact. John, Patrick, Dinger and company were doing rather nicely in a Swiss-style chalet until recently occupied by the Argentine commander of the Malvinas Airforce. Here, there were full-sized bottles of whiskey and a joint of roast beef in the oven. We were all given a large shot of whiskey, and a slice of beef, then politely sent on our way as we had all become a bit pissed, and were now getting rather loud.

Surrendered Argentines in Port Stanley in June 1982

Everybody had decided to go back to where we were temporarily living and wait for the parade that was being held in the afternoon. As happens sometimes, when you get the taste, you don’t want to stop. I had the taste. I spied a couple of dodgy characters, and drifted away from the others, heading hopefully towards another drink.

I was invited into their humble abode. They told me they had been just talking to the owner of the house; who, they earnestly informed me, had told them to help themselves to the contents of his cocktail cabinet. He was so grateful for our efforts, apparently, that he felt it was the only way to repay us. My nefarious drinking companions shall remain nameless. In any case, I do not remember their names.

Once inside, it was apparent why my two new associates were pissed. There wasn’t a great deal left in the drinks cabinet. There was, however, a ship’s decanter, with what can be best described as diesel in it, with what appeared to be chilli peppers floating around in it. But it may have been dead things for all we knew, the state we were in at the time.

Argentine Army ration pack recovered in the Falklands in 1982. Note the miniature bottle of The Breeder’s Choice whiskey, a cheap and nasty Argentine copy of Scotch

They passed the decanter to me. “Cheers!”, they said in unison. That was enough for me to halt the progress of the bottle as it headed towards my lips. “You’ve had a taste of this already, then?”, I enquired. “Yes. Course we have!”, they replied, once again in unison, but their heads were shaking from side to side. A definite no-no.

We sat on the floor and had a debate about the contents of the decanter. We held it up to the light. We tried to set fire to it. We dipped our fingers in it. In the end, I caved in and took a small swig. It nearly blew my frigging head off. I don’t know what it was but I was nearly dying. It put my two companions off the idea. About ten minutes later, when I had stopped choking and was managing to breathe almost normally again, we left the little yellow house with the green corrugated roof. The decanter was the only thing left in a now very sorry-looking drinks cabinet.

On the road, forming up, were A Coy, 2 PARA and the lads. We drifted down to join them. We fell in, and the Sergeant Major started sorting us out, sizing off, for our march into Stanley. He asked for the gunners to put their hands up. If I had been just a bit more sober than I was, my hand would have stayed down.

A Coy, 2 PARA marching to the service conducted by Padre Cooper. Jock Love third from left with GPMG

The Sergeant Major wanted the machine-gunners, not the gunners from the Royal Regiment of Artillery. Too late. The next thing I knew was that I was the left-hand marker and I now had a General Purpose Machine Gun instead of my Sterling submachine gun. “Parade! Parade, ‘shun!. Will move to the right in columns, right turn! Dressing by the left, quick march!”. And off down the road we jolly well went.

There was a bit of audible shuffling behind me, which soon spread. I thought shades of France. But no, because we all began to shuffle, just a little bit. It was a slight downhill slope,to the cathedral. No big deal, under normal circumstances. Today ,we were half-pissed, the road was covered with chunks of ice, and slippy as hell.

A 3 PARA copy of the June 20th 1982 service — Courtesy of the Airborne Assault Museum

Oh, did I mention the world’s media? There were all these cameramen just outside the entrance to the cathedral. I was beginning to feel bad. I was sure I was going to end up on my arse in front of the world. Luck smiled down on us. We all stayed upright. Fortunately, they showed us from the waist up, missing out the little Eskimo Nell shuffle to a halt.

The Rev David Cooper

The church service was a bit of a blur. I believe it was 2 PARA’s padre who took it,  the Reverend David Cooper. A thoroughly nice man. I should know as he performed my wedding ceremony prior to sailing South. I was given four hours off to get married. Then we waited ten more days before we actually sailed.

The Reverend made us all laugh during the service, and it was captured on the world news. It was where he was asking us all to think of our loved ones back home. Our wives, girlfriends, dogs. I suppose you had to be there.

To be continued…

Giajl © Jim Love

Sent from my iPhone

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