SP Coy Account – Major Dennison, OC SP Coy
For this operation, Sp Coy consisted of: a Mortar Baseplate, the Milan group of the Anti-Tank Pl with five firing posts, the Drums Pl as the MG Pl, with six GPMG (SF) and one Bren Gun. Attached to the Company for movement were stretcher bearers, initially acting as ammunition carriers, a Blowpipe section, the RAP and the Press. Also to assist movement we had five Volvo BV’s, we had also “acquired” three tractors and trailers, one tractor with a box, a crawler tractor and sledge and four civilian landrovers. It should be added that throughout the operation on East Falkland, teams from the WOMBAT Section had been grouped with the three Rifle Companies as additional GPMG teams. The WOMBATS remained embarked on Canberra and Elk.
Company orders were given at 1300hrs at ESTANCIA HOUSE, around a model that had been made as a result of a recce by the Fire Team Commanders on 9th June. At 1600hrs we were flown to B Company’s position in order to marry up with our heavy equipment which had moved up by vehicle. At 1900hrs we received a flash signal informing us that the enemy in MOUNT LONGDON area had been increased by 1 ½ battalions. The Company were briefed on this increase. OC B Company took this signal to the CO, whose plan proceeded unchanged. After final co-ordination and at last light, the Company advanced towards MOUNT LONGDON.
The plan was that Sp Company would provide a fire base from the West and North West for a battalion silent night attack. We were only to open fire once the enemy were engaged. However, because TWO SISTERS was being assaulted by 45 Cdo after our own objective, we had to split our force into two groups, a manpack and vehicle borne group. Only one track was possible for vehicles, via the MURRELL BRIDGE but this could not be used until 45 Cdo were all clear of their Start Line – this did not happen until well after 0300hrs.
The manpack group consisted of: the six GPMG in the SF role with ammunition bearers carrying 600 link each. We had 18 bearers for this task. Five Milan detachments each carrying 3 missiles, the primary RAP group and the press (Les Dowd-Reuters and Tom Smith-Daily Express) The vehicle group consisted of the Mortar baseplate under CSgt Robson, the follow up Milan and GPMG ammunition on a sledge, the secondary RAP with a second doctor, the Blowpipe Section and 2 Troop, 9 PARA Sqn RE, minus its recce sections which were with the Company’s. The manpack group was commanded by OC Sp Company whilst the vehicle group was commanded by the Battalion 2ic, Major Patton. As the lead element of the Fire Base advanced, the vehicle group remained in A Company’s old location, North of MOUNT KENT, as it was only to advance once TWO SISTERS had been taken.
We found the crossing point at the MURRELL BRIDGE and continued to move East towards the Fire Base. It was just after the Company had crossed the river that we found B Company on our axis. A few minutes later in a peat bank the two Company’s did a cross over and it took a few minutes to reorganise. B Company had lost a Pl, but luckily Lt Oliver had spotted them and the flock was complete again. At the 300 contour West of MOUNT LONGDON, we dropped off the advance elements of the Mortar baseplates under Sgt Hallas. They had a .30 Browning manned by 9 Sqn as local protection against a similar weapon known to exist on TWO SISTERS.
Shortly before midnight, Sgt Colbeck informed us that he was firm in his allocated position due West of MOUNT LONGDON. He had one Milan and two GPMG’s. At 0015hrs the remainder of the Fire Base teams, under Major Dennison, Capt Mason and CSgt Knights, with the primary RAP under the RMO, Capt Burgess, were in position as A and B Company advanced from their Start Lines. They closed swiftly with their objective, without significant interference and the CO therefore ordered Capt Mason’s team to regroup with A Company on WING FORWARD. This was followed by CSgt Knight’s group being tasked to join B Company on the mountain. B Company then called for medics and were told by Major Dennison that the forward RAP and some stretcher bearers were already on their way to the West end of the mountain with CSgt Knights. Major Dennison, with CSgt Colbeck’s group, followed shortly afterward with the remainder of the stretcher-bearers. The time was about 0200hrs. Also, by this time the 2ic’s group had begun its advance towards the MURRELL RIVER. CSgt Knight’s joined 6 Pl on the ridge dominating the West end and began to engage the snipers firing from the centre of the ridge. Major Dennison’s group advanced up the hill underneath the enemy tracer. Meanwhile, Capt Mason’s group assisted A Company’s assault with two Milan. The RAP by this time, had established themselves at the base of the rocks. Just below the summit we came across D Coy clearing some Argentineans from their holes. These were subsequently taken down the hill.
Major Dennison then met up with the CO, gave him a SITREP and reorganised his sub-unit in the area. The time was now 0330hrs. Meanwhile the gun groups from CSgt Colbeck’s group assisted 6 Pl to engage the snipers on the forward slopes. Snipers were also engaged by CSgt Knight’s group with 84mm, 66mm, GPMG (SF) and finally Milan. The time was now approximately 0400hrs. Shortly after this, the CO ordered Major Dennison to reform the reform the Fire Base. He contacted Capt Mason who was already on his way to re-join him. The other groups were in the local news.
Meanwhile Major Dennison maintained contact with Major Patton’s group which by this time was crossing the MURRELL BRIDGE and passing through 45 Cdo’s Start Line. The Mortar baseplate was bedded in at approximately 0400hrs in its position on FREE KICK. Whilst Capt Mason’s group was moving to re-join us on the hills, Cpl Thompson was siting the left end of the Fire Base, CSgt Knight’s the centre and CSgt Colbeck the right. WO2 Caithness was continuing to spot for the GPMG’s his NOD. Major Dennison then contacted Major Collett and suggested that fire should be controlled by adjusting tracer – this was expected.
We soon led the Fire Base working (6 GPMG’s, 1 Bren Gun and 3 Milan) with the CSM directing on the NOD and Major Dennison adjusting based on the corrections given by A Company. The time was approximately 0500hrs. It was during this fire support phase that an enemy 105mm RCL round was fired along the ridge and killed Pte Heddicker, very seriously wounding Cpl McCarthy and Pte West and wounding LCpl Cripps, 216 Signal Sqn and Pte Sinclair. The two VSI cases died before they could be evacuated. Approximately 20 minutes later Major Dennison went to the scene and saw Cpl McCarthy and Pte West VSI being assisted by Pte Harley and Capt Mason. LCpl Cripps was shocked and had minor injuries. Pte Sinclair had been wounded by shrapnel. Pte Heddicker had received the full brunt of the round. It was only at first light that we could definitely establish that he was missing.
Meanwhile the Fire Base continued to fire in support of A Company. The Mortars were now being used in their normal role, supporting A and B Company. By this stage the enemy artillery DFs were moving slowly moving East, having initially dropped one kilometre West of the West end of the ridge.
Just as first light was approaching, sometime after 1000hrs, A Company ordered check firing. The DFs were now concentrating on us. The Company began to regroup. There was however, a problem for 6 Pl as four of their wounded were still out on the forward slope. Luckily, the mist came in and they were quickly recovered.
During the subsequent heavy artillery bombardment, the exhausted stretcher-bearers continued to work and earned the great respect of their comrades. At approximately 1100hrs the Company moved to the Northern slopes of MOUNT LONGDON and began to dig in, then have a brew. Never had it been more deserved, or more welcome.