Monday, 27 June 2016

Plan A / Plan B .... any ideas at all, Boris, Gove, Farage?

It would be funny, if it was not so disastrous for the UK that neither camp in the Tory's "Great EU Custard Pie Fight" had created any sort of plan if the 'leave' side won. It is reminiscent of their days as students in their 'Bullingdon Club'; in that they have trashed the place and left everyone else to clear up their mess. Yet this is one 'Bullingdon Club' night of 'horse play' that a large cheque to the restaurant from one of the 'Dad's' is not going to smooth things over, this time. The shareholders of the EU Restaurant are not playing, are on the verge of banning them sine die and setting the courts on them to boot, seeking to extract every last penny they can from the affair.

Scotland has already said they had nothing to do with the vandalism and destruction left by the custard pie fight, so could we keep our membership to the EU restaurant, please. It appears the EU shareholders have agreed this is the case but because of our relationship with the 'Bullingdon Club Bullies' (no matter how sketchy it actually is) we may have to be banned at first and then automatically let back in after the court case is settled. Some of the EU Restaurant shareholders are pointing out that Scotland's 'It wisnae me!' claim has merit and we should not be kicked out in the first place simply take over the 'Bullingdon Club's' privileged EU restaurant membership. After all Scotland has some of the biggest oil and gas reserves outside the Middle East and USSR, as well as its leading edge, re-usable energy industry and the soon to be constructed HVDC link with Norway as part of the North Sea super grid, "What's not to like?", is their view.

Meanwhile the vacuous Boris and his sniveling side kick, Gove, have recovered from their monstrous weekend hangover and slowly realised what they have actually done. First there was a lot of denial about what they had said or not said, then there was the attempt to pretend it was all just a lark, a bit of a prank really and finally the realisation they were in the thick and steaming without a pitchfork. This time a cheque from the 'Bank of Daddy' was not going to save their bacon, so they did as any good bully does, blame the other side. It was all the remain side's fault there was no plan to sort out and pacify the EU Shareholders, after all Boris and his buddies Gove and Duncan-Smith were not in government, just members of the party of government, so they were not responsible (in that they may well of hit the nail firmly on the head). The other side of the Tory Great EU Custard Pie Fight said, "Nyah, Nyah, nyah - we're taking our ball home. Ya! Boo! Sucks!" in response, leaving the UK leaderless, rudderless and crashing onto the rocks of economic disaster and currency collapse. Some folk asked how long the Tory Party of government would remain in a huff with itself, only to be told October at the earliest, even then the bickering and in fighting over who was to blame, was unlikely to stop.

With Scotland seeking to sort out its membership and stay in the EU what does this mean for England and Wales having voted out. The media is full of the reality of the economic crash the vote has resulted in, the drop in the pound and the 'high value' finance jobs which are already leaving the City of London in an ever increasing volume, so instead lets think about agriculture and fisheries in England and Wales.

Both sectors are pretty reliant on EU grants and subsidies to survive, especially the hill farmers of Northern England and Wales whose incomes will collapse on the loss of EU farm subsidies. The human impact is immediate these folk will lose their livelihoods and the roof over their head when they cannot pay the rents. Many rural communities will collapse as people move out to find work in the urban conurbations. The land will lie fallow and with out controlled grazing the sheep will cause damage to environment of England and Wales' remote landscapes with ever increasing erosion. If the sheep are removed along with the people then the hills and dales will see a return of scrub grass land and, eventually, natural re-forestation, as native species re-establish. The negative impact on Lake District tourism would be sizable if the Fells returned to being covered in rough scrub forests, changing its famous sky lines which are currently managed by sheep grazing to keep them looking 'natural'.

As for the arable and dairy sector, the loss of EU grants and subsidies will send many farms into bankruptcy as their cash flow becomes impossible and their profitability drops well below operating costs. Many dairy farms are teetering on the edge of bankruptcy in the current financial situation, so it will not take much for the banks to call in their overdrafts, flooding the land market with unsaleable dairy farms, further driving down the value of farming in England and Wales.

South Coast fisheries are mainly inshore so the loss of grants may not be that big an issue, then you get to Grimsby, Plymouth and Newlyn where there are sizable numbers of off shore boats who rely on EU fishery licenses to make their living and where a 12 mile limit is not going to do much for them in terms of a sustainable income. Throw in a lot of the off shore crews are 'immigrants' from the EU, as locals will not go on the boats, as it is to messy and too much like hard work, then where are the owners in Grimsby, Plymouth and Newlyn going to get their crews and then where will they send their boats to catch sufficient fish to pay their way, as most of their current fisheries will be closed to them as a 'non EU state' and the cost of gaining EU licenses to fish EU waters will become prohibitive, even if England and Wales joins EFTA. Maybe they could cut a deal with Norway or Iceland but neither are famous for their generosity in sharing their fisheries.

Now imagine looking at all the aspects from EU inward investment on infrastructure projects from Northumberland to Cornwall, through to the Erasmus program which facilitates under and post graduate students doing courses at Universities across the EU and ask just how is Boris and Gove going to replace all that EU funding and support to the English and Welsh regions?

The only feasible way will be for the treasury of England and Wales to cut down the current high levels of investment in the Greater London area. No HS2, no third Heathrow runway, no more cross rail, no Trident replacement, no fancy F35 fighter bombers, sell off the two aircraft carriers lying idle at Rosyth, no more 'deals' with the City of London on tax breaks and other fiscal goodies. In other words 'The House of Fools' at Westminster will have to sup small beer and accept they are now a medium sized country, of limited wealth, with a weak currency, on the edge of Europe that few other countries will give a toss about. Not exactly what Boris, Gove et al sold the English and Welsh voters with their 'sun lighted fields' claims.

For those still pondering the currency issue on independence, ask yourselves why would Scotland want to share such a thread bare currency as the pound sterling is becoming and likely to remain for a long time. It makes more sense for Scotland, after independence, to sell off its sterling reserves for US dollars and have its new currency track the US dollar. Given Scotland is likely to remain an oil and gas producer for many decades to come and energy tends to be traded in US dollars this makes a lot of sense, to me.

Friday, 24 June 2016

Here endeth the UK Union

England is having that Forrest Gump moment, "The stupid is as stupid does" one.

In the space of 24 hours they have turned themselves into 'Johnny no mates' as capital and international jobs are already winging their way out of the City of London and the pound hits a 40 year low.

Ms Sturgeon has today made clear yesterday's vote has now triggered the process for a second referendum on Scottish independence unless the Tory Party at Westminster can somehow wiggle themselves off the very 'EU exit' shitty stick they are perched on. Negotiations with the EU to be the UK successor state on England, Wales and NI exit are underway.

Meanwhile in Northern Ireland the Unionist side are under pressure to start considering Irish reunification as the only way to protect investment and jobs which are highly reliant on EU subsidies. Folk in NI are getting very concerned that both sides of the militant divide are busy re-arming and a return to the bad days of the 70's and 80's is closer than many think as entrenched views turn nasty.

All because Cameron made his party's nasty and corrosive internal split over the EU into a public event.

To trade in with the EU a non EU England, Wales and NI will have to pay as much as they pay for EU membership at present, EFTA does not come free; ask Norway. They will have no say or veto of any EU trade agreements or requirements, it will be take it or leave it. The USA is not going to be happy as it looses its mole within the EU on a UK exit. Trident replacement is a busted flush as there is no where for the current Trident to go once the Union ends on England Wales and NI's exit. There will be no negotiating any stay, the Scottish people have made that very clear and will expect the SNP Government to request its removal as a priority before the Union is ended by Westminster's EU exit.

On the plus side we will see a soon to be Scottish Government looking to purchase six of BAE's new Type 26 frigates from their Clyde Yard and the revamp of Faslane as the main Scottish Navy base creating truly local jobs. Given the problems with the Type 45 Destroyers the English Navy can keep them but what are they going to do with the new carriers as Scotland does not need them as we are seeking to create a 'defence force' and not one to go 'projecting itself' on the world stage as the USA's stooge and arse licking supplicant.

The tax offices the Tories are busily closing down across Scotland will be reopened, benefits will be reformed to actually protect the most vulnerable and not punish them while NHS Scotland will be properly funded and not by robbing Peter to pay Paul, as happens at present.

We know an independent Scotland will be a wealthy country, Mr Cameron let that one slip last week with his comments about Norway's Oil Fund. Our major industries' EU markets will be protected and developing energy industries in the wind and tidal sector supported and encouraged. Fracking will be shown the door along with GM crops because we will no longer have to pay lip service to Westminster politicians and their multinational party funders.

Here we Scottish Independence supporters are, standing on the edge of what many of us have wished for since 1979 or before and yet I am left with a bad taste in my mouth. There is something hollow and empty in winning because your opponent has shot themselves in both feet and then through the head, as their lies and deceits catch up with them. It is too easy to laugh at Ruth's discomfort as she and her Unionist Scottish Tories have their Union flag decorated knickers around their ankles while desperately seeking Saltire replacements. Kieza's Labour still does not which way is up, guesses they are on the right side for once but can not work out just quite why - anyway SNP baad and the Libdems are Forrest Gump.

Friday, 17 June 2016

Our Fractured Society

What we are seeing in the tragedies at both Orlando and Batley is the same phenomenon of the marginalised, dis-empowered men on the margins of society who seek to take power back for themselves through violence against people who they consider have made them 'victim' and because they feel this is the only way their 'voice' will be heard.

The media on both sides of the pond are busy pointing fingers in the wrong direction to find the 'easy' answer for their readers and viewers. It is lazy simply to call these men 'unstable loners' who are 'disturbed individuals' with 'extreme political views' because to do so allows the politicians to ignore the reason why these men became isolated from society in the first place. The politicians can then gloss over why more men and women in both the USA and UK feel a similar sense of ever increasing isolation, as they too are pushed onto the margins of their society. People who find themselves increasingly reliant on food banks and other hand outs simply to keep starvation from their door. Many of those feeling increasingly marginalised in the UK are people who if you met them in the street you would never think they should be. They are the archetypal solid UK citizen who finds themselves on their uppers through unemployment, zero hours contracts, descent into ill health or minimum wages. The people who would never normally be considered 'benefit scroungers' and just need help and support, they hope, until they get themselves back on their feet. The same people who are now being criminalised by right wing politicians and their propaganda media magnifying glass in the never ending pursuit of the failed political and economic dogma that is the current model of neo-liberal, Western Capitalism.

In 'Das Kapital' Marx discusses his theory of the impact of the ever increasing demands of the pursuit of profit on the individual and its destructive action. Simply put every human being has a certain 'value' in terms of a balanced return of work given to society versus the return from society (the same idea was put forward by Adam Smith 50 years earlier in The Wealth of Nations). Marx pushed the argument beyond Adam Smith's contention of "a fair days work for a fair days pay" to argue the constant search for increased profit destroys this balance as 'work given' becomes ever greater while the return back to the individual is ever decreasing. This is a massive over simplification of Marx's core argument but is the basis of his assumption that capitalism will eventually destroy itself because profit is finite and thus 'revolution' is inevitable. A revolution which Marx considered would return the balance back to one which is sustainable by human beings, a social revolution such as the Beveridge Report inspired welfare state and NHS brought into being just after the Second World War in the UK, a social revolution which current Tory political dogma seeks to reverse and undo in the pursuit of increased profit and unfettered neo-liberal capitalism.

The new revolution against neo-liberal capitalism is underway across Europe, the striking workers in France, the mass marches against TTIP in Germany, the anti-austerity protests in Greece and the Junior Doctor's strike in the UK. In the latter case no politician nor media reporter appears to be grasping the message behind the mass support given the junior doctors by the English public. All attempts to demonise the junior doctors dispute by the Tory's friends in the media has fallen on stony ground, the English public know what is happening and are saying thus far and no further Mr Hunt, as far as the NHS in England goes. Sadly the same public still seem to be buying the 'immigrant benefit scrounger' line but as anger with regards the sick and disabled and their treatment by this government grows even this may begin to change. The same can been seen in the armed forces as more and more serving and ex-service members are making their work conditions and the UK government failings in support of the 'Armed Forces Covenant' be known widely where as two or three decades ago this very public presentation of UK Government's military 'dirty washing' would have been unthinkable.

We tend to think of Marx's political revolutions in terms of the Bolshevik Revolution of 1916 and its bloody aftermath and metamorphosis into the murderous repression of Stalinism. This is of course why 'Marxism' is claimed to be so dangerous to the Western political system. The problem with this argument is what happened in Russia post 1916 was not Marxism in any shape or form because Marx argued for social balance and liberty for all as the outcome of any post capitalist revolution as this was the only way the natural balance of sustainable 'profit' could be re-established. This is miles away from the command economy and the Gulags of Soviet era Russia or the 'Communist manifesto' of RISE or the SSP which is Stalinist and not Marxist in its roots and makes claims for a worker's paradise, one where only the political apparatchiks and intellectuals of RISE and the SSP know what is best for the 'workers'.

Scotland has seen a Marxist style revolution since 2000 with the rise and rise of the SNP as the electorate elected politicians who they consider are seeking to restore balance (fairness) into Scotland's society. We see the combination of Adam Smith and Marx's thinking in Scotland's 'living wage' program, we see the 'protection' of Scotland's NHS against excessive profit extraction by Westminster, we see the alleviation of the worst impacts of Westminster's welfare reforms; all as part of this process of returning the necessary creation of profit back into 'balance' as part of society in Scotland and not as the sole purpose of society which current mainstream neo-liberal political and economic theory would have us believe. The opposite of the Gordon Geko style claim the Cameron and Boris Tories sell of 'Greed being good'.

The tragedies of Batley and Orlando lie in the ever increasing fracturing of society as a result of the current excessive pursuit of ever greater profit at the expense of us as humans. A cost which will be paid for in increasing incidences of violence, by those who feel powerless, against innocent bystanders who are seen as agents of the 'state' and the cause of all suffering. These attacks are a symptom of the increasing failure of the present model of Western capitalism which current US and EU governments will try to cover with the veneer of 'terrorism' and the claims the perpetrators are just 'loners and nutters'. 

Yet to accept this view is similar to a cancer specialist ignoring precancerous lesions until the point where the patient's cancer is incurable and hides a far more serious problem growing in the heart of Western society.

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Why any 'quick fix' for NHS Scotland's GP shortage is a nonsense.

I want to tell you the story of why there is a GP shortage not just in Scotland but across the UK.

In simple terms it is the result of the deal which brought the NHS into being in 1948 which ensured a ‘shortage’ to protect consultants and some GP’s private practices and get the BMA ducks into line.

By 1960 it was already clear the ‘deal’ was unsupportable but instead of increasing places at UK medical and dental schools, the government of the day decided to import doctors from Commonwealth countries instead. This created a shortfall in the Indian sub-continent and Africa from which they are only now recovering but that, in British Imperialist eyes, was ‘OK’. As late as 1970 a medical career was not a good option for many University students as is seen by a SCE Higher requirement of four B’s and a C getting you an entrance interview for Edinburgh. The entrance requirement is now five A’s, all in one sitting, but realistically if you do not have at least one A* you can forget it.

In the early 1980’s the Thatcher Government jumped on a manpower paper which suggested by 2000 the UK would see medical and dental graduate unemployment, then gleefully shut down three dental hospitals and reduced funding for medical places; this was in spite of the reality there were already shortages of GPs and DGPs across the UK which immigration was no longer filling. In 1985 the UK had the worst GP/DGP to patient ratios across the EU. The Tory answer was to impose NHS medical and dental contracts which increased work load on GP/GDPs but not the funding required to deliver treatment in real terms. William Waldegrave’s tactic, as Tory health minister, was described as screwing down the safety valve on the NHS pressure cooker to see what would happen. What happened was GDPs left NHS dental practice at an ever increasing rate from 1990 onwards and GP recruitment which was already weak, started collapsing. Of course when silly GDPs and GPs like myself tried to point this out to the UK’s general public we were labelled as ‘greedy’ and ‘protectionist’ by the Tory press of the day while folk inside the BMA and BDA tried to shut us up because we were ‘rocking the boat‘ and ‘upsetting relationships with government ministers and departments’. In much the same way as we have recently seen the current medical establishment in the form of the ‘Royal’ colleges and Tory media trying to demonise the junior doctors in their current, legitimate dispute with the DoH.

If we turn to Scotland, due to longstanding Uk Government under funding of medical and dental undergraduate courses from the 1980’s onwards the only answer the medical and dental schools had to meet the actual funding costs of the course was to encourage overseas students paying large tuition fees and UCCA applications from England. On most medical and dental undergraduate courses in Scotland 50% or less are Scots while over 50% are female who will, in all probability, take time out to have children and return to job share positions in their late 30’s early 40’s. This is not a rant against female doctors but simply to highlight further the recurring recruitment problems within any attempted resolution of the current lack of GPs in Scotland. In simple terms if you could double the current places at Scottish medical and dental schools and reserved the extra places only for graduates who would remain in Scotland for the whole of their working life (ignoring the human rights and freedom of contract issues such a move would create). Then if all these extra graduates had to become GPs; the reality is the current hole in GP recruitment and pressure on Scottish GPs will not see any real change for the good until 2026 at the earliest. The sting in the tail is the final tranche of ‘baby boom’ generation GPs and GDPs are reaching retirement age over the next ten years on top of the current shortage of NHS GPs and GDPs.

The idea that the SNP or any devolved government can simply wave some magic wand and reduce the massive shortfall of trained medical personnel caused by insufficient undergraduate training places over the last 70 years is a nonsense. This is a problem the UK has had for a long time and has created for itself through UK Government indifference and public ignorance. The NHS managed its first personnel crisis in the 1960’s by importing crates of doctors and nurses from Commonwealth countries and then carried on regardless assuming folk would always want to work in the NHS, no matter what.  This assumption is now on the point of collapse as UK trained doctors and dentists emigrate in increasing numbers and it gets harder and harder to import replacements from Eastern Europe or the Far East.

There is only one place the blame can be laid for the collapsing NHS GP services across the UK and that is on the UK Parliament at Westminster.

Monday, 13 June 2016

What is there left to say?

This morning I switched on my tablet and took the first stab at trying to make sense of the weekend from the e-pages of theNational. I flicked through the BBC News site to catch the Unionist view and trailed a few posts on Facebook - then I switched the tablet off. I could not take anymore of the hyperbole, anger, mis-truths and misinformation pouring out of news outlets as diverse as Fox News, Sky or RT under the cover of editorial perogative pretending to calm us children down with a line which basically came over as "What violence? / Look the Queen's 90 (yet again)!"

Fundamentally I do not care whether Russian 'football' supporters kicked ten bells of shit out of English 'football' supporters or not. I only wish they had been kettled into the local Roman period coliseum and each handed a gladius and a sheild and allowed to fight to the death rather than trampling the innocent and non football supporters into the dust.  What does gall and give rise to incredulousity are the attempts by the English media to blame the Russian supporters while their compadres at RT point the finger at English supporters and their rioting that preceded the match. The truly unforgivable point from both sides whether BBC or RT is the description of these English Neanderthals as being 'British' football supporters when there is clearly no GB side at the Euro bean feast.

Those who have bothered to attempt to follow the continuing Tory civil war known as the European Exit / Remain campaign would probably be confused as to whether they were not simply watching a re-run of the pre and post match violence involving English Football fans or not. From both sides of the Tory divide all we here is the claim of them being the true Britains, the ones who hold the needs of the British Public dear to their hearts and who are completely right in what they say while the other side are just liars who want to tear the country (aka the Tory Party) apart. The verbal missiles are thrown by both sides of the Tory divide, the threats of violence and unremitting hatred flow as the two sides press and sway against the thin red line of British popular opinion each terrified the thin red line will fail and they will have to face up to each other toe to toe, "mano a mano", no holds barred in some political version of a UFC event with David Dimbleby as referee. 

As a matter of fact it could be quite entertaining to put Cameron and Boris in a proper UFC cage just to see how pathetic the pair really are when it comes to actually being 'hard'. Hand bags at forty paces is more the likely outcome. Once more the BBC conflates the Tory Party as being a 'British Party' when the reality is they are an English Party and predominantly of the SE of England 'home counties' at that. Not that much different grouping from the rioting English football fans in many respects, it appears.

The sickener for me was the coverage of the massacre in a Orlando LBGT nightclub on Sky and Fox via clips posted by LBGT friends in the US. What was indefencible was the UK Sky News front woman's attempts to blame the massacre on the fact these people were LBGT. Owen was correct walking away stating he was not willing to be part of such ignorance or condone Sky News' attempt to blame shift and to suggest if these people had not been gay they would not have been killed. On the back of this there are the outbursts of so called 'fundamentalist' Christian preachers and their church elders across the US claiming this was "God's justice" being smote on these perverts and paedophiles, hallelujah and pass the .45 calibre munitions.

Meanwhile the BBC News tries to peddle the Orlando massacre as a 9/11 style Muslim terrorist attack rather than just man of unsound mind, who just happens to be of the Islamic Faith, with far too easy access to automatic weapons and ammunition, courtesy of the NRA and the general indifference of the US public. Nor will the BBC address the reality that many more US citizens will die this month through the mishandling of their own or friend's fire arms. The real terrorists and killers at work in the USA are the leaders and membership of the NRA as they continue to defend the indefencible not this angry, unstable and misguided individual.

The common thread here is the BBC and other UK media outlets clear attempts to shape the 'news' to fit the UK establishment's political agenda and not reporting what actually is happening. Yet still far too many of the UK public swallow this tasteless pap with a relish which is quite disgusting, as it fits with their own prejudices and ignorance.

It leads me to the conclusion that I have nothing left to say but; enjoy your pap.

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Silent voices: Screaming aloud 4

One of my first jobs after qualifying, as a dentist, was putting a motor cyclist’s face and jaws back together while the plumbers threw away his spleen, joined up bits of his intestines, having removed leaky bits, and a chunk of macerated liver while the joiners went to work bolting long bones back together. I had to carefully hold his eye while the oral surgery consultant placed a carbon fibre, Teflon coated plate to form the bottom of his no longer existing eye socket floor in the vain hope he would still be able to see: at least his eye would not fall out or drop into his maxillary sinus which would be terribly unfortunate, not to say embarrassing when our motor cyclist sneezed at a party, for example. The next step was to re-attach his forehead, with eye sockets to his cranium so we could wire his left and right maxilla back in place after that there was the straight forward job of plating his lower jaw together reducing the bilateral dislocation of said lower jaw and stabilise the whole kit and caboodle so it would mend properly. All the time we were doing this precision work we were listening to the bickering of the plumbers over Telegraph crossword clues and answers with the anaethetist while the smell of burning bone and sounds of drilling and hammering drifted up from the joiners. I mention this not to simply poke fun at General and Orthopaedic Surgeons, which I am, but also so you understand I am quite used to dealing with extreme trauma and devastating human deformation, in moderation, and was planning to train as an oral and plastic surgeon with a special interest in oral cancer and cleft palate. At Ajax Bay, in the meat processing factory, moderation was passé. You were faced with glut or famine.

The first epidemic came from the fact the boots supplied by the MoD to the troops were not fit for purpose and it struck mainly at 40 and 45 Commando yomping up to Teal Inlet; the combination of cold plus leaking boots plus feet that never were dry, constantly subject to temperatures just above freezing were a perfect recipe for Trench foot and Royal’s being Royals ignored the pain and chunks of their feet sloughing off when they removed their socks because they did not want to let their mates down. Grown men were in tears when their RAP team told them enough was enough and sent them back down the line to us as their feet ulcerated and scabbed. We would get them and their feet clean and dry, treat any obvious infection, the not too bad stayed with us as extra orderlies but for many they were just getting in our way so it was into a helicopter and off to the hospital ship, SS Uganda, their fight over before they even started because someone at the MoD had not ensured that: boot, infantry - for the use of, could do its bloody job. 3 Para had much the same problem on their tab, I reckoned for both the Royals and Paras, Trench foot counted for one in five of their casualties on the Falkland Islands.


I had brought my own Miendhal’s with me, well broken in, no leaks, properly lined and snug as a bug in the rug. I know quite a few of the Marines sent home to ask for their own hiking boots to be sent out along with waterproof leggings and jackets. The problems with the boots is just another reason why the Welsh Guards went forward, by sea, to Bluff Cove – if you forget about the fact they were not combat fit having pranced around in front of Buckingham Palace for six months on ceremonial duties and were only there because some army chap in the MoD wanted to ensure the Brigade Guards were properly represented. Couldn’t risk leaving the recapture of the islands to the Navy’s Bootnecks and ‘Johnny come lately’s’ like the Paras and the new fangled assault and special duty, spearhead brigade they formed. So Five Brigade pitched up with its Ghurkhas (yippee, go Johnny Ghurkha, go) and the Squelch Guards (the Royal Lard arses).

Most of the casualties we saw and treated off the frigates and destroyers were burns of some lesser or greater degree where we would put a medium freezer bag over a badly burnt hand or a large freezer bag over a foot then seal it, burns to limbs were routinely cling filmed after the Flamazine had been liberally spread – all to stop the casualty dehydrating as lymph leaked out of their blood and evapourated.  In really bad cases we would try and find a bit that was not burnt (or not too badly burnt) and put in an IV line with Heamocel, a Metroniadazole chaser and a side of morphine. Just as suddenly as we were busy, our clients would be whisked off to the hospital ship and we would return to the ‘brain in neutral, finger up bum’ mode; conserving energy until the next time. 

On the evening of the 27th May we got busy. We were fully prepared, having been briefed about 2 Para’s assault on Goose Green and were still doing the final setting up when the BBC’s World Service announced the attack on Goose Green was going in nearly two hours before the actual H-hour we were preparing for. Rick Jolly ‘Superstar’ contacted 3rd Commando Brigade HQ to ask if the attack had gone in early. He got a bit of a flea in his ear until he stated so we all could hear, “With respect, Sir, the BBC World Service has just announced that British Forces are attacking Goose Green.” As we watched Commander Jolly’s not very jolly face we sensed the pause at the far end, a quick check that the Commander was not pulling their chain and a Jolly smile as he was told it was a BBC fuck up. The Casevac helicopter scoots in to the hard standing, going into in a zero height hover. The orderlies dash out when signalled by the Flight Deck Officer (FDO), one man to a walking wounded two or three to a stretcher, as soon as the orderlies are safely clear the FDO waves off the helicopter and brings the next one in by the time the casualties are in triage the orderlies are out bringing the next load in under a minute a well defined and organised working area becomes a spiders web of stretcher and walking wounded which within two minutes becomes like a picture of hell painted by Peter Breughel senior. Screamers can wait, if they have energy to scream they are not near dying – you check the silent and low moaners and get your LMA to stick morphine into the screamer if they do not have a head wound – just to shut him the fuck up. You see the tell tale ten pence size hole of a high velocity round entry wound, mid right thoracic (chest). The orderly cuts the battle dress off, you flip the casualty over and see a dinner plate sized exit wound while within the wound your head torch shows no signs of bleeding and few signs of remaining lung, eyes unresponsive to light, blood pressure is low, pulse thin and rapid. You get an IV line in and mark his tag as a 1 – not quite dead and get the LMA to wrap cling film around the casualty’s chest to see if you can re-inflate his other intact lung. Futile, most certainly - but you have to try one last throw of the dice; your team and the walking wounded tell you to do something with their eyes, eyes you feel following you from casualty to casualty. You take two minutes maximum and leave the patch and stop team to do their bit – next. Head wound, heavy bleeder, angled entry wound in front of ear, exit wound same side, eyes responsive to light, blood pressure good, pulse pretty steady – serious wound but survivable mark him 2, get an IV line in, heamocel, prep him for surgery and give the surgeons some work, you are saying all this as you check his body for the quiet wounds, the sneaky wounds, the ones that could kill that the obvious bleeder is taking your attention from, two minutes – next in under fifteen minutes two dozen casualties are sorted and the surgeons are put to work, part of your team clean up and re-stock while the rest of you deal with the minor trauma of the walking wounded.

Maybe a fun job like taking pieces of white phosphour from the burnt and dead flesh of a wound, hearing them start to sizzle as they move from being buried in an oxygen free wound into the normal atmosphere as you quickly place them under water in a kidney dish to stop the sizzle from becoming a re-ignition and a white heat of around 1000 Centigrade. Then it maybe some poor Argentinian conscript who has been told god only knows what stories about the Paras or Royals cutting their bollocks or some other part of their external anatomy off. You try your Franglo-Spanish-Latin; “Gentile, gentile, este video par blesse. OK?” He relaxes, he is wearing a down jacket, there is no sign of blood but he looks pale, “Mucho fredo” he whispers, the LMA tells you his BP is plummeting. You get his down jacket off and reveal at least two thoracic and one abdominal wound. There is no time to shout and scream ‘Who missed this fucking disaster?’ You are too busy trying to pick up a vein, when they are all collapsing on you; you get a line in. His body sucks up the Heamocel as fast as you can pour it in to him, dilution of his remaining blood is going to be a major problem and potentially stop his heart. You call for O negative and get another line in, to start putting blood in as well. In your mind you are repeating the same mantra – fuck, fuck, fuckity, fuck – a surgeon piles through and starts putting haemostats on major bleeding sites he can see or feel in the wounds. The casualty’s BP stops its plummeting and hovers around some sort of life sustaining stability; you call out for another two pints of O negative, two of Sodium Chloride and hear the sound of an incoming Wessex helicopter. It is certainly not Santa and his little helpers on their way, the surgeon mouths; “Fuck off, I’ve got this one”. You stand up, flex your shoulders, try to get the knots out of your neck muscles, take a deep breath, pretend to relax for the benefit of the resuscitation team, roughly give your hands a wash with an anti bacterial hand rub, wipe them on a bit of manky green service issue towel that probably puts as many bugs back onto your hands as the hand rub rub killed off, check the team is ready, as another dozen casualties are brought in from the helicopter and like Postman Pat you get back to sorting them into the right onward delivery boxes and store them appropriately, until they can be delivered or transferred elsewhere.

Mid afternoon on the 28th you are still going but now it is ‘tagging and bagging’ the zeroes, the ones that never made it back from Goose Green. The 2 Para’s CSM and the 2 Para RAP team are tenderly looking after their own boys making sure they a properly labelled and their resting place is marked on the burial plan. The CSM’s tears are running down his cheeks as he puts his ‘Sunray’ to rest along with the other Para casualties. The Triage and Resuscitation Green defence watch is dealing with the Argentineans while my Red Watch is on call manning triage and resuscitation front shop. They deal with the mix of professional soldiers and conscripts which equal tenderness but are angry when they find few, if any, of the conscripts carry any form of ID disc. They give them numbers and complete descriptions where they can, identifying any distinguishing marks but you are left with the strong feeling these kids are just necessary discards for the Junta in Buenos Aeries in their need to hold onto ‘Las Malvinas’ at any cost. These kids from poor homes for whom the state did not have much of a care for in the first place. Once the 2 Para had their burial service and a layer of sand had been put over the Paras, to delineate friend from foe, the Argentinean’s were laid on top in a greater number. A Royal Marine Catholic Priest prayed for their souls and the absolution of their sins, sprinkled some Holy Water, kissed his crucifix, bowed his head then turned and walked away as the next coating of sand went over the new layer of the dead – a ‘Mille Fueille’ of war, if you like.

The forward surgical support unit at Teal Inlet was also now in full operation and was nearer the Hospital ship ‘box’ and so most of the casualties from the occasional fire fight went their way. We were still seeing the sad trail of Royal’s and Para’s sent back with Trench foot, angry with a MoD who could not even order effective foot wear. When they found the stock of Argentinean boots taken off the wounded or the dead, their eyes lighted up and immediately started sorting them out into pairs and sizes, taking boots to fit themselves and then sending the rest forward, to their mates, as a preventative measure. Argentinean boots were definitely fit for purpose and our lads wanted to get their hands on some. The use of Argentinean boots meant that many of the Trench foot casualties, we had previously  been sending to the SS Uganda, could be returned, in due course, to the front line in their new, warm and dry footwear. 

Happy Days!

Next heads up was 42 Commando’s jump forward by helicopter to secure Mount Kent, no one knew if it would be a hot Landing Zone or not, ‘D’ section SBS were going to act as the ‘beacon troop’ and went in the night before to ‘Recce’ the lie of the land. They were soon in a pretty intense fire fight but with support from the 105mm field guns of 29 Commando (Artillery) and Mk 8 4.5 inch of HMS Avenger they eventually pushed the Argentinean’s off the mountain with only light casualties. By the time the Argentineans re-grouped to counter attack the whole of 42 Commando was on the mountain so sensibly they retreated back to their next defence line centred on Mount Harriet and flanked by Mount Longdon and Tumbledown Ridge.

The following day I was informed that Red Watch was to support 5 Brigade’s RAMC forward surgical support team going into Bluff Cove, it had been decided that our experience would be a great help until they got the hang of things. We packed our triage and resuscitation kit into air transportable boxes, packed our own kit and were relayed forward to join the RAMC team on Sir Galahad. I arrived in Sir Galahad’s wardroom to be met with a major bust up between a Welsh Guards Major and Captain Southeby-Taylor RM (who was to be beach master for the landing) over the order kit and men were going to be landed. It ended with Southeby-Tailor warning if they did not land the men and gear as fast as possible, and sort out the mess ashore, he would not be held responsible for the consequences. To which the Welsh Guards Major replied I out rank you, as a Guards Major I am equivalent to a RM Lieutenant Colonel so we will be doing it my way. I had never seen Southeby-Tailor this mad. He saw me, or maybe my naval insignia on the RM Lovats, after much unburdening of what he thought of the Welsh Guards in general and this ‘F’in Major’ in particular he asked me what I was doing here. I explained and he said fine, as beach master I am ordering you ashore to set up a RAP for the Royal Marine contingent because this idiot Major is going to get a lot of people killed tomorrow and I may as well save what I can. I told the RAMC major I had been ordered ashore by the beach master and with respect to RN and RM operation orders I had to do what the beach master told me.

When, out of courtesy, I informed the Welsh Guards Major, he went ape shit saying I was part of the RAMC section, had to follow his orders and that was to stay on board and land with his RAMC section. I pointed to my RN shoulder tabs and said with respect, Sir, I am in charge of an autonomous ‘RN/RM’ triage and resuscitation unit which has been ordered to give assistance to the RAMC forward surgical support unit. As such I have to act under the direction of the Beach Master RM until you are ashore and even when you are ashore he remains responsible for the landing and dispersal. He has ordered me and my team ashore in support of RM activities.

We jumped into a couple of rigid raiders and went ashore and having set up, we watch the lunatic ballet of maxi-floats trundling kit and men from one LSL to the other all so the Rapier detachment could be put ashore first, to create an air defence perimeter to protect the landings. The Beach Master called in to check we were OK in the defile he had found for us. He took a cup of coffee and joined us watching the great panjandrum rotating around.

“Fangs, this is madness. We know the Rapiers hate any sort of sea journey as it completely fucks up their giros. Throw in rapid deployment under a helicopter and we are talking twelve hours at least before the things can begin to be operational. By the time they are ashore it will be daylight and we will no longer have Intrepid’s landing assault craft as they are under orders to ‘bug’ out an hour before daylight to get them as far away from air attack as possible. It will take over four hours to land the Rapiers, Welsh Guards and RAMC using the Maxi-floats and the limited helicopter asset we have. 

Let’s assume the Argentinean’s have a forward observation post above Bluff Cove, we know they have top class night observation equipment, so there will be enough light around an hour before dawn to see what we are up to. They send a flash message to HQ in Stanley, who being staff are bound to ask for confirmation, say fifteen minutes wasted. By the time the Air Staff get their act into gear the forward observation post at Bluff Cove will be watching the landing with mark one eyeballs and asking HQ Stanley just where is the air force? So let’s say the pilots are up waiting for dawn, the briefing will be pretty short, the Skyhawk A4’s will already be fuelled, armed with 1000Kg bombs and 20 mm cannon in preparation for today’s raids. As dawn rises here, while it is till dark on the mainland, those jets will be in the air, 50 minutes later they will be bombing the crap out of these LSL’s which will still be packed with Welsh Guards, their equipment and your RAMC chums while the next to useless Rapiers are shipped to shore. This time their bombs will be properly fused, courtesy of the UK media’s inability to shut up when your opposition are making a big mistake plus the monumental stupidity of politicians in London and their need for ‘good news’ to tell the UK public.”

I just listened. The Beach Master had to tell someone of his greatest fear, nightmare and share the vain hope; he would be proven wrong. He told us to stay safe and keep down when the jets came in bombing and strafing. In the end he was 20 minutes out in his prediction of catastrophe. As the RAMC survivors came ashore they were sent to us. We got them dry, into our spare kit and then all set to, dealing with the wounds, blast injury and burns sustained by Welsh Guardsmen, RAMC colleagues and RFA officers and men who had been trapped below deck as ammunition and fuel cooked off. The Welsh Guard survivors were quick to help their injured friends and understood, even in their mate’s pain, there was no rushing, priorities had to be made. The least likely to survive would wait until last. They held their friends’ hand’s or if badly burnt found somewhere to give their friends the touch of companionship. It is a pity their officers had not been as together. The smell of roasted human flesh stays in my nose to this day with mingled overtones of ship’s fuel oil, cordite and helicopter exhaust – Perfume de Bluff Cove: an unforgettable experience. You would not want to see the visuals and stills that would go with the ‘Perfume de Bluff Cove’ advertising program, I know I do not; yet on average, once a year there will be a re-run of the advertising visuals which always brings the perfume back to mind, along with the nightmares.

It would be an understatement to call this ‘not one of the Brigade of Guards better days’.
I do not know whether it was courtesy of the Welsh Guards’ Major whining up the line of command about my refusing his orders that I was recalled or whether Southeby-Taylor had noticed and told my boss I was on the point of falling over the cliff after the Bluff Cove contretemps, (which to be honest, looking back, I was) but the morning of the main assault on Stanley saw me leaving the Bluff Cove Forward Surgical unit, jumping a Wessex Five of 874 Squadron back to Intrepid for a ‘rest’, a hot shower, dry clean clothes, a warm meal or two, a few beers and a dry warm bunk for the next 48 hours (unless exigencies of the ‘Service’ decided otherwise). Commander Rick Jolly stuck his head into my cabin to say, “Well done for Bluff Cove and I am trying to get you a ‘Mentioned in Dispatches’, at least, for your role in helping pull the RAMC Unit back together plus your actual efforts for the wounded.”

What can one say to that? I am dry, warm, fed and relatively safe for the first time in over three weeks, I suppose it should be a loud, “Yes, Sir, Thank you, Sir!” rather than the “Whoop de doo! So what?” which was actually at the fore front of my mind, as he left to my rather less than grateful, “That’ll be nice.” Unsurprisingly this allocade never, ever came to aught. I guess being awarded some token of regard for helping save Welsh Guardsmen from the stupidity of their senior officer was never going to be popular in the higher military and political echelons; echelons who would be already seeking ways to spin this dunghill of an event into something tragic but brave, heroic but sad and of course a very ‘British’ success out of an abject failure with a ‘story’ of derring-do and stiff upper lipped-ness in the face of adversity.

A jockanese naval Surgeon Lieutenant of very humble origins, who told a Senior English Public School educated, Welsh Guards Major, with respect, where to stick it; is probably not the ‘hero’ the ‘British’ politicians and their media ‘spin merchants’ are looking for in this tale of defeat snatched from an easy win. Imagine the press conference, “Well Surgeon Lieutenant ‘Jock’ RN can you describe the role that resulted in you winning this award?” asks the man from the BBC;
“Yes, I saved as many RFA, RAMC and Welsh Guard personnel from the impact of the Welsh Guards CO’s stupidity and bone headedness, as I, my RN medical team, along with the RAMC section survivors, humanly could”, says I.

“What Welsh Guards CO’s stupidity and bone headedness?” says the gathered UK and International press pack.

You see what I mean?
The heavy machine gun sangar, to my left, is hit by a missile, a big missile. I catch its trail on the edge of my vision, on the way in, just before there is a large flash and explosion. Alphonso’s night sight is blinded and so am I because he is my eyes. Medina appears. “Lads we are going to have to pull back. The English have got between us and Wireless Ridge and have out flanked Mount Harriet to our front and are now putting pressure on elements of the 6th Marines who hold the valley floor between us and Tumbledown. Let’s go before a Milan Missile comes your way.”

We bug out to the 7th Regiment’s command post, the major there asks the two marine squads to act as the cork in the neck of a bottle flanked by English Paratroops to our right and Royal Marines to our left. He wants a fighting retreat. The remnants of the 7th Regiment are the sides of the bottle and we will all fold back towards Tumbledown Ridge, which we still hold, in set stages to enable as much of the regiment’s light artillery, wounded and weapons rounds to get back as possible. The Major is staying with us because he will control the movement down a protected gulley before we link up with the 7th Regiment rearguard and complete the fighting retreat. We set up across the ‘T’ to block the flanks to the gulley from incursion. Medina and a recoilless rifle team (old folks would call it a bazooka) are in the centre with a field of fire down both flanks. Alphonso and me have our light machine gun set up above the Major’s command post, giving fire support to the right flank and centre. The rest of the squad is spread across our front. The English come again, up our right flank from Wireless ridge we stall their attack, Medina sends a recoilless rifle round into a group of English, they just disappear, we think that Medina hit one of the English full on. Then pressure comes on our left and tactically weaker flank they start to get pushed in on the centre. The Major is screaming at Medina, “Can you give me five more minutes?” Medina gives the thumbs up and I send Alphonso down to the assembly area for the bug out while firing short bursts down onto the saddle to keep English heads down. I am aware of a bright light, a lot of heat and something slamming into the side of my head. Then it goes dark, I am breathing – I think – but cannot move. I sense rather than hear bits of rock falling all around me. I hear Alphonso saying, “Why you, Julio, Why you?” and I am aware of him holding me. Medina shouts at Aphonso if he does not go now he will be captured or maybe killed. Leave Julio, the English will look after him just fine, probably better than our own sawbones but if we are going to get back to Tumbledown we have to go now, with the Major. Alphonso says, ‘See you when you get home, Julio,” and leaves me where I am.

I do not know how long it is but I can see dim light now rather than just darkness. I hear English voices and the occasional sound of a shell exploding or the whistle and ping of a small arms round ricocheting off the rocks. A hand gently touches my shoulder and feels my neck. They gently turn me over and I can make out the grey of the sky and the outline of their heads. They feel my body all over but take in a big breath when they check my head. I think they shake their heads and shrug. I still have no pain but cannot feel my toes or hands; that will be because of the head injury, I can feel myself crying, tears running down my cheeks as I realise I will probably never play football again. An English, speaking quite good Spanish, tells me they are going to move me onto a stretcher and it might hurt a lot but they cannot help any pain because of my head injury. He wipes my eyes and tells me it is OK, don’t be afraid, we have you now. He does not know they are not tears of fear but of loss. They put me onto a stretcher, I blacked out.

Next time I wake there is a head shining a bright light into my eyes, I must have reacted because he stopped shining the light and said something in English. A different English Spanish speaker asked me my name. I could hear myself saying my name but I could not hear anything come out. He touched my forehead with something cold and wet then spoke in priestly Latin – maybe I should have listen harder in Father Orlando’s religious classes and I would know what he was saying – then he touched a cloth to my lips before, in Spanish, commending me to God’s protection and safety. Soon after that I started feeling warm and settled in myself, I stopped worrying about playing football and thought that priest must be powerful in prayer and with my Catholic God, for an English. He was clearly getting God to make me better again.
The next time I was conscious I was aware of the smell of mothers: that clean soapy smell mother’s have. I could hear the voices of women, maybe they were angels but I felt one touch my brow and say something in English. I could make out someone screaming, maybe it was myself but I heard these angelic voices calming the screamer down, as a smell of roasted beef caught my nose. I was aware of one of these angels touching my cheek. I wish I could understand English because it sounded caring yet wistful. I think I would have liked what she said to her friend about me. As I lay there I could feel a gentle swaying sensation as if this angel was rocking me to sleep. It was a nice feeling so I fell asleep as she asked me to do, by her rocking.

I was on a helicopter journey again, I landed and two doctors looked at me and one said to the other, this is one is for you. The doctor grunted something to his friend as he and an orderly stripped me.  He was very gentle as he checked my teeth, lifted my arms and legs, turned me over, speaking to someone I could not see, all the time, describing my body, describing my head injury, I presume it was the other Doctor he was talking to. When he was finished he seemed angry with me for some reason. I wanted to know why but before I could ask he had zipped me up in what must have been a sleeping bag. I was then laid down amongst a whole ward of my compadres. Sarge was there, he told me not to be such lazy bastard, lying around when we had a championship winning, Argentinean football team to put together.


The attacks of the 11th to 12th of June were successful; the Argentineans were pushed out of their outer defensive ring after heavy fighting and stiff resistance. Let no one swallow the myth of poorly lead and armed conscripts, 3 Para took heavy casualties assaulting Mount Longdon as did 5 Brigade on Tumbledown where at dawn of the 12th they still had not secured all their objectives. This meant that Mount Longdon and Wireless ridge continued to come under light and heavy weapon fire from across the valley. 45 Commando had pushed in the cork of Argentineans at the head of the valley and then pulled back and dug in when exposed to fire from the Argentineans who still had a foot hold on Tumbledown. All in all a good night’s work and in amongst harassing fire from the Argentinean howitzers the poor bloody infantry licked their wounds and set to getting organised for the final assault scheduled for the evening of the 14th of June. I was sent forward to the Bluff Cove forward surgical support team to rejoin red watch in preparation for what was going to be the final battle.

The battle never came. At lunchtime on the 14th rumours started to circulate that the Argentineans had wrapped their hand in, accepted defeat. Then came the order to stand down, from operations, until further notice. No sooner than this message had been promulgated around the Bluff Cove unit than a formal notice of Argentinean surrender was sent from OIC Falkland’s land forces. It was interesting that the 5 Brigade medics celebrated with high fives and shouts of joy; for Red Watch it was an overall sense of relief and the thought we would be going home soon which best caught our spirit. We had seen enough and still had casualties coming down off Tumbledown to deal with, our conflict had not yet finished, men were still dying. A Guard’s RSM came in carrying an officer. It turned out the officer had taken a sniper round to the head and his men had moved forward think him a goner. It was only 8 hours later as they came back to identify and bag up their dead the officer had made a movement and they realised he was still alive. A Kelpie husband and wife had come up from nowhere in a landrover with a big pot of hot soup. The husband had taken the soup off the back and was dolling it out to his men and the wife had driven them down to the Bluff Cove unit. The big question on the RSM’s face was, “Am I too late?”

The question was answered quite quickly, the officer had a decent BP and pulse whether his survival was a good thing or not, with around a third of his right frontal lobe missing and other potential brain damage from the high velocity round, was a different matter. We reassured the RSM, took the officer’s details, cleaned him up as best we could, put a line in and waited for a casevac to the SS Uganda. He would live, this young man, but what sort of a life would that be for an ex-Guards Officer?

In dribs and drabs walking wounded continued to walk in, along with the occasional Argentinean on a stretcher carried by a couple of his compadres. Everyone else had started celebrating but we were still dealing with the flotsam and jetsam, the human debris and detritus of the conflict. On the 15th of June OIC Falklands dropped in on us on his tour of dispersed units to congratulate us on our efforts and his hope we could all soon pack up and go home.

An old school friend in 847 Squadron flew Red Watch back to Intrepid. A shower, a hot meal and a warm bunk do wonders for a man’s spirit. A sense of well being which was to last only 24 hours and a meeting with 3rd Commando Brigade’s senior medic when Richard and I were dropped the bomb that we had to stay and oversee the repatriation of UK fatalities, as promised to their families by Mrs Thatcher, and generally be on hand for the War Graves section to give post mortem advice. Since the UK fatalities would be going home it was expected they would all need formal death certificates to meet coroner’s requirements for violent death and a positive ID. The reason I was staying was the obvious one that far too many of the Argentinean dead had no identification and the Red Cross would expect us to provide as much information as possible to identify these men, including dental charting. This was expected to be Richard and me’s main task. We would have five days R&R aboard Intrepid prior to be transferred to the LSL which was going to act as the base of operations for the War Graves organisation in San Carlos Waters. Here’s the thing; two out of three fatalities usually involve a head wound making visual recognition of the deceased difficult and without any other distinguishing marks noted on their medical records, apparently having a dog tag would not be sufficient under English Law (though it would work fine for those staying on the island), apparently it is only ‘indicative of the person’s identity’, this leaves dental charting as the best way to establish a positive identification when all else has failed. Remember back at the beginning when I said:

Richard and me had a system.

‘Head and Neck’ came to me: Richard was ‘The Rest’.

To the uninitiated this appears, at first glance, a rather lopsided division of labour leaving Richard with most of the body to deal with but as you read on you will eventually understand the logic and why Richard had the easier job.

You check the body for any distinguishing marks which are noted on their medical records – this includes the inevitable tattoos. If there are no distinguishing marks then you match the lower right arch segment dental charting with the fatality’s last dental charting - if you get a match then your client is positively ID’d, he is matched to his dog tag and the English coroner is going to be a happy chappy. If not you will have to complete a further check until you get a decisive match. This is fine if the cause of death is below the head but with head wounds it may not be this simple as the fatal round may have destroyed a fair chunk of the lower and upper jaws. In some cases teeth will be imbedded in the base of the skull driven there by the concussion wave of the round or shrapnel as it smashed into the face. If you only have a fragment of jaw intact with insufficient teeth in place, you have to go fishing around trying to find enough teeth or bits of teeth to make a positive ID and keep the coroner happy; so much for the UK casualties with dog tags. You then put the bodies back into the bags where they were split into ‘stayers’ and ‘homers’; the ‘homers’ then went forward to further processing by the firm of embalmers who had got the UK Government contract and then into the fridges of a Fyfe’s banana boat for their journey home to ‘dear old Blighty.’ 

“Hey Mr Tallyman, tally me bananas ....”

Then there were the Argentinean fatalities some 270 were collected from the Falkland’s between San Carlos Water and the outer defensive ring and brought to us for Red Cross identification. The problem starts with most do not have dog tags, no one thought to give the conscripts dog tags. There are around thirty who have dog tags - the marines and other professional infantry put in to give the conscripts a ‘stiffening’ or are aviators. Maybe 20 of the conscripts are discovered to have enough in bits of paper and letters to give them a name or at least a home address. These are easier to process. The rest have to be reviewed with distinguishing marks or other features put on the Red Cross form, a full mouth dental charting, age and any other information that could help with their identification; all this, times 240. SS Uganda, before she bugs out home, drops off another four or five Argentineans to join our merry throng. The anger of all these sixteen and seventeen year olds dying for such a stupid reason, some times is hard to contain. It is an anger which not one glass or even a full bottle of whisky can assuage. It is an anger that makes you want to lift this sixteen old corpse up, missing a third of its brain and give them a bloody good shake for being so bloody stupid to fall for politicians’ vain glory and unsustainable promises. It is an anger which burns even deeper when the Red Cross return comes back with the Argentinean Junta saying they cannot positively identify any of the conscripts because they hold insufficient medical records and no dental chartings. These boys and men are destined to simply become more of the Argentinean Junta’s ‘missing’ just like the regime’s opponents back at home in Argentina. They had failed to hold Las Malvinas and were not worthy of any respect or remembrance, they were already forgotten, considered missing.

Where we had home addresses we took it upon ourselves to write and tell them where their boy or loved one lay, their war grave registration number so once the Argentine War cemetery was in place, they could come to the Falkland Islands and pay their last respects when relations between the islanders and Argentineans were in a better place. The other 220 were ‘Known only unto God’ which was not much use for their grieving families because even ‘God’s mysterious ways’ had bugger all chance of telling their families where their loved ones lay.
Mid July, it was freezing outside with the wind chill driving the temperatures down to -20 Centigrade – not summer barbeque weather by any stretch of the imagination. Our job finished Richard and I were bored, there was only so much staring wistfully out of the bridge windows onto the grey spray checked surface of San Carlos Water or the hills around anyone can take, we just wanted to go home and maybe get a bit of an Northern Autumn before the next winter started.

Mid September and I eventually get my early release for good behaviour, join HMS Southampton and go home to a darkening, October, Devonport sky, an empty quay and wander solitarily back to my home in Devonport. The house is in darkness, John is not back from work and Mandy will be still at work. I put the kettle on and wonder, just what was the fucking point? All that stress, all that discomfort, all that terror, all that blood, all that anger, all to come home to an empty house. How do you explain to your family and friends who were not there, in the Falklands, just what it was like, would they want to know anyway, what bits will you need to edit out, maybe it will be best to say nothing? Five o’clock and it is as grim outside as San Carlos Water is on a good day. The silence needs to be broken but I sit in the front room sitting on the sofa, lights off, couple of bars on the electric fire on, holding a mug of cooling tea, not even trying to shut out the gloom outside with the curtains, I just cannot be bothered.

I hear the sound of the key in the door, John comes in whistling, switches on the hall light and heads off into the kitchen, I hear him putting the kettle on, going for a pee, going upstairs, coming back down, the clink of a spoon on a mug as he makes himself a tea, the rustle of the inevitable dark chocolate McVitties biscuit packet and he comes into the living room, switches a lamp on, closes the curtains, put the TV on and turns round and sees me on the sofa. The first words of my home coming are, “Are you OK? You look completely knackered, I’ll get you a fresh tea.” The British faith in the restorative powers of a good mug of tea remains unbroken.

How do you regain your hold on life after seeing so much of death?

With a high degree of difficulty and a lot of lying to yourself and others, is the answer.

Before you go on leave you are told there is to be a service of remembrance for the Falkland’s fallen in the Jago Mansion’s Church. You wonder in and sit in a pew about halfway down. Your latent Calvinistic spirit is rather overwhelmed and simultaneously disgusted by the high church Episcopalian trappings and surroundings. You try to avoid looking at the Anglo-Catholic altar piece of the ‘Crucified Christ’ because, inside your head, you are already hearing you telling that lump of carved and painted wood just exactly what you think of his illusion of him dying so everyone else can live. You cannot tell whether it is tears of sadness or anger which are coursing down your cheeks, as you shake uncontrollably and your forehead rests on the bible rail to your front. A hand touches your shoulder, formulaic words of comfort spew forth as they sit down beside you, embarrassed, trying to get you to unbend, to stop banging your forehead on the bible rail, to stop you disturbing the peace, so the rest of the congregation can go about their formulaic procession of ‘remembrance’ in peace. 

A voice you recognise says, “Come on”, and leads you out into the fresh air, away from the dank, overbearing, sickly smell of empty Christianity. You look out across the cricket square in front of the wardroom, forcing yourself to stand up straight, relax, become aware of the pain in your hands from your own tightly clenched fists – the pain from your bruised forehead will come much later. You feel yourself breathing with less of a shudder or constriction and more normally, while feeling in your pockets for a handkerchief. The voice of your Devonport boss, Surgeon Captain Davies, tells you he has a handkerchief and hands you your cap. The voice says, “We need to go somewhere quiet and have a chat”, and you climb in the front seat of his SAAB and he takes you home to his house where he and Mrs Davies listen while you talk and talk and talk.
The next morning Mrs Davies takes you home and waits while you pack. Ensuring you get on the train that will take you home to Edinburgh, your family and friends; the train that takes most of the day to wend its way via Bristol, Gloucester, Birmingham, Derby, York and Newcastle. She reminds you that the Captain does not want to see you in Devonport for at least three or, better, four weeks. Go home, rest and come back your old self. The last bit is going to be tricky when your old self is buried with all the other corpses, left on the Falklands.


So here I was, Alphonso the Stupid, on the SS Canberra our air force had claimed to have sunk on many occasions, on my way home from the Malvinas, living in more comfort and better fed as a POW than I ever had as a member of the naval regiment on the Malvinas. The ship sailed into Puntas Arenas and we were offloaded onto the same quay which had embarked from just six weeks before. This time we were not so excited nor so sure of ourselves. Deep inside us was the sense we had let our country down – yes – but also we had been let down by the Military Junta who had sent us to the Malvinas poorly prepared and badly lead. A leadership which thought you could bluff your way to victory and had no real plan once their bluff had been called. Then there was the deaths of all those friends and the guilt of having to leave Julio on the top of Mount Longdon not knowing whether he had lived or died. I volunteered to carry our wounded off the Canberra in the hope he would be there. My only hope was he was amongst the critically wounded, yet to be landed from the English hospital ship.We thought we would be going home to our families so when the buses took us back to barracks we just thought this would be a prelude to us getting our leave passes. This was not going to be the case. We were told that the Junta had blocked all leave because of the ‘problems’ with agitators in Buenos Aires. We were not even allowed to write to our parents to tell them we were safe home. Locked in barracks we only knew what we were told by the sergeants and corporals which was not that much. There was no television or radio allowed, no newspapers apart from the heavily censored military one, we were isolated, we did not know what was happening in our own country. It was six weeks before we were finally allowed to go home, before we heard about the riots against the Junta for their failure to hold the Falklands. It was six weeks before I could start to find out