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June 8-9 1982
As I did this, the first patient
was carried out from the freez-
er plant. It was Simon Weston B
y midday, the job was done.
We diverted the next lot of
our volunteer aerial helpers
on a stretcher, plus two walking to the three ships that had taken
wounded, both wrapped in blan- our overspill casualties. Ajax Bay
kets. was suddenly empty of suffer-
Three down, 165 to go – and ing, the stretchers all cleaned and
when would the Argentine stacked, the ready-use stores re-
Skyhawks come back? plenished, the intravenous drips
The Wessex departed once run-through and hung up, the
more, disappeared over the skyline, whole organisation ready for the
and then returned. We reloaded it, next intake of casualties.
and then I suddenly heard another Alan Piggford also returned,
familiar but completely different disappointment etched deeply in
sound – the buzz-saw noise of a his bearded face. He had done his
Sea King’s tail rotor. very best, and had visited all the
key staff officers and told them of
o my complete astonish-
ment, a Culdrose aircraft
our desperate plight.
appeared from behind the
Each time, their answers had
building, and then hovered, look-
been the same – no helos available
ing for somewhere to land.
today, but maybe tomorrow?
Even though its fuselage side
I told my old chum not to worry,
number had been hurriedly paint-
and asked him to come inside for
ed over, I could still see its white
a wet of tea. Alan cringed at the
‘95’ serial beneath the dark blue
idea – he didn’t want to see those
paint. It was one of the training
burned faces again, and declined.
aircraft that I had flown in on
I almost had to give him a direct
Search and Rescue missions with
order to accompany me.
706 NAS in the late seventies.
His anguished expression was
I had absolutely no idea that
then replaced by one of total aston-
these helicopters had also been
ishment. The MAs and marines,
mobilised and deployed down
who also knew him reasonably
well, acknowledged him in their
Its pilot saw me, brought the
cheerful way as they sat around
aircraft over towards the main
drinking tea and playing cards.
● Flamazine is applied to the burnt face and hands of a Welsh Guardsman
door, landed, and was now grin-
It was a scenario that he could
the capability, even though some Forces got the expected response. looking for volunteers to help with
ning down at me from the cock-
not have expected. He simply
authorities on our side doubted if Absolutely no helicopters were the casualty evacuation task...
pit’s side window.
could not believe that, apparently
they still had the willpower. available for medical tasking today, We watched as the aircraft
I plugged my helmet in, and
without any ‘official’ helicopters
Now there were over 70 burned but they would ‘do their best to climbed up the dark mass of the
heard these never-to-be-forgotten
being made available, we had
and helpless men to move out find something for me tomorrow’. Sussex Mountains behind us, then
words: “Hello sir, nice to see you
somehow managed to move all
from our overcrowded refrigera- I shook my head in disbelief, flew along the ridge line to the
the casualties out by air.
tion plant, and 85 more in three of torn between my understanding south. “I hear you’ve got a problem.
Furthermore, we had achieved
the ships lying out in San Carlos of the need to get this war finished Curses! They could obviously If you can load us quickly, I think
this feat without a single formal
Water. quickly – and the more immediate see over into Falkland Sound, and we can take one load of casualties
casevac request being routed
Most of our patients appeared needs of these tough and coura- the hospital ship wasn’t there! to the Uganda for you, before we
through his Headquarters!
to have had a comfortable night, geous young Welsh Guardsmen Suddenly, the Wessex banked have to go for fuel and carry on
I liked Alan a lot, and as Royal
including Simon Weston, although who were my charges. over sharply, circled round, came with our other tasks...”
Navy men with green berets we
some of the Chinese crew were straight back down the hill to us, Of course we could load him
had a shared and deep affection
beginning to suffer badly. quickly, and we did. The boys
for the Corps.
Their faces seemed to have
bout 30 minutes later, one
of the good guys from Divi-
and then executed a glorious fan
sional HQ did, in fact, turn
stop, using the main rotors to turned to with all the enthusiasm
But, he had forgotten that I also
swollen more with the flash-burn-
up to have a look around. Alan
come to a spectacular halt before and vigour that the Royal Marines
had a Fleet Air Arm background.
ing than their European counter-
Piggford was a Medical Services
settling onto the ground. are famous for.
Now, as I showed him around, I
parts. Perhaps they were closer
offi cer, and a much liked former
Thumbs up! The crewman Then there was a Wessex
tried not to display my feelings too
to the bombs or had received the
showed me the hospital ship’s behind him, then another Sea
detonation in a different way. Two
I showed him the task. Alan
location on the map. She was in King behind that, then another,
As OC of the Ajax Bay medical
of the worst affected had black-
looked rather shaken when we re-
Grantham Sound, near the south- and another. Anti-submarine ver-
facility I was a very proud and
ened, Buddha-like visages.
emerged into the light. He prom-
ern end of Falkland Sound, and sions, Mk 4 Commando variants
well-contented man.
My problems were now starting
ised that he would go straight back
the scene of HMS Ardent’s gallant – the whole morning passed in
In the hour of our greatest
to get serious, and I suspected
to his ship, convey to certain key
last fight. a blur, interrupted by several air
need, my Fleet Air Arm family
that I was going to have to find
staff officers the sense of urgent
I scribbled a quick note to the raid warnings which the helicop-
had not let me down.
some ingenious solution of my
priority that our situation now
Medical Officer-in-Charge, warn- ters just ignored. ■ About the author: Rick Jolly
own manufacture.
warranted – and then call in a
ing him to expect up to 170 casu- Each time, I received the same retired from the Royal Navy in
But how? The hospital ship had
number of favours that he was
alties throughout the day, a total sort of message, the same willing 1996 in the honorary rank of
no casevac assets of her own,
that would ultimately depend on and affectionate support, some Surgeon Captain. The expanded
and without a military radio set
I thanked my old friend, saw
how many helicopters we could from distantly remembered faces and revised The Red and Green
in her communications fit, her
him down to the beach, and
manage to recruit for the evacu- and others from aircrew I had Life Machine is due to be repub-
staff probably didn’t even know
returned inside.
ation task. never seen before. lished:
about yesterday’s events – either
A familiar sound then pene-
at Fitzroy Cove, or out in Falkland
trated the gloom. Our faithful,
Sound where HMS Plymouth had
but sometimes occasional, casevac
been ‘vittled up’.
Wessex had actually turned up!
I also knew that with the final
I let the crew shut their aircraft
push on Stanley imminent, every
down, then invited them to help
airframe that could engage its
themselves to tea while I briefed
rotors was now being tasked for
them on the day’s flying plan.
re-stocking the front line with
The pilot was a young Sub-
combat supplies and artillery
Lieutenant who had absolutely
no idea that we had taken all the
It was a worrying time, the
wounded from the attacks on Sir
pressure on me increased by look-
Galahad and Sir Tristram.
ing at the ghostly, Flamazine-cov-
He had spent the previous day
ered faces of the young Welsh up in the northern part of East
Guardsmen. Falkland, flying stores ashore.
Hair and eyebrows had been Now he just stood there, looking
singed short or replaced by red- shocked.
dened skin and oozing crust. I explained that none of us had
Their fingers looked like those any idea whether the hospital ship
pale tinned sausages of our break- was actually in Falkland Sound
fast compo, swollen and damaged that morning.
beneath the plastic bags which Furthermore, it was almost cer-
kept the dirt out, but allowed tain that none of her staff would
some form of movement. know about the disaster that had
As our eyes met, some of the befallen Sir Galahad. So he was
cracked and blistered lips parted to get airborne and go and find
in a vain attempt to smile. They the hospital ship, and no, they
were all so young... couldn’t have any casualties until
Somehow I had to get them out, I was sure that ‘Mother Hen’ was
before the next Air Raid Warning actually there!
Red, away to the cool comfort, Also, I asked my pilot and his
the clean sea air, and the devoted crewman to tell all Naval helicop-
nursing of our fantastic hospital ters on the radio net that, if they
ship. had any spare capacity, time or
My secure call to HQ Land fuel, Doc Jolly at Ajax Bay was ● The wounded were loaded on to helicopters and fl own to hospital ship HMS Uganda
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