IT’S time for Remembrance – a time to reflect and to honour armed forces members who have died in the line of duty.
Everyone has an individual focus for Remembrance. It could be a grandad who died in World War Two or a relative killed in conflict in Afghanistan.
For me, most reflections are on the Falklands War – partly because (as a young Evening Post hack) I interviewed many servicemen and women on their return home to south Wales after the conflict.
The Falklands also carves an emotional scar because I knew one of the victims of the Sir Galahad disaster.
A total of 48 members of the British Armed Forces were killed when the RFA Sir Galahad, a Royal Fleet Auxiliary landing ship, was attacked while unloading soldiers at Bluff Cove in the Falklands on June 8, 1982.
It was Britain’s most lethal day of combat since World War Two. The loss accounted for nearly a fifth of all British losses during the Falklands War
The 1st Battalion Welsh Guards lost 32 of their number, including Guardsman Eirwyn Phillips from Carmarthen.
Members of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, Army Catering Corps, Royal Army Medical Corps, 36 Engineer Regiment and Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers were also killed.
Hundreds of others were injured, including Simon Weston (CBE), who suffered 49 percent burns and went on to be a media spokesman for those who fought in the Falklands.
After the attack, the Sir Galahad was sunk and later made an official war grave under the Protection of Military Remains Act.
The controversy over the Sir Galahad rumbles on today – a classic case of a ship being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The military maxim attributed to Aeschylus, the father of Greek tragedy, declares, ‘In war, truth is the first casualty’.
Finding the truth has been the task of many military historians down the years.
Yesterday, General Sir Michael Rose became the first senior commander of the Falklands War to state that there was a cover-up of the events leading up to the Sir Galahad tragedy.
General Sir Michael used a book review in Prospect magazine to target both barrels at military ineptitude.
The book in question is Crispin Black’s Too Thin For A Shroud, which draws on first-hand recollections from the Sir Galahad attack and a 1982 Royal Navy Inquiry, recently declassified and made accessible at Kew Archives.
General Sir Michael argues the Ministry of Defence still refuses to release other documents relating to the bombing of the Sir Galahad, something which, he says, reflects a tradition of cover-up in the Royal Navy.
In his book review, General Sir Michael writes, ‘Immediately after the disaster, the blame game started—with senior officers in the Royal Navy and Royal Marines openly seeking to blame the Welsh Guards and the Army for what (Crispin) Black calls a “cascade of crass blunders”, rather than admit their own responsibility.’
By all accounts, the official MoD Inquiry of that fateful day is the only Falklands file that has not been declassified: seven out of 12 key files remain secret. The MoD continues to stonewall requests to unseal all files, despite pressure from many Welsh MPs.
General Sir Michael repeats the words of one young Welsh Guardsman on board the Sir Galahad – “For 41 years (we) have felt nothing but blame and unworthiness for (our) role”.
The General concludes: “Surely it is time . . . for those who were actually responsible to finally be held to account.”
Too Thin For A Shroud is published by Gibson Square, price £20.
‘WHAT’S wrong with the younger generation today?’
That was the question rattling through my aged brain as I warmed myself by a roaring fire on Tuesday night.
It had become clear the youngsters on our street didn’t appreciate the hard effort (and cash) I’d put in stocking up on sweets and chocolates at Asda (other stores are available) in preparation for an expected queue of Trick or Treaters on Halloween.
Halloween came and went, with no knocks and rings on the doorbell.
The result is that we have been left with enough sweets and chocolates to slide an average-sized person into a diabetic coma.
Bang goes the autumn diet regime.
I registered my disappointment with my darling daughter, who knows a thing or two about the ‘youth’ etiquette and protocol about these matters.
“But, Dad,” she lectured (with eyes rolled skyward), “You didn’t play the game properly. You have to put some signals out on your front doorstep to encourage Trick or Treaters – a pumpkin, or something ghostly, for example.
“Children today are so well educated on these things that they don’t like to disturb the elderly and infirm on Halloween. The odd pumpkin or two is the signal they will get a friendly reception.”
Darling daughter is a teacher, so I will take the lesson in the (Halloween) spirit in which it was intended.
Next year, children of the street, I promise to do better. There will be pumpkins on the doorstep and freshly-purchased goodies for Trick or Treaters.