Para History & Para Legends

Iron

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I think we need to highlight Warrenpoint. A day that should NEVER be forgotten by any Paratrooper. It is important we remember our brothers who didn’t come home.

27 August 1979

The Warrenpoint ambush cost the lives of 16 men from 2 PARA and 2 men from The Queen's Own Highlanders. 5 were very critically injured not to mention mental trauma in two bomb blasts.

In a carefully organised attack the Provisional IRA first blew up a parked trailer on a dual carriageway running parallel with Carlingford Lough as the convoy of Para Reg passed by. Six were killed in the initial blast.

The PIRA had anticipated where 2 PARA would set up their hasty command centre, behind a nearby wall. As the men moved into cover they moved within range of a second concealed 800lb bomb. The second blast half an hour after the first, killed twelve more soldiers.

Those men killed in the first bomb explosion were:

Cpl.J.C.Giles. 3 Platoon, A-Company, 2 PARA.
L/Cpl.C.G.Ireland. 3 Platoon, A-Company, 2 PARA.
Pte.G.I.Barnes. 3 Platoon, A-Company, 2 PARA.
Pte.J.A.Jones. 3 Platoon, A-Company, 2 PARA.
Pte.R.D.V.Jones. 3 Platoon, A-Company, 2 PARA.
Pte.M.Woods. 3 Platoon, A-Company, 2 PARA.


Those men killed in the second bomb explosion were:

Maj.P.J.Fursman. O.C: A-Company, 2 PARA.
L/Cpl.D.F.Blair. O.C’s Radio Op, A-Company, 2 PARA.
W.O.II.W.Beard. Drum Major, Medium Machine Gun Platoon, 2 PARA.
Sgt.I.A.Rogers Pl Sgt, Medium Machine Gun Platoon, 2 PARA.
Cpl.N.J.Andrews. Medium Machine Gun Platoon, 2 PARA.
Cpl.L.Jones. Medium Machine Gun Platoon, 2 PARA.
Pte.R.Dunn. Medium Machine Gun Platoon, 2 PARA.
Pte.R.N.England. Medium Machine Gun Platoon, 2 PARA.
Pte.T.R.Vance. Medium Machine Gun Platoon, 2 PARA.
Pte.A.G.Wood. Medium Machine Gun Platoon, 2 PARA.


This is regimental history that we should not ignore. Remember them.
 

Tony_m

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I’ll not name him as he is still very much alive and don’t want to risk any PerSec but the Cpl who was my section commander in Depot had a mention in dispatches from when he was a young Tom for preforming emergency first aid to an off duty NI prison guard who had been shot in the chest as he sat in his car at a junction. The Provos fired a few more shots as they bugged out at the car and patrol who happened to be nearby. Rather than seek the safety of cover, this lad who was a Tom at the raced to the casualty’s aid and got pressure on the wound despite a round or two flying overhead.
The same guy was later badly burnt at disorder in Belfast and was left with severe scars on his right forearm. Didn’t put him off and he left at WO2!
 

Chelonian

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Sgt Ian J. McKay VC

During Op Corporate in 1982 two of the final Victoria Crosses of the twentieth century were awarded to Sgt I. McKay of 3 PARA and Lt Col H. Jones who was CO of 2 PARA.

The historical details of the actions which led to these awards are widely available online so here are some notes to give a snapshot of Ian McKay, the man, and in a second instalment the recollections of some who were with him during 3 PARA’s legendary assault on Mount Longdon.

Ian John McKay was born in May 1953 at Wortley, Sheffield. As a youngster he was a talented football player and turned down an offer to sign for Doncaster Rovers to instead enlist in the Parachute Regiment three months before his seventeenth birthday. Pass-Out for 359 Platoon was in February 1971 and Ian McKay subsequently served with 1 PARA and 3 PARA in Northern Ireland, Germany and at Depot Para as an instructor in Recruit Company as he climbed the promotion ladder.

The image below is a crop from a group photograph of 477 Platoon dated February 1982. This Recruit Platoon was comprised entirely of former Juniors some of whom were themselves deployed to the South Atlantic only a couple of months after Pass-Out.

mckay_1982_feb.jpg


Ian McKay had a reputation in the Parachute Regiment as a thinker and he took an intelligent approach to Recruit instruction. This didn’t mean he was a push-over; he would grip an individual who was slow to grasp an element of training and patiently focus on explaining a concept until the individual demonstrated that he thoroughly understood.

The image most associated with Ian McKay has a story too. After his death and nomination for the VC the media was desperate for a photograph and perhaps this is the one most associated with the man.

mckay_1971.jpg


It was taken by a Rotherham Advertiser press photographer John Bates when Ian was aged only seventeen and on leave immediately after Pass-Out in early 1971. He donned tunic and beret over civilian shirt, tie and trousers and sat on the doorstep of his home. The dog—Spot—belonged to a neighbour and was included “to make the photo more interesting.
From 1982 onwards the dog was described by some elements of the media as “McKay’s beloved dog.” Never let the truth spoil a good story, eh? :)

Next instalment moves to the slopes of Mount Longdon and the events of the night of 11th and 12th June 1982.
 

Blisters

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In July 1997 a four man SAS team consisting completely of former Para Reg detained a suspected Serbian war criminal. In true airborne fashioned the former Paras hatched a ballsy plan. Their target was Milan Kovacevic who was a director of a hospital, who was suspected to be involved in rounding up Muslims to send to death camps. To gain access without rousing suspicion the former Paras talked their way into the hospital in plain clothes posing as members of the Red Cross, weapons concealed under their coats. Inside they located their man and spirited away to a waiting US heli

The same team went on another arrest operation the same week and killed the target on site after one of the former Paras was shot in the leg during a contact. Again in true maroon style the injured troopers condition was described to the press as “He is fine”. I appreciate this relates to 22 SAS but it’s important to note that all four, like many 22, of this team started their careers in Para Reg. Fearless.
 

Aldo

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Sgt Ian J. McKay VC

During Op Corporate in 1982 two of the final Victoria Crosses of the twentieth century were awarded to Sgt I. McKay of 3 PARA and Lt Col H. Jones who was CO of 2 PARA.

The historical details of the actions which led to these awards are widely available online so here are some notes to give a snapshot of Ian McKay, the man, and in a second instalment the recollections of some who were with him during 3 PARA’s legendary assault on Mount Longdon.

Ian John McKay was born in May 1953 at Wortley, Sheffield. As a youngster he was a talented football player and turned down an offer to sign for Doncaster Rovers to instead enlist in the Parachute Regiment three months before his seventeenth birthday. Pass-Out for 359 Platoon was in February 1971 and Ian McKay subsequently served with 1 PARA and 3 PARA in Northern Ireland, Germany and at Depot Para as an instructor in Recruit Company as he climbed the promotion ladder.

The image below is a crop from a group photograph of 477 Platoon dated February 1982. This Recruit Platoon was comprised entirely of former Juniors some of whom were themselves deployed to the South Atlantic only a couple of months after Pass-Out.

mckay_1982_feb.jpg


Ian McKay had a reputation in the Parachute Regiment as a thinker and he took an intelligent approach to Recruit instruction. This didn’t mean he was a push-over; he would grip an individual who was slow to grasp an element of training and patiently focus on explaining a concept until the individual demonstrated that he thoroughly understood.

The image most associated with Ian McKay has a story too. After his death and nomination for the VC the media was desperate for a photograph and perhaps this is the one most associated with the man.

mckay_1971.jpg


It was taken by a Rotherham Advertiser press photographer John Bates when Ian was aged only seventeen and on leave immediately after Pass-Out in early 1971. He donned tunic and beret over civilian shirt, tie and trousers and sat on the doorstep of his home. The dog—Spot—belonged to a neighbour and was included “to make the photo more interesting.
From 1982 onwards the dog was described by some elements of the media as “McKay’s beloved dog.” Never let the truth spoil a good story, eh? :)

Next instalment moves to the slopes of Mount Longdon and the events of the night of 11th and 12th June 1982.
Reading the Falklands stuff is honestly amazing. Real legends! Can you post something about Goose Green?
 

Aldo

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Sgt Ian J. McKay VC

During Op Corporate in 1982 two of the final Victoria Crosses of the twentieth century were awarded to Sgt I. McKay of 3 PARA and Lt Col H. Jones who was CO of 2 PARA.

The historical details of the actions which led to these awards are widely available online so here are some notes to give a snapshot of Ian McKay, the man, and in a second instalment the recollections of some who were with him during 3 PARA’s legendary assault on Mount Longdon.

Ian John McKay was born in May 1953 at Wortley, Sheffield. As a youngster he was a talented football player and turned down an offer to sign for Doncaster Rovers to instead enlist in the Parachute Regiment three months before his seventeenth birthday. Pass-Out for 359 Platoon was in February 1971 and Ian McKay subsequently served with 1 PARA and 3 PARA in Northern Ireland, Germany and at Depot Para as an instructor in Recruit Company as he climbed the promotion ladder.

The image below is a crop from a group photograph of 477 Platoon dated February 1982. This Recruit Platoon was comprised entirely of former Juniors some of whom were themselves deployed to the South Atlantic only a couple of months after Pass-Out.

mckay_1982_feb.jpg


Ian McKay had a reputation in the Parachute Regiment as a thinker and he took an intelligent approach to Recruit instruction. This didn’t mean he was a push-over; he would grip an individual who was slow to grasp an element of training and patiently focus on explaining a concept until the individual demonstrated that he thoroughly understood.

The image most associated with Ian McKay has a story too. After his death and nomination for the VC the media was desperate for a photograph and perhaps this is the one most associated with the man.

mckay_1971.jpg


It was taken by a Rotherham Advertiser press photographer John Bates when Ian was aged only seventeen and on leave immediately after Pass-Out in early 1971. He donned tunic and beret over civilian shirt, tie and trousers and sat on the doorstep of his home. The dog—Spot—belonged to a neighbour and was included “to make the photo more interesting.
From 1982 onwards the dog was described by some elements of the media as “McKay’s beloved dog.” Never let the truth spoil a good story, eh? :)

Next instalment moves to the slopes of Mount Longdon and the events of the night of 11th and 12th June 1982.
Also love how the media twisted the bit about Spot!
 

Chelonian

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Can you post something about Goose Green?
Hopefully the thread will grow. It's certainly not my or anyone else's personal project. Anyone can dib in with posts which they consider informative. Dig into resources. If an individual or a particular action inspires you please share it here.

But I think it's important that sources of historical information are credible and stand up to scrutiny; either supported by personal accounts or by cited sources. If an anecdote is just hearsay, please make that clear so that forum users can make up their own minds.
Doing this maintains the integrity of the forum.

One particular issue is that many of the characters associated with the history of the Parachute Regiment are still living so please tread lightly.
 

Dot

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Next instalment moves to the slopes of Mount Longdon and the events of the night of 11th and 12th June 1982.
Looking forward to reading as apparently it involved hand-to-hand fighting
 

Admin

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Hopefully the thread will grow. It's certainly not my or anyone else's personal project. Anyone can dib in with posts which they consider informative. Dig into resources. If an individual or a particular action inspires you please share it here.

But I think it's important that sources of historical information are credible and stand up to scrutiny; either supported by personal accounts or by cited sources. If an anecdote is just hearsay, please make that clear so that forum users can make up their own minds.
Doing this maintains the integrity of the forum.

One particular issue is that many of the characters associated with the history of the Parachute Regiment are still living so please tread lightly.
Couldn’t agree with this more. This thread has already proven to be fantastic content. Content that isn’t just educational but also very motivational.
Providing accurate citations puts your accounts and stories into proper context. They tell the readers that you’ve done your research and have checked validity. We have real potential here to unearth some excellent Regimental history. Keep it up!
 

Iron

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PARA DOGS

Dogs were used by Para Reg during the Second World War. These included 'Para Dogs' trained to jump in alongside the men.

They were very important to the Paras after landing and were called upon to undertake guard, mine-detecting and general patrol duties. Their acute senses provided an 'early-warning system` which was of great comfort and undoubedtly saved many lives

Brian was a two year old Alsatian who joined The Parachute Regiment in 1944, after basic training at the Army War Dog Training School. He was posted to the Recce Platoon, 13th Parachute Battalion to complete his parachute training, making the required number of jumps and earning his wings.

He parachuted into Normandy in June 1944 with his handler. At the end of the war, Brian received the PDSA Dickin Medal.This was the animal equivalent to the Victoria Cross (VC), and it provided recognition of gallantry and devotion to duty.

His citation reads: “This patrol dog was attached to a Parachute Battalion of the 13th Batt. Airborne Division. He landed in Normandy with them and, having done the requisite number of jumps, became a fully-qualified Paratrooper.”

1608034401157.jpeg


1608034424601.jpeg
 

Redders

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Loving this thread and it reminds all that the world war 2 men really were a special breed, how else could you explain the rational of jumping out of a perfectly serviceable aircraft with poorly made parachutes into a 'hot' zone where your life expectancy is measured in seconds. Legends everyone of them
 

Chelonian

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Sgt Ian J. McKay VC

(Part 2)

Anyone seeking to further research the exploits of 3 PARA and Sgt Ian McKay VC will find numerous resources with which to do so. For the purposes of this brief tribute we will not dwell on the mobilisation of 2 PARA and 3 PARA in 1982.

The voyage south via Ascension Island also flashes past as do the landings at Port San Carlos and the gruelling march and TAB across the brutal terrain of East Falkland.

The personal accounts related here have been pinched from the research and the books of Jon Cooksey who has written extensively on 3 PARA’s actions in Op Corporate. Full credits and links to that author’s work will be in the final instalment.

It is now 11 June 1982 and two weeks after 2 PARA’s victory at Darwin-Goose Green 3 PARA, including Sgt Ian McKay’s 4 Platoon, are advancing on numerous, well-defended features on Mount Longdon. This is a major enemy stronghold blocking the advance on Stanley on the eastern coast.

Each 3 PARA man carried over 100 pounds of weapons, ammunition and personal kit. This a load which inevitably means that if a man falls or lies down to rest it is almost impossible to regain his feet without assistance from others. Toppling on treacherous, uneven terrain during a tactical advance at night was a frequent event for many.

With three kilometres to go before 3 PARA reach their Start Line an Argentine 120mm mortar illumination shell burst overhead. It is likely that each man thought that they had been spotted. But every man remained still and silent and the threat appeared to pass as the illum faded and darkness returned.

By 2000 Local Time Sgt McKay’s 4 Platoon—commanded by Lt Andrew Bickerdike—had reached their Start Line, cold, wet and exhausted.

Intelligence had stated that Argentine forces were well dug into defensive trenches. B Coy’s CSM ordered “Fix bayonets” and anyone who had any doubt about what lay ahead must surely have realised that this was the real deal.

Lt Bickerdike later recalled “That click of the bayonet; that’s when it finally came home to me what I was about to do. Everyone put their bayonets on, then there was a brief silence before the command, ‘Up!’ and they all stood up and we started advancing.

Although minefields had been recced it was impossible for the British advance to safely avoid the western flank of one minefield. At about 2200 Cpl Brian Milne stepped on an AP mine. This alerted the Argentine forces dug in to the slopes and summit of Mount Longdon. Now fully aware of the impending attack the Argentine forces let rip with sustained defensive fire. The battle for Mount Longdon would rage for a further ten hours through the night. Cpl Milne survived but lost one leg as a consequence of his injuries. Every man knew that a mine casualty could not halt the momentum of advance.

An enemy defensive position was spotted by 4 Platoon and engaged with a couple of 66 LAWs, evidently destroying it.
The chaos of battle and the responsibility falling upon NCOs is summed up by the words of Cpl Ian Bailey:
[The fighting] was so broken that platoon commanders, certainly on my side of 5 Platoon, did not have direct control. It was the corporals who were doing it because you just didn’t see people in command. We were just getting in as much as we could. We knew where we had to go. You couldn’t just hang around [waiting for orders] you just had to get on with it.

4 Platoon and 5 Platoon continued to advance in close proximity. The fighting and the clearing of Argentine sangars was brutal and bloody. Those Argentine forces who survived attacks on their positions withdrew to the cover of the network of rear trenches and continued the defence of Mount Longdon.

Witnesses who had boots on the ground dismiss the general myth that the Argentine enemy on Mount Longdon were poorly trained, unmotivated conscripts. The enemy positions were strategically sound and the enemy fought with determination as if their lives depended upon doing so. Because the reality was that they knew their lives did depend on it.

As the battle evolved 4 Platoon and 5 Platoon advanced upon an Argentine sangar located below the summit of Mount Longdon. It was very well constructed from stone and railway sleepers and also exploited the natural rock features. The sangar’s principal weapon was a 7.62mm MAG (GPMG) but the position was covered from above by .50 cal HMG and on its flanks by numerous bunkers and rifle pits occupied by snipers equipped with night sights.

Recceing the ground ahead and attempting to keep up the momentum of advance Lt Bickerdike himself became a casualty:
As I broke cover, that’s when they opened fire… I was hit in the thigh by a single 7.62mm round which went straight through and I bounced about as if I’d been rugby tackled—a quick back somersault—and landed behind a bit of cover on a bit of a slope.
Of all the things to say I shouted ‘The bastard’s got me!’
It was such a classic officer’s line from a corny war film that it amused quite a few of the Toms around me.
Ian McKay had already come forward at this point and I said to him, ‘Sergeant McKay, I’m down; you are now in command. The platoon is yours.'


To be continued…
 
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Dot

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Legends! Love this. So inspirational. The platoon is yours sends shivers up my spine. True warfare
 

Mad Frank

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1973 Op Banner ‘Invasion’

This might be of interest to some. The first quoted extract is from Big Boys’ Rules by Mark Urban:

One incident, which could have been even more serious than that involving the SAS, is related by a member of the Parachute Regiment. A patrol commanded by a colourful NCO nicknamed ‘Banzai’ was landed in a field by an RAF helicopter. The pilot had made a map reading error, putting the soldiers down too far south, well inside the Irish Republic. When Banzai and his patrol sighted Irish Army armoured cars and troops moving to the north of them, they concluded that they were witnessing an invasion of Northern Ireland. Alarmed, British Army officers were readying their own armoured cars to fight the Irish Army before it was realised that Banzai’s patrol was inside the Republic.

The late Jim ‘Banzai’ Burton was later CSM of B Coy 2 PARA amongst other subsequent appointments.

To add context in the early 1970s there was speculation that the Republic of Ireland might invade across the border into Ulster. This sounds fanciful now but at the time it was considered a serious possibility.

The terrain of South Armagh along the border is very rural. From the air it is a vast patchwork of green farm fields which is why patrols sometimes strayed across the border when ‘navigationally challenged’ or in other words ‘totally lost’. Depending on the political climate and the good humour of the Garda Síochána a straying patrol might be arrested or simply pointed in the appropriate direction.

A credible source adds more detail to Mark Urban’s sketch:

“When the patrol exited the chopper they did the standard SOP and sat tight. This is when a steady stream of Ferret, Fox and other armoured vehicles were observed heading north along a nearby road. Banzai had no timely way of working out the patrol’s exact location on the ground but he knew that the designated LZ was well within the North and that he had not moved away from the LZ. He communicated what he had observed back to battalion and was ordered to stay put and observe.
It was at this point that the flapping began in the head-shed. Banzai’s report was escalated up the Army’s NI chain of command and then across to London. The British Embassy in Dublin received an encrypted signal alerting it to developing events on the border. Apparently the report almost reached 10 Downing Street.
Meanwhile, a member of the Garda Síochána on his routine rural beat had noticed the helicopter activity and sauntered across the fields with a local farmer to see what was up. Happening upon Banzai’s patrol he pointed north and chuckled “You’re too far south boys. But it’s not a problem. Just walk that way for a quarter hour and you’ll be back in the North, so you will.”"

Banzai’s ‘invasion’ became the stuff of legend. :)

This reminded me of a cracking one. The EOD wagon to this day has a cartoon motif of Felix the Cat. The story goes that a Para Reg signaller asked the OC of 321 EOD Coy what call sign the unit wanted to adopt for the tour on the Coy net. The Officer, having lost two of his blokes apparently said ‘Phoenix’, to signify rising from the ashes to conquer the IRA.
However, the young Tom misheard the instruction in the ops room and registered the call-sign ‘Felix’ by mistake. The cartoon cat was duly emblazoned on 321 EOD vehicles from that day forward! Legend has it.
 

Chelonian

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Sgt Ian J. McKay VC

(Part 3)

When Lt Bickerdike handed command to Sgt McKay 4 Platoon had been stopped dead in its recce of enemy positions. Aside from Bickerdike it had sustained other serious casualties and was now the focus of effective and sustained MMG, HMG and sniper fire from a determined enemy which was well entrenched.

The terrain of Mount Longdon and enemy action had forced some elements of Lt Cox’s 5 Platoon across to merge with the flank of Sgt McKay’s 4 Platoon. The composite of 5 Platoon under Cpl Bailey and 4 Platoon were now in a critical situation.

Options were very limited. A withdrawal into better cover would leave the wounded even more vulnerable and the momentum of advance would have collapsed almost certainly resulting in more casualties and dead. Delay, dithering and inaction were arguably the biggest threats regardless of the devastating enemy fire.

Sgt McKay had earned a reputation for being a thinker who made calculated strategic decisions rather than impulsive ones. What went through Sgt McKay’s mind as he appraised the situation is of course a matter of speculation. His training and service had brought him to a moment in time which would define his career. It is apparent that Sgt McKay judged that the best chance of survival for his Platoon was an immediate attack on the formidable MMG and HMG positions.

On the voyage south on MV Canberra Sgt McKay had said to a colleague “I’ve no intention of taking any risks and getting killed [but] if I do… then it will be to protect my men, to save lives.

Sgt McKay ordered 5 Platoon's Cpl Bailey and his men to skirt left and then skirmish forward. Then he ordered Cpl Kelly, LCpl James, Pte Kempster and Pte Burt to follow him. Cpl Bailey later recalled:
The .50 calibre has a very distinctive sound - ‘bump, bump, bump’ - not like the GPMG, so we knew where the .50 was. James was out on the far left, then Jason [Burt], then [David] Kempster, then me with Ian out on the right. ‘Ned’ Kelly had moved around some rocks and as we moved off he fired rounds towards the .50 and used 66s [LAW] to keep their heads down.

We were then running across this piece of ground — ‘pepper potting’ — as we went across to get underneath the .50 so that we could then try and get around to it. What we didn’t know was that there were [Argentines] below. As we went across we got rounds coming at us straight away. I knew somebody went down to my left — Jason was killed within about two steps — and I knew somebody else was moving further off to my left. We went on and fired into one position as we ran past it.

I could see Ian, running, in the corner of my eye to the right and we got to a position where we were taking lots of rounds. That’s when I got shot. I thought I’d tripped, literally; I went to get up again and I had no movement in my right leg. I’d been hit in the right hip. I then went down again. Fell forward. I put my hand down and saw lots of blood. At that point it went quiet; then the firing started again. You see, the Argentine position that got me, which shot Jason and shot [and wounded] Kempster, was still there — a sangar with a tent around it. We just hadn’t seen it. That was the one that took us out but that position did not kill Ian. It wasn’t the .50, the .50 was above it.

Because Ian was off on the right, he had totally avoided the sangar that got me. He had gone around it and just kept going. He had gone in front of ‘Ned’s’ section and had run on the other side of some rocks and gone uphill, got on top of it and took out the .50. The last time I saw Ian McKay alive, he was still moving on my right. I was hit, went down, tried to get up and I never saw him again. There was fighting going on, two explosions then it stopped and there was nothing. Ian died in the trench.”


Cpl Bailey could not know it where he lay wounded but Sgt McKay never reached the .50’s position. The .50’s gun team apparently overwhelmed by the ferocity of Sgt McKay’s assault had fled along with the MAG (GPMG) team.

Lt Bickerdike recalled:
Within a few seconds of him going forward with his group it all went quiet again because they had obviously neutralised the immediate threat. There was a lot of fire coming our way before he went and then a lot of fire stopped. It was that quick action that saved lives and turned the events in that phase of the battle. It neutralised the immediate threat and kept the momentum going. Ian’s action saved my life.

On 11 October 1982 in a Supplement to The London Gazette Sgt McKay’s citation was published:

24210031 Sergeant Ian John McKay, The Parachute Regiment

“During the night of 11th/12th June 1982, 3rd Battalion The Parachute Regiment mounted a silent night attack on an enemy battalion position on Mount Longdon, an important objective in the battle for Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands. Sergeant McKay was platoon sergeant of 4 Platoon, B Company, which, after the initial objective had been secured, was ordered to clear the Northern side of the long East/West ridge feature, held by the enemy in depth, with strong mutually-supporting positions. By now the enemy were fully alert, and resisting fiercely. As 4 Platoon’s advance continued it came under increasingly heavy fire from a number of well-sited enemy machine gun positions on the ridge, and received casualties. Realising that no further advance was possible the Platoon Commander ordered the Platoon to move from its exposed position to seek shelter among the rocks of the ridge itself. Here it met up with part of 5 Platoon. The enemy fire was still both heavy and accurate, and the position of the platoons was becoming increasingly hazardous. Taking Sergeant McKay, a Corporal and a few others, and covered by supporting machine gun fire, the Platoon Commander moved forward to reconnoitre the enemy positions but was hit by a bullet in the leg, and command devolved upon Sergeant McKay.

It was clear that instant action was needed if the advance was not to falter and increasing casualties to ensue. Sergeant McKay decided to convert this reconnaissance into an attack in order to eliminate the enemy positions. He was in no doubt of the strength and deployment of the enemy as he undertook this attack. He issued orders, and taking three men with him, broke cover and charged the enemy position. The assault was met by a hail of fire. The Corporal was seriously wounded, a Private killed and another wounded. Despite these losses Sergeant McKay, with complete disregard for his own safety, continued to charge the enemy position alone. On reaching it he despatched the enemy with grenades, thereby relieving the position of beleaguered 4 and 5 Platoons, who were now able to redeploy with relative safety. Sergeant McKay, however, was killed at the moment of victory, his body falling on to the bunker. Without doubt Sergeant McKay’s action retrieved a most dangerous situation and was instrumental in ensuring the success of the attack. His was a coolly calculated act, the dangers of which must have been too apparent to him beforehand. Undeterred he performed with outstanding selflessness, perseverance and courage. With a complete disregard for his own safety, he displayed courage and leadership of the highest order, and was an inspiration to all those around him.”


Artist Peter Archer was commissioned to paint a representation of the action which led to Sgt McKay’s citation for VC. The original hangs in the Officers’ Mess at 3 PARA.

W500_Archer.jpg


Sgt Ian J. McKay VC is rightly remembered for his actions on Mount Longdon but he also had a loving family who grieved his loss. Ian McKay left a wife, Marica (not Marcia, as often stated), son Don and daughter Melanie and his parents Freda and Ken McKay.

On 26 November 1982 Sgt McKay was reinterred at Aldershot Military Cemetery.

W500_Grave.jpg


The interview extracts for the three parts of this tribute were lifted from Jon Cooksey’s excellent biography of Sgt Ian McKay VC. It’s a good read. Those who knew and served with Sgt McKay clearly trusted Cooksey and cooperated with the book’s production.

W500_Cooksey.jpg


Other information was lifted from several editions of Pegasus journal published in 1982 and 1983.

W500_Pegasus.jpg


Apologies for the delay in completing this small tribute. It took longer than anticipated because I aimed for accuracy out of respect for the blokes involved. I am mindful that there may well be some 3 PARA blokes who read this and who fought on Mount Longdon. If there are inaccuracies they are mine alone and I’ll happily correct them.
 
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