- Nov 23, 2020
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Storming machine gun nests seems like it should be the Second World War. This is amazing courage and I’m gutted I didn’t know anything about him before this! What an inspiration
Aye that’s very sobering, especially Grose being there at 17. Essentially a childIt's a sobering thought that seventeen-year-old Pte Jason Burt had Passed out of Depot Para on 22 January 1982 as one of 476 Platoon and only a few months later was operationally deployed.
Two others from his Recruit Platoon were Pte Neil Grose, aged eighteen years and Pte Ian Scrivens aged seventeen years. Pte Grose's eighteenth birthday was 11 June 1982.
Pte Grose was mortally wounded on 12 June 1982, the day following his eighteenth birthday, and Pte Scrivens was killed by an Argentine sniper as he attempted to reach Grose to administer aid.
Ptes Burt, Grose and Scrivens were reinterred at Aldershot Military Cemetry in November 1982.
Sgt Ian J. McKay VC
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.
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.
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.
Other information was lifted from several editions of Pegasus journal published in 1982 and 1983.
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.
That is so true, and when reaching the Btn not one ever mentioned it. I have over the years after writing that up, had the odd email from family
It's not my place to put myself in anyone else's boots but I'd wager that the account I've just read would have significantly comforted the families....but what did we do? The account is kept to a bare minimum, because in the main families could read it?
Difficult for someone here on the outside to generalise but I reckon that you summed it up well by describing it as humbling.She was extremely thankful, So yes it was probably because we were there soon after her husband was killed. I was humbled.
I bet it was a struggle for her all them years ago with kids, the social services were basically none existent.