Para History & Para Legends

Aldo

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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
 

Dot

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This is my favourite thread as it’s so motivational reading about these legends.
 

Chelonian

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To underscore the sometimes contested accounts by credible sources in a battle environment a few words about Pte Jason S. Burt who also died on Mount Longdon on 12 June 1982.

Pte Burt was aged only seventeen and had Passed Out of Depot Para earlier in 1982.

In the wake of the battle, the available evidence put him with Sgt Ian McKay on the attempt to take out a 50-cal machine gun position that won his platoon sergeant a posthumous Victoria Cross. But, contrary to battalion records and subsequent media reports, he didn't fall there and was apparently the only one of McKay's party to return to his lines unwounded.
It was in the follow-up attack when, after answering Sgt Des Fuller's command for a combined 4 and 5 Platoon group to charge, he stumbled, climbed back to his feet and was killed by a 50-calibre machine gun round.


https://www.paradata.org.uk/people/jason-s-burt
 

Zozo

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Spine chilling stuff. This tells you so much about what it means to be a Para! Heros
 

Admin

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Really enjoyed the latest instalment @Chelonian and it highlights the ethos of Para Reg is visceral detail.

Taking the time to read this about Sgt McKay and his men will prove to you that Paras need a blood boiling -fierce determination to succeed, whatever the difficulties.
It also proves that you need much more than just physical and mental robustness. You also need motivation, self-reliance, initiative and intelligence.
These qualities have proved a winning factor time and time again on operations to the present day. A fantastic thread and I encourage every user to take some time and read through it, I promise it will stir something within you.
 

Iron

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Good on you @Chelonian


The two Rheinmetall 20mm AA Guns captured by 2 and 3 PARA were successfully cleaned up and re-furbished and are now back proudly guarding the front of RHQ.
 

Chelonian

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It'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.
 

Nutter

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It'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.
Aye that’s very sobering, especially Grose being there at 17. Essentially a child
 

LLB

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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.

Loved reading that despite the tragic losses. Real warriors
 

Happyjack

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Call Sign TG 577
Well I seem to also have a very somber story. But I think one that shouldn't be forgotten, for the sake of all the lads
who didn't make it.
It was to do with my mate and myself's account of the Hastings crash of Abingdon 1965
I can never forget about it.
For at the time, it was supposed to be one of the most happy times after passing selection.
It was my 2nd course, having taken one as a boy soldier, just passed 16 to be be precise.
And statements went out the window of, 'parachuting is 99% safe'.
So going to gain my wings on a 2 week course, was way up there in achievements.
But it wasn't to be, and getting back to Depot was under a very dark cloud indeed.

http://www.parachuteregiment-hsf.org/RAF Hastings_Call Sign TG 577.htm
 

Chelonian

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@Happyjack A very sobering read. Thanks for sharing it. That's a lot to experience and then carry from such a very young age.
It also reminds us all that people lose their lives in training as well as on ops.
 

Happyjack

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@Happyjack A very sobering read. Thanks for sharing it. That's a lot to experience and then carry from such a very young age.
It also reminds us all that people lose their lives in training as well as on ops.
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
members thanking us for what we did that day, but what did we do? The account is kept to a bare minimum, because in the main families could read it?
 

Chelonian

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...but what did we do? The account is kept to a bare minimum, because in the main families could read it?
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.
Nobody could bring their loved ones back but it demonstrated that others who had a physical connection to the event truly cared.
 
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Chelonian

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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.
Difficult for someone here on the outside to generalise but I reckon that you summed it up well by describing it as humbling.
In similar circumstances, as a relative, most of us would feel both moved and grateful that someone with a close association with the death of a loved one would attend and pay respects.

Your presence almost certainly meant more to her and the family than that of the headshed of today who, regardless of good intentions, were detailed to attend. Just my opinion though.
 
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Happyjack

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Jim Burton whom was mentioned above as 'Banzai', was my section commander (Cpl) at a time in B Coy in the 60's, when I joined 2 para, he was at that time an ok fella from my memory.

Memories from our early serving days seem to stand still. Because I believe what we all did in passing selection was and is something to be proud of, and can never be forgotten.

Some lads from my time are still with us, and so we do not forget certain stories handed down.

The following is a not so well known story of our Regiment, which I believe, shows what our lads are trained for.

Mick M who still wears his beret the same today.

I thought I would post a battle referring to our lads, which in my opinion should never be forgotten.



Troops from the Parachute Regiment, outnumbered by more than 10 to one, withstand a ferocious enemy attack lasting more than two hours.

A fire fight which should have ended in bloody defeat instead becomes an astonishing victory against the odds.

The feat has been likened by one senior officer to the Battle of Rorke’s Drift during the 19th century in Africa when a garrison of 150 British troops fought off up to 4,000 Zulu warriors.

But you will struggle to find much in the history books about the battle for Plaman Mapu, which happened 50 years ago on the border of Malaysia and Indonesia.

That is about to change with the imminent screening of a new documentary about this largely forgotten incident.

The latest in the We Were There series on Forces TV reveals the story of the brave 36 soldiers and shows three surviving veterans revisiting the scene of their triumph five decades later.

It is a bittersweet experience as the men are feted by locals and pay tribute to fallen comrades.

Back in 1965 Les Simcock, then 18, was on leave and in a cinema with a girl when his name flashed up on the screen.

The message was to alert him that he had received a telegram ordering him to report back for duty.

#I’d thought we were just there for a bit of guard duty and never imagined we’d actually have to fight#

Private Les Simcock

Les and his colleagues in 2 Para were bound for Malaysia, a fledgling state that was being supported by Britain.

Over the next six weeks they received intense jungle training before being deployed to the island of Borneo where they were posted to a base on the 1,000-mile border with communist leaning Indonesia.

Their job was to help prevent an invasion. It was a hellish, mosquito infested place that was teeming with snakes and rats.

There were frequent torrential downpours and the awful humidity left the men constantly drenched in sweat. This small garrison usually comprised 140 soldiers but on the night of April 27 two of the three platoons were out on patrols that lasted between three and 10 days.

The remaining 36 men including Private Les Simcock were dug in but the attack starting at 5am came as a surprise. Most of the Paras were sleeping and a downpour helped camouflage the sound of the advancing Indonesians.

The attack was intended by Indonesia to impress Russia and China, while also destabilising Malaysia with its Western allies.

“I’d thought we were just there for a bit of guard duty and never imagined we’d actually have to fight,” recalls Les, 68, from Portsoy, Aberdeenshire, who was the youngest soldier on the base.

He said: “The first thing I heard was machine-gun fire then blasts and bangs. The whole place seemed to explode. In the darkness I didn’t know if it was 10 people attacking us or 1,000. A rocket -propelled grenade landed about three feet away from me but fortunately it didn’t go off, otherwise that would have been me finished.”

One British soldier was killed in the initial bombardment and another was fatally wounded.

Within moments the first wave of Indonesian special forces was through the perimeter barbed wire and inside the compound. It seemed certain that the base would be overrun before the British troops could gather their wits.

It is thought that the attack was deliberately launched when the garrison strength was weak.

Yet this proved to be a mistake because the British troops were spread out thinly and casualties were light.

Slowly the fight back began, led by Sergeant Major John Williams. He grabbed a sub-machine gun and sprinted towards the onrushing Indonesians, firing aggressively from the hip.

His men were inspired by his actions and Private George Averre, from Sunderland, seized the only remaining undamaged mortar.

However he faced a problem because the fighting was now at close quarters and the weapon was designed to fire over much longer distances.

Thinking on his feet the 22-year old pulled the mortar off its tripod to change the angle and allow the shells to hit the advancing enemy just 25 yards away.

Over the next two hours George fired 600 rounds, altering the course of the firefight.

Now aged 72 he says modestly: “You just do your job. I was trained to be a mortar man and that is exactly what I did.

“My head was in a fog to start with because I had been asleep. I could see the tracer coming in and I knew we were in big trouble.

The training kicks in and then it’s just automatic. You are riding on adrenaline. It was good to get the first mortar round off.

“We were expecting to be hit at any time but just kept firing round after round. We were lucky because we were surrounded but we did our job well. We were a team and that’s the main reason we survived.”

Mick Murtagh, from Coventry, who was a 19-year-old private and only fresh out of training, was also caught in the middle of the fiercest fighting.

At one stage Mick, 69, was forced to slither down the slippery slopes in the garrison on his backside so that he could gather more ammunition for his machine gun.

Bullets were flying and he was hit in the arm by shrapnel.

But he kept fighting, adding: “I didn’t feel anything at first. I just cracked on. We knew we had a hell of a job on our hands but I didn’t have time to be afraid.”

In the programme made by award -winning film-maker Chris Terrill, the veterans Les, Mick and George return to the jungle for the first time in 50 years and receive a heroes’ welcome from villagers.

Some were children at the time of the battle and they still remember the kindness of the British soldiers who shared their rations.

A plaque is unveiled to commemorate the forgotten battle of Plaman Mapu and the trio visit the graves of the two British soldiers who died.

It is thought that about 60 Indonesians were killed. The base is now overgrown but traces of the battle remain, including scores of cartridge cases, mortar fuses and the scars of the trenches.

Field Marshall Lord Carver said immediately after the battle: “The battle of Plaman Mapu and the brave efforts of the 2 Para soldiers there on the day can be likened to the defence of Rorke’s Drift.”

Gill Boyd, a former Para and regimental historian who has spent years researching the battle, adds: “The bravery of the young men who held that position that night was totally synonymous with the ethos of the Parachute Regiment soldier: surrounded, outnumbered and outgunned but never a thought of surrender.”

Yet the tally of military awards is low given the heroic defence of the garrison against an estimated 400 elite enemy soldiers.

Sergeant Major Williams, who lost an eye in the battle and was thereafter known as “Patch”, received the Distinguished Conduct Medal.

One further medal was handed out and Mick Murtagh was mentioned in dispatches.

It is claimed that the authorities did not want to draw attention to this largely secret war being waged in South-east Asia.

It was feared that the conflict could escalate into “Britain’s Vietnam” and was politically sensitive.

But after the failure of the attack on the garrison at Plaman Mapu the Indonesians never again dared to threaten a British border post in Malaysia.pm.jpg
 
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