2nd Battalion The Parachute Regiment
David Wood was born in Newport, Fife on the 15th of January 1953. He was the eldest son of Jean and Alastair; his two brothers Alastair and Ian were born in 1954 and 1967 respectively. He was brought up in a very close-knit community at Kennoway, also in Fife, where the family home was a cottage where his great grandparents had lived. David was a very happy, thoughtful and placid child who still enjoyed the rough and tumble of growing up with other boys. He joined the Cubs at 8, then graduated to the Scouts where, aged 11, he was enjoying midnight hikes with his brother in the great outdoors. That year he also passed into Buckhaven Grammar School, where rugby and swimming became his sporting interests, along with gliding with the Leven section of the Air Training Corps.
During this period, he and a friend travelled to Toulouse, by train – as they were both sons of railway men. At home, his youngest brother was born, and David’s kind instincts and improving French resulted in a bottle of champagne for his mother! In 1969 the family then moved to Gillingham in Kent, where David continued his education at Gillingham Grammar School, although his studies were affected by an intense interest in the Air Training Corps. His blossoming talents as a leader were recognised there by rapid promotion to the rank of Cadet Warrant Officer. Because of this and his family’s strong military background, a career in the Armed Services beckoned.
David’s grandfather had been with the Royal Scots in the Great War; his own father had served throughout Europe and Africa during WW2 with the Royal Artillery. Despite this soldiering background, David wanted to become a pilot, but this was not to be, so he was commissioned instead into the Royal Air Force Regiment in 1973. His three years service saw tours of duty in Salalah (Oman) as well as Northern Ireland, plus experience of Germany, Denmark and Hong Kong. Throughout this time his calm and efficient manner were marking him out as a fine prospect, with talents that now sought recognition on a wider stage. Like many superb young officers at his age, David was now worried at the possibilities of becoming ‘desk-bound’ and was drawn to the dynamic and challenging world of the Parachute Regiment instead. His request to transfer was eventually accepted, and this took place in November 1976.
Service in Cyprus followed, then Canada, Kenya, America and Northern Ireland again. He took up sports parachuting as a hobby, and was soon doing long freefall descents, although in complete contrast he also loved sub-aqua diving and fly-fishing. He also discovered downhill skiing in Switzerland, during Christmas 1981. Meanwhile his quick mind and appetite for study were being recognised in his professional career as well. He studied for Staff College, the essential gateway to higher rank, was promoted Captain and then became Adjutant of the 2nd Battalion of the Parachute Regiment (2 PARA).
Early in 1982, the plan was for 2 PARA to deploy to Belize for jungle training, a busy time for all concerned, as much equipment had to be sent out in advance. Then came the Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands, and 2 PARA’s sister unit, 3 PARA, were immediately mobilized as the Spearhead battalion for attachment to 3 Commando Brigade of the Royal Marines. Intensive lobbying by their irrepressible CO, Lt Col H Jones VC OBE, ensured that 2 PARA’s deployment to Belize was cancelled, and they boarded the North Sea ferry Norland instead. It was from this ship that the battalion landed in the Falkland Islands on Friday May 21st, 1982.
After digging in on the ridge of the Sussex Mountains and watching the intensive aerial attacks on the shipping in San Carlos Water and Falkland Sound, 2 PARA moved forward to attack the Argentine garrison at Goose Green. The battle began early on May 28th and went on for over 24 hours. At one point, A Company was pinned down beneath Darwin Hill. The Adjutant came up with the CO’s group, and sensing that things were critical, was heard to say: “Come on lads – remember Arnhem!” That famous WW2 battle is one of 2 PARA’s most prized battle honours. A few minutes later, David Wood and two colleagues were felled by bullets from a machine gun post that they were attacking. He was killed instantly, just before his CO also gave his life as he tried to maintain the momentum of 2 PARA’s action. A famous victory was achieved later, when the much larger Argentine garrison surrendered.
David’s body was brought back to Ajax Bay, where he was temporarily interred, along with sixteen colleagues who had also died in the battle. The moving service was conducted by the Battalion’s padre and attended by over two hundred fellow Paras and Royal Marines. Eleven of the dead were officers or NCOs, demonstrating the British military’s clear understanding of the principles of leadership. Later on, his body was repatriated, and now lies alongside his grandparents in the churchyard at Kennoway.
Ironically, David had received, in the run-up to Goose Green, the news that he had passed the difficult preliminary examination for Staff College. The way had been opened to a career that might have reached the rank of Major General. He was a very fine human being – a tough but popular Parachute Regiment officer who was held in huge regard by all who knew him. His parents survive him; he will live in their hearts – and those of many others – forever.
I had the honour to serve with him on 51 Sqn RAF Regiment in Salalah. He was unflappable in a contact and always looked after his men.
Each and every year he is one of the military guys I always think about on Remembrance Day.
R B Loughlin MBE
In 2022, as part of the 40th Anniversary commemorations, geographical features were identified and named after the fallen of 1982. WOOD POINT is a prominent point at the west end of Philimore island, off Lively Island, East Falkland.
It is in position
51° 58′ 25.84″ S, 058° 30′ 28.38″ W