For Your Eyes Only - Part Two

Written by Paul McKay, HMS Brilliant 1982 

Nelson’s Trafalgar ‘England expects ….’ is embedded in naval psyche.  But another event in naval folklore inspired us to attempt a hairy  escapade this night.  

The Royal Navy launched an audacious attack on the Italian fleet in Taranto  harbour with ship launched aircraft in 1940. It is celebrated every November in  the Fleet Air Arm. Inspired by the men of Taranto, a ship launched helicopter  attack in 1982 drew no such acclaim, but as at Taranto, the aircrew knew their  lives were expendable and they were prepared not to return from the mission.  

Image: Flying through Anti-Aircraft Fire at Taranto 1942 

On 14 May 1982, the Type 22 Frigate HMS BRILLIANT was protecting the British  Battle Group, the aircraft carriers HMS INVINCIBLE and HMS HERMES east of the Falkland Islands, to place the Argentine Air Force at extremity of its missile  and bomb attack range. The weather all week had been seasonal wintery gales  and getting worse, reducing the possibility of air sorties taking off from the  Argentine mainland. HMS BRILLIANT used the opportunity to rendezvous with  an auxiliary supply ship to take on stores by Replenish At Sea but the swell was  so bad that ships could not get alongside each other and hold position safely; so,  we replenished using the ship’s Lynx helicopters flying the heavy stores from ship  to ship as underslung netted loads. A long and tiring flight but the ship’s crew were happy as we landed mail and news from loved ones back home.  

We were scheduled to fly again that afternoon in an early warning role, to the west  where Argentine attacks were expected to come from but the sea became so rough  with the approaching storm that it wasn’t possible to move the helicopter from the hangar to the flight deck with water up to our shins. It looked as if I was going to  get some needed rest from flying duties when I was called to a briefing in the  Captain’s cabin. This was the first of several briefings over a few hours with each  becoming tenser and a tadge confrontational.  

Throughout the week, British frigates and destroyers had been dispatched under  cover of darkness from defending the British Battle Group in the Southern Ocean to search for and destroy Argentine ships supplying troops, and for the insertion  of Special Forces on East and West Falkland Islands. The mission HMS  BRILLIANT was given this night, seemed at face value to be straight forward – to  seek and destroy the Argentine Supply Transport Ship, ARA BAHIA BUEN  SUCESO. Intelligence reported her in the vicinity of Fox Bay, West Falkland.  

Image: Running ahead of a storm in typical South Atlantic weather 

Captain Coward, HMS BRILLIANT described as one of the last pirate submariner  captains, had the bit between his teeth. Being given the order from Admiral Woodward on the Flagship HMS HERMES he pushed his warfare team hard for  a plan to take a ‘prize’ this night. The mission had to be carried out at night to be  back on station with the Battle Group by sunrise. British intelligence reported  Fox Bay (Spanish Bahía Fox) to be heavily defended by a crack 900 strong Argentine Infantry Regiment. A careful analysis of available maps and charts  limited BRILLIANT’s attack options. Fox Bay was land locked with a narrow  heavily defended sea entrance and surrounded by hills.  

I was in no doubt to the importance of the mission and was central to the planning. Present at early briefings was the Officer in Charge (OIC) of a Special Boat  Squadron (SBS) troop of 10 men that had recently embarked for an insertion  ashore but not related to tonight’s tasking. I knew the OIC well, a wiry Royal  Marine Office who I had previously served with on HMS ENDURANCE, the  Antarctic Ice Patrol and Falkland Islands Guardship.

Intelligence didn’t report the exact position of the target ship but we assumed it  to be near or alongside at Fox Bay East Settlement supplying the encamped 8th Infantry Regiment positions. Attack options excluded HMS BRILLIANT using its  Exocet surface-to-surface sea skimming missiles as the narrow inlet would not  provide good radar definition nor ideal attack geometry of a target alongside a  jetty. A greater success probability would be the use of the two ship’s Lynx  helicopters and its Sea Skua anti-ship sea skimming missiles but our assessment  was that there was a risk of damage to civilian structures if the missiles went  rogue. We were forced to consider another coup de grâce. The problem was getting  inside Fox Bay without being detected from Argentine defensive positions.  

Image: Captain John Coward HMS BRILLIANT (late Vice Admiral Sir John Coward KCB, DSO) 

I had visited Fox Bay a number of times during HMS ENDURANCE guard ship  and hydrographic survey taskings between 1979 – 1981. I knew the topography  of the settlements and surroundings. Captain Coward asked for a solution using  the ship’s standard boat, the Halmatic Pacific Rigid Raider, to transit the Falkland  Sound and enter the closed bay (undetected); to find, then to attack the target with  available weapons. The Pacific had legendary sea keeping qualities and was  compared at the time to be the Land Rover of the sea. So, we went away with  some trepidation to plan a fast boat attack mission. 

A fast boat approach through the defended narrows under cover of darkness would  give an element of tactical surprise – until detected. If, and once through the  narrows, the coxswain would drive the Pacific to close the Supply Transport Ship (so that we could positively identify it before attacking – a rule of engagement).  Then we would attack it at speed to allow its small crew of 4 to attack with any hand-held weapons that we could bear onto the target. A tactic done years later with some effect by the Iranian ‘Boghammer’ speed patrol boats to merchant ships  in the Straits of Hormuz. But what weapons could we use to disable a large ship?  

On passage south, HMS BRILLIANT had embarked a light Milan anti-tank  infantry weapon for use of troops during the land battles yet to happen. The Milan  is a shoulder fired wire-guided missile; meaning the sight of the launch unit has  to be aimed at the target to guide the missile. It had never been fired from a ship’s  small boat. (On passage south, we had explored using the Milan from the rear  cabin of the Lynx helicopter but drew a line after some measurements and lively  brainstorming and said No Way). We would probably have had to stop or slow the  ship’s boat abeam the target to allow for steady aim and fire. The SBS were to  cover that aspect of the fire mission. My role, having the local knowledge, was to  assist pilot the Pacific across Falkland Sound avoiding the masses of kelp forests  (seaweed); a known snagging hazard to small boat propellers, and once inside the  narrows to add to the small arms fire power, using a 7.62mm General Purpose  Machine Gun.  

Image: Halmatic Pacific Rigid Raider (similar to type used in 1982) 

Safe sea transit to Fox Bay would be extremely difficult because of the high risk  of fouling the outboard motor propeller in the kelp offshore. At some stage we may  have had to cut the engine and paddle through the kelp hugging the cliff line.  With the winds and current (and cold) it would have been an impossible task even  for the super fit SBS. (We had learnt from the retaking of South Georgia that  small boat operations were fraught with risk and never to assume the  environment would be on our side). The professionals (SBS) were concerned,  having concluded their own risk assessment. The balance of risk was against getting away with an effective, stealthy method of attack. Somebody muted we  would be dead in the water ‘quite literally’. We thought the plan to be suicidal and the SBS went to tell the Captain – not me! With the SBS out of the mission, I  knew a helicopter attack option would be the one option remaining.  

Helicopter Attack 

The British Task Force used Greenwich Mean Time (UK time) throughout the  war, so called Z Time. Argentina and the Falkland Islands were in Z-3 hours.  Sunset at 20:15Z (UK time) which was 17:15 local time. The time difference was  significant as we wanted to catch the Argentine defenders in the middle of their  night (not the UK night) when we hoped the majority would be sleeping.  

HMS BRILLIANT was dispatched to the south of Falkland Sound with  instructions to be back with the Main Battle Group by daylight. It took 6 hours sailing in a heavy South Atlantic sea to reach the lee of East Falkland by 01:00 local time. We hoped Argentine forces ashore would be sheltering and sleeping  from the bitter wind chill, or at least most of them. The passage was used to  prepare the two ship’s Lynx helicopters. The Lynx aircrew pairing were: 

XZ 729 C/S ‘Basher’ – Lt Cdr John Clark RN, Lt Paul McKay RN, Lt Chris  Sherman RN, Royal Marine Mark Neat  

XZ 721 C/S ‘Jimmy’ – Lt Cdr Barry Bryant RN, Lt Nick Butler RN, Royal  Marine Pottsy Potts 

As I was the only person with knowledge of Fox Bay, the responsibility of leading  the attack was mine. A task I readily accepted. We huddled together in the ship’s  flight office formulating a ‘Taranto’ style multi-direction airborne attack to take  back to the Captain for approval. We looked at the recent signal intelligence which  didn’t make comfortable reading. 

Image: Some of the 900 Infantry defending Fox Bay 1982

Fox Bay is the second largest settlement on West Falkland. It is located on a bay  of the same name, and is on the south east coast of the island. It is divided into Fox Bay East and Fox Bay West making it two settlements with an airstrip. Fox  Bay was occupied by Argentine troops, around 900 men from the 8th Motorised  Infantry Regiment and elements of the 9th Engineer Company. Worrying for us  was the report of Roland and Tigercat Surface-to-Air Missile systems and 35mm  twin and 20mm single barrel Anti-Aircraft guns defending the Argentine held  ground. A helicopter is an easy target for air defence teams to shoot down!  

The Target 

The 5000-ton Argentine Navy resupply vessel ARA BAHIA BUEN SUCESO  landed scrap metal workers on South Georgia in March 1982 which played an  important part in the escalation of tensions between Britain and Argentina.  Later, she was involved in blockade running to the Falkland Islands. She sailed  from Port Stanley towards the Falkland Sound on 29 April and was resupplying  the Argentine garrisons on the Islands. As a transport ship, she had no mounted  guns but we assumed the crew, as augmented by Argentine military, would have  small to medium calibre machine guns on the upper decks and possible shoulder  launched weapons to repel an attack. 

Image: ARA Bueno Suceso at Fox Bay jetty 1982 

West Falkland has a mountain range running its length and a rocky cliff line  similar to Devon and Cornwall. There are creeks and inlets that cut through the  hills, perfect to fly low level and avoid detection. There are no trees and the terrain  is largely grazing land so little chance of flying into something at almost zero feet  (other than sheep), assuming we could see the ground. The sea approach into the  Bay was bounded either side by hills rising to a 1000ft and measures ½ mile across  at the entrance. Flying through the narrow gap would have provided an easy  target for the defenders and downwind the Lynx carries a distinctive noise1

1 Residents of Somerset often complained to the Westlands helicopter site at Yeovil of  noise disturbance causing the Company to apologise to local residents and that it only  performed Lynx night flying trials when it is was absolutely necessary.  

Inside the narrows, Fox Bay opens slightly. Looking from seaward, the jetty of  Fox Bay West was to the left and the jetty of Fox Bay East to the right with settlement houses close by. Fox Bay was not a fishing or trading port, so we knew  any ship’s electronic signature that we picked up would most likely be Argentine.  

A transport ship is a viable target for a Sea Skua anti-ship missile. Sea Skua is a  semi-active sea skimming missile with a range of 1.6 to 8.2 miles. The launching  Lynx would illuminate the target with its Sea Spray radar and the missile homing  head would then home in on the reflected energy. Critical was the requirement for a good radar ‘lock’ signal to be maintained.  

Image: Lynx helicopter sea skimming Sea Skua missile  

Sea Skua was still a relatively new British missile, just like the Argentine Super  Etendard aircraft launched Exocet missile which had success on the attack on  HMS SHEFFIELD, HMS GLAMORGAN, ATLANTIC CONVEYOR. We had  technical notes concerning Sea Skua missile capabilities and limitations. We  concluded that if the target ship was at the jetty then the likelihood of sustaining  a good radar lock for missile time of flight was risky. If a Sea Skua missile receives  intermittent radar lock signal during flight there is a probability of the missile  ditching or flying through the settlement and causing civilian casualties.  

We still did not know the exact position of the target nor the position of ARA  BAHIA PARAISO which was used as a hospital ship. The 2nd Geneva Convention  prohibits military attacks on hospital ships. Therefore, there was a need to  positively identify any target by its name before attacking it. We decided that Lynx c/s ‘Basher’ would fly into Fox Bay from an overland hidden route and hunt  the target down and Lynx c/s ‘Jimmy’ to loiter on the seaward side of the narrows  as a distraction and armed with Sea Skua in case the ship made a viable target.  Basher needed an alternative weapon to the Sea Skua missile in the confined  attack space of Fox Bay so we called on the assistance of Lt Chris Sherman the  ship’s diving and demolition officer.  

A few weeks before, Chris had prepared a ‘homemade bomb’ around 60lbs plastic  explosive and scare charges for operations to dismantle the captured submarine  ARA SANTA FE during the South Georgia campaign. His bomb ingredients were  packed into a Courage CSB beer barrel with a short time-fuse detonation. Our  attack method was to hover taxi over the funnel of the ship in the dark and drop  a similar fabricated bomb down the funnel with expectation that it would cause  an explosion and a major fire. If, as we thought, the ship was carrying ammunition  and fuel then resultant explosions would disable the ship. The delivery method  was so ludicrous to be hilariously dangerous.  

Image: Lt Chris Sherman (left) Ship’s Diving Officer & maker of the special delivery parcel bomb 

The plan was approved. HMS BRILLIANT was making fast passage to the Islands in a heavy sea. My stomach was churning perhaps more of anxiety than motion  sickness. I was tired having not slept well in some days. I was running on  adrenaline. I decided to take a shower. Running through my mind was my  mother’s words to me as a child to always wear clean underwear in case of an  accident. I dutifully put on a clean set of underwear under my flying suit and  placed around my neck; the St Christopher medallion a gift from my parents at my first Holy Communion, my ‘dog tags’ giving name, blood group and religion  and two phials of self-regulated auto-injector morphine for use in the event of  treating casualties. I tried to catch a power nap but it was impossible with so  many thoughts running through my head. I was scared. Those male hormones  were running havoc, just like on a first date but worse! I was dutifully spurred by  imagining what the men of Taranto would have been thinking prior to their mission.  

I got dressed early into my flying immersion suit. I checked the contents of the  suit pockets over and over again. In my right leg pocket, a tin containing a  selection of escape and evasion survival aids; a pocket compass, a pen knife, a  night torch, some boiled sweets, etc. In my left leg pocket, two extra Sterling  submachine gun magazines, loaded and taped back to back for speed of changing  magazines. In my left knee pocket, I had a folded map of West Falkland for use  in the event of escape and evasion. In my right leg pocket, a spare 9mm Browning  pistol magazine, the last chance saloon if entrapped during evasion by Argentine  troops. I checked my armoured body vest that I would wear under the aircrew life  jacket, particularly the lead plating which was fastened in pockets, one over my  heart and one in the back pocket over my spine. I checked all again and then  again. I loaded a fresh 9mm magazine even buffing the bullets as if they would  fly faster and slotted it into the pistol that I had strapped to my left leg because  confines of the tight cockpit meant I could not wear it on my preferred right side.  

Image: The Sterling Submachine gun 1944-1994 

I am right handed so I practiced hand to left thigh, pistol out of holster, aim, shoot,  time and time over until I got it down to seconds (with my eyes closed). Nerves  were getting to me.  

I walked aft to the helicopter hangar to speak to the air mechanics preparing the  two helicopters for the mission, still a few hours away. I met up with Chris who  was finishing preparations to his home-made bomb. It took two people to lift the  bomb into the rear passenger cabin of the helicopter such was the weight of  explosives inside. I briefed Chris where he would sit for the transit, and the  dispatcher harness he would strap into to give him mobility to open the cabin door when running in for the attack, and practice in how to hand toss the bomb out of  the cabin door. We secured the bomb behind my flying seat – some comfort! I  checked the cabin mounted General-Purpose Machine Gun (GPMG) and that we  had sufficient boxes of 7.62mm ammunition secured tightly with bungee clips to  the cabin floor. Both Lynx would carry a Royal Marine to fire the GPMG. It was  a surreal moment looking at the bomb thinking of the carnage if it had  inadvertently exploded on HMS BRILLIANT. The bomb would have blown away  the back end and all of the flight deck crew with it.  

I went back to my bunk and checked over the contents of my flight suit pockets  again, practiced weapon drills, said prayers and walked back to the hangar  repeating my steps many times over. I was getting more anxious so I went to the  bridge to view the night sky, it was still black and overcast. Looking at the chart  with the Navigator we were south of East Falkland and in the lee of land giving  protection from the north-westerly blow. I went over in my mind the attack plan  which I would brief for a final time an hour before our scheduled take-off. 

The Attack 

John Clark would fly from the cockpit right seat and me in the left seat, with Chris  Sherman and Mark Neat as cabin gunner in the rear cabin. We would launch in  the 2nd Lynx with the ‘bomb’ and as much small arms ammunition that we could  carry – we anticipated a fierce firefight to come. Nick Butler, Barry Bryant, and  Potsy Potts as the cabin gunner would launch in the 1st Lynx armed with two Sea  Skua anti-surface missiles, to fly to a sea rendezvous position and wait for us to  join. It took 35 minutes from launching the 1st Lynx to moving the 2nd Lynx from  the hangar, spreading the rotor blades and launching. 

I had briefed the attack plan to the Captain and the ship’s warfare team an hour  before launch. The forecast weather was for a strong wind at altitude, scattered  cloud and a low freezing level. There was chance of seeing a half-moon in the sky  rising to the east-south-east. The light from the moon and stars would not be to  our disadvantage for night low flying. Both Lynx were fuelled to give a 2.45 hour  endurance. HMS BRILLIANT was over the radar horizon to avoid any possible  detection by Argentine forces making for a 70 mile sea transit to the target area. 

HMS BRILLIANT after launch would close West Falkland as both Lynx would be  running short of fuel on recovery.  

‘Jimmy’ launched at 05:05Z time (02:05 local) in total silence from a sheltered  position 5 miles south of Barren Island at latitude 5228S Longitude 05945W.  Watching from the hangar, I could barely make out the black silhouette of ‘Jimmy’  as it launched into the night sky. The ‘high amplitude’ noise of the rotor blades  seemed to take ages to dissipate but not enough to wake up the residents of  Somerset! It then went eerily quiet as the flight deck crew set about moving  ‘Basher’ to the flight deck.  

Everyone knew their duty and few words were said. I once again checked myself  over from head to foot to ensure I had everything. I weighed heavily and was  sweating profusely as I waddled to the helicopter. I thought; ‘God forbid if I end  up in the sea, as I would sink like a brick’. Finally, we were strapped in and  working through the pre-start and take off checks. I entered the ships launch  position, its intended track, Fox Bay and the rendezvous position with Jimmy into  the doppler navigation system.  

Image: Bursts of tracer fire illuminated the sky to our right towards the direction of the target 

Navigation once airborne would be by dead reckoning on compass and stop watch (as it was for the aircrews’ of the Fairey Swordfish aircraft at Taranto). Without  being able to update our navigation system by fixing method then its accuracy was  not sufficient for this precisely planned time on target attack mission. We were  operating in total silence so there was no radio chatter or use of the helicopters’ radar (until the target was positively identified). At 05:45Z (02:45 local) the  lashings holding ‘Basher’ to the deck were removed and we got airborne flying into  the night sky. 

The helicopter rendezvous was 30 miles west of the launch position. ‘Jimmy’ flying  a race track pattern at 60 Knots and 150 ft for ‘Basher’ to join at 300 ft both  helicopters showing no lights; peacetime night flying rules would not allow this  height separation but we were at war so the regulations went out of the window.  It was a nervous join up and great credit to Nick flying ‘Jimmy’ to call ‘aboard’ as  we headed on a northerly track to intercept land on West Falkland. We were now  two blacked-out blobs flying low, a few rotor spans apart, at 140mph over the  waves. The thought of a bird strike would have probably brought us both crashing  into the sea but that was the least of our worries as we all concentrated hard on  our tasks.  

The small islands off Port Albemarle came into visual view on dead reckoning time  at about 1.5 miles. We took a pre-briefed 45 degree course change to follow the  coast north towards Port Edgar keeping the cliffs in my left visual sight. At 06:15 UK time (03:15 local) I visually identified our land ingress point on Edgar Ridge.  The offshore rocks were flashing by. The Lynx formation split; ‘Jimmy’ breaking  right to fly a pattern over the sea south of Fox Bay and ‘Bashar’ heading left to  follow an inlet stream running west of the settlements to position ourselves in the  high grounds to the north-west of Fox Bay for an attack run in. 

John was concentrating hard not to fly into the ground. My eyes were out of the  cockpit navigating the terrain giving small course alterations. We were in a dry  creek. I recall seeing boulders above shoulder height and thinking that John was  flying incredibly low but the element of surprise was vital. We had to stay below  the ridge lines to avoid visual and anti-aircraft radar missile detection. Also, to  mask the noise of the helicopter’s rotor blades that can be heard for miles away in  the still of the night. To our dismay, and still 8 miles from the target we saw  isolated bursts of tracer bullets in the sky to our right and towards the direction  of Fox Bay. ‘Shit’ we cried, ‘that’s the element of surprise gone’ but we had to block  that thought out of our minds. ‘It cannot be us they are firing at’ we thought,  perhaps it was ‘Jimmy’ that had alerted the defenders. The Argentines would be  awake by the time we arrived on target! But what were they shooting at? 

I must have been momentarily distracted and took my eye off the boulder stricken  creek running below because the land ahead was suddenly rising sharply. John  went hard left and pulled max power as we flew up and over a high point (a 617  Squadron Dam Busters moment). Thank God there was no low cloud hiding the  mountain peak that night. We shot over and down into a saddle between ridges and over a lake of still water which I identified on the map. I briefly caught sight  of Fox Bay to the right, the water of the bay looked still and shinning bright under  the sky. Where was the cloud cover when one needed it? I gave John a new course  to fly to take us further away from the bay, and for a while we thought we had got  away with being detected. We set up for a run-in to the target from the mountain  areas to the north of the bay. As we flew over the last ridge heading south we could see the bay ahead but not the target. John went extremely low and fast,  following a flat col between high ground down the into the bay.  

Image: John was concentrating hard not to fly into the ground as we flew over the mountain range and into Fox Bay ahead. 

I had calculated it would take 90 seconds to reach the settlement. I could see the  outline of what looked like a vessel alongside the jetty. John saw the silhouette  and flew low across the bay directly for it. I opened the left cockpit window. I  could see strips of land, and then water below, and an occasional hut or similar  shape to my left. John had the water of the full bay to his right. Confident we had  a target in sight and the absence of any other vessel visual, we pressed home with  a ship identification and ordered the guys in the back to open the cabin doors and  make ready to engage the target with the bomb and GPMG.  

With less than 60 seconds to time on target we drew red and yellow tracer fire  ahead and moving towards us from the directions of Fox Bay East Settlement. We  were over the water to John’s right, and over land to my left and there was little  cover to hide. Committed, we flew a straight line to the jetty. I aimed my  submachine gun out of my window. The silhouette of a ship was getting larger, it  looked to be ARA BUENO SUCESO! Chris was ordered to ‘prime the bomb’ which  had about a minimum safety 10 second fuze.  

I briefly saw land below me and what I thought to be a hut or building and some telephone like wires. John still had the water to his right so we must have been  flying along the beach line. John came up the stern of the ship and slowed to an  almost hover taxi speed with the searchlight on to read the name. We had to be  sure it was not the hospital ship. No marking was visible so John taxied up along  the starboard side towards the bow. I shouted with certainty over radio and intercom ‘BUEN SUCESO BUEN SUCESO’. It was a case now of positioning the  helicopter over the funnel to drop the bomb – seconds remained 

What I saw to be heavy anti-aircraft calibre tracer shells and more accurate small  arms tracer fire opened up to our immediate left, and then from ahead and below.  John flung the Lynx into a series of what probably would have broken the  Guinness book of records for anti-evasion G-manoeuvre. I fired my sub-machine  gun, set to automatic fire, onto the ship and dark shapes moving immediately  below and to my left emptying both magazine rounds including a fast magazine  change (all that practice had paid off). The heavier calibre fire momentarily  stopped but Argentine red and yellow tracer arcs of fire were arriving from all  directions and flying directly at us.  

John broke right, stuffing the nose down, and pulling in power to accelerate away  at very low level and back over the bay. It was no more than a second or so of total  confusion. The Argentine tracer fire became more intense. We were flying  literally on top of the water. The bullets seemed to be passing very close, down  either side and over the top of the fuselage and rotor blades. If hit, and at the  speed and height we were flying a ditching would not have been survivable. It  seemed inevitable we would die there and then. If that was the case, then I would  have been disappointed to die with no last thought, ‘little about this valedictory  mission would be remembered’ but we knew we had given it our very best. 

Image: 2nd of the night’s attack Sea Harriers strafe the target 

Then an even worst nightmare dawned on John and I in the cockpit. We briefly  glanced at each other, and thought ‘Where is the f*@!ing bomb?’ The order for  Chris to prime the bomb had been given but I did not see it leave the cabin from  my side onto the ship. We screamed over the helicopter intercom but during the  evasive manoeuvre his intercom connection and that of the marine gunner must  have been disconnected. The bomb exploding in the helicopter would have made  a spectacular sight to the defenders that night. I turned to look behind and saw  both men grimly hanging on. It was a while later when intercom to the rear cabin  was restored that Chris said he had tossed out the bomb during the evasive manoeuvre. Mark apparently had lost his balance during the g-force manoeuvre  and flew out of the cabin door, holding onto the cabin mounted GPMG to stop  himself from falling out of the Lynx.  

We took sporadic fire as we flew over Fox Bay West Settlement and into the hills.  Once clear we took stock of any damage and a decision to force land and to escape  and evade, or try to return to the ship. We called ‘Jimmy’ over the radio but no  reply, thinking he may have been shot down. ‘Basher’ was responding to flying  control movements so we returned gingerly but expediously to the ship, pleased to  be alive. Only after landing did we learn that ‘Jimmy’ had landed before us.  ‘Jimmy’ didn’t see action that night other than the fireworks display inside the  bay. Watching the firefight from a distance they didn’t think we had made it. 

Questions were asked in the aftermath of the failed mission. Only after recovery  did we learn that two Sea Harriers from HMS HERMES had later attacked the  ship using its 30mm ADEN cannons rather than general purpose bombs because  the ship was so close to civilian homes.  

After the attack, ARA BUENO SUCESO did not sail again and remained moored  in the bay until after the war where she was towed out to deep water and sunk by  a combination of naval gunfire and fire from Sea Harriers.  


Images: Cesar Moreno 1982 Paul McKay 1982 Cesar Moreno 2019

It’s a story that took 38 years to tell. In the main part because nobody cared, it  was a mission failure. During immediate post action debriefing, someone asked  (not direct to my face) if there had been a lack of courage displayed in facing the  danger, a stigma that still haunts me today. Honours for the war were divided  amongst the ships’ aircrew post war. I received a commendation for Fox Bay which  went someway to appeasing my feelings. In it, there was reference to my cool  return of fire using a hand held gun out the door of my aircraft killing and wounding a number of the enemy manning an anti-aircraft position. 

I wanted to know more. I tried through UK official archives to seek more answers  but to no avail, so I went to Argentine sources to help me track down the guys  who I shot at. The result was coming into contact, through Argentine  veteran associations, with Cesar Moreno, one defender that I badly injured  that night. Great friends today, we hope to meet face to face sometime in  2021. I had made some inner peace at last.  

But back to ‘England expects….’. Since WW2, it could have been Korea, Aden,  

Northern Island, Falklands, Balkans, Gulf, Iraq or Afghanistan or any other  theatre where those who serve do what they are expected to do when challenged  and go that extra mile. It’s what makes the British service man or woman  unique.  

Innovation, skill, daring and bravery is something we do when the chips are  down. There are many who were killed on such missions that we will always  honour. There are also many veterans that have painful memories and suffering  from the demons of their own ‘hairy’ stories.  

For me, I have finally found some piece by telling in part my story which I hope  helps others in a similar predicament.