Blue Beach (San Carlos Bay), Falkland Islands, 21st May 1982
“Incoming!” The distant voice yelled as the roar of the super-sonic engine grew louder and louder building to an ear-rupturing crescendo as it passed overhead. The explosion shook the area and the screams of the injured could be heard even from a distance.
Looking around Chris could tell - with a slight hint of morbid amusement – which ones were newer recruits and which were the old hands. He fixed his gaze on one lad in particular, he wasn’t even trying to hide the extreme terror like the others, couldn’t be much older than 17, no more than a boy and way out of his depth.
Everyone knew it was coming of course, his mind's eye brought him back to that day, the 2nd April, the day when he heard the Argentinean forces had landed on the Falklands. It was all over the news that day and Chris’ Paratrooper unit had been amongst all those recalled from leave.
Old Maggie Thatcher had announced that they were going to take back a British Overseas Territory, although there was no formal declaration of war.
Sergeant Chris McCall smiled to himself as he remembered the pride swelling during that speech made by the prime minister to the task force, she spoke about the glory, honour and proud history of our armed forces – no pressure - also the duty of Britain to protect her borders and subjects.
Yet, here he was stuck in a glorified crater with his unit, trying, like everyone else in the vicinity, to avoid being blown up. No honour and no glory here, just a few terrified boys and a spine of hardcore veterans that kept everything ticking over and everyone moving forward. The only major difference between the two groups being how high they jumped whenever another bomb hit its nearby target; and the Argentinean aircraft were hammering the ships with an unexpected frightening accuracy.He only just managed to suppress the urge to laugh out loud at the mental picture of the men jumping about two metres off the ground at the moment of explosion from the bombs.
“Sergeant McCall!” A voice suddenly broke into his thoughts.
“Sir?” He spluttered coming out of his daydream and noticing the Major beckoning him towards the other side of the hole.
In a few moments he was at the Major’s side ready for his instructions, like all British soldiers he never saluted an officer when under enemy fire, this drummed into him during training and he smirked to himself as his train of thought brought him back to what his instructor had said during basic.
“Ladies - there are two fundamental rules to surviving on a battlefield,” he continued “Number One… Do not try to catch the bullets; they’re very, very dangerous...” Despite the chuckles from the crowd he had held his habitual scowl and continued, ever the consummate professional British soldier. “Number Two… Never, I repeat never salute an officer on the front line, you may as well stick a ‘shoot me’ sign on his fuckin’ forehead and be done with it, anyone incapable of grasping that will have their bollocks whipped ‘til they sing soprano.” Most of his training mates had laughed at that comment but their expressions dropped when they saw the instructors face. He wasn’t kidding.
A shake of his shoulder brought him back to the present. The Major was waiting a few moments for Chris to arrive back on earth. Major Harkness knew Chris was a bit of a daydreamer but accepted it, his soldiering skills more than made up for his occasional short attention span.
“Sorry Sir!” Chris said drifting back to reality.
“Nice daydream Sergeant?” He asked rhetorically. “I want you to go round the men and find out what ordinance they’re low on, check their rations and other gear. Once you’re done take a few guys down to the caches and re-supply the squad.”
“Yes Sir!” Chris said whilst turning away; glad to finally have something to do instead of sitting doing fuck all for hours on end, which chafed even this daydreamer’s arse.
He headed off to his pack to find something to record all the requirements and then set about checking and double-checking what the men needed. Then, picking two of the new arrivals, including the terrified young lad he had been watching earlier; mainly in an attempt to relieve some of the young mans anxiousness by keeping him busy. They set off to get the supplies.
Chris finished a few hours later and was heading back to his unit with the two lads who had helped ferry the stuff up to their recipients. They were idly chatting away about home; the girls they claimed they’d had and their families with Chris just out in front. His seclusion wasn’t an attempt to snub the two young men; it was more to protect himself, the last thing he needed was to get to know, even like these lads just to see them cut down by a burst, days or even hours later.
This is a war.