Orders, Decorations and Medals (7 April 1994)

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Date of Auction: 7th April 1994

Unsold

Estimate: £1,400 - £1,600

A scarce pair awarded to Lieutenant G.R. Weighell, The Parachute Regiment, who was mentioned in despatches during the Falklands campaign

CAMPAIGN SERVICE 1962, 1 clasp, Northern Ireland (Lt., Para); SOUTH ATLANTIC 1982, with Rosette and M.I.D. oak leaf (Lt., Para) mounted court style as worn, small bruise to the last, otherwise good very fine (2)

Footnote

M.I.D., London Gazette, 8 October 1982: '. . . in recognition of gallant and distinguished services during the operations in the South Atlantic'.

Lieutenant Geoffrey Weighell witnessed some of the most savage fighting of the Falklands Campaign, including 2 Paras epic struggle to take Goose Green, an engagement which very nearly ended in failure. Caught out in daylight, exhausted and running low on ammunition, it was arguably one of the most important episodes of the conflict. While the senior elements of the military considered the objectives secondary, and underestimated the strength of the Argentine positions, the politicians were anxiously awaiting news of the first victory to feed an all but starved media-machine. But for the skill, courage and determination of the legendary ‘Red Devils’, a mercifully generous hand dealt by luck, and the self-sacrifice of Colonel 'H', V.C., the opening chapters of the War may have made much bleaker reading.

When the advance inland started on the night of 27th/28th May 1982, Lieutenant Weighell was serving as 5 Platoon Commander, B Company. Moving along Camilla Creek, his task was to cover the west of the track while A Company attacked a feature known as Burntside House. Once this objective had been taken two Argentines were found dead after a brisk fire but unbeknown to A Company the main enemy force had moved out earlier, leaving four civilians in the house Weighell and B Company moved up to its proper start line. Their objective was Boca House, about 5,000 metres away, and at 300am, with bayonets fixed, he and his men got to their feet. B Company's C.O., Major Crosland, a.k.a. ‘The Black Hat’, for he sported a black woolly hat rather than the more official type, rightly believed it was going to be 'a violent gutter fight, trench by trench'. As the advance crept stealthily forward, the night sky quickly lit up with tracer and grenade explosions. The arena was further illuminated by arcs of enemy machine-gun fire and mortar bursts. In the confusion of battle B Company 'rolled' forward, often unaware of their exact position but never failing to engage anything that moved. Weighell and 5 Platoon came across six evacuated trenches and Major Crosland ordered them to move on. Moments later they took three prisoners before coming under attack. Calling for covering fire, Weighell rushed forward with his Sergeant and cleared the offending enemy post with a grenade.

Despite courageous acts such as these the attack was falling behind. By 500am, with limited darkness left, B Company was still 3,000 or 4,000 metres short of Boca House. Meanwhile, A Company on their left flank had gone forward unmolested. Little could they have known the ferocity of the opposition which would shortly confront them near a ridge south of Darwin. It was here that Colonel 'H' would fall, some 1,000 metres to the left of Weighell's platoon. For the moment, however, 2 Para were only half way to the final objective, Goose Green and D Company was having to move up in support earlier than anticipated.

As dawn broke over B Company's position north of Boca House, the enemy laid on a seemingly non-stop barrage of mortar and machine-gun fire. In the words of Major Crosland, B Company 'fought and grovelled for nearly seven hours' in this unenviable position. Not until some direct-fire Milans were brought up did the Argentine grip on Boca slip. In their advance down the slops of ‘B’ Hill early that morning, 4, 5 and 6 Platoons were engaged on open ground, everyone dashing for cover -the latter no better than a few grassy tufts. Crosland yelled at Weighell to get back to the summit, while 4 and 6 Platoons tried to edge forward. From his present position on the forward slopes of the hill, Weighell could see at least three enemy machine-gun posts and thirteen trenches, but the majority were engaging A Company to his left. (It was these positions that compelled Colonel 'H' to try and break the stalemate.)

It was at this moment, as Weighell and his Platoon crawled up the 70 metre slope that they sustained their first casualties, some fatal. Private Illingsworth ran to the assistance of a wounded comrade and dragged him into cover. Knowing of the shortage of ammunition, he then returned to recover the wounded man's pouches. He was shot dead. Re-grouped back near the summit, the Platoon went on to endure nearly three hours bombardment. One Star Trek fan from nearby 6 Platoon called up H.Q.: “For f-'s sake beam me up!” Their position was, to say the least, perilous and everyone was greatly saddened by the message “Sunray is down” (the death of Colonel 'H').

The initiative which finally set about an Argentine withdrawal was the arrival of Major Neame with D Company. With him came Milans and G.P.M.Gs. With a sizeable force he moved down the slope towards the beach, in an effort to outflank the defences of Boca House. With more accurate artillery support than before, the move seemed a productive one. In fact Neame was convinced the enemy were on the verge of surrender, a belief that was well founded when he finally arrived at the enemy positions after a number of delays. (Among other things 11 Platoon had walked into a minefield.) The Paras counted twelve dead and took fifteen prisoners. The fight had now been in progress for ten hours but it would still be another twenty-two before Goose Green was liberated.

With the capture of Darwin Hill, Major Keeble, who had taken over command after the death of Colonel 'H', now set about a plan to quickly take the airfield at Goose Green and, if possible, gradually encircle the settlement. To a large extent the former task was allotted to C Company, as yet relatively fresh to the battle. Speed was now of the essence. Weighell and B Company were to make a large westerly sweep, and, as it happened, pass a relatively quiet time.

In the event the main fighting fell on Major Neame's D Company, who ended up capturing the airfield, while C Company became pinned down in the centre of the advance. Meanwhile many other incidents were taking place, not least the fatal attack on Lieutenant Berry, who had advanced to take the surrender of some Argentines who had shown the white flag. He was cut down by the same after other 2 Para fire was inadvertently brought down on them. Indeed the fall of Goose Green by the evening of the 28th was looking like a distinctly unlikely outcome, a situation confirmed by the arrival of several enemy helicopters with reinforcements. One of the first to spot this unwelcome arrival was Lieutenant Weighell, who immediately called up the artillery. The subsequent bombardment just missed the departure of the last helicopter but some fifteen shells appeared to fall within the scattering ranks of the reinforcements.

During the course of the evening and throughout the night, Major Keeble remained in contact with Brigadier Thompson. The latter wanted the Goose Green theatre cleared up as soon as possible and now promised further support in the form of the Royal Marine Commando and artillery. However, there existed an overriding fear that continued action might seriously endanger the civilian populace. While the situation was far from comfortable, the enemy was now surrounded and it was hoped a surrender might be forthcoming. To that end the necessary document of surrender was drawn up and contact made with the enemy garrison. Early on the 29th, as previously agreed, the surviving enemy force crept out into view of 2 Para and laid down their arms. The surviving garrison numbered around 800 men. They had, at long last, come to heel. Perhaps they had heard what the determined British Major had told two of their number during the initial surrender talks: “I have many paratroopers here. Do you know what a paratrooper is? (Pause for translation.) You know red berets. There are many of these men here. They are the finest fighting soldiers in the world.’

Postscript: The fight for Goose Green had cost 2 Para dearly. Four officers and eleven other ranks had been killed and many more wounded. Among the ensuing awards was a mention in despatches for Lieutenant Weighell, a reward which was received by two other members of his Platoon. There was also a posthumous D.C.M. to Private Illingsworth, who had acted so courageously when 5 Platoon, B Company had come under such heavy fire on the slopes of ‘B’ Hill early on the 28th. For those who survived unscathed, yet further fighting was to follow, especially on ‘Wireless Ridge’, but for 2 Para. the battle of Darwin-Goose Green remains one of their most epic struggles.

References:
‘The Battle for Goose Green’, by Mark Adkin (Leo Cooper, 1992).