Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria (3 December 2020)
Date of Auction: 3rd December 2020
Sold for £150,000
Estimate: £100,000 - £120,000
‘Meredith, of course, held it all together and made sure the platoon continued to work together - a really solid number, hard as nails and with the ability to think. He never appeared fussed, which is what I think really helped at this time, at least for his blokes.’
(Major Philip Neame’s account of the action at Goose Green published in Above All, Courage by Max Arthur, refers)
At Goose Green on the night of 28-29 May 1982, following the loss of the battalion’s forceful and charismatic leader, Lieutenant-Colonel ‘H’ Jones V.C., at Darwin Hill, he continued to work his way down the isthmus with 12 Platoon, D Company, clearing a series of Argentine trenches, thus enabling the continuation of the assault on the Boca House position, which was soon to capitulate under concentrated Milan anti-tank and small arms fire.
Then, closing in on the Schoolhouse and Airfield, he witnessed the infamous white flag incident at the ‘flagpole position’, in which his platoon commander and two more men were killed under confused circumstances. Immediately assuming command of the platoon, he organised and executed a deadly and highly effective retaliatory attack with belt-fed machine gun fire and 66mm rockets, saving the lives of five more men of his platoon.
On 14-15 June at Wireless Ridge, when tasked with leading the attack to roll up the Argentinian flank along the main ridge line, D Company were engaged in three separate attacks against co-ordinated resistance during the one night. With 12 Platoon furthest forward on the ridge, and dangerously exposed, Meredith assisted his Platoon Commander in leading the men forward in the face of heavy machine-gun and artillery fire. His outstanding skill and gallantry throughout the campaign were in the very highest tradition of the Parachute Regiment
Distinguished Conduct Medal, E.II.R., 2nd issue (24103698 Sgt J C Meredith Para) with Royal Mint case of issue; General Service 1962-2007, 1 clasp, Northern Ireland (24103698 Pte. J. C. Meredith Para.); South Atlantic 1982, with rosette (24103698 Sgt J C Meredith Para); Iraq 2003-11, no clasp (Capt J C Meredith DCM Para); Operational Service Medal 2000, for Afghanistan, 1 clasp, Afghanistan (Capt J C Meredith DCM Para); Jubilee 2002; Accumulated Campaign Service Medal 1994 (Capt J C Meredith DCM Para); Army L.S. & G.C., E.II.R., 2nd issue, Regular Army (24103698 Sgt J C Meredith Para); Volunteer Reserves Service Medal, E.II.R. (Maj J C Meredith DCM Para 542907) mounted court-style as worn; together with the recipient’s four identity tags, two inscribed with his other ranks’ service number, and two inscribed with his officer’s service number, nearly extremely fine (9) £100,000-£120,000
FootnoteD.C.M. London Gazette 11 October 1982.
The following is extracted from the original recommendation for the award of a D.C.M. submitted by Lt Col D. R. Chaundler, Officer Commanding, 2 Para, which is additionally endorsed ‘Very strongly recommended’ by Brigadier J. H. A. Thompson, Major General J. J. Moore and Lieutenant General Sir Richard Trant:
‘Sergeant Meredith was a Platoon Sergeant in D Company 2nd Battalion The Parachute Regiment during the twenty four days of the Falkland Islands campaign. He was a dedicated and devoted leader, encouraging and steadying the younger soldiers under fire and inspiring the Platoon by his personal example. In the battle for Port Darwin and Goose Green on 28th/29th May 1982, during the later stages of a long and demanding day, his Platoon Commander was killed while advancing on an enemy position which it was assumed had surrendered. Five men, including one wounded, survived in the Platoon Commander's party but were in a perilous and exposed position.
With conspicuous gallantry and presence of mind, Sergeant Meredith rapidly assumed command of the Platoon, organised covering fire for the trapped men and stabilised the situation. He then personally took a machine gun and moved forward under heavy enemy fire to where he could neutralise the remainder of the enemy and give directions to extricate the trapped men. There is no doubt that these five men owe their lives to Sergeant Meredith’s prompt and gallant action. Subsequently the Platoon under his direction captured the enemy position.
Later in the campaign, with a new and inexperienced Platoon Commander, he again showed conspicuous bravery, professionalism and leadership at the battle for Wireless Ridge on the night of 13th/14th June 1982. At a critical moment, when the Platoon's assault on this 1000 metre long ridge looked as if it might flounder, he moved forward to assist his Platoon Commander in leading the Platoon forward in the face of heavy machine gun fire. These two incidents typify Sergeant Meredith's outstanding skill and gallantry throughout the campaign which were in the very highest tradition of the Parachute Regiment.’
Just eight D.C.M.s awarded for the Falklands War, five of which were to men of the Parachute Regiment, three of these to 2 Para, all for Goose Green, of which just one, that awarded to Platoon Sergeant John Meredith, D Company, also reflects conspicuous gallantry at the final decisive night attack on Wireless Ridge.
John Clifford Meredith was born in 1950 at Bangor, Wales. He joined the British Army in March 1967 and attended selection for the Parachute Regiment, completing his recruit training at Aldershot and initial jumps training at R.A.F. Abingdon. Gaining his wings he was assigned to 2 Para and in 1968 completed a tour of Denmark, 2 months training in the Malayan jungle and a 4 Month tour of Hong Kong. He was deployed to Anguilla for Operation Sheepskin in 1969 and then, declining promotion, he undertook his 1st tour of Northern Ireland in 1970 on Operation Banner - on the peace line between the Shankhill and the Falls Road. Subsequent tours of Northern Ireland followed in 1971 and 1972, the latter being a very busy and dangerous tour in the New Lodge area, where, working with the Ammunition Technical Officer, Meredith and another member of his section were the first to fire the Carl Gustaf 84mm recoilless rifle at car bombs. Later in 1972 he also completed his 4th Northern Ireland Tour as Operation Motorman saw him complete two and a half months in the Ballymurphy area of Belfast. In 1973, after further jungle training in Malaya, Meredith completed a Newtown Hamilton border tour in Northern Ireland and was promoted to Lance Corporal. Having been promoted Corporal in 1974, he completed further tours of Northern Ireland in 1975 and 1976 before moving with his Battalion to Berlin for two years. In 1978, Meredith was posted to the Parachute Regiment Depot as an instructor and the following year transferred to the Royal Welch Fusiliers, receiving advancement to Sergeant in 1980. After an 8th tour of Northern Ireland in 1981, he transferred back to the Parachute Regiment and was undertaking ‘beat up’ training in Belize with the S.A.S. in 1982 at the time the Falkland Islands were invaded. Called back to the U.K., he embarked for the South Atlantic on Operation Corporate on 26 April 1982, upon the successful completion of which he returned to the U.K. and was sent to Hong Kong and Brunei for a 10 week jungle warfare instructors course. Further tours of Belize followed in 1983 and 1986, interspersed with a period as Colour Sergeant Instructor at the Infantry Battle School, Brecon and 2 months training in Kenya. Having receiving promotion in 1986 to Warrant Officer Class 2, he was posted to 4 Para as Senior Permanent Staff Instructor in 1988 before finally retiring in 1990 after completing 23 years and 233 days service. In 1991, however, he joined the Territorial Army Battalion, 4 Para in the post of Training Warrant Officer and in 1994 was commissioned Lieutenant and appointed Motor Transport Officer. In 1996 he was appointed 2nd in command of No. 1 Airborne Forces Liaison Section, 5 Airborne Brigade, remaining on attachment for six months with a Short Service Commission in Full Time Reserve Service. In 1999, with 5 Brigade now disbanded, he transferred to 16 Air Assault Brigade, assisting Brigade units on operations to Kosovo, Macedonia, Sierra Leone and Afghanistan. Returning to 2 Para in 2002 as Battalion Welfare Officer he undertook his 9th and final tour of Northern Ireland in 2003, controlling all helicopter operations and movements in South Armagh during a nine month stay in the province. This same year he was one of a number of Falklands veterans to be sent back to the Falklands where a jump was made over a drop zone at Goose Green, the logistical arrangements for the jump having been made by Meredith himself while still in his role with the AFLS.
Meredith served on Operation Telic (Iraq) in 2004 and Operation Herrick (Afghanistan) in 2008 with 3 Para before transferring in 2009 as Officer Commanding HQ Company, 3 Para on Full Time Reserve Service. Finally, in 2010, after an extremely long career of service spanning across six decades, Lieutenant Meredith took compulsory retirement aged 60 years.
The Parachute Regiment - Britain’s Elite Airborne Infantry
Inspired by the success of the German Fallschirmjager during the early stages of the Second World War, the British Army, under pressure from Winston Churchill, created, in June 1940, an equivalent corps of paratroopers able to operate independently and aggressively in all manner of terrain. Operation Colossus, in February 1941, was their first mission, and this was followed by Operation ‘Biting’, the Bruneval Raid. The creation of the Parachute Regiment in August 1942 saw continued successes under their heroic C.O. Major J. D. “Johnny’ Frost (later Major-General, C.B., D.S.O. and Bar, M.C.) who, embodying everything this band of brothers represented - unrelenting warriors of the most determined kind - led them in building an unsurpassed reputation for daring in North Africa, Normandy, Arnhem and the Rhine Crossing. A series of ‘post-colonial’ tours in Palestine, Suez, Cyprus, Borneo and Aden followed by a rotations of emergency and residential tours of duty in Northern Ireland further cemented their reputation for professionalism, resilience, discipline, versatility, courage and self-reliance.
Little wonder, then, that the Parachute Regiment has been actively deployed for almost every year of its existence and its men have been decorated out of all proportion to their number; their accolades including two Victoria Crosses each for Arnhem, and in more recent years, Afghanistan. Most pertinently though, and perhaps, unsurprisingly, both V.C.s awarded for the Falklands War also went to men from the Parachute Regiment; one being to Sergeant Ian Mckay, 3 Para, for Mount Longdon. The other, awarded to Lieutenant-Colonel H. Jones, O.C. 2 Para, was for Goose Green and it is hard to find a better example of the Parachute Regiment’s aforementioned qualities than in 2 Para’s celebrated and epic battle on 28 and 29 May 1982 on the cold, boggy and treeless terrain of the isthmus of the Darwin and Goose Green settlements. Indeed, a signal, sent to 2 Para after the battle from the Chief of the General Staff stated that the Battalion had ‘executed a feat of arms and gallantry probably unsurpassed in the glorious history of the British Army PD it will certainly rate with the other great examples of courage by the Parachute Regiment such as the Normandy Landings and Arnhem’.
With 2 Para in the Falklands
‘I was enormously attracted to the Parachute Regiment because of this wonderful feeling of comradeship. We all have to go through a traumatic selection process, which weeds out a great number of people. We are united in our hardship, by what we have done. It is a very good way of preparing for the actual trauma of war. Soldiers do not fight for Queen and country, or even for Maggie - they fight for each other. But they need to know that their comrades would do the same. Selection produces that mutual trust.
That's how it is in 2 Para. We had spent our practice-training fusing the individuals together. The fire of war merely tempered that process. We would never have given up. We would have fought to the last man rather than not achieve the mission.’ (Lieutenant-Colonel Christopher Keeble, D.S.O., who assumed command of 2 Para at the Battle of Goose Green following the death of Colonel ‘H’ Jones V.C.)
Following the invasion and occupation of the Falkland Islands by Argentine forces on 2 April 1982, the British war cabinet wasted little time in ordering their repossession; despatching, within a few days, a naval task force to carry this out built around 3 Commando Brigade, reinforced initially by the 3rd Battalion, Parachute Regiment. When the crisis broke, Lieutenant-Colonel ‘H’ Jones, the commanding officer of 2 Para, was on a skiing holiday in France and an advance party of his battalion was already en route for the upcoming tour in Belize. As events in the South Atlantic unfolded at speed, however, Jones rushed back to the U.K. and upon discovering that 2 Para, despite their state of unreadiness, would also be joining the task force as part of 3 Commando Brigade, he flew ahead, together with his intelligence officer and a small party, to Ascension Island for a week of intensive training. The main body of the Battalion then also followed south, embarking in the requisitioned North Sea ferry, the MV Norland, from Portsmouth on 26 April. Major Phil Neame, Officer Commanding D Company, 2 Para, describes the changing atmosphere among the members of the battalion during their 21 day journey to the South Atlantic:
‘There was a lot of training and sorting out of stores and so on. But no one took the exercise seriously, it all looked likely that we would go for a nice South Atlantic cruise, a big show of arms and maybe even go ashore, but no one really thought that we were going to shed blood at that stage - they were all hoping we would, but didn’t really believe it was going to happen.
I suppose it all started to change when the Belgrano was sunk. That of course got everyone chauvinistic and excited; then a couple of days later the Sheffield was sunk. It was at this point that the ship became rather more quiet than it had been, everyone wrapped up in their own thoughts, but probably not until then had it dawned really that this could be a rather bloody business and that we might not all be coming back.’ (Major Philip Neame’s personal account of the action at Goose Green published in Above All, Courage by Max Arthur, refers.)
Although late to depart from the U.K., the men of 2 Para were among the very first of the Task Force to be put ashore, landing on ‘Blue Beach’ in Bonner’s Bay, San Carlos Water, on the dark, early morning of 21 May, whence they were ordered, laden down with extremely heavy bergens, to move up to the top of the dominating feature of the area, Sussex Mountain, to ensure no Argentine force had any chance of disrupting the landings, D Company at the rear:
‘As we moved off we ended up at the rear of the battalion snake going up Sussex mountain. I suppose everyone was carrying about 80 lbs but the guys with the mortars must have been carrying around 120 lbs and of course were holding us up at the back. With Argentine air strikes expected at daybreak this was a little trying. Knowing our rear was by then secure, I overtook them, but we were still left struggling up the mountain when the first strikes came in’ (ibid)
Fortunately for 2 Para, the Argentinian aircraft were focussed mostly on the large number of ships in the bay, some of which were hit, to devastating effect. The battalion could only stare as successive Mirage or Skyhawk attacks went in, while in the Command Post work had to continue regardless of feelings of vulnerability. The 2 Para position was quite unique in that most of the enemy aircraft had to pass over the battalion before getting to the ships. Their grandstand on Sussex mountain allowed the Machine-Gun Platoon to produce a barrage of bullets which resulted in a claim of at least three hits. Similar stories were repeated often in the rifle companies. Soon the combination of inactivity and frustration at the carnage being wreaked below began to take effect. Above all, there was no clear direction given to the proceedings, and as yet no decision had been made for a breakout. The constant wind did little to boost spirits either - at this stage, for 2 Para, the major cause of casualties was the effect of cold and wet on the feet. Trench foot put numbers of men out of action.
Under pressure to strike back after the air attacks in the bay, Command HQ finally ordered 2 Para to break out of their entrenched but impotent position on Sussex mountain and raid the Argentine Garrison holding Goose Green - a settlement situated 15 miles south of Sussex Mountain on an isthmus connecting the Northern and Southern parts of East Falkland. Despite Goose Green not seeming to have much strategic value, it was a valid fear that later in the campaign Argentine forces might use its airfield and troops to deliver strikes on the British troops closing in on Stanley. In addition, and probably more significantly, the British government now badly needed a ground offensive victory for political and propaganda purposes.
A period of agonising frustration now followed in which, on two separate occasions, 2 Para were primed to raid Goose Green only to have the operation aborted. On the first occasion, 12 Platoon, of which Meredith was Platoon Sergeant, had even gone ahead and secured Canterra House, a dwelling approximately half way between Sussex Mountain and the start of the Goose Green isthmus. Linking up with the remainder of D Company, chosen as the advance guard for the raid, they had then set off for their immediate objective, Camilla Creek House, before hearing that the operation had been shelved. 12 Platoon returned to Canterra House and the rest of D Company trudged back over the 7 or so miles of trackless moorland, arriving back, late into the night, at Sussex Mountain wet, tired and miserable. A lack of air support due to SAS prioritisation had been the cause of the cancellation and Colonel H Jones was furious, exclaiming ‘I’ve waited twenty years for this, and now some f------ marine’s cancelled it’. He showed little sympathy, however, for the men of D Company, such were his high expectations, telling them to ‘stop whingeing and get on with it’. The following morning a second planned operation was also cancelled, this time due to bad weather, and so 12 Platoon, by now tired and hungry themselves, ‘tabbed’ back from Canterra House to rejoin 2 Para in the trenches on Sussex Mountain.
Finally, on 26 May, to his great relief, Jones was informed by Brigadier Julian Thompson, O/C 3 Commando Brigade, that the mission was back on. This time it was not to be just a raid however; the orders now were for 2 Para to actually capture Goose Green and its garrison of close to 1100 well-armed troops who were in prepared positions, protected by minefields. And so, just after dusk on 26 May having already lost the equivalent of a platoon of men to the ravages of frostbite and exposure, the paratroopers of 2 Para Battalion (approximately 450 men), once again led by D Company, moved off the mountain and navigated, in pitch darkness, the 8 mile trek through the marshy and rock strewn terrain towards the unoccupied Camilla Creek House, in the environs of which the entire battalion, bar those on patrols, spent the following day resting and preparing their equipment. The men, now in light fighting order, were carrying their weapons, including ammunition, two water bottles and food for forty-eight hours. The 2 inch mortars were left behind since H.M.S. Arrow would be on hand to provide starshell illumination but at the last moment ‘H’ agreed to bring two 81mm mortars. Radio equipment, three Milan missile firing posts and 17 missiles were also taken.
Then, in a rather shameful turn of events, the Signals Platoon, tuning into the 10am BBC World Service, realised their mission had been compromised; the news reader announcing to the world: ‘A parachute battalion is poised and ready to assault Darwin and Goose Green’. Their incredulous Colonel raged incandescently, fulminating that he would sue the Corporation and the government in due course. The culprit was never found but political expediency from within Thatcher’s war cabinet was always suspected. Nonetheless, working with very little fire support and limited information about his target, ‘H’ gave the orders for the attack to his company commanders and battalion specialists late on 27 May, shortly after which the various companies moved into their start line positions at the top of the isthmus, highly motivated for a fight.
The events which followed are best described by Meredith himself:
‘When we were in position, ready to go, A Company then went up to Burntside House. They opened up on it; luckily they didn’t hit any of the civilians in there. Then B Company went and did their attack on the right and had trouble from fire coming from their lefthand side as they were advancing. Colonel Jones realised that A Company were having to reorganise so he pushed us through and we cleared a position in the centre. We took out about a dozen trenches in front of us and then went firm. Unfortunately, in this move 10 Platoon ended up with two killed, and 11 Platoon, who should have been on our left, crossed over behind us and went in on the right as well and had one killed and one injured.
One of my sections became split up from us and I had to go back and try and find them but I couldn’t. As I was moving back in, coming up a fence line to my right I could see four helmets moving. I asked the Second-in-Command if we had anybody forward on my right and he said ‘No.’ We put a mini-flare up and these four Argentinians stood up so we wallied them. I used my M79 and we killed two of them and wounded one; the other tried to get through my forward section but he was soon captured, and we went firm around the trenches that we’d cleared. Then 11 Platoon came back behind us and cleared some trenches on the left which we had already done, but they went and cleared them again - what for I don’t know. Then we all went firm on the top of the hill, checked casualties, ammunition states and all the rest of the stuff.
To the left there was a small hill so we waited there. B Company had sorted out their problems so the CO decided to revert to the original plan, which meant that A and B would go forward to carry out the attack and we had to sit it out. By then it had become daylight. A Company then got caught up at Darwin, and B Company was starting to get caught up at Boca House, so Major Neame decided to move forward. Behind us we could see Argentinians coming out of the trenches and moving along the beach which was a bit worrying, so we just opened up on them with the GPMGs [General Purpose Machine-Guns] and wiped out quite a few. Again, due to sniper and artillery fire, Major Neame moved up forward behind the ridge that B Company was on which sheltered us from the shelling. While we were waiting there we had another lad killed, named Mecham.
We sat there and the OC passed the word to brew up. It was then we were told that the Colonel was injured. Major Crosland and Major Neame got together and had a confab, because B Company had one of their platoons in a very exposed position. They brought the Milan up and attacked Boca House. Before we started our next move to the beach the Argentinians began to surrender...We gave first aid to their injured, some of whom were badly hurt. We got them out of the trenches and laid them there but they were obviously going to die. We then dealt with our own casualties and left a section to look after the prisoners with Sergeant-Major Nobby Clark. (Platoon Sergeant J. Meredith’s account of the action at Goose Green published in Above All, Courage by Max Arthur, refers)
News of the death of Colonel H Jones during a heroic charge at Darwin Ridge had filtered through to all by now and the respective Company Commanders, although now under the able command of former 2 i/c Major Chris Keeble, would be required to press home the attack with an unfamiliar degree of autonomy. Boca House was secured at 13.47 local time, around the same time that A Company had overcome the defenders on Darwin Hill. The next immediate targets were the the school and the airfield, the battle for which was confused and hard fought:
‘Major Neame then pushed us straight on towards the schoolhouse at Goose Green. 11 Platoon opened fire on the little house first. The trouble was, they used 66s (anti-tank rockets) and phosphorus grenades which caused a fire, which didn’t give them very much cover. Then our C Company came down, ready to go in. My platoon was tasked to go up the track and give covering fire on the schoolhouse and also cover behind it to get anybody that tried to withdraw. The plan was to bottle them in there.
One of the rear sections saw some white flags waving near the airfield and he reported this to our Platoon Commander, Mr Barry, who said to me. “I’ll go forward and take the surrender, you look after these two sections.” So I moved where I could control both sections and see what was going on. I told the radio operator so that he could get into contact with the Company Commander about what was happening, and the runner as protection.
Mr Barry went over the rise with his men and I watched them move towards two Argentinians who had come forward with their hands in the air. The others were sitting behind them on the floor with their hands up. Because I had to watch my own section I had to keep my eyes in both directions as I was a bit concerned about Mr Barry going forward. I saw him talking to two Argentinians, who seemed to be worried about the firing still going on at the schoolhouse. Then for some reason, Mr Barry put a rifle against a fence. Suddenly, a burst of fire, probably from someone who wasn’t aware that a surrender was taking place, came whistling over the top. The Argentinians who’d been sitting there reacted immediately by picking up their weapons and firing. Mr Barry was killed instantly. Knight, the radio operator, killed two with his SMG but Corporal Smith, who was trying to give covering fire with a 66 and CPC Sullivan were also killed. Shevill was wounded in the shoulder and the hip. There was now an awful lot of firing going on.
As the senior person there I was doing the chasing about. I saw some of my lads hit the deck because of the volume of fire that was coming our way, but I got a grip on them, got them up and firing. I was covering a lot of ground, but that’s my job, that’s what I’m paid for. I got across another section and picked up a machine gun and knocked off three Argies with a couple of bursts each. Then, as I moved again, I took out two more. We moved forward and took their position and dealt with Shevill who was badly hurt. He crawled back into cover and so did Roach, who shouted that he thought he’d been hit. I shouted back that he would known if he’d been hit! However he had had the arse shot out of his trousers. Roach, with the help of Wilson, then gave first aid to Shevill while still under heavy fire. Unfortunately we couldn’t get him out for five hours.
There were so many sensations at that time that I had to think fast and hard because everything was changing from second to second - there were rounds going everywhere. I didn’t have time to be frightened. When Mr Barry was killed there was a lot of anger; the thing was, to kill them. So for each one I knocked down, I thought, ‘Well that’s another.’ The thing was to kill them as fast as we could, it was just whack, whack, and the more I knocked down the easier it became, the easier the feeling was - I was paying them back. The feeling was anger, a mixture of both anger and sadness - sadness because three good blokes should die like that.’ (ibid)
D Company Commander, Major Phillip Neame, gave his own account of this phase of the battle, adding further detail and giving particular praise to Meredith’s professionalism and gallantry:
‘Just as we were about to assault the school, I got news that Jim Barry, the other platoon Commander, had been shot when he had gone up to take a surrender under a white flag. He and half the section had been shot down. It was such a tragic waste of life. After a little deliberation as to where my priorities were, I left Pete Adams to command the assault on the school and I went back to join 12 Platoon to find that Sergeant Meredith by this stage had got the situation firmly under control. His platoon was busily knocking shit out of the Flagpole Position with 66 rocket launchers and machine guns. We didn’t know who had been killed or injured with Jim Barry, but certainly some of the injured were trying to get back. There were one or two very brave people there - Shevill who was very badly shot managed to pull himself back about 200 yards, finding his own cover, refusing help from others who would have had to expose themselves, and a couple of others who performed extraordinarily well for just private soldiers in organising themselves and getting their injured companions back under covering fire from Meredith and his crew. Meredith, of course, held it all together, and made sure the platoon continued to work together - a really solid number, hard as nails and with the ability to think. He never appeared fussed which is what I think really helped at this time, at least for his blokes...Carter and Meredith, between them, probably saved the lives of the other three involved in the incident.’ (Major Phillip Neame’s account of the action at Goose Green published in Above All, Courage by Max Arthur, refers)
Amid sporadic exchanges of fire and with light beginning to fade after nearly 36 hours of continuous fighting, most of the Argentines now began to make their way into Goose Green itself to find themselves besieged in a situation that was becoming serious. Meredith picks up his account once more as the Argentines make one final air attack on the British positions before Keeble’s intelligent use of prisoners of war to deliver proposed terms leads to the surrender of the garrison:
‘They then attacked us with a Pucará that dropped napalm. It just missed the Sergeant-Major’s party with the prisoners and wounded. It also missed a big ammunition dump - so we were lucky...We shot the Pucará down and captured the pilot. (He was one of the ones they sent in for the surrender, which they did the next day.)
We moved into Goose Green the next morning and dug in...I had mixed feelings about the battle but it felt good to have won. Then there was the shock of seeing all those hundreds of Argentinians at the surrender. I couldn’t believe it. We’d attacked with a battalion, which was about 400 to 500 men, and they’d had 1200. In the end we sent one platoon of twenty-four men in to guard them. I felt we’d won a strategic battle - if we’d by-passed Goose Green we’d have left 1200 men there with a usable airfield, and that could have later been a big thorn in our side. They could have caused a lot of damage from there.’
A few days later, 2 Para were on the move again, this time liberating Fitzroy and Bluff Cove before taking their place in the line for the final advance on Stanley. On the night of 14 June, under their new C/O, Lieutenant Colonel David Chaundler, they fought their second battle of the campaign at the craggy and exposed ‘Wireless Ridge’, but unlike Goose Green, this time 2 Para were promised full artillery support. In the previous battle, D Company had picked up eight dead, over half the battalion’s total, but at Wireless Ridge they were given another important role to play. As the lead company, they were to attack along the ridge itself and roll up the Argentinian flank. As it turned out, they were the only company in the whole of the battle that had to assault in the face of organised opposition, carrying out three separate company attacks in that one night. Unlike all the previous attacks in the campaign - which had been silent - Chaundler decided this should be a noisy attack, beginning with a devastating display of firepower from the two artillery batteries, a frigate, four Scopions/Scimitars, mortars and machine guns.
Meredith’s detailed account elaborates further:
‘We were talking all the way up, encouraging each other, getting the odd joke in. Some platoons had fixed bayonets. You really need a bayonet at night, when people pop out of trenches, but most of the time the blokes didn’t bother. They just shot them - it’s much quicker that way. A bayonet is also an encumbrance, because it extends the length of your rifle and makes the barrel end heavier, which tends to make you shoot low.
There was no opposition from the position 10 and 11 Platoons had to assault; we moved on and the OC put 12 Platoon forward. We had no problems over the first craggy ridge until another fire mission was called. They dropped short and landed amongst the platoons. My platoon was lucky we had no casualties. However, 11 Platoon had one man killed and one seriously injured by our own fire. It took some time for the gunners to sort themselves out; we just picked ourselves up and started off again on the OC’s orders. We started to come round to two little ponds, and as we did so the mortars put up white light. The enemy saw us, so we came under fire. Everybody hit the ground but they didn’t do what they should have done, i.e. move straight to ground and then return the fire. So I had to chase round to get people firing which meant kicking the rears of the nearest and throwing rocks at the furthest and doing a lot of shouting, ‘Fire, you f-----s, fire.’ It was a dangerous pause because with the enemy firing at us, if we didn’t return it they’d get the upper hand. But once the odd one or two had been kick-started into action, the rest clicked on and began their drills properly. A roll of fire went down, whack, whack, into the cover of the rocks. Lieutenant Page and the NCO got the lads moving forward; we would fire illuminating rounds to expose the enemy and then lay down fire onto any we could see. Then, when the illum died, we would move and the sections would leapfrog each other.
As Platoon Sergeant, it was my job to control the amount of ammunition going forward and back, and the movement of the two sections; I had to keep them spaced out ready to move forward when needed. Major Neame was everywhere; he knew his job very well and was controlling everything. I had to come back and start kicking people’s backside in another platoon that were falling back, leaving our flank exposed.
We moved forward, and as we did we could hear the Argentinians talking to each other so we cleared them very quickly and didn’t take any casualties. This was surprising because there was an awful lot of fierce fire from both sides, as the other two companies were hard at it and our Scimitars and Scorpions were firing as well.
At one point we went firm with what cover we could find and while we waited we heard Argentinians down at Moody Brook. I shouted to the section on that side, ‘What’s going on?’ The reply came back, ‘I don’t know - I can’t see.’ So I said, ‘Use the IWS (individual weapon sight).’ They had a look and said, ‘There’s bloody hundreds of them!’ We opened up, but this wall of fire came back at us so everybody took cover again, but the enemy kept firing because they were making a counter-attack and they meant it. There was an awful lot of them and plenty of fire was coming up.’ So Lieutenant Page called in artillery to try and stop them since some of them had got close enough to start using grenades on us. The artillery fire was not hitting them, so we got Corporal Dick Barton to get onto the Forward Observation Officer and told him to drop 100 metres. He came over the radio and said, ‘Do you realise if we do that, they’ll come closer to you?’ So with a few choice words he was told to get on with it and they dropped their shells in close to us which stopped the Argies in their tracks. But it was a bit worrying for us!
At first light we reorganised our positions and moved into better ones. Then 11 Platoon took out the snipers and 10 Platoon had an attack come in at them, about 200 metres back from us. They weren’t sure if it was a party trying to get back into Stanley or if it was an actual attack, but they fought them off. We started shooting at all the Argentinians that were coming off Tumbledown - we could see them clearly as they came down...
It had been a short battle, an intense battle, but compared to Goose Green it was definitely briefer and it seemed we were moving quicker. The adrenaline was pumping very fast and although we’d had the long advance marches to Wireless Ridge, once we started we weren’t so tired. You just got into it; you got into a frame of mind where you could fight.’
Two days later, on 15 June, after 4 weeks ashore with barely a night under cover in the most inhospitable terrain and weather, having been the first battalion into action and the only one to fight two significant battles during the campaign, sustaining losses of 18 dead and dozens more wounded, 2 Para would be the first British unit to enter Stanley after the official Argentinean surrender.
The final word goes to Meredith:
‘We went down there with a job to do and we did it. I was very proud of what 2 Para did.
What I did is not important as far as I’m concerned. You see, I’m a professional soldier, I’m proud to say I’m a professional soldier, and as far as I’m concerned I did my job. I did what I’m paid to do, what I’ve been paid to do for the last fifteen years, and if somebody thinks that I maybe did something a bit above what I consider to be my job, I can’t do much about that. I was lucky. All I had was a few holes in my kit - nothing serious. My wife was worried about me but I reassure her that the bullet that’s going to get me hasn’t been made yet. You’ve got to be confident about those things.’
Sold together with a number of letters and telegrams of congratulations to the recipient on the award of his DCM, including those from H.R.H. The Prince of Wales; the Rt. Hon. John Nott, Secretary of State for Defence; General Sir Anthony Farrar-Hockley; Lieutenant-General Sir Richard Trant; Major-General J. J. Moore; Brigadier M. J. A. Wilson; Colonel G. D. Farrell; Major J. S. Williams; Major B. K. Martin; and the Rt. Hon. the Lord Mayor of Cardiff; various photographs taken out in the Falklands, and of the recipient outside Buckingham Palace at his investiture; various newspaper cuttings regarding his award; and other ephemera.
For the recipient’s related miniature awards, see Lot 699.