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  • Robin Horsfall

More Words of the Wise Old Paratrooper

From More Words of the Wise Old Paratrooper. (2018)

‘They Were My Mates.’

In 1982 the 2nd Battalion Parachute Regiment began to reorganise as the battle for Goose Green came to a close. A dreadful three-day battle had finally resulted in 650 paratroopers with support arms defeating 1300 Argentinians but with heavy losses.

Dead men had been left where they dropped and now it was time to recover their bodies. No one was completely sure how many needed to be recovered and carrying them on stretchers over long distances wasn’t practical. A tractor with a trailer was acquired from a crofter and a small group of exhausted men set out to collect their fallen comrades.

It is touching to see how gentle survivors are when they touch their dead buddies. Only hours before fear and aggression had combined to produce creatures who could kill without hesitation and laugh at crude battlefield jokes. Now they were tender and quiet.

They placed the bodies in zip up bags then laid them side by side on the trailer in as orderly and dignified a manner as they could. Hour after hour they combed the battlefield until finally the light faded and they walked back alongside the trailer to the headquarters.

When they arrived one of the collection team was missing and a search failed to find him. Was he injured? Had they left him behind in the minefields? Eventually he was discovered asleep on top of the bodies. In the dim light he was just another camouflaged body in the pile. They pulled him off and asked him what he thought he was doing. ‘Well’ he said ‘they were my mates and I wanted to be close to them.’

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