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Airborne sappers mark Falklands anniversary

29 June 2017

Veteran and serving airborne sappers have come together to remember the 35th anniversary of the Falklands War.

In 1982, 9 Parachute Squadron Royal Engineers – then based in Aldershot and now part of Woodbridge-based 23 Parachute Engineer Regiment – played a key role in the British task force sent to successfully repel the Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands.

Some 20 9 Para Sqn RE veterans visited the current unit at Rock Barracks. The veterans briefed the current soldiers about their role in the conflict, where they carried out tasks from clearing minefields to repairing bridges, and were shown the kit and equipment used by their modern counterparts. Veterans and serving soldiers then joined together for a service to commemorate the Squadron’s involvement in the conflict and honour the unit’s four soldiers killed in action. 

Lieutenant Colonel Simon Carvel, Commanding Officer of 23 Para Engr Regt, said: “It is vitally important that we remember and honour the achievements of 9 Para Sqn RE in the Falklands. We want the current generation of sappers to understand what was achieved by their predecessors, who deployed at short notice and saw the job through in demanding circumstances. The unit’s role today is the same as in 1982 and today’s soldiers need the same physical and mental preparedness that was the foundation of success in the Falklands. Equally, it is hugely important for veterans to meet the current generation and see that the standards they set are being maintained.”

Colonel (retired) Chris Davies commanded 9 Para Sqn RE in the Falklands. He said: “As Falklands veterans, we are as far away in years now from the current soldiers as the Second World War veterans were to us in 1982. The boys I’ve met today are just like my boys in 1982 - young, fit and keen to have the opportunity to prove themselves capable of doing what their forbearers did.

“The Falklands was a complete surprise and, while we were highly trained and ready, we weren’t specifically prepared for the operation we had to do. But we knew that we weren’t going to be beat and cracked on and did it – these boys will do the same if they have to.”

At 18, Billy Craig was one of the Squadron’s youngest soldiers in 1982. He left the Army as a major in 2013, having gone on to serve in Kosovo, Northern Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan.

He said: “I was straight out of training and was paired up with more experienced soldiers, who taught me everything. The Falklands was tough, we were covering huge distances on foot and carrying everything in appalling weather. We were eating rations for six weeks and the clothing wasn’t anything like as good as modern kit, so everyone was tired and cold throughout.

“The lesson I learnt from the Falklands, that I applied throughout my 34-year Army career, was the truth of the ‘train hard to fight easy’ cliche. There is no substitute for training, because you don’t want to be learning what to do when you’re on the frontline.”

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