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The Welsh Guards in the Falklands War
A Personal Memoir
by Johnny Rickett

It is now just two years away from the 40th anniversary of the Falklands War, described rightly in this short personal memoir as ‘not just a conflict’ – it was a war. A few years after the events described in this most readable account, Johnny Rickett, who commanded 1st Battalion Welsh Guards during the war, was advised by the then Adjutant General, General Dick Trant, not to write such a book. ‘I wouldn’t bother, for as often as not, people will be upset in one way or another’. He heeded these words but believes now that it is ‘important to give full account of the part played by 1st Battalion Welsh Guards’. And it is right that he has done so, as this is the first published account by a Welsh Guardsman.

Some of the story will be familiar to those who have read about the Falklands War, and there are many parallels with both past and later wars. The uncertainties, the camaraderie of soldiers, the immense importance of morale in war and, of course, the humour. Can it be true, for example, that Johnny Rickett actually shared a bed with Mike Scott, Commanding Officer of 2nd Battalion Scots Guards on their journey south, on board the QE2. Apparently so, albeit in a stateroom with an ‘enormous bolster’ down the middle of the bed!    

The Welsh Guards had a tough time in the Falklands, losing more than any other unit: 33 soldiers, and many casualties, mostly on-board RFA Sir Galahad when it was attacked by Argentinian aircraft on 8th June 1982. It is also sad to read here of a much lesser-known tragedy: the Mortar Platoon, that had suffered so terribly on Sir Galahad, had eleven more injured, including the loss of limbs, in mid-July, after the war was over, when a Harrier accidentally jettisoned a Sidewinder missile on Stanley airfield.  It is the terrible incidents like this one that can so easily be overlooked by those third-party observers of wars and their aftermath. 

Johnny Rickett’s account is measured and fair, and he has resisted any temptation to apportion blame to individuals for what happened to the Sir Galahad and the tragic loss of life that day. This was, however, an avoidable tragedy, and the main contributing factor in Johnny Rickett’s view was the failure in communications which, in his words ‘were a shambles’. But there were clearly other reasons as well, exacerbated by the frictions of war. For example, HQ 5 Infantry Brigade was not the ‘well-oiled machine’ that was HQ 3 Commando Brigade, a factor complicated by the presence of a hastily assembled HQ Land Forces. Command and Control was uneven and sometimes muddled, factors that did not help the Welsh Guards in their desire to get on and fight the war. This short book is a tribute to those Welsh Guardsmen who served in the Falklands, to those who were killed, and those who were injured and whose lives were so changed by the experience.

The Editor

The book is available from RHQ Welsh Guards at a cost of £7 including p&p. Orders can be made by telephone (020 7414 3291) or by email (stuart.laing110@mod.gov.uk). Brigadier Rickett is giving all proceeds from the sale of this book to the Welsh Guards Charity.






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