'We were proud, but mostly we were just glad to be home'
Petty Officer William Sutherland
49, Royal Navy
THE noise was like nothing Petty Officer William Sutherland had ever experienced before; the rattling of unfamiliar gunfire followed by a terrifying, dramatic and deafening WHOOSH!
In the freezing waters of the South Atlantic HMS Plymouth rocked from side to side from the force that had torn through the frigate.
"What the bloody hell was that?" yelled Petty Officer Sutherland, the weapon engineering systems artificer. He would soon find out.
It was early June 1982. Five Argentinian Mirage fighter jets had swooped on Rosyth-based HMS Plymouth, an anti-submarine type-12 frigate. The vessel's gunmen shot down two jets and damaged two more, but still four bombs and numerous shells had pummelled the target.
Petty Officer Sutherland, below deck, looked up to see the medical officer struggling towards him, supporting a young rating whose head was swathed in dressings, unaware he had a foot long blade of metal sticking out of his skull.
"I looked down the hatch leading to the sick bay, but it was a inferno down there. There was screaming, voices I recognised. Above, there was a hold on the flight deck at the ship's side. We had to get the torpedos out - they were heat sensitive and the deck was already burning hot."
By war end, 655 Argentinian and 236 British troops would be dead. In one incident alone, around 200 British soldiers were killed or injured when Argentine bombs ignited explosives on board the HMS Sir Galahad.
It could easily have been a similar story on board the Plymouth. One Mirage's shell struck the flight deck during that June assault, detonating a depth charge and starting a fire. Another bomb entered the ship's funnel but failed to explode. Live bombs were stuck inside, unexploded and at risk of detonating. Petty Officer Sutherland, from Silverknowes, held his breath as bomb disposal teams performed the delicate task of defusing the ammunition.
By the time she had been hit, HMS Plymouth had already played key roles in helping to liberate South Georgia. Soon she would limp home, sailing under the Forth bridges, watched by thousands lining the shore.
"It was a wonderful homecoming - no better sight than seeing your home port and the bridges," he remembers.
"We were proud, pleased that Britain was no longer being regarded as a spent force, that other countries knew what we were capable of. Mostly, though, we were just glad to be home."
Twenty five years later, the brutality of war still haunts him. "The nightmares usually go from April and last through to July. It's like a video running in my mind."
Soon he will be able to share those thoughts with fellow veterans, when hundreds gather in Edinburgh on June 14 to mark the anniversary with a wreath-laying ceremony at Edinburgh Castle followed by a service at St Giles Cathedral.
Post-traumatic stress - partly down to the Falklands and partly due to his later service in the first Gulf War - ended Petty Officer Sutherland's Navy career. But he does not regret doing what had to be done. "It was a job that we needed to do. These were British citizens and anyone that holds a British passport deserves British protection."
Major Iain Dalzel Job
60, Scots Guards
"IT was midwinter and the snow was falling horizontally. My company went in first and I thought that we might lose 30 people as the Argentinians we were facing were hardened troops.
"The Marines briefed us on what we might find. They told us that if we fired two shots at them they would disappear - but of course these guys didn't. They were dug in under oil drums filled with earth, with rocks on top of the drums."
It was the night of June 13, 1982, and a long overnight battle lay ahead of Major Iain Dalzel Job and his G Company of the Scots Guards. The Battle of Mount Tumbledown was to signal the end of the Falklands conflict - but the 120 soldiers under Major Iain's command didn't know it then.
A diversionary reconnaissance platoon went ahead of G Company into the mountain and began firing when darkness fell.
"We went in about 20 minutes later. It started about 8.30pm and my company was the first going in. The naval guns were going and we had a battery of our guns firing from behind us. We knew we were winning but not when. The big guns only had a day's ammo left."
Major Job, from Rosyth, adds: "I didn't feel any fear because I'd made sure my family was financially looked after. What I was alarmed about was the number of letters I would have to write to say your son or husband has been killed or badly injured.
"Because I knew we were the first on and it was a mountain - tough ground - I feared for our lives. It was quite miraculous that only six or eight were wounded."
After G Company, known as the Rabbits, had fought for around two hours, they had to wait till the left flank came through and fought their part.
They set up a base and sat out the rest of the night, hiding behind rocks. When morning came they heard a voice on the radio saying "ceasefire, ceasefire". The war was over.
But Major Job, who owns a Scots Guards-themed hotel at Haymarket, did not escape the final night unscathed.
During the night, amongst the rocks, a mortar round went off above the Major, and a tiny piece of shrapnel got embedded in the right side of his head.
"I looked up and saw a cloud of smoke, but I didn't know I'd been hit till after I got back to the UK, when my left side started going numb."
"I can't pipe anymore and I still get pretty numb sometimes. I can't move my left hand in the same way anymore."
As for the mental scars, the dad-of-four, whose Scots Guard son Malcolm is shortly to go to Afghanistan, says: "I feel really elated we got through, but deflated that we lost so many people - eight.
"I think about it at anniversary times. Now people know about post-traumatic stress. I didn't think I needed help afterwards - maybe I did."
Lieutenant Malcolm Duck
46, Royal Marines
CITY restaurateur Malcolm Duck landed at Ajax Bay in East Falkland with the 45 Commando of the Royal Marines at the start of the conflict.
The Marine with Arbroath-based 45 Commando recalls being unnerved by the quiet welcome on their arrival by ship in the Falklands.
"We thought we were doing a beach assault but there was no one there," he says.
After landing, the Marines began the journey north to Stanley. He said: "We moved on foot, getting shot at by the enemy from day one and bombed by the air force.
"It was a proper old-fashioned conflict. In the Falklands they held the ground and we had to remove them."
Lieutenant Duck remembers a lot of fire fights. "The Artillery and Navy were blaring guns overhead and then you would move forward. You would dig in and form a position and then wait for the next order to move. Each time you stopped you dug."
The biggest battle Lieutenant Duck was involved in was one of the fiercest of the conflict, at Two Sisters.
X-Ray Company carried out a diversionary attack, then the Argentinians opened up with defensive fire. "The ground lit up in front of us," he says.
The Marines moved uphill, keeping the firefight going and then coming back for the casualties - from both sides.
"One minute you are running up a hill trying to kill people and then you are trying to look after the injured, the Argentinians too. Then you take the hill and re-group. You stop and wait for the next set of orders."
The men slept in little plastic bivvies - ponchos tied together - as low to the ground as possible for safety.
Lieutenant Duck, who left the forces in 1991, adds: "I remember sitting on the Two Sisters after it was finished on a beautiful sunny day, just looking at the beautiful moorland. You didn't know if you would be alive the next day.
"Sometimes now you think nothing about it and at other times you can't talk."
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