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18 September 2014
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Recent History - The Falklands

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Falklands Conflict Gallery

By Major General Julian Thompson
A column of 45 Royal Marine Commandoes march towards Port Stanley.
A column of 45 Royal Marine Commandoes march towards Port Stanley. ©
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On 25 May 1982, an Argentinean air-launched Exocet missle sank the British supply ship 'Atlantic Conveyer', a merchant navy container vessel. In all, 12 men were killed in the attack and the ship went down with all but one of the troop-carrying Chinook helicopters required for the assault on the defences around Falkland's capital, Port Stanley.

The British plan to move the troops of the 3rd Commando Brigade forward by air to the high ground dominating the approaches to Stanley had to be changed. Half of them marched there, or 'yomped' if you were a marine, 'tabbed' if you were a para.

'Yomp' or 'tab', it was all the same. The ground was mostly peat bog, or rock, with an incessant wind making the task even harder. The average wind speed in Britain is less than five miles per hour, whereas in the Falklands it averages over 19mph. Rain, sleet, fog, snow and sunshine follow each other in rapid succession. No marching troops carried tents, so the only cover from the elements was a poncho.

British boots leaked and soldiers' feet remained wet for weeks, such that many suffered from trench foot, a debilitating condition more familiar to the soldiers of World War One. The rough terrain meant feet slid around inside sodden boots, causing blisters, and sprained ankles. A pair of excellent Argentinean boots was much sought after.

In battle each man carried a relatively pared-down 70lbs, while on the march it was much more. But the 'yomp' or 'tab' was only the means to an end - to close with and defeat the enemy in battle. Nonetheless, it was an impressive feat of arms in and of itself.

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