Commander tells of life in Falklands War

MEMORIES Major General Julian Thompson (left), with Ian Gardiner. Picture: Ian Hargreaves  (122200-1)
MEMORIES Major General Julian Thompson (left), with Ian Gardiner. Picture: Ian Hargreaves (122200-1)
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BRIGADIER Ian Gardiner rolled back the clock 30 years during a talk about fighting in the Falklands War.

The retired Royal Marine, who commanded a 45 Commando rifle company in the conflict, gave an hour-long lecture at the Royal Marines Museum in Eastney yesterday to launch his new book The Yompers.

He was joined afterwards for a question and answer session with Major General Julian Thompson who commanded 3 Commando Brigade during the Falklands.

During the speech, Brig Gardiner revealed how he thought it was an April Fool’s joke when he first received the call to go to war.

‘It was a strange, eerie feeling to be called to war from one’s bed,’ he added.

He also said that retaking the islands was the right thing to do and dismissed critics of Britain’s response.

‘Whatever view you have of Thatcher’s policy, she was good at standing up to bullies,’ he told his mainly military audience.

In a blistering attack, the brigadier railed against Argentina’s ruling dictatorship for invading the islands in the first place and said: ‘The Falklands invasion was evil men expressing the sick aspirations of a failed society.’

Brig Gardiner said the reason Argentina had lost the conflict despite grossly outnumbering British forces was because ‘their plans were based on the assumption that we would not fight.’

He added: ‘They underestimated the enemy.’

His talk mixed in gallows humour about watching the ‘Ajax Bay Air Show’ of Argentinian planes battling with Royal Navy ships in San Carlos Water, and touched on the trials of yomping for days across the sodden, jagged Falklands landscape as troops closed in on Port Stanley.

He paid tribute to his comrades and the men he led into battle to take Two Sisters, saying: ‘The secret is to get ordinary people to do extraordinary things and that’s what our Royal Marines did then.’

Responding to a question about Argentina’s recent posturing over the sovereignty of the Falklands, Mr Gardiner said: ‘I think Argentina have no claim at all.’

Maj Gen Thompson added: ‘If they thought they could get away with it they might try.

‘But the Argentinian air force seems to be in a pretty bad state and their navy is shot to bits. The only bits that are good are their special forces, marine brigade and parachute brigade.’