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    South Atlantic Medal

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    A while ago now I posted a topic relating to a S.A.M. to a member of 42 Cdo RM and the possibilties of finding the recipient for research, this is the link to my original posting http://gmic.co.uk/index.php?showtopic=19523&hl=geoff, well, with help from another forum the recipient was eventually tracked down through the 'Once A Marine Always A Marine Forum' this is my guys story, he did provide photographs as well which are embeded in the actual research they have not been included in this piece but I have included the picture title, hope you enjoy.


    Chris Alexander Falcke was born 8th July 1962 in Chelsea, London. In June 1979 at 16 years 11 months he enrolled with the Commando Training Centre, Lymstone, Devon for the 30 week recruit training course as part of 249 Troop (juniors), the troop was made up of 64 recruits, by the end of the course, February 1980, the coveted green beret (CGB) was gained and MNE C.A.Falcke passed out with 15 other recruits and became a Marine and member of 42 Cdo. (Only 16 of the original 64 recruits completed the 30 week training course).

    During the early months of his career, 1981/82, an S3 Signals course was completed (specialist course designated MNE1) along with an LV2 Drivers Course; two Arctic (deployments) exercises were also undertaken in Norway. The Marines have trained in Norway for decades, refining skills and honing talents. Their saying goes: "If you can fight and survive in Norway then you can do it anywhere."

    It was shortly after returning from arduous yet highly appropriate arctic warfare in Norway that Chris was to be contacted about his call up in preparation for his trip to the Falklands, ?we were on leave at the time (just come back from arctic deployment in Norway). Busy getting pissed with an oppo in Hastings. His Dad received a phone call and came (with the police) to a night club to get us (I think they?d done a little tour of Hastings looking for us!). We thought it was a bite at first then decided it might be serious. I drove home to Folkestone and then back to Bickleigh where we were detailed off on various preparatory tasks (sorting preparing kit, vehicle loading/prep etc.). I was then detailed off to a reinforcement holding company based at HMS Raleigh where we did training on the L.M.G., First Aid and anti-aircraft. Then a last night on the piss at Stonehouse before an early morning flight to Ascension Island to join LSL Sir Bedivere?.

    MNE1 C.A.FALCKE was to travel to the Ascension Island by air as 89th Reinforcement Holding Company, part of the 5th Infantry Brigade, (Amphibious Group), Chris describes the atmosphere, ?there was a general feeling of excitement, apprehension and fear that it would all blow over before we got there. Worries that the yanks would get involved, worries that it would turn into a Vietnam situation and worries about the bloody awful weather in the South Atlantic! However, at no point did any of us believe we could not do the job! For many of us (18 & 19 years old) the biggest fear was that we would (a) not get involved/get ashore and (b) that if we did it would be to replace dead comrades!, (if RM casualties had begun to mount we would have been deployed either individually or in section strength to make up numbers?.not a nice thought!)?

    The journey South from Ascension went well aboard LSL Sir Bedivere, ?we had a large a mexe float strapped to the side (big green metal pontoon used by the engine ears) and general ?stores?. The weather was typically South Atlantic ? blowing a bloody hooley ? force 8+ most of the trip, I?ve never had sea sickness ? I?ve always had good sea legs (thank God!) I believe we (Royal Marines) were in small troop strength, about 30 of us serving as gun crew on Sir Bed. Exercise was carried out on the cargo deck when possible ? mostly circuits and static exercises. Lots of gun drills for both 40 mm Bofors and GPMG/LMG (Bren gun converted to 7.62mm). Time was passed playing cards, winding each other up and on watch (got to helm the boat a fair few times). Reactions to radio broadcasts were often mixed ? great sorrow (and a little apprehension) at the news of boats hit and great elation (mixed with some envy) at news of the exploits of the guys ashore. We were eager (young and stupid) to get to grips with the argie ? whether he came at us by boat, submarine or plane we thought we were ready to have a go.?

    Picture...Helicopter at dusk, preparing for the journey south from Ascension part of the relief force.

    As part of the Amphibious Group (?Operation Sutton?) and arriving a day after the first troops stormed the beaches at San Carlos, East Falkland, (Overnight 23rd/24th RFA Resource, Sir Bedivere and Tidepool, the latter to refuel warships, enter San Carlos) LSL Sir Bedivere ? spent a day as a sitting duck waiting to unload men and equipment. The stretch of water was later dubbed ?bomb alley? after the intense air raids against the would-be liberators. Three ships were sunk in the first days of the British counter attack.

    Picture....Monday 24th May 1982 LSL Sir Bedivere entering San Carlos Water (Bomb Alley) and passes the burning hull of HMS Antelope. Antelope sank that afternoon.

    One of the first sights from the Sir Bedivere for those on board was that of the HMS Antelope on fire. HMS Antelope was hit with two 500 pound bombs which crashed through her decks, killing a young steward on the way, and buried themselves in her engine room. They did not explode but Antelope, was sailed into San Carlos Water for repairs, and to have the bombs defused. Staff Sergeant Jim Prescott of the Royal Engineers was attempting to do that when one of them exploded and killed him instantly. The explosion tore a hole in her starboard side, from the waterline to the funnel; the fire was unstoppable and she had to be abandoned. The next afternoon with her back broken, Antelope sank. Chris explains his feelings when he witnessed this ?there was a great sadness and an overall desire to get back at the Argies [revenge I guess]?

    Picture....Mne1 C.Falcke on duty with an LMG, San Carlos Water (Bomb Alley) August 24th 1982

    While in San Carlos water, LSL Sir Bedivere was hit and her 20 ton crane was badly damaged, when an Argentine Skyhawk A-4C, flying from San Julian and Rio Grande, dropped a 1000lb bomb. The bomb cut through the cranes steel plating and bounced into the sea before exploding, fortunately there were no casualties and no serious damage, Chris ?at this present time, most of the photographs of San Carlos Water you will see a picture of a Mirage doing a low pass stern to bow over Sir Bed. I was just aft of the port side Bofors (mounted on the fo?castle) spraying the sky with an LMG (Bren gun converted to 7.62 mm)? Chris explains about the tension during the waiting and then the offloading operation? ?I seem to recall we were in San Carlos waters just after the main landing to drop off the mexe float and stores (I can't remember what they actually were) but I do recall an urgency to things with all of us on deck scanning the sky?s for Argies?.

    LSL Sir Bedivere was lucky to survive the onslaught. (Sir Bedivere, Sir Galahad and Sir Lancelot hit by UXBs, but Lancelot scores hits with Bofors and machine guns on a Skyhawk and a Mirage. RM "Blowpipe" section aboard Sir Bedivere claims a probable victim. RFAs Fort Austin, Tidepool and Stromness all near missed by 1,000lb bombs.

    The fact more ships were not lost was in part down to the work of the 11th Squadron. After the men finally got ashore it was their job to build a runway and fuel supply point for the Harrier jump jets that would help defend against the relentless Argentine attacks.

    Overnight 24th/25th RFAs Tidepool, Sir Tristram, Sir Bedivere and MV Norland were escorted out of Falkland sound and eventually out of TEZ

    Picture....Sir Bedivere leaving the Total Exclusion Zone (TEZ) bomb damage can be seen forward of the port crane

    Chris remained with the Sir Bedivere around the TEZ until the 14th June ?doing an awful lot of duties on deck - mostly as gun crew and I also stood a few watches at the helm? News of the Argentines surrender? ?On board Sir Bedivere - the news came through to us over the tannoy. After they surrendered we went onto MV Norland for a stint of argie repatriation (one trip to Montevideo and one to Puerto Madryn) We were very cautious ? they were nervous and frightened ? we kept thinking what would we do if the roles were reversed! So we all had ideas on how they would overpower ?us? if we were them!?

    Picture....Argentine Prisoners of War aboard MV Norland being repatriated.

    Chris explains when he finally set foot on the liberated Falklands: ?We got ashore about 3/4days after the surrender (to look after prisoners) -we managed to get a little sightseeing done (nearly got ourselves razzed when we found a Pharnard Armoured Car to go play in!) Got a few souvenirs - mostly Argie kit. We also confiscated a fair bit of kit from the prisoners once they were on board and we carried out thorough searches, (officers gloves, compasses, a pair of rather nice .45s in a presentation box etc.) A funny thing, my oppo. and I had the air admiral cleaning the deck in his cabin - got a big bollocking from the ships captain afterwards. We managed to keep hold of a lot of Argie stuff, especially guns which we had a good play with off the stern of the ship just before we reached Ascension.

    Picture....Mne1 C.A.Falcke (far left) with a couple of oppo?s posing on a captured Argentine 155mm gun in Port Stanley, along the Airport Road.

    By the time of the surrender, a number of ships were already well on their way north or had reached the UK, including nuclear submarine "Splendid", destroyer "Glasgow", frigates "Alacrity" and "Argonaut", RFA "Fort Austin", some of the BP tankers and the "Queen Elizabeth 2" to her great welcome. Although more ships would soon follow, a first priority was to start getting the land forces home as soon as "Canberra" and "Norland" had played their part in taking the large number of Argentine POW's off Britain's hands and back to their homeland.

    Picture below ?Just off Ascension on the way home, the swimming pool was constructed from tarpaulin and some pallets, (it was actually my 20th birthday) from Ascension we flew to back to Brize Norton landing about 5hrs before the Great White Whale docked?

    Picture....Troops relax on Sir Bedivere on their return journey to Ascension (bit of sunbathing and swimming in a home made pool

    Chris left the Royal Marines in June 1983 and openly admits ?I did all sorts of crap jobs and generally messing about to pay the rent (or more often ? not). Finally got my head together, got a Degree and for the last 8 years I have taught Sports Science at Canterbury College (mostly anatomy and physiology but also sports sociology/development and gym instruction).

    Around 10,000 Falklands veterans and their families joined serving members of the Armed Forces for the 25th anniversary of the end of the Falklands Conflict which was commemorated across 8,000 miles (12,875km) and five time zones, in London and the Falkland Islands on Sunday 17 June... 18 Jun 07.

    Picture....Chris on parade with fellow Royal Marines, Sunday 17th June 2007

    Picture....Chris Falcke and daughter, the Falklands 25th anniversary in London 2007.

    Chris and his family presently reside in Sittingbourne, Kent, Chris works at Canterbury College.

    RFA Sir Bedivere (L3004) a Landing Ship Logistic (LSL) in the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA). She was laid down on the 28th of October 1965 and launched on the 20th of July the following year. RFA Sir Bedivere was completed on the 18th of May 1967, and operated under commercial management of British India Steam Navigation Company. Built for army service, she was taken over by the Royal Fleet Auxiliary Service in January of 1970.

    On the 25 of September 1984, Falkland Island battle honours were presented to RFA Sir Bedivere along with RFA Sir Geraint and Sir Percivale at Marchwood Military Port.

    Picture....The Round Table class LSLs (Landing Ship Logistics) supplement the amphibious assault ships that are commissioned warships in the Royal Navy.

    She is the sole survivor of the of the Sir Lancelot LSL class in service with the RFA. Her role is to provide seaborne logistic transport and to support both mine countermeasure vessels and also amphibious operations by Royal Marines and the British Army. To accomplish this task the ship has many special design features, including doors in the bow and stern for rapid loading and unloading. Her shallow draught enables the ship to be beached if she cannot be unloaded at a secure port.

    Sir Bedivere can operate large helicopters from her flight deck aft and the vehicle deck amidships giving the ability to VERTREP (Vertical replenishment. This refers to aerial supply of seaborne vessels by helicopter of equipment and/or personnel ashore.) Her highly specialized role means that she is great demand for service with British, NATO and Coalition Forces.

    At the beginning of April 1982, RFA Sir Bedivere was recalled from Canada. By the 29th of April she had been loaded and sailed from her home port of Marchwood for the Falklands. The next day the total exclusion zone around the Falklands came into effect. Some two weeks later Sir Bedivere sailed form Ascension, and four days later on the 18th of May Active Service declaration in the South Atlantic is formally announced.

    Although the tragic story of her sister Sir Galahad in the Falklands is well documented, Sir Bedivere was the first RFA to be bombed during the 1982 war.

    RFA Sir Bedivere finally returned to the United Kingdom on the 16th of November 1982, carrying the remains of 64 British Servicemen killed in the Falklands War, not buried or lost at sea. The policy had long been for those killed on active service to remain in the country where they fell, but many families chose to bring their men home for burial, another sixteen however, including Lt Col Jones VC, stayed in the Falklands.


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