Authors: Harry Benson
About the Book
Soon after the Argentine army invaded the Falklands in the early hours of 2 April 1982, it was the Royal Navy commando helicopter pilots, nicknamed
, who flew most of the land-based missions in the Falklands in their Sea King and Wessex helicopters. Facing both mortar fire and head-on attacks by Argentine jets, they inserted SAS patrols at night, rescued survivors of Exocet attacks and mounted daring missile raids, as well as supporting the British troops and evacuating casualties, often in appalling weather conditions.
Harry Benson was a twenty-one-year-old
Wessex pilot, fresh out of training, when war started. He has interviewed over forty of his former colleagues for this book, creating a fast-paced, meticulously researched and compelling account written by someone who was there, in the cockpit of a Wessex helicopter.
About the Author
Aged 21, Harry was one of the youngest helicopter pilots to serve in the Falklands war. Following two tours as a Royal Navy pilot, Harry moved to Asia in 1988 with his wife Kate to work in finance. He returned to the UK in 1997, took a first class degree in Psychology from Bristol University and started what has become Britain's most successful local relationship project, Bristol Community Family Trust, teaching practical relationship skills to thousands of couples.
The Gripping First-hand Account of the Helicopter War in the Falklands
The final land battles of the Falklands war took place in two distinct phases. Night of 11/12 June: Longdon, Two Sisters, Harriet. Night of 13/14 June: Tumbledown, Wireless Ridge and Sapper Hill.
Commander 3rd Commando Brigade in 1982
Harry Benson's aptly named
is the first account to be written about the
part in the Falklands War of 1982. The
being the name for the Royal Navy troop lift helicopters, dating back to the campaign in the jungles of Borneo in the 1960s. Back then, the Fleet Air Arm helicopter aircrews made a name for themselves as âcan do' people â a reputation that they more than upheld in the Falklands War. âScram', broadcast over the helicopter control radio net during the Falklands War meant take cover from Argentine fighters. This call was a regular feature of life down south, especially during the first six days after we landed while the Royal Navy fought and won the Battle of San Carlos Water; arguably the toughest fight by British ships against enemy air attack since Crete in 1941. As the Argentine fighter/bombers came barrelling in I would watch heart in mouth as the
headed for folds in the ground, remaining burning and turning until the enemy had left. Sometimes there was nothing for it but for them to keep on flying, especially
the helicopter in question was carrying an underslung load; or had just lifted from a ship well out in San Carlos Water, with nowhere handy to hide.
Today there is a road network in East Falkland. In 1982 there were no roads outside Stanley and a rough track from Fitzroy to Stanley. Every single bean, bullet, and weapon had to be flown forward from where it had been offloaded from ships â unless it was carried on the back of a marine or soldier, or by the handful of tracked vehicles capable of negotiating the ubiquitous peat bog that along with stone runs and dinosaur-like spine backed hills constituted the Falklands landscape. Likewise every casualty had to be flown back. Without the
there would have been no point in us going south to retake the Falklands; we would have got nowhere.
I am glad that Harry Benson has given space to tell of some of the activities of the non
choppers. He relates in some detail the story of the epic rescue of the SAS from the Fortuna Glacier in South Georgia by HMS
's anti-submarine helicopter; a
. What the SAS thought they were doing up there is another matter, and my opinions on the matter are best left unsaid. Harry Benson also devotes space to the activities of the 3rd Commando Brigade Air Squadron; the gallant 3 BAS, or to some TWA (standing for Teeny Weeny Airways) â 3 BAS suffered the highest casualty rate and was awarded the most decorations in proportion to its numbers of any organisation on the British side in that War. The outstanding support given to the land forces by the only RAF Chinook to survive the sinking of the
is also given due recognition.
We went south with far too few helicopters initially. Those we had were flown every hour they could be; often with bullet holes in fuselages, red warning lights on in
denoting malfunctioning equipment; breaking every peacetime rule. One of the 3 BAS Scout helicopters had a bullet hole in the tail section patched with the lid from a Kiwi boot polish tin. Today's health and safety nerds would have an apoplectic fit. The aircrews worked themselves into the ground. In wartime you should have at least one and a half times the number of aircrew as you have aircraft. Aircrew fatigue will strike long before the aircraft wear out. We did not have this ratio of crews to aircraft. The imperatives of warfighting had long been forgotten. While the rats in the shape of politicians and civil servants had gnawed away at the manpower of the Fleet Air Arm along with everything else connected with defence. Fighting 8,000 miles from home was not the war we had prepared for in the long years of the cold war. But you rarely fight the war you think you are going to fight; this had been forgotten too. Fortunately for those of us fighting the land campaign, none of this fazed the
aircrew; our lifeline. They got on with the job, often flying in appalling weather, in snow blizzards both by day and night, with low cloud concealing high ground, and often along routes easily predictable to the enemy, with the ever-present threat of being bounced by enemy fighters in daylight; most deadly of all being the turbo-prop Pucara which with its low speed was far more dangerous to a helicopter than a jet.