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Goose Green Hero Controversy; VC Colonel Criticised.

Sunday, May 20th 2007 - 21:00 UTC
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John Geddes (with Union Jack) and fellow Paras after their hard-won victory in the Falklands John Geddes (with Union Jack) and fellow Paras after their hard-won victory in the Falklands

Allegations that the British hero of the Battle for Goose Green in May 1982 , Colonel H. Jones, VC, acted foolishly and needlessly sacrificed his life have been renewed in a book marking the 25th anniversary of the Falkland Islands War.

One of the paratroops under his command claims that the colonel's action in leading from the front was "lionhearted" but "ill-conceived and futile. It made no difference to the outcome of the battle". The criticism is contained in the latest Falklands war book, called "Spearhead Assault: Our fight to save the Falklands" by John Geddes, a Paratroop Corporal . Geddes criticises his commanding officer's battle plan and his refusal to accept suggestions from his fellow officers. He says: "The accounts of the events surrounding his death have mostly been written by former officers and military historians. â€Ã‚¦but they cannot tell it like a front-line para. And they have not told the whole story. I can. I was there". Victory against all oddsBy being there, Geddes gives some chillingly graphic accounts of men in action, fighting and dying in the fury of battle and the freezing discomfort of the boggy terrain in the Falklands winter. He says that their equipment was inferior to that of the Argentine defenders. The British had boots made out of reconstituted cardboard and automatic rifles which would fire continuously only by jamming a matchstick in the works. "It was we who were really under siege", Geddes writes. "The Argentines had us outnumbered and outgunned and if they came out of their cover fighting, we would be in big troubleâ€Ã‚¦.but fear was clearly spreading throughout their ranks." Their commander, Colonel Piaggi, surrendered when the British paratroops had nearly run out of ammunition. "Three hundred British paras, outnumbered by four to one, had taken on 1,300 well dug in Argentine troops, who had massive fire power, and defeated them against all the odds". In the 14-hour battle, 17 British and 250 Argentines were killed. Many more Argentines were wounded, and more than 1.000 were taken prisoner. Geddes claims that more than 300 British veterans of the war suffering from post traumatic stress disorder have since committed suicide â€" more than were killed in the war â€"and probably many m ore Argentine veterans. Goose Green, on May 27th, was the most controversial of all the battles of the war. Some senior commanders questioned whether it should ever have been fought at all and why it could not have been by-passed in the advance to Stanley. Most controversial of all were the actions of the commanding officer Lieutenant Colonel H. Jones, who led 2-Paratroop battalion into the battle but never saw the end of it. Colonel's Controversial VCGeddes says Jones should have been further back to get an overall view, not up front. Having ordered his men to take a ridge, he saw his best friend and several other soldiers shot and killed. "Seemingly mesmerised in that smoke-filled gully and stubbornly refusing to step back and assess the situation properly, he grabbed a machine gun and ran towards the nearest enemy position, yelling 'Come on A Company, Get your skirts on. Follow me!'. "None of them did. They were n no mood for public school gestures or gung-ho cries from a Commando comicâ€Ã‚¦ They would sort it out their own way and that did not include running into machine gun fire, World War One style". Colonel H was fit and running ahead. His bodyguard yelled out a warning. But it was too late. The next burst of fire dropped the colonel His radio operator flashed out the signal 'Sunray is down' â€" "one of the iconic sound bites of the Falklands War". "I believe H's dash into action was motivated by anger, passion and regret at the loss of his friend, Captain Dave Woodâ€Ã‚¦ He decided to do what he thought the honourable thing and sort it out himselfâ€Ã‚¦His judgment was unbalanced. H should not have insisted on being so close to the actionâ€Ã‚¦ He should have been conducting the action, not fighting it". Geddes questions whether Colonel Jones should have been awarded the Victoria Cross, Britain's highest award for gallantry. Controversially, Geddes asserts: "Contrary to the citation, for H's Victoria Cross, he never fired a shot". Colonel H should not have been where he was when he became on of the 17 men who fell at Goose Green. I wish he had survived. I wish they'd all survived". Corporal's Heroic ActionThe book says: "This is probably the most controversial VC of all timeâ€Ã‚¦. Should he have got the VC? Certainly the battalion deserved a VC and in that sense the award to its colonel may have some justice in it". But, Geddes suggests, a paratroop corporal was the real hero whose decisive actions turned the tide of battle. He describes how Corporal Dave Abols stood up, defying a hail of fire, and fired a rocket into the Argentine command bunkerâ€Ã‚¦ The effect was electric. Soon white flag s began appearing all along the Argentine line. It was his nerve, courage and superb field craft which broke the Argies and not H's emotional charge into the Valley of Death". Corporal Abols, the book says, should have been awarded the VC. In fact he received the Distinguished Conduct Medal. Goose Green GratitudeThe 114 Islanders who had been incarcerated in the Community Centre were "overjoyed to be liberated. They were island folk not given to big displays of emotion. But there was a real felling of jubilation. Victory was tempered with a sense of mourning for our mates. We were genuinely touched when the Goose Greeners went out onto the battlefield and built a memorial to the lads. That was the true expression of the gratitude they felt". After the Argentine surrender, Geddes says, the Falkland Islanders put on a film for us in the community centre, an 8 mm version of a western called "Soldier Blue" full of violent battlefield scenes. That went down like a lead balloon!". Message to Argentines: "Forget about Falklands"Geddes says the "Real winners of the Falklands War were the 30-million people of Argentina because it led to the downfall of the oppressive military Juntaâ€Ã‚¦ a Fascist military dictatorship which was abducting, torturing and executing thousands of their own people. The Argentines got a vote and a popular government. They got rid of the secret police, abductions, torture and summary executions, and no more babies were snatched". Twenty-five years after the war, Geddes says he has a message for the Argentine people: "The military adventurers, the torturers and the secret police are alive and well in your country and waiting in the shadows. So why don't you forget about the Falkland Islands and look after your fragile democracy. We'll look after our own. And by the way, there's no need to thank us for toppling the junta". Harold Briley, LondonBook Review: "Spearhead Assault: Our fight to save the Falklands" by John Geddes with Alun Rees. Published by Century. Price 14.99. www.randonhouse.co.uk/ ISBN 9781846o52477 After the Falklands, Geddes joined the elite SAS and is a veteran of covert operations in the Balkans, Northern Ireland, Africa, and South America, where he conducted devastating lethal undercover operations against cocaine cartels. Since leaving the SAS, he has been involved in security work in the Congo. Nigeria, Eastern Europe, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Categories: Politics, Mercosur.

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