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Montevideo, July 13th 2024 - 22:05 UTC

 

 

Falklands War: Maj General Julian Thompson prepared for Mission Impossible in four days

Saturday, June 22nd 2024 - 09:55 UTC
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“Everyone was caught with their trousers down quite frankly, because this wasn’t on the menu at all,” Maj General Thompson said. “Everyone was caught with their trousers down quite frankly, because this wasn’t on the menu at all,” Maj General Thompson said.

After returning from Denmark and heading to bed, Major General Julian Thompson OBE, commanding 3 Commando Brigade, received a phone call.

“When I got back, my staff said 'Hey, there's been a bit of a problem in the South Atlantic which isn't going to involve us',” he said.

“I thought alright… I'll go to bed, [but was woken up] by my boss, Jeremy Moore, saying there's people down south that are about to be invaded. 'Bring your brigade to short notice - you sail on Tuesday'. This was Friday, so a bit of a tall order.”

BFBS' Sitrep podcast has started a new series of interviews titled The Moment That Made Me, looking to tell stories of life-changing events in military careers.

The moment for Maj Gen Thompson was that very phone call. “That really made me, because we were shocked to be woken up at night and told 'you're going to war now, get on with it',” he said.

“It was such a wakeup call. I mean, you don’t normally get a call to war from your bed in the middle of the night, it's a fairly unusual thing to happen. There was no warning at all. Nothing. You just go to war, like that. That sort of jolted me into reality I think. that's why I chose that moment.”

Major Gen Thompson said his initial feeling was horror.

He explained how despite First Sea Lord Henry Leach realizing “a day or two earlier… that the Argies were about to invade”, the military leaders and politicians, as the Royal Navy started to prepare, failed to inform the Royal Marines of the taskforce they were about to send to the Falkland Islands.

“Everyone was caught with their trousers down quite frankly, because this wasn’t on the menu at all,” he said. “War in the South Atlantic wasn’t part of the game.

”There were no contingency plans whatsoever because the MOD had done a study about six months earlier which came up with the conclusion that if the Argies invaded, there was nothing we could do about it.

“So if this was going to be Mission Impossible, there's no point in making a plan. So the box marked Mission Impossible was opened and we were told to get on with it. That was it.”

Maj Gen Thompson explained personnel sailed on whatever ships were to hand. “You just had to take whatever was available - whatever's available was the nearest ship.”

“Seventeen thousand tons of ammunition in the stores we had to take down, so it was a hell of a lot to do.”

Maj Gen Thompson explained the Royal Corps of Transport “played an absolute blinder”.

“They mobilized all their truck drivers so there were literally hundreds of trucks rushing around the country delivering stores to the various ports,” he said.

He explained he was then flown out from Plymouth to join the ships in Lyme Bay that were heading to the Falkland Islands.

“It was very foggy, helicopters clattered in out of the mist,” he said.

“We climbed in, went away, and then we eventually saw the welcome sight through the fog of the wake of Fearless, the ship we were going to join. ”We joined her, plonked down on the deck, and there we were.“

Maj Gen Thompson said he felt as ready as he could be, and the lesson learnt from the whole experience was the importance of a good team.

”My goodness me, I had a good team and I wouldn't be able to do it by myself, there’s absolutely no doubt about that,“ he said.

”The guy who wins is the guy who sorts out the chaos quicker than the other guy.“ When asked if he misses the chaos, Maj Gen Thompson simply replied: ”No.”

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