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LORD ASHCROFT: Sergeant Ian McKay's disregard for his personal life was awe-inspiring but eerie – Each day Mail

By Lord Ashcroft For The Mail On Sunday


Lord Ashcroft’s new guide, Falklands Conflict Heroes, celebrates the braveness of the British women and men who risked, and in some circumstances sacrificed, their lives
Throughout the lengthy sea crossing from England to the Falklands, Sergeant Ian McKay wrote to a buddy within the spring of 1982: ‘I’ve no intention of taking any dangers and getting killed. If I do, then it is going to be to guard my males, to save lots of lives.’
His phrases have been tragically prescient. He would go on to be awarded the final Victoria Cross earned within the twentieth Century for the acute valour and selflessness that value him his life.
The 29-year-old’s name to arms had been sudden and sudden as occasions within the South Atlantic escalated.
Ending a recreation of soccer with a gaggle of buddies, he had obtained an pressing message to return to his barracks at Aldershot in Hampshire.
‘He got here in and went out,’ his spouse Marica later recalled. ‘I put his dinner in a Tupperware container and he went right away. He simply mentioned, “I’ve bought to go.”
‘I by no means noticed him once more.’
Alongside together with his comrades from 3 Para, McKay landed at Port San Carlos on the western coast of East Falkland on the evening of Could 21, 1982. Because the battle moved in direction of what would show to be its bloody last section, his males’s directions have been to dig in, realizing that in the event that they remained seen, they might be straightforward targets for the Argentine air power.
After exhausting marches beneath cowl of darkness, the Paras arrived at their vacation spot, Mount Estancia, unscathed. Every man had carried a great deal of as much as 120 lb, with the overall distance lined on foot since touchdown amounting to greater than 50 miles.
From there they might be a part of the ultimate assault on Port Stanley, the Falklands’ capital.
It was at this level that McKay and his males turned conscious of the deaths of Colonel ‘H’ Jones and 14 others from 2 Para through the hard-won victories at Darwin and Goose Inexperienced. Many different Paras had been wounded. However 3 Para knew it was time to press on, and to strive to make sure these devastating losses had not been in useless.
Ian McKay, 1953-1982, member of the third Battalion The Parachute Regiment awarded a posthumous VC for his actions in an evening assault on Mount Longdon within the Falklands
On June 2, they undertook a reconnaissance mission to Mount Longdon, a key goal within the battle for Port Stanley, whereas McKay’s patrol moved ahead to the bridge over the Murrell River, one other important strategic location. Right here they’d come throughout well-placed Argentine mortar hearth and determined to drag again and as soon as once more dig in.
Over the following week, extra patrols put out feelers, and on June 6 and seven there have been modest firefights, however no full-scale battles.
In the meantime, techniques to decisively finish the enemy’s occupation of the Falklands have been being labored out. Mount Longdon, which loomed like a fortress between the Paras’ place and Port Stanley, was recognized because the Argentine defence’s strongest level. The ultimate push throughout the mountain to the capital started on June 11. By daybreak the boys have been getting ready for the approaching battle, and McKay was, within the phrases of 1 comrade, able to ‘take care of the lads nearly like a mom hen’.
He had 28 males in his platoon, together with himself. However, say buddies, he had a powerful feeling that he won’t survive the battle.
Sergeant Ian McKay (left) and Lieutenant Colonel Herbert Jones (proper)
‘I keep in mind Ian coming as much as me simply earlier than the battle for Mount Longdon,’ recalled Firm Sergeant Main John Weeks. ‘He mentioned, “I’m not going to return again from this.” This was perhaps an hour earlier than we crossed the river and bought into our formations for the battle.’
The lengthy quotation for McKay’s posthumous VC takes up the story of a single episode within the lengthy, fraught and confused battle:
‘In the course of the evening of June 11/12, 1982, third Battalion the Parachute Regiment mounted a silent evening assault on an enemy battalion place on Mount Longdon, an essential goal within the battle for Port Stanley.
‘Sergeant McKay was platoon sergeant of 4 Platoon, B Firm, which, after the preliminary goal had been secured, was ordered to clear the northern aspect of the lengthy east/west ridge characteristic, held by the enemy in depth, with robust, mutually supporting positions.
‘By now the enemy have been totally alert and resisting fiercely. As 4 Platoon’s advance continued, it got here beneath more and more heavy hearth from numerous well-sited enemy machine-gun positions on the ridge, and obtained casualties.
‘The enemy hearth was nonetheless each heavy and correct. Taking Sergeant McKay, a corporal and some others, and lined by supporting machine-gun hearth, the platoon commander moved ahead to reconnoitre the enemy positions however was hit by a bullet within the leg, and command devolved upon Sergeant McKay.
‘It was clear that immediate motion was wanted if the advance was to not falter and rising casualties to ensue. Sergeant McKay determined to transform this reconnaissance into an assault in an effort to remove the enemy positions.
‘He was in little question of the power and deployment of the enemy as he undertook this assault. He issued orders, and taking three males with him, broke cowl and charged the enemy place.
‘The assault was met by a hail of fireplace. The corporal was severely wounded, a non-public killed and one other wounded. Regardless of these losses, Sergeant McKay, with full disregard for his personal security, continued to cost the enemy place alone.
‘On reaching it, he despatched the enemy with grenades, thereby relieving the place of beleaguered 4 and 5 Platoons, who have been in a position to redeploy with relative security. Sergeant McKay, nonetheless, was killed for the time being of victory.
‘Doubtless, Sergeant McKay’s motion retrieved a most harmful state of affairs and was instrumental in making certain the success of the assault. His was a coolly calculated act, the hazards of which will need to have been solely too obvious to him beforehand. Undeterred, he carried out with excellent selflessness, perseverance and braveness. With an entire disregard for his personal security, he displayed braveness and management of the very best order, and was an inspiration to all these round him.’
His buddy Corporal Ian Bailey mentioned of McKay’s last moments: ‘The final time I noticed Ian McKay alive, he was nonetheless shifting on my proper. I used to be hit, went down, tried to rise up and by no means noticed him once more.
‘There was firing occurring, two explosions. Then it stopped after which there was nothing.’
It’s understood that as he lay useless or dying, McKay was hit by no less than three bullets.
The Argentine give up got here simply two days later, on June 14.
Ian McKay’s physique was recovered and introduced again to England. He was buried together with 15 comrades from the battle in a funeral with full army honours on the Aldershot Army Barracks on November 26, 1982.
The final two males to see him alive have been among the many pallbearers: Corporal Bailey and Color Sergeant Brian Faulkner, who mentioned of his buddy: ‘Mac was the bravest of the courageous.’
In an interview with me at her dwelling close to Lincoln, Marica McKay recalled her husband with affection and pleasure. She advised me: ‘Ian was an actual gentleman. He was a family-orientated man – easy and fairly personal. There have been a lot of issues in his previous profession that he by no means mentioned with me and that I learnt about solely after his dying.’
British troops arriving within the Falklands Islands through the Falklands Conflict
Mrs McKay was at her Military dwelling in Aldershot when she learnt that her husband, the daddy of a four-year-old daughter, had been killed. Like him, she had had a powerful feeling he wouldn’t return from the Falklands.
‘I had mentioned to somebody I used to be working with, “Ian just isn’t coming again.” I simply knew that issues would change after the British sank the Belgrano.’ [An incident that remains controversial to this day, when, on May 2, the Argentine cruiser was sunk with the loss of 323 lives.]
‘I heard the information of his dying on a Monday. A buddy had simply rung me to say her kettle had damaged and will I get her a brand new one. Then the doorbell rang, and it was Colonel Simon Brewis and Sue Patton, the spouse of one other senior officer.
‘I knew then, as quickly as I got here down the steps, that Ian had been killed. Information of his dying was not a shock as a result of I had been anticipating it.’
Mrs McKay mentioned she knew little about her husband’s astounding bravery till 4 months after his dying, when information of his posthumous Victoria Cross was introduced.
‘I used to be extremely proud when he was awarded the VC,’ she mentioned. ‘However part of me simply needs he had hidden behind a rock. It was a bittersweet award. Ian had no worry and his ideas would have been to guard his males.
‘If Ian was alive at the moment, he would say his VC was not only for him, it was for all his comrades.’
Sergeant McKay’s heroism won’t ever be forgotten. Over the previous many years, many monuments and memorials have been put up in his honour. In 2012, the thirtieth anniversary of the battle, the army historian Andrew Roberts wrote: ‘The phrase “hero” is used all too simply and infrequently these days, even to explain sportsmen and entertainers.
‘Ian McKay was a real hero, somebody who on the age of 29 fairly intentionally sacrificed his personal life in battle in order that others – his comrades within the third Battalion, the Parachute Regiment – may dwell.’
A couple of years after his dying, Mrs McKay mentioned that whereas at dwelling she was ‘visited’ by a picture of her husband, who was ironing one in every of his shirts. He advised her: ‘I wouldn’t have modified something.’
DESCRIBED by his head trainer as ‘some of the gifted pupils ever to cross by means of my palms in 42 years of instructing’, Jeff Glover studied engineering at Oxford College, the place he made his mark as a pilot within the College Air Squadron earlier than deciding on an RAF profession.
By the point of the invasion of the Falklands – on his twenty eighth birthday – he was a Harrier pilot at RAF Wittering, on the Cambridgeshire/Northamptonshire border.
‘The squadron had been placed on a footing for potential deployment,’ he advised me in an interview at his Lincolnshire dwelling. ‘There was a sense of pleasure, as a result of this was what we had been skilled for.’ Glover was chosen to fly one in every of his squadron’s six Harrier jets from RAF St Mawgan in Cornwall to Ascension Island within the Atlantic Ocean – a journey of practically 9 hours that required mid-air refuelling.
The ultimate stage of the journey was accomplished by ship.
On the morning of Could 21, 1982, Glover took half in his first wartime mission. However issues didn’t go to plan. ‘We took off at round 8am – it was an attractive day, not a cloud within the sky. I simply needed to carry out to the most effective of my means, and never let the aspect down,’ he mentioned.
‘I lined up behind my boss on the [aircraft] provider [Hermes]. We every had two cluster bomb models and weapons loaded. He chosen full energy and 4 seconds later I, too, went to full energy, chased him down the flight deck and left the tip of the ski bounce at 140mph.
‘We began to climb to round 25,000ft however the boss couldn’t retract his undercarriage. He needed to abort his mission due to the issue, leaving me to finish the mission… I used to be given targets within the Port Howard space of West Falkland. I let down from round 20,000ft over land and dropped all the way down to 200ft for about 4 minutes.
‘I used to be flying at 535 knots [615mph]. As soon as I recognized the jetty space, I went into a tough flip to the left. Then I felt and heard “Bang! Bang! Bang!”
‘The plane entered a maximum-rate roll to the appropriate – the roll taking not more than a second, nevertheless it was as if it was taking place in sluggish time. I had three separate ideas: the primary was “I can’t management the roll”. The second was “that sea is terribly shut” and the third was “I’ve to time my ejection proper”.
Marcia McKay, widow of Falklands Victoria Cross winner Sgt Ian McKay outdoors Buckingham Palace after she obtained his award
‘After the plane had gone by means of 320 levels, I appeared down and noticed my proper hand pull the ejection seat deal with. I then heard a metallic bang and I misplaced consciousness.
‘I awoke about 4ft underwater, sunny-side up, and flapped to the floor. I had been hit by a Blowpipe missile that had been fired from the bottom by an Argentinian.’
The missile had hit and brought off half of the plane’s proper wing, remembered Glover. ‘After I ejected, my parachute opened and I dropped into the freezing sea.
‘So, I used to be within the water in my protecting immersion go well with, and after what appeared like 5 minutes of being in shock, I began to consider stepping into my self-inflating dinghy, which was hooked up to me by two quick-release clips.
‘My left aspect was fully incapacitated from numerous accidents. I then heard voices and appeared round. There was just a little rowing boat with some Argentine troops in it, holding rifles.
‘In my stupidity, I reached for my RAF-issue pistol however, fortunately, I had mistakenly left it on Hermes. The troopers pulled me out of the water and I used to be from then on, for the following 50 days, a prisoner of battle.’
After therapy for his accidents – a damaged arm, a damaged shoulder blade and a damaged collarbone – at a makeshift medical centre, Glover was requested if he needed to satisfy the person who had shot him down. ‘I mentioned OK, and I used to be then launched to Lieutenant Sergio Fernandez. We shook palms and I mentioned, “Good effort.” ’
On Could 25, Glover was taken to Comodoro Rivadavia, a metropolis and army base on the Argentine mainland. With him have been 4 or 5 Argentine pilots who had been shot down by the British.
Because the battle continued, Argentina used Glover as a propaganda software. He was – falsely – quoted in newspapers in Buenos Aires as saying: ‘My individuals are incorrect, and that’s harmful. Our forces are struggling the consequences of the Argentine offensive. Their morale is deteriorating because of the confusion attributable to air assaults.’
Glover advised me that though he was by no means aggressively interrogated or mistreated, it was a tricky two months, together with his future unsure. ‘For the primary week, I used to be locked in a room and never allowed out, however then an Worldwide Pink Cross man pitched up,’ he mentioned.
‘I used to be initially suspicious of him, however then I warmed to him when he began taking measurements of the dimensions of my room [to try to get Glover a larger room]. I warmed to him much more when he left me 200 cigarettes.’
Glover was freed on July 8 and flown dwelling shortly afterwards.
‘It took seven months earlier than I might fly solo once more,’ he mentioned. ‘It was ultimately found that I’d had a paranoic response to isolation and captivity. My issues have been extra psychological than bodily.’
Glover was awarded the Queen’s Commendation for Beneficial Service within the Air and three years later turned a member of the Pink Arrows aerobatics crew, subsequently spending a few years as a industrial pilot. However in a exceptional twist, his hyperlinks together with his seize have endured. 5 years in the past, whereas working for the Qatari royal household, he discovered himself in Buenos Aires for 12 days and determined to search for the person who shot him down greater than 30 years earlier, the now retired Main Basic Sergio Fernandez.
‘He had tracked me down about ten years after the battle and we had swapped emails,’ mentioned Glover. ‘However this time we went out for dinner, and it was solely then that he advised me that I had been within the sea after being shot down for 40 minutes, once I had at all times thought it was for about 5 minutes. We had a fantastic night. He speaks good English and he was, and is, a smashing chap.’
Reflecting on his function within the battle practically 4 many years in the past, Glover, now 67, mentioned: ‘On the time, as a POW in 1982, I believed I had let the aspect down and misplaced one in every of our six planes [from his squadron]. However, practically 40 years on, I’ve bought over it.’
Gordon Mather, a 35-year-old SAS Troop Sergeant primarily based in Hereford, had been studying Arabic as a part of his undercover duties when he heard that battle had damaged out within the South Atlantic. ‘Our Egyptian teacher turned on the tv and we learnt that the Falkland Islands had been invaded,’ he advised me. ‘Phrase quickly got here by means of that the Arabic course was cancelled and we should always put together to deploy.’
He would go on to be embellished with the Army Medal for extended gallantry throughout a daring mission lasting 4 weeks behind enemy strains – the longest such deployment of the entire Falklands battle.
The Victoria Cross medal
In an unique interview, Mather, who led a four-man patrol in treacherous sub-zero circumstances to achieve beneficial intelligence on Argentine positions, advised me that the important thing to his crew’s success had been the ‘thorough, extraordinarily demanding’ SAS choice course of.
‘A lot of it’s primarily based on carrying heavy weights and navigating over tough floor each by day and evening,’ he mentioned. ‘That is mixed with very excessive requirements of area craft, finest use of floor and camouflage and concealment.’
Their preparations had been exhaustive. ‘Every thing that we would wish to outlive, talk and maybe combat with needed to be carried,’ he advised me. ‘We had the usual challenge ration pack: one feeds one man for at some point, nevertheless it weighs three and a half kilos, so 14 days’ rations alone equals 49lb per man, simply meals. So we needed to lower down on rations.
‘We every carried AR-15 semi-automatic assault rifles and 200 rounds of ammunition, together with hand and smoke grenades. As normal process, the patrol commander at all times carries a white phosphorous grenade to destroy code books if required.’
To this present day he is stuffed with reward for the Sea King helicopter pilots who inserted them behind enemy strains on Could 1, flying dangerously low. ‘They have been very good,’ he mentioned. ‘A part of the issue, after all, was that we had no thought the place the enemy is likely to be. That was our mission. The place are they? What number of are they? What weapons do they possess?’
Lengthy earlier than the mission, Mather and different patrol commanders have been warned they have been on their very own if attacked. Below regular circumstances they may count on a Fast Response Power to return to their help in the event that they bought into problem. Nevertheless, these patrols have been the primary troops on to the Falklands, so there could be no back-up. ‘That helped focus the thoughts a bit,’ mentioned Mather.
Speaking their data again to their superiors was removed from straightforward. They have been issued with high-frequency radios utilizing hand-speed Morse Code. The messages have been encrypted – a sluggish however safe system. I’d radio data maybe each day or each two days – we needed to keep in contact to cross on the knowledge we had obtained and to point that we have been OK.
‘However on a regular basis we have been nervous concerning the direction-finding functionality of our enemy. So two guys, one signaller and one different man, would transfer away from our base for about an hour, arrange the antenna, ship and obtain, take down the antenna after which come again. The subsequent time the opposite two would exit in a unique path. We hoped it could imply the enemy might by no means establish precisely the place our base was located.’
Their targets have been considered by means of binoculars, mentioned Mather. ‘The closest we bought was about 400 metres. I by no means felt we have been in instant hazard of being noticed.’
Mather mentioned that, regardless of the difficult circumstances, he by no means needed to encourage his males as a result of they have been all tremendously match, skilled and resilient.
‘Sure, after all, when you find yourself on Day 21 or no matter it’s, chilly and soaking moist, you may take a look at one another and say, “I’d quite be in our favorite pub in Hereford.” However principally you simply get on with it; heads by no means went down. Often, I tuned the radio to the BBC World Service and discovered what was taking place. On Could 21, they reported “British forces have landed on the Falkland Islands”. We checked out one another and that raised a little bit of smile. We thought, “We aren’t alone – the cavalry have come!” ’
His squadron’s patrols ultimately resulted within the disabling of 4 enemy helicopters and the destruction of a considerable aviation gasoline dump – a satisfying contribution to the trouble.
On the finish of their 28-day mission, they have been picked up at an agreed rendezvous level and, exhausted and filthy, flown to a ship anchored off the islands.
‘I advised my guys in a whisper to unload their weapons,’ he mentioned. ‘I used to be whispering due to course we had bought so used to it over the previous 4 weeks.’
Mather, now 74, has returned to the Falklands twice since, together with in 2012 for the thirtieth anniversary of the battle.
Lord Ashcroft’s newest guide, Falklands Conflict Heroes: Extraordinary true tales of bravery within the South Atlantic
‘On Remembrance Sunday, a really shifting service was held in Stanley Cathedral,’ he recalled. ‘I requested one Falkland Islander what she thought of us veterans returning 12 months after 12 months.
‘She replied, “When you are right here this week, Gordon, we are going to care for you. And when your kids come to the islands, our kids will care for them.
‘ “When your grandchildren come, our grandchildren will care for them, too. As a result of it is a debt that we are able to by no means repay.” ’
Abridged extract from Falklands Conflict Heroes, by Michael Ashcroft, revealed by Biteback at £25. To order a duplicate for £22.50, with free UK supply, go to or name 020 3176 2973 earlier than November 28.
Lord Ashcroft KCMG PC is a businessman, philanthropist, creator and pollster. For details about his work, go to Comply with him on Twitter and Fb @LordAshcroft. 

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