VERSE FROM FORGOTTEN MEN - Falklands War 1982"
war memorial at Stanley in the Falkland Islands has engraved upon it
the names of all the UK military units that took part in the
Conflict. From Ships and Squadrons to Regiments and Special Forces,
all are represented - even down to the Field Post Office Unit and the
Catering Corps. It is interesting to note that, despite a twenty year
campaign to have their presence in the conflict recorded, FLEET
CLEARANCE DIVING TEAM 3 has yet to be included. This is particularly
surprising in view of the fact that 66% of its members received
gallantry awards. This is by far the highest percentage achievement
of any unit involved and an enviable record for such a small team of
Bomb-disposal Divers - the Royal Navy's own and largely unsung
Special Forces. The eighteen-man team amassed between them: one
Distinguished Service Cross, one Distinguished Service Medal, four
Mentions in Dispatches and six Commander-in-Chief's Commendations for
From the moment of their appearance in the combat
zone, the Team was in the thick of it. Immediately after HMS ANTELOPE
was sunk (the day the Team arrived), nine of them began the long and
arduous task of removing dangerous explosives from her upper-deck and
reducing the height of the wreck. This essential work continued,
despite the many air-raids that were occurring, to allow freedom of
manoeuvre for the rest of the landing force. Simultaneously the
second half of the Team was removing live, unexploded bombs from RFAs
SIR GALAHAD and SIR LANCELOT, thus saving those ships and returning
them to vital service. After the loss of ANTELOPE, it had been
decreed that bombs should not be defuzed but lifted out 'still alive
and kicking'. It was these two incidents that won the Divers their
FCDT3 was based at the Red Beach Hospital where,
in their spare time, they taught themselves to be nurses - a skill
much in demand after the Buff Cove incident when the casualty unit
was overwhelmed with badly burned survivors. Among those treated by
the Divers was the now celebrated soldier - Simon Weston; although he
was too much in extremis to register the fact. When the Hospital was
bombed, the Team was responsible for building the vast sand-bag wall
between the operating theatre and the unexploded bombs to protect
patients and staff from the imminent danger of explosions. By moving
their messdeck into the void space left between the blast-wall and
the theatre, they not only eased the accommodation problem but also
gave the Red Beach people added confidence in the efficacy of the
The Buff Cove incident saw a small Element of FCDT3 as
the first men to board both TRISTRAM and GALAHAD (again) after the
attack. Having extinguished what fires they could and checked the
ships for UXBs, they then explosively removed the stern ramp of
TRISTRAM to allow vital ammunition to be saved and sent to the
bombarding guns around Stanley - and all this while fires raged and
explosions rumbled deep in the hold of GALAHAD.
Finally, the same
Element was responsible for recovering a sea-mine in a gale off
Stanley, beaching it and, with minimal equipment (they had not been
allowed to bring with them the specialist tools from UK), de-fusing
it by hand - the first unknown, enemy mine to be rendered safe since
the Korean War.
Three weeks after the surrender, the Team returned
quietly to UK having suffered no casualties. Within a month, two of
its members had been killed - innocent victims of other people's bad
In order to put the record straight and give the
'Forgotten Men' the recognition they deserve, Fleet Clearance Diving
Team 3's story has been told by its Commanding Officer, Bernie Bruen,
in his book 'Keep Your Head Down' (Parapress 1993, Book Guild 1998);
and yet twenty five years later, they remain forgotten and unsung.
They are not even mentioned in the Government's official war history,
Perhaps these poems will give an insight into
the quiet, yet fraught world of the Clearance Diver at work in that
most significant of all conflicts.
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the way 'down South' to join the Task Force, feelings about the sheer
audacity and ill-mannered behaviour of the Argentinians in forcing
themselves upon the population of these British islands ran
These are our
These are their
farms, their sheep, their beef.
your mettle (which I doubt).
You have no
invitation - thief!
if you like and yell and scream.
Send all your
Strafe us with
bullets, rockets, bombs;
Ships you coveted.
Or slink and
hide and run away,
behind barbed wire and mines;
shake in quaking
Hide in your
scant defensive lines.
For it is ours,
earth you dig;
Possess - enjoy
it for the day.
miles we've come to state,
people began to die as a result of the inevitable confrontation, a
cold determination could be found among the troops about to enter the
WE SANCTIONED NO REQUEST
From you to
claim this land.
You found no
We shun that
you to these shores;
You only showed
To steal what
was not yours.
invade your homes?
Did we close
down your schools?
dictate your way of life?
Did we impose
we bolster up
Your way of
life - gone mad,
And did we
regard you for
The dignity you
had? - Well,
We are the
Who speak. You
By us and
men you killed
And those you
We are the
We are your
slain as well.
We tend the
wait for you
gates of Hell.
The voyage to the South was long and gave plenty of time
to reflect on a previous generation, whose long struggle against
similar tyrants gave their children the freedom that is so much
'taken for granted' these days.
"I remembered a Sunday
service in the Wellington College chapel. As the boys filed out past
the Headmaster's pew, sitting next to him in the place of honour was
my father, Commander Bill Bruen, the highly decorated Fleet Air Arm
fighter 'ace' of the Second World War. I remembered how proud I felt
and how much I hoped that I would some day be able to achieve as
BEQUEST OF HONOUR
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I wonder what
would have thought,
Could they have
their Sires' heroic deeds,
their small standing in the School?
For though an
thought for self,
small section of the whole,
It cause the
greater issues to unfold -
as the years progress
To reach along
Yet able still
The course of
other actions by
Thus did our
Fathers' exploits when at War,
by the Ribbons
bestow upon their Heirs
rule-subjected schoolboy parallels.
would they think if they could but observe
Those same, if
Take up Mantles
laid aside in Peace
Away to earn
it was time for assessing one's place in the scheme of things and
one's value to the Service. It was an opportunity to look back at
what one had achieved and to wonder if, being regarded as 'a bit of
an odd-ball', this was perhaps the last chance to do something useful
before being discarded.
They don't want
they want our bodies;
talents, not ourselves.
calls for dedication,
enhanced by nerve.
the banished Leader,
spells of valour's mystic
do not bring your conscience;
Do not bring
you'll not be needing;
The second will
And, after years of training for such a situation as
this - one's own worth.
What do I have to
offer my country?
Services - they are already bought.
Loyalty - that is understood.
- Honour - were they not always
Enterprise - without it I am nought.
- would that I had to give.
of Country - that was never
What I have is reckoned now to be
gesture, an overkill; and yet
the mock, the denigrating
have a Life - and that I volunteer.
man can offer
Sadly, not everything was as it appeared to be.
Survival-suits, issued to the Team and designed to save a life in the
freezing cold of South Atlantic waters, were found to be slashed,
knotted and condemned - suitable only as test weights for parachute
drops; and yet they had been issued as life-saving equipment.
ISSUE WAR STOCK
suits, not as
But a slashed
splash below parachutes.
After reaching the Islands, the Team was kept hard at
work on many different and hazardous tasks which culminated in being
bombed in the Hospital at Red Beach, four days later. Many of these
500lb'ers failed to explode and the Team worked all night to build a
huge defensive wall of wet, gravel-filled sandbags to protect the
operating theatre and wounded in the wards. At certain pre-determined
times work stopped while the next notch on the bombs' time-delay-fuze
ticked off - everyone taking cover. The expected explosion not being
forthcoming, work resumed until once more interrupted by a possible
and mind your noise.
the wounded boys -
dribble down your neck,
on the deck - weeping.
Use the shingle
from the shore.
a couple hundred more - dripping.
Roundly, with a
delay - slipping.
Time is short,
lift and haul;
Got to thicken
up this wall - stacking.
the Clock to Beat the Bomb!"
Such a fitting
trousers, boots and belt.
until you melt - sweating.
Heave 'em up;
no time to lose,
minutes on the fuze setting.
Hacked it! -
with a bag to
anywhere - lasting.
Let the sucker
No way it can
penetrate - blasting.
there was mud, cloying, black, peaty mud that clung to boots and
puttees with a tenacity that defied countermeasures.
curved as an eastern slipper,
glue-like San Carlos
Clings to the
toe-cap of my boot
That renders me
Cracking like a
steeped in quagmire ooze,
loosing, shows the cloth beneath
clean and livid
The pink of
newly healing wounds.
After such exciting times, in moments of night-time
calm, thoughts returned to home.
slowly into green and windswept hills,
buttresses of thruth.
cunning, soul-ensnaring ills
leave them chase their vigil after youth.
yet your will enfold
But join the
creatures of the moors and
thoughts, their freedom always hold;
this belief the linchpin of your dreams.
Protect it in
of your heart
And walk where
only others' thoughts can be.
your capture - so to 'come its part
And thus, in
set you free.
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For sailors ashore, it was sometimes difficult to know
just what rank Royal Marines held.
The embroidered insignia,
blended skilfully into the disruptive pattern camouflage, could only
be recognised from close to, but as saluting was suspended for the
duration it scarcely mattered.
buried by Action.
Rank holds no
based at the Hospital on Red Beach, the Divers, when not engaged in
their own work, lent a hand to anyone who required it - from building
sangars to digging latrine pits. They trained themselves as nurses in
case they should be needed, carried in the wounded from the
helicopter pads and, occasionally, those who had not survived.
crooked, but a fag don't help;
shrouded with canvas tenting,
vain for my attention.
pregnant with wounded men,
birds of prey for the Pad
And the Medics
of the Life Machine.
tears the air to
Silent with the
Yet stunned by
It sets the
ripped tarpaulin flapping.
silver body-bags start shaking
As if their
horrifying nightmare, were
In dread panic,
thrashing to escape.
Later we shall
bury them at dusk
on the hill, a Piper playing
The Flowers of
comradeship bid them farewell.
Team suffered only one casualty. 'John Boy' Walton, after diving for
UXBs near the latrine outflow from the prisoners' compound, was struck
down by a virulent tummy-bug.
was, in the opinion of the surgeons, lucky to have survived.
yet he always stayed cheerful and buoyant.
for his selfless attitude, along with conduct in the face of great
danger that was '...in the highest traditions of the Service..', he was
Mentioned in Dispatches.
BOY' WALTON -
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say young John-boy's
the danger list;
be lucky to survive.
the risks he's run,
be killed by a microbe.
caught it diving
to the sewer.
say young John-boy's
the danger ward
he's fighting for his life;
hugs his Trainers
him, like a talisman.
our lucky Mascot,
got to pull through.
in the old meat-packing plant, or the 'Red and Green Life Machine', as
Surgeon Commender Rick Jolly termed his Ajax Bay Hospital, was a
mixture of hard worked, dangerous days and long, stifling but more
relaxed nights; all in the very close proximity of all the other
the Divers had any room to move. They had set up their Messdeck
(complete with hammocks) in the void-space between the sandbag wall and
the operating theatre - a space designed to dissipate residual blast
should any of the UXBs decide to go 'bang'. It became a favourite venue
for parties, music, song and, sometimes, even cabaret.
a 'bluie' was an issue letter-form that might one day reach the
THE RED AND GREEN LIFE MACHINE
was bathing in a pint of tepid water
shaving in the remnants of his tea.
standing in a bucket in the passage
the Triage Dental Surgeon's nudity.
soldiers packed the corridors and crossings
Divers dumped the sandbags by the wall
an unexploded bomb lodged in the ceiling
another in the 'frigeration stall.
a hammock slung between the meat-hook girders
host a brief, impromptu cabaret;
it is not easy writing home a 'bluie'
the nearest light is twenty feet away.
a pocket full of Rum and one of Whisky,
a cammy-jacket's mottled brown and green,
the bear-like, three-ring-surgeon title-holder
Rick Jolly's multicoloured Life Machine.
your head down, Mate, until this raid is over;
would not have your job - not if you paid.
your head down, Mate, until the night conceals us
"Warning Red" plays "Yellow's" serenade.
came Buff Cove and a flood of casualties. The Divers answered the
call and acted as nurses and orderlies, with special responsibility
for burn victims. One was even helping the surgeons at the operating
tables! All the Divers' spare clothing, what little they had, was
distributed to the survivors, leaving them literally 'with what they
stood up in' - a distinction that would be much misunderstood
One young sailor from HMS PLYMOUTH, which had been hit
badly on the same day, grabbed the attention and admiration of the
Team: although grievously hurt himself, he was greatly concerned for
his 'oppo', wounded in the head, next to him.
stretchered Sailor, by his friend
hand he clasped and willed
his pain to mend,
whispers to the Medic, raised
eyes whose sparkle, morphine-glazed,
"Help my Oppo,
please, not me.
hurting bad and worse -
after this, as soon as it became light, an element of the Team
helicoptered to Buff Cove to try and save GALAHAD - again - and
TRISTRAM too. It was a sad sight to see their old friend Sir G,
abandoned and burning, a large pall of blackened smoke roilling up
out of her hatchway, as explosions shook her hull beneath.
RFA SIR GALAHAD AT BUFF COVE
She lies as lies the
rabbit or the doe,
With broken back and rapid, shallow breath,
rises even yet before its foe
And shouts defiance; shouts it unto
She lies and cries from pity and from shame;
up to give a blind and helpless call
Whose answer echoes, calling
out her name,
"No-one will come. There is no hope at
She lies and sighs so lonely in the dawn,
bulkheads at the mercy of the tide,
Her lifeboats gone, their
ladders left forlorn
Who slowly swing and scratch and scratch her
She lies and dies; she sees the waves advance
waits to feel them wash her life away;
Until the long, grey ships
her pleas entrance
And softly come to help her on her way.
Divers jumped from the helicopter onto the still-burning TRISTRAM's
deck (the pilot would not land) and set about hunting for UXBs within
her. Totally dark, cold and dank, they searched with torches, their
heart-beats almost audible in the unaccustomed silence. Far separated
though they were, each one somehow always knew just where the other
was and they emerged simultaneously on the deck - - 'all
was all too easily
it required was to take our kit
Ship and climb
and walkways, a step at a time,
through her cavernous bowels,
the damage's groans and
the engines, looming and damp,
warmth of a battery lamp,
from girders blackened with
the strength of the plates underfoot,
doggedly, further apart,
all you can hear is the beat of your
the source of the havoc to know
else lurked and was waiting to blow,
peering in corners
searching - Tommo and me.
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out the fires and explosively removing the stern ramp to allow
salvage of the desperately needed ammunition in the hold, it was time
to board GALAHAD and see what could be done there. Fires still raged
aboard and explosions from deep within rocked the ship. There was
little that four men could achieve, beyond salvaging what gear they
could. There was only one other man on-board, a young soldier who had
failed to escape the Argentinian attack and lay where he fell.
A YOUNG GALAHAD
Naked is no way to die, nor yet to lie
in the act of living;
At first I thought you caught in
Locked into a callisthenic dorsal arch,
shoulder, thigh and arm -
Straining with the effort.
saw your face half burned away to show
The grin of teeth that lies
beneath the skin,
Your fingers burned to stubby stumps
Only your boots and one arm thrust
Into a shirt
marked your haste to leave.
(Did you once sun yourself,
running your hand
Lazily over some girlfriend's thigh
As she in
turn smoothed oil upon your back?)
Somehow you died whole,
Until you tumbled to that griddle deck
That burned and
scorched and seared,
Welding you to it.
Who was the man who
caused your death?
Was he like those who yesterday
through our kit, while we
Hunted bombs and rockets
Deep in a
Your Ship is dying too, burning,
the explosions that
Rock the pall of blackened flames.
Excuse me if I leave you now
But there are jobs
to do and fires to fight.
Snow is in the air and bleakness
With the winter wind.
Although you can feel nothing,
This tarp will keep away the chill
And clothe you for a
while from prying,
I leave you with your
To guard as you have done in lonely vigil;
But I will tell
them where you lie
And, if tardily, someone will come
Ajax Bay it was time to say farewell to friends and move back to one
of the RFAs, SIR LANCELOT this time. One person who loomed large in
the Team's estimation was the indomitable Royal Marine Chef, Lennie
Carnell, who contrived to feed them well, despite having had his
first galley blown up in the bombing raid and being short on rations
('chicken supreme' and powdered mashed potato becoming staples). He
was particularly helpful to the Divers after some of their more
hazardous undertakings, putting on special meals for them at very odd
times in the night. He also much appreciated the Team's Boss playing
fiddle to the dinner queue to take their minds off the repetitive
nature of the grub, as they threw money onto a collection plate -
labelled "RNLI - support the Lifeboats - you may just need
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crossing the stonefield,
into the bog,
heading en-masse for Len's Cafe,
at dusk, in drizzle or fog,
vehicles, shelters, secure or
the shingle-bag sangar we all improvise,
the Matelots ask with aplomb,
what have you got for us?"
- Lennie replies,
Supreme and Pom!"
it 'comes natural, after a while,
fiddle-tuned dinner queue - Lennie's
passing the 'oeuf a´ la coque' in the
the Lifeboat will prosper, and no cause to beg,
money they threw in the plate for that Prom
what was it
followed the sight of the egg?
Supreme and Pom.
Tank Landing Craft can be fetid and cold,
UXBs, shifted by chain-hoist, I'm told,
one's attention for hour after hour;
the candle-lit quiz, when
invited to dine,
lifting and shifting the thousand pound
feast can we have with that bottle of
Supreme and Pom."
Supreme and Pom.." says he,
spoonful of each; that's
ain't nothing else, apart from the tea,
it's tasty, nutritious and hot!"
And, on leaving, it
seemed appropriate to take stock of the peculiarities that the Team
had experienced while guests of the indomitable Red and Green Life
Yes Mate, this is Falkland,
a sangar over there.
Bain't no demarcation.
Put your kit down
Always keep your weapon handy
For the Argies
Air raids Red and Yellow,
Any time - you never
That's the Navy Divers' Castle
Thompson); they're all mad,
Though the first to carry
wounded from the Pad.
There's a little extra water,
any half-way hot;
Medics take what's needed,
We can have the
stuff that's not.
Them as crouching in the compound,
prisoners, young and cowed,
Live on 'rat-pack' Sundries
the half that we're allowed.
That's a hole made by a bomb
Bounced right here upon the track.
Inside two more
Stopping us from moving back.
Yea! that Frigate's
Close inshore like that each day,
bombed us, so's to
Keep they Argie planes away.
Oh to get
there for a dhobi
Or perhaps a beer or two!
Well, it's all
Keep your head down!
Aye - and you!
surrender amid much rejoicing and thoughts of jobs well done; yet
there waited perhaps the most hazardous one of them all - the
recovery, in a gale, of a swept mine and the subsequent defusing of
what was a completely unknown weapon. There was no information to go
The specialist tools that are required for such an undertaking
had been left behind in UK; the Team had been told that
"...would not need them..." and that they
"...too valuable to be taken into a war zone."
So the job had to be done by hand with improvised tools. The
chances of survival were put, at best, at 50%. The information
transmitted by microwave from UK was that the device would be fitted
with anti-stripping 'booby-traps', put there to take out the
"As a Navy boxer, my feelings the night before
embarking on this task were much akin to those I had prior to
contesting the Navy Open final against the Commonwealth Silver
Medallist, four years previously; and I felt that I should leave
something of my thoughts behind, in case things went awry. No-one had
done anything like this for thirty years - but then they had had the
tools for it. - - I did not."
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no sad songs for me
I come second in tomorrows race;
opposition, mine to leave,
no lament for me
I misread the signals of
steadiness I must achieve
the waiting flame.
no soft tears for
I am vanquished in the coming bout;
uppercut I might
far surpass the
end, after some hours of careful work, it came down to a straight
choice between turning the fuse to the right or turning it to the
left. One way would extract the detonator safely - the other would
not - a fifty per cent chance of survival. What to do? Which way to
The successful completion of this highly dangerous task
marked the end of the Team's involvement in other than straight
diving jobs and there was again time to reflect on life.
now 'peace' had arrived with a vengeance, along with many
'Johnny-come-latelies', whose sole concession to the war zone
appeared to be the fact that they did not wear ties. They had no idea
who were these rather scruffy divers, with their hotchpotch uniform,
nor did they ask. However they were voluble in their rather loud
comments regarding the 'cowboys', who they considered to be 'letting
the side down'. The Divers kept their own council and held their
but they thought, "So, you reckon that....
ARE THE COWBOYS
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We are the Cowboys.
I've heard you say it
loudly in the Bar,
Although well hidden by the smoke of your
We are the Cowboys
Because our hair's too long
uniform is wrong;
We are the Cowboys
In spite of our
And 'coz of wearing gym shoes in the Mess.
It must be so, 'coz Staff are never wrong.
not know us - but we'll jolly you along.
We are the Cowboys,
To make us seem absurd;
We are the
Because we wear no rank
And hold that certain
'Johnny-Lates' are dank.
We are the Cowboys.
You think that
Sailors should be awed and cowed
But we dare to be different - and
that ain't allowed.
We are the Cowboys
Because we are
And that we Clearance Dive;
We are the Cowboys,
have unique rapport
And talk with 'Super-Secrets' and the
We are the Cowboys
And I suspect you'll quash us if
You have the Admiral's ear. You are the 'precious
We are the Cowboys.
You make that very clear
We are the Cowboys
Because we look so 'bad'
what do you know of the jobs we've had?
relationships with those 'Super Secrets' (SAS and SBS) and the Royal
Marines were marked by the mutual respect enjoyed by most men of
action. When in discussion regarding the various tasks that had been
allotted and carried out, each side would invariably say, "I
wouldn't have your job, mate!"
all the art of practised hands
And simple, fluent moves,
he turned his complicated task
To easy-actioned flow that spoke
skill and knowledge hard attained,
That every watcher
And all the while he chatted, talked
things we knew;
Stood as an equal and with smiling poise
to our questioning
Or entertained with jest and tale
us ever closer still.
We looked with awe upon the man
what he had to do.
Knowing his presence was required and why
came at this small time and here,
We marvelled at his
And calm in face of such a trial.
But then the
time for talk was past.
He hefted up his gear,
Slipping it on
his shoulders with the grace
Of long experience. The straps
settled to their proper place
And shrugged some comfort into
Again with practised moves, he checked
Levers and valves; then with a final sigh
He stopped, inert
As in unspoken harmony
Each man became as quiet
He looked at us and we at him.
His eyes behind
Calmed by the wait, had managed to retain
sparkle that we knew; until
With sudden, almost frightening
That peaceful moment vaporized.
The time for action
now at hand,
How flew that last routine.
Final and vital checks
were carried out;
A last exchange, a muffled word,
A nod, an
all embracing wave
Before he vanished from our sight.
waters were soon smooth again,
No trace to mark his path;
we thought of what he went to face.
But which of us could ever
Forget those special moments when
He briefly shared our
One senior 'Johnny-late' was particularly
patronising, speaking from a point of hear-say rather than
Should we remark, "How
right you are."
Or with forthrightness say,
mistakes we may have made,
It was not done that way.
you will hypothesise,
Our actions to decry,
But it was us who
made the grade.
It was not you - 'twas I."
As younger men must do,
Our comments honeydew.
Perhaps he's right, this
But he had never seen that
From which we had returned.
So, when that breeze of
Increases to a gale,
When he, unknowing of our
Creates some fairytale
Of our attainments, using me
springboard to his rank,
I muse, "You swill your Brandy,
But it was Rum we drank."
came news that
the Team would be on the next available aircraft for
Oh, how I long to see
The colours of
Green on green,
The wind-riven rain.
countryside's alive there,
My spirits will revive there.
how I long to see
Her rivers once again.
flight home was long and uncomfortable. It afforded time to put on
paper thoughts about all that had been experienced, while still fresh
in the mind. The Team had been to 'the Edge', had looked over - and
was now returning safely.
FROM THE EDGE
from a Landing Craft stuck in the kelp,
filled with Rapier flares,
as the bullets flatten
tension in a cable hoist,
wrestling with a thousand pounder,
for the 'click' of its
fuse 'going live';
at the brightness of molten
from the bulkhead being cut away,
the weapon to put out the flames;
the underside of a
plane at dusk
low over the hospital building,
its bombs detonating all around;
the route through a
above the smoulder of shipborne
weighty explosives in a backpack;
bulkheads glowing in a burning Ship,
the hull beneath,
a body - welded to the deck;
backwards in a breaking wave at sea,
off a Mine, a beach
ball in the surf,
from horns that one must not
later, in amongst its circuits, while
the stillness of the Falkland evening,
on the Detonator, -
right or left?
and here the limits are.
unknown is revealed.
is the View from the Edge.
on the way back, similar mind-questions were asked as on the way
'down South'. Some had been answered but yet others remained. But
over all rose the fact that the Team had taken no-one's life, had
maybe saved a few and certainly had saved ships. None of the Divers
had been injured and all had shown themselves to be of the finest
stamp of men. The questions uppermost now were - 'where to next?' -
and - 'would things ever be the same again?'
THE MEN OF
men are these who ply the seas,
living symbols of our fate,
right is given them to kill,
right to take a human life,
knowledge do they use for good,
knowledge use for evil?
acts can help? What acts can
homage pays the Devil?
when will they be
will they be contented?
will they have the
life they chose
will they be prevented?
is the rocky
land a curse
is it just depressing?
have they left their
do they ask his blessing?
is the sea
their only world
is the land their ally?
do they wish to
then repent their folly?
kindred to the sea
are they souls tormented?
speak their mind out loud,
is their case presented?
answers .... they cannot be told,
questions .... answered
are the men who search the seas,
on for ever.
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much later, when awards for gallant conduct
were being bestowed (when there had been time to come back to earth
and carry on life as normal), The Press were there to seek out the
bare bones of a story to embellish; and a different view became
Ripped apart by
Fingers of the mob,
Although retrieved in
Offers no sanctuary
To shroud our secrets
Demonstrated by ribbons;
But how often shown
To the knock of a Stranger?
years afterwards, Bernie returned to the Falklands for a second Tour.
A final task was to clear the wreck of a newly discovered Argentine
aircraft that had crashed during the hostilities, and to help recover
the Pilot's widely scattered bones.
is a strange feeling to take a man's hand,
In pieces, from the
peat where it has lain four years,
Scraping his finger bones from
the frozen ground
With a bayonet point, to stack them neatly
How odd it is to find his hair still ruffled
rocky cranny where the cold wind explores,
And to glean scattered
bones, left by the scavengers,
Seeking to catalogue his percentage
The wreckage of his plane tells us how he
Through the blizzard, to see the ridge looming above;
he might have cleared the scarp, but for the rock,
that became his natural tombstone.
But rather than relate the
tale, now he makes
His bed in the cold earth of Goose Green
Yet there is another, pleasanter feeling,
that at last his long vigil is over.
War of 1991. Being in the Middle East at the time, Bernie had a
unique insight into the situation. Others had to make do with
- MEDIA GAMES
is the battle-roar
to 'splash' through shallows in the sands.
is the smell of Victory
from a box within our hands.
is the Pilot viewed, loosing
weapons into foreign
is the Soldier's spousal tear
close-up, as the News demands.
is triumph squeezed, ("Take
the Fighter, warlike as he stands.
is used the replay function,
TV's colour channel
what of the creatures who lived there, who made the
night bright with their song?
in acacia trees,
nothing of war
the instant they are
by its searing flame
becomes their epitaph.
Soldier of the
Great War wrote about the carnage and destruction that was the Battle
of the Somme,
was a time when a web was woven
across the sky and a Goblin made of the Sun."
size of the destruction and harm done to the ecology of the area made
the brief hostilities in the Gulf seem comparable. But wherever there
is conflict, the same may be said. Think back to ANTELOPE at San
Carlos, the Hospital at Ajax Bay and GALAHAD at Buff Cove.
TO GULF, '82 - '91
And in those days a tangled veil
drawn across the sky.
A madness, kindled in the Sun
Goblin there withal),
Convulsed and gibbered in its rage
light inhuman pyres.
Now, squatting with a rancid grin,
spawn of incubi
Bestirred the earth with turbulence,
And conjured up the retching smoke
So Demons, deep in artifice,
gifts - supply
The oily dust to choke and burn
But, in that
The Goblin meets a darker shroud
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after loyal and devoted service the
sailor man passes on to rest in that Valhalla where all mariners go -
the legendary and fabled 'Fiddler's Green'.
poem has been
read at many a sailor's funeral since the Falklands War.
TO THE GREEN
I look across the chart that is my life
see, like ports and harbours,
Little creeks and streams,
the happy times and oft' the ones of strife
That filled me with a
joy of living and of dreams.
Yet many, lying soft like pools
of misty grey,
But half remembered, never whole and clear to
Quietly and unnoticed, slide away
And softly lock their
doors and hide away the key.
No more shall they be seen, nor
With me, that others share what
I still know they
Like unknown shadow shapes of eventide
They fly, they fade
in misty dreams afar.
And as I drift and let life slide me
So one by one each hatch is shut and locked and barred;
only one direction, one last door I spy
And there a shining
figure, sword in hand, stands guard.
poems and introductory remarks copyright, Bernie Bruen ©1982, 2008
script to Free Verse.
Grandfather, Arthur Thomas
Bruen, was too old to fight in the Great War; so in 1915 he drove his
Clement car from his home in Invernesshire to Dover, where he put it
on a cross-Channel ferry and embarked for France. Enrolling in the
Red Cross, he used it as an ambulance in the front lines for the next
six months. He was then inducted as Second Lieutenant in the Royal
Army Service Corps and remained at the Front until 1919, being used
as 'trouble shooter' wherever there were supply problems. His
brother, Eddo, commanded the Battleship HMS BELEROPHEN at JUTLAND and HMS RESOLUTION throughout the rest
of the First World War, ending up as an Admiral.
Bernie's Father, Commander 'Bill'
Bruen DSO DSC RN, commanded the Fleet Air Arm's 803 Squadron during
the fight to supply Malta GC in the Second World War. He was the
youngest man to do so and earned a fearsome reputation as a legendary
Fighter Ace. Admiral Sir Donald Gibson, when head of the Fleet Air
Arm, once said of him, "He was the best damned Pilot the Navy
ever had." His cousin, Francis; was an electrical officer in the
RN and also a DSC.
Bernie himself was the last commanding officer
of the renowned HMS GAVINTON and became the first man to 'hunt' and
find (by high definition sonar) an unknown, enemy sea-mine 'in
anger'; and this in a ship that was thirty years out of date. For
this action in the Red Sea Clearance of 1984, he was made MBE. He
went on to command the Navy's first Maritime Counter Terrorism Team
and, at the age of forty, qualified Airborne.
Working on a mine
With his beloved fiddle
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