Falklands veteran who stayed on

Tug Wilson with the Royal Artillery standard
Tug Wilson with the Royal Artillery standard

A FALKLANDS veteran has recalled how he spent four months on the war-torn islands after the Argentinian forces surrendered.

Tug Wilson served in the Royal Artillery during the 1982 war which started 30 years ago on Monday.

The 67-year-old was 37 when he was called into action as the Argentinian Junta government took over the islands they call Las Malvinas on April 2.

After being shipped out and spending two months manning heavy guns in fierce battles that claimed the lives of 649 Argentine military personnel, 255 British military personnel and three Falkland Islanders, Tug was asked to stay as part of a holding force.

That saw him help clean up the debris of war and protect the locals while politicians and military leaders made sure the islands were safe and secure.

The dad of two, granddad of 10 and great-granddad of four said: “It was a strange time. Going around collecting ammunition and the like. The locals kept themselves to themselves really. With what happened they were not that outward.

“But welfare arrived and they brought TVs and things. A lot of the locals had never seen a TV so they would come along with the kids and it was like a big theatre.”

Tug spent 38 years in the Army after joining at 17, serving in countries across Europe and in Fiji, Belize and the Middle East during the Gulf War. Tug was a first officer gun line command in the Falklands conflict, which saw him oversee the setting up of large weapons and checking the rounds were hitting their targets.

He said: “You train and train and train and you wait for something like the Falklands to come along. Everyone was up and ready for it. Apart from Northern Ireland, the Army had done little for a number of years.

“When we were there it was exactly the same as training. It was like being on Scotland’s islands, it’s just grass, mud, sludge and water. You couldn’t keep your kit dry. The only thing you get scared about is doing your job and looking after your buddies. You get close and are always looking after each other.”

Tug’s unit played a key role in laying down heavy fire at battles such as Goose Green and Two Sisters. And he said it is a misconception that the Argentinian force of conscripts was poorly trained and not well equipped.

Tug said: “The Argentinian lads were very, very good. They got into position and set their guns and caused us a lot of problems.”

The rounds being fired by the British units created a 150ft-wide kill zone, with fragments causing injuries beyond that. But the Argentinians had shells with 300ft-wide kill zones and longer ranges than the British weapons.

Tug said: “We were in range of most targets, but we were in range for them as well. Thankfully we didn’t lose anyone, but we had a couple injured. One lad blew off his fingers with a hand grenade.”

Tug still has strong ties with the armed forces and is a common sight at remembrance services as he is the Northern Regional Representative for the Royal Artillery Association.

Argentina’s current government still claims the islands belong to them while Prime Minister David Cameron said the sovereignty of the Falklands should not be questioned as tensions mounted in the run-up to the 30th anniversary.

“They shouldn’t be allowed to go back to Argentina,” said Tug, who is married to Ann, 66. “Our forces are not what they were, but we have the nuclear deterrent. No one knows where the submarines are, but common sense tells you that they won’t be far away. But nobody wants anything like that to be used.”