Major Paul Moore, Branch Secretary for Durham Branch
Paul Moore, 56, served 34 years in the Army, retiring as a Major in 2010. He was in 9 Parachute Squadron Royal Engineers attached to 3rd Battalion The Parachute Regiment during the Falklands conflict and was involved in the gruelling Battle for Mount Longdon, which saw the loss of 23 British troops. He is now a volunteer Branch Secretary with SSAFA’s Durham Branch.
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“I joined the Army as a boy soldier at 16 and was 21 when the Falklands started. I remember finding out from a mate of mine who was convinced it was somewhere off the coast of Africa, although I did know where it actually was because I was good at geography at school and liked to read about explorers such as Ernest Shackleton.
“The Argentinians invaded on April 2nd and I think we sailed on April 21st. The Government had requisitioned ships and we sailed on a North Sea ferry – the Norland – with 2 Para. The crew had stayed with the ship so we had a crew from Hull. They still have a Norland reunion in Hull every year to this day. None of us had experienced anything like it before. We were paratroopers not sailors so we weren’t used to boats.
“We pulled into Sierra Leone and the Ascension Islands on the way down and landed in the Falklands on May 21st at Port San Carlos. I was a young Lance Corporal at the time. I’d served in Northern Ireland and Belize but nothing quite like this. The very same day we landed we lost two ships – Ardent and Antelope - and two helicopters were shot down within minutes of us landing, and then we had regular air attacks for three or four days.
“After that we marched the 75 miles across the Falklands in awful terrain and freezing cold weather and then we fought a battle after a short period of rest at Estancia House. The battle itself was only 12 or 14 hours of intensive fighting, but we were up on that hill for three days being shelled constantly. The majority of those we lost were killed by the shelling. My section commander was killed and two others close to me were wounded.
“As the Argentines started to surrender we advanced into Port Stanley before the surrender became official. We were there for about two weeks trying to get the essential services working again and making safe mines and booby traps before we sailed out on the LSL Sir Geraint. We sailed on June 29th – my 22nd birthday. In the immediate aftermath we just wanted to get home. We were all sent off on quite a long leave, about eight weeks. The effects of what we had experienced all came much later. However, when something like that happens you just get on with it because that’s what you are trained to do. It’s afterwards when you have time to reflect that it can take a toll.
“I was based in Germany in the mid 90s and was having a few problems. I was doing a good job at work and was the model Sgt Major, however, my head wasn’t in a good place. It was all related to the Falklands. I had no faith in the chain of command so I went to see the SSAFA sister and told her one of my lads needed a bit of help. Of course, she saw straight through me right away but she gave me some good advice and helped to get me back on the right track. I always wanted to help other veterans when I left the army and several years later I had an opportunity to get involved with SSAFA. It was the obvious thing to do as SSAFA is a great organisation. I am now studying for an MSc at Anglia Ruskin University on a course entitled ‘The Global Military Veteran and Family Studies’ which I think will fit in well with what I do at SSAFA."