by power of modern weapons
`Billy' Morris was only 20 when the Falklands
conflict began, but he had already completed a
tour of Northern Ireland and had tasted trouble.
Yet nothing prepared the former
Cowplain Comprehensive pupil for the sheer force
of modern weaponry unleashed against an enemy
He said: `I remember planes
blowing up, the missiles getting fired and the
pure destruction of it all. It was like a big
Star Wars game, but I was taken aback by the
force and power of everything.
until then we thought the conflict would
get called off by the politicians and
that it would turn out to have been a big
rush for nothing.'
`We had seen these weapons on
exercises, but had not seen them fired in anger
against a real target.'
Stephen, a plant
operator/mechanic with 9 Para Royal Engineers,
was part of the quick reaction advance party that
sailed on the MV Norland, a converted North Sea
car ferry, on April 26, 1982. The rest of his
squadron embarked on the QE2 about a month later.
The advance party reached the
Ascension Island on May 7 and joined up with a
flotilla of aircraft carriers and destroyers
including HMS Fearless.
Then news came through that the
container ship Atlantic Conveyor had been hit by
an Exocet missile. Although troops had already
been issued with ammunition and rations, it was
accepted routine. But suddenly they knew this was
Stephen, now 35 and married
with a four-year-old son and eight-month-old
daughter, recalled: `Up until then we thought the
conflict would get called off by the politicians
and that it would turn out to have been a big
rush for nothing.
`Afterwards, we would listen to
the news being Tannoyed around the ship every
day. Talks just dragged on.'
Alley was the worst part. We had steel
helmets so we could go on deck and shoot
at planes, but I took photographs
Conditions on the Norland were
cramped, with every single bed filled. Stephen
found himself in charge of the emergency water
The Norland was the first ship
into San Carlos Bay on May 21. Troops were landed
but Stephen stayed on board. The machine that he
was to have used to build defences ashore in the
Falklands sank with the Atlantic Conveyor.
He said: `We were in Bomb Alley
and we claimed an aircraft hit using small arms
fire from the deck. All I had was a Stirling 9mm
sub-machine gun, which was not much use against
an aircraft flying at 600mph.
`Bomb Alley was the worst part.
We had steel helmets so we could go on deck and
shoot at planes, but I took photographs instead.'
Though he escaped injury
himself, he helped to tend victims. One was hit
by shrapnel in his head and side. Stephen vividly
remembered the moment when HMS Antelope was hit.
`I was on stern watch that
night and saw it explode. I was maybe 400 yards
away, but I could feel the heat.'
Survivors from Antelope were
rescued and taken on board the Norland, which
then sailed to South Georgia to meet up with the
QE2. Soon the Norland would pick up the first
prisoners-of-war, 1,000 of them confined to one
of the car decks.
Having dropped them off for
repatriation at Montevideo in Uruguay, the ship
returned to the Falklands on June 12 to pick up
2,000 more prisoners and take them back to
Stephen recalled: `We had to
get special clearance for me as a member of the
task force to go ashore to carry one of the
Argies who had a bad foot and couldn't walk. I
had my beret on and got a hard time from the
Back in Port Stanley, Stephen
went ashore and joined his troop. By then 2 and 3
Para had gone into Stanley and the surrender had
taken place. He worked with PoW engineers trying
to clear minefields.
Then the call came to pull out.
A landing ship took him to the Ascension Island,
where he was helicoptered to a VC10 and flown
back to RAF Brize Norton.
The eyes of the world were on
the return of the QE2 to Portsmouth and Stephen
and his colleagues weren't greeted by any
fanfares. But back home in Cowplain, family,
friends and neighbours staged a surprise party to
welcome him back.
`When I got home, I just wanted
to be on my own. Everybody wanted to be your
friend and welcome you back. But I split up with
my girlfriend and it took me time to adjust back
to normal life again.'
Stephen is now squadron
quartermaster sergeant with 9 Para at Aldershot
and is waiting to hear about a promotion to
warrant officer and a posting to Germany.