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Fight for the Falklands: Twenty years on
Introduction
My war story
Guide to the conflict

'I saw Sir Galahad burn'
Falklands map
The first day

The Argentine military's lost cause
My war story


Sir John Nott
Carlos Escude
Mark Shurben-Browne
Ruben Rada
Sir Rex Hunt
General Menendez
Jose Luis Ferreira
Bob Mullen
Augusto Bedacarratz
Mark Shurben-Browne joined the army aged 17 straight from school in Canning Town in the East End of London. After short spells of duty in Ireland and Kenya he was sent with his parachute unit - 2 Para - to the Falkland Islands in 1982. He saw action at Goose Green and Bluff Cove and was one of the first soldiers to arrive in Port Stanley at the end of the conflict.

When the conflict started all of us were ready for it. We weren't gung-ho, but we all wanted to go. This was something we had trained for. We were ready and we wanted to get in the thick of it.

In fact I nearly missed out. My sergeant major wanted me to stay behind because I had to appear in court to give evidence as a witness in a drunk and disorderly case. But it didn't work out like that. My attitude was: 'B******s! there's no way you are leaving me behind.'

I wish now that I had been left behind. What happened next - the conflict itself - can only be understood by people who have been through it.

Talk of diplomacy

We sailed to the Falklands via Ascension Island on a North Sea ferry called the MV Norland. At first a lot of us thought that there wouldn't be any actual shooting. There was still talk of a diplomatic solution. Then we got the news about the sinking of Belgrano and HMS Sheffield and the mood changed. People thought: 'This is it'.

Once we were inside the 200-mile exclusion zone, it started to get real. The thing that helped us was that the Norland had a steward who was openly and very obviously gay. He would play the piano every night and lead a sing-song. The guy was an unbelievable morale booster. We called him Wendy and he called us his boys.

We landed on the Falklands in the middle of the night, jumping waist-deep into freezing cold water in pitch darkness. Then we had to wade through the sea and cross a beach with no cover whatsoever.

Goose bumps

When we were in the landing craft - in the pitch dark, not knowing what was going to happen and not being able to turn back but having time to think - the fear was silent, intense, sickening. It still makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up when I think about it.

We spent a few days in the mountains firing at Argentine planes in the valleys. They were so close that you could see the pilots' faces. It was hard to do much damage unless you got a direct hit on the pilot.

Then we got the order to move. We were opposed all the way by Argentine fire. The fear was such that I smoked 20 cigarettes in an hour. We had no covering fire and no aircraft cover because of low cloud. We were running out of everything - low on ammunition and food.

There were casualties. They were all friends. When you are in a military unit under fire, everyone in the unit is your friend. You know everyone who dies and get injured.

Birthday

I spent my nineteenth birthday running across what we thought might be a minefield, scared out of my wits dodging artillery shells and mortars. All I could think was -If they get me on my birthday my mum is going to be really pissed off!. But I escaped by the skin of my teeth.

These days in a conflict - the Gulf or Afghanistan - they blanket bomb for months before the soldiers go in, basically to mop up and restore order. I wish they had done that for us. Instead it was had to hand all the way and it was awful.

When they surrendered we saw for the first time what we had really been up against. We had been told that we were up against an untrained conscript army who didn't want to fight. We were told that their force was the same size.

It turned out that they outnumbered us three to one. When we saw for the first time all those troops - and how well armed they were - we just turned to each other and said: 'f*** me!

Breakdown

It's only afterwards that it hits you. After I got home I went on holiday to Spain and got incredibly drunk. I had what amounted to a breakdown.

I just couldn't believe that people were carrying on with their lives as normal - when all these people had been killed. That was hard to understand. It took me a long time to realise that for most this was a small conflict which did not affect them very much.

In the 20 years since, I've had my ups and down. I've had the depressions, sleeplessness and the nightmares. My marriage broke up and my ex-wife blamed the Falklands for that.

Suicide

But I'm lucky compared to most. I hold down a good job - selling IT and office equipment - and I'm doing well. I've never been truly suicidal - Prozac is a wonderful thing.

The fact is we have now lost more survivors to suicide than were killed in the war itself. I buried a very good friend of mine last year. Another Falkands suicide.

This year I am going back to the Falkland Islands as part of the anniversary pilgrimage. There's 200 of us going. I'm nervous about going back. But you've got to walk the walk. You've got to face your demons. We are getting older now, and it will probably be the last chance we get to pay our respects to our fallen comrades.