I have heard many stories of atrocities committed by British troops, in the Falklands and elsewhere. Some, such as the rumoured massacre of sex offenders during the Strangeways riots, are the products of imagination and machismo.
Others, in particular stories of the killing of men who were in the act of surrendering, can be attributed to the heat of battle and the unofficial policy of taking no chances after the incident at Goose Green when Paras were killed going forward to accept the surrender of a group of Argentinian soldiers.
In most of these cases, corroborative evidence is difficult, if not impossible, to find. The atrocities are either committed away from the view of others, or one finds that group loyalty prevents anyone openly admitting witnessing the act. The 'fog of war' conveniently covers the tracks.
The allegation that American mercenaries were murdered should be investigated fully. While the confusion of battle may to an extent make the killing of a surrendering soldier understandable, there is no such excuse for the actions described in Vincent Bramley's book, Excursion to Hell.
That said, I must ask the question, why now? While serving in the Falklands in June/July 1982, I heard that US mercenaries and other prisoners had been killed after the Longdon battle by 3 Para.
The rumours were sufficiently strong for them to be mentioned in the Falkland Island newspaper, Penguin News, along with the implication that these rumours had been investigated.
The story was well known at grass-roots level and I find it impossible to believe that it was not heard by either senior officers or any of the many journalists still in Port Stanley at the time.
It is to be hoped that the investigation will go ahead and the result made public. The Falklands war, like any other war, was not a pleasant sporting match, we should not pretend it was.
Nor should we pretend that our troops are morally superior to any others. Most of us did not revel in killing, those who did are criminals and should be treated accordingly.
21 AugustReuse content