Swedish version


Davy and Pete
By Bob Kenly

  In 1982 I was sitting in a Seattle, Washington bar with several people from other airlines who were taking a course on the complexities of the Boeing 767. We were a mixed bag of nationalities nursing our beer but one in all were glued to the television which was showing a huge fleet of British ships plowing their way to the Falkland Islands to oust Argentina from this outpost of the British Empire. Most of my countrymen couldn't see what all the fuss was about, except maybe for sheep and penguins, and looking at the enormous size of the fleet our biggest concern was just where the hell are they going to put all those people on such a tiny group of islands. In typical American jargon one of my bar mates mused out load, " Jeez, the Brits are coming loaded for bear, If I were an Argentinean I'd be digging a big, deep scaredy hole". Another said, "One thing for sure they ain't very sneaky about this invasion thing, do you think the Argentines know they're coming". But that old nagging feeling I get sometimes crept into the pit of my stomach. “Argentina is a long way from England, its winter down there in the South Atlantic, the weather notoriously crappy, not a good time to plan an invasion”. I just couldn’t believe that Argentina was going to fold their tents and sneak home.

  Many years later I was to meet someone who as a young combat medic from a Welsh Regiment was in that very fleet headed to destiny (I'll call him Pete to protect his privacy). In the British army you can join as young as 15 (called cadet) and then go into active service at 16 which was Pete's path. It's a funny thing about war; expectations and well laid plans always seem to go awry which is exactly what Pete encountered. On June 8th Pete was on shore near Fitzroy setting up a medical facility, two ships, the Sir Galahad and Sir Tristram loaded with troops and supplies was anchored in the nearby bay. A Royal Artillery Rapier antiaircraft battery was stationed on the nearby bluffs to protect the landing but experienced technical difficulties and were unable to protect the landing. Both ships were attacked by Argentine aircraft, the Sir Galahad taking the worst of it resulting in the loss of about 50 lives and many more wounded with severe burns. It fell to Pete to take care of the injured and see to the dead, some of them friends of his.

  The Falklands War ended shortly afterwards and Pete went home to a short lived hero's welcome. His next assignment was the sectarian violence in Northern Ireland, when I asked him what was peace keeping like for a British soldier up north he said, very democratic, nobody wanted him there and would do anything to get them out (which about says it all on that subject). Pete left the army to return to civilian life and some normalcy but that dream seemed to fade. Like so many of his mates his experiences had colored his life and adjustment into a different mind set proved difficult.

  About here Pete ran into Davy and became close friends (sort of an odd couple as Pete being an ex All Army Rugby player is big and Davy is very slight). Davy's claim to fame was fly-fishing and tying so he took Pete fishing, teaching him everything he knew, bringing Pete out of his funk and giving him new challenges in his life. In one of our conversations Pete said that Davy probably saved his life, Pete is now a very successful business man and well known as a superb fly tier with the means to fish anywhere he chooses. Davy is of course Davy Wotton who now lives near me in Arkansas running a successful guide operation teaching us poor deprived Americans the delicate art of Welsh wet fly fishing. Just this past March when I was talking with Davy I asked him if he did save Pete's life he smiled and said, "You could say that". Knowing Davy as I do I can see where this is the type of thing he would do, I have no doubt the story is true.

  Retrospect: While doing research for this story it became evident that Pete's story wasn't all that unusual, many veterans of the Falklands War, both British and Argentine, seemed to have serious personal problems after returning to "the normal workaday world". BBC reported suicides of these veterans where higher than the actual combat deaths. What makes this story different was one such person was able to turn his life around either by fly-fishing or the connection of one person to another, probably a big dose of both. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is in all the news today with our countries engaged in many fronts, I did see recently a short piece on the news that some of our wounded are actually being taught fly fishing as therapy. It could have been all those years ago that Davy Wotton know the Zen quality of our sport had some healing factors after all, at least I'd like to think so.

  I wrote this story based on the many conversations I had with both Pete and Davy as best as I could remember them after so many years. BBC archives and Royal Navy reports gave me some insights into the events surrounding the Sir Galahad affair. One of the best sources was the Falkland Veterans organization, South Atlantic Medal Association, who still today offer support to these veterans. Many years ago I saw a BBC movie about a British soldier blinded at the Falklands, committing suicide after rejection by his regiment and past friends, a story that always haunted me. In reading several Argentine sources I see a similar movie has been made about Argentinean soldiers who are suffering the same fate as their British counterparts. It’s a shame there aren’t more Davy Wottons to do what he saw as his duty to another human being in need.

By Bob Kenly 2007 ©
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