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In 1977 Ewen Southby-Tailyour was ordered to form a new detachment of Royal Marines for a year’s service in the Falkland Islands. The Royal Marines' duties in the Islands then, were to be a ‘trip-wire’ which, if activated, would give the excuse for a reinvasion; in spite of the government having no such contingency plans for this was merely a palliative to a sceptical population. ‘If’ - not ‘when’ in the Islanders’ collective view - Argentina invaded the commandos’ orders, then, they were to take immediately to the hills and ‘play guerrilla warfare’. However, Ewen, at the invitation of the MOD and with luke-warm support from the FCO - who secretly wanted rid of them - was invited to re-write the defence of Stanley. In doing so he and his marines were, wholly unrealistically, required ‘to buy three weeks of bargaining time in the UN’.
Ewen decided - and it was eventually agreed at Cabinet level - to fight any invader on the outskirts of Stanley while slowly, and under control, falling back to Government House. It was accepted that to hold up waves of well-armed enemy with just 40 men possessing neither defence stores nor heavy weapons, was nigh impossible: as was to be proved in April 1982. While conducting his year long studies Ewen sailed many times around the 900 or so islands and their 15,000 miles of coastline surveying and planning should the worse come to the worst. For this he was eventually voted the UK’s Yachtsman of the Year.
When the worst did come he was summoned from his job as the Royal Marines’ senior landing craft officer to join the Task Force as the amphibious and navigational adviser to the command. Subsequently, having helped to choose San Carlos for the initial landings and with his unique and unparalleled knowledge, he then led all the major sea assaults as well as advising on the many Special Forces insertions. Since then he has returned on three occasions: to study the wrecks, to take part in the 20th anniversary commemorations and, most recently, to navigate a yacht into previously unvisited anchorages.
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