38 Years On – Lest We Forget

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March 30, 2023

The 14th June saw the 38th anniversary of the liberation of the Falkland Islands and whilst I blogged about a dear friend, Lt Jim Barry, who lost his life at the Battle of Goose Green, I didn’t go any further at that point as I was getting a little maudlin, which is unusual for me. I lost another very close friend during the war, Cpl Rab Burns, from Dundee. Rab and I joined the Army together and attended the Army Apprentice College (AAC) Harrogate where we were both in Bradley Squadron. As a fellow Scot, I was tickled pink when I first met him and he introduced himself; what a name for a Scotsman, Robert Burns (albeit he always preferred Rab). On top of the name he was the finest Piper I had ever heard, well maybe I should also give a shout out to my wife’s uncle, Johnny Walker; I’m not making this up!
Rab and I became close during our 2 years in Harrogate as part of a gang of outstanding guys. I think he might have been the only Dundee supporter I have ever met in the flesh, but as an Aberdeen fan we had a great bit of banter on the subject. I should say that if Mick Purves ever reads this, sorry if I have got confused mate, I think you are a Utd man. Whilst the 2 years were the best of my working life, they were so action packed they pass very quickly. Before I knew it we were on the Parade Square on our Graduation Parade, after which we duly went our own separate ways to our first working Units; Rab was posted to 244 Sig Sqn in Brize Norton, Oxfordshire. Over the next few years we did meet fairly regularly, on exercise in Norway mostly. Never looking a gift horse in the mouth, we used to visit various pubs/clubs, such as the Permanalen Club in Oslo, where Rab would break out his pipes and give them a tune. The Norwegians are such an easy going people, they would usually provide free beer for both of us for the evening; not bad as 19 year olds when a pint cost £5 (c1979). Happy days!
Rab eventually decided he wanted a bit more of a challenge and was posted to 264 (SAS) Sig Sqn. It became more difficult to meet up but that’s just reflective of army life. My life moved on and I got married and was posted to Germany. When the Falklands war broke out Rab was deployed early and very sadly, he was killed in a helicopter crash together with a group of his colleagues, including another 3 Royal Signals guys, Paul Lightfoot, Steve Sykes and Mike McHugh. The saddest thing of all is that the crash was an accident, which is almost harder to accept than if they had been KIA.
I will always remember Rab and indeed all of my Corps friends that were lost. He really was a special character and losing his life at 22 years of age is tragic. My son Mark was born only 11 days after Rab died, so I have an indelible marker by which to remember my friend. Rab died serving his country and to my mind is a hero, it’s just such a shame that we can’t get together to hear him play those pipes, or to see where life would have taken him. RIP Rab, gone but never forgotten.


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