John Geddes, a corporal in 2 Para who fought at Goose Green during the Falklands War recalled the part played by H Jones in the battle. Geddes was in Patrols Platoon – the eyes and ears of 2 Para as they advanced to Goose Green from Sussex Mountain after their landing at San Carlos Bay.
Geddes referred to the posthumous Victoria Cross awarded to Jones as “the most controversial VC of all time”. Geddes was never critical of Jones referring to him as “a cracking bloke, the best boss I ever had in the army”.
However, as a soldier who was at Goose Green Geddes has made clear his thoughts on the role that Jones played in that specific battle. Geddes highlighted a number of issues that he felt that Jones failed on at Goose Green.
1) H Jones loved action. He wanted glory for 2 Para as a unit and not as an individual but this may have coloured his decisions during the battle. Prior to the Falklands 2 Para had been on a training exercise in Kenya and men from Patrols Platoon had ‘shot’ Jones during this exercise as he had become too involved in the actual fighting and had advanced too far to the front of the action.
2) His plan of attack was too complicated and came unstuck quickly as he was denied gunfire from HMS Arrow whose gun became jammed after just one round was fired. Jones was also denied helicopter and Harrier support as coastal fog meant that they could not fly. While these were not the fault of Jones, Geddes argued that Jones had no flexibility built into his plan to compensate for these important losses. As the battle went on “there was a message from the boss whose tendency to micro-manage had burst to the fore and got worse as the battle went on”.
3) Jones was not prepared to delegate decision making to men on the ground. When Major Phil Neame of D Company, 2 Para, believed that he had found a safe beach route to get behind Argentine positions – a route sheltered from Argentine gunfire – he was denied permission to use it from Jones once Neame had relayed his idea to him. Those in Jones’s command team heard him yell down his radio to Neame, “Don’t tell me how to run my f****** battle”.
4) In the case of A Company, led by Major Dair Farrar-Hockley, they wanted to quickly proceed to Darwin Ridge having encountered far less opposition that expected. This meant movement at night just as they wanted. However, they were not allowed to move out of their positions until Jones had got to where they were to assess their plan. That cost one hour and it meant that when A Company moved forward to Darwin Ridge it was near enough in daylight, exposing them to greater risk than would have occurred at night.
5) A suggestion by Captain Peter Ketley of Support Platoon that Milan anti-tank missiles should be used against Argentine trenches was also rejected by Jones. He wanted to use them later on in the campaign against armoured vehicles.
6) Geddes believed that Jones should have been towards the rear of the battle, ironically with Support Platoon, so that he would have gained a better overview of the battle. In this way, Geddes believed, Jones would have had a clearer perspective of what was going on and could have planned accordingly. By being up with his men and dashing from one company position to another, he could not do this.
7) In an effort to get fresh impetus into the battle, Jones rushed a heavy machine gun position up a gorse gully. However, none of his command team, including his bodyguard, Sergeant Barry Norman, was aware of what he was about to do – he just did it. The radio message “Sunray is down” meant to those who held command in 2 Para that Jones had been hit.
8) Geddes was very clear in his assessment that he was not being critical of Jones. Jones never had the aerial support that he had been promised – through no failings of anybody – nor the bombardment from HMS Arrow that would have proved vital. However, Geddes believed that Jones wanted to involve himself in the battle too much and should have taken a step back from the front line to assess where success was and where further danger lay. A dead ‘Tom’ (Para) was sad but inevitable in battle and one that a skilled unit such as 2 Para could cope with. But the loss of the overall battalion commander was potentially a severe blow. What Jones did was “lionhearted but ill-conceived and futile.”
“H did what he did; it’s just that some of it wasn’t great on the day.”