Captain Brian Young


Captain Brian Young was the commander of HMS Antrim and put in charge of the task of retaking South Georgia. After some technical issues with helicopters freezing in the icy conditions, the task was ultimately completed relatively efficiently. This picture shows him celebrating on board his ship after the retaking of the island.

He died in 2010 and had this obituary published in the Telegraph:

On April 10 1982, while the Task Force under the command of Rear-Admiral Sandy Woodward was still assembling at Ascension, Young was given command of Task Group 317.9, which included the destroyers Antrim and Plymouth and the tanker Tidespring; on board were M Company of 42 Commando Royal Marines, the Special Boat Squadron, and the Special Air Service Regiment, under the tactical command of Major Guy Sheridan.

Young's task was to rendezvous with the frigate Brilliant, the ice-patrol ship Endurance and the freighter Brambleleaf. The Argentines, under Lieutenant-Commander Alfredo Astiz, had landed on the remote and barren island of South Georgia seven days earlier.

The official name of the operation was "Paraquet", but the men called it "Paraquat", after the well-known weed killer.

After a helicopter reconnaissance and delays caused by thick low cloud, driving rain and snow storms, SAS troops were landed on Fortuna glacier above the port of Grytviken on April 21. But after the weather worsened, they requested evacuation; in the attempt, two of the three helicopters crashed in white-out conditions, though there were no serious casualties. An attempt by SBS troops to land in boats was also defeated by atrocious weather. Then came warnings of an Argentine submarine.

Young, a Fleet Air Arm pilot, had the satisfaction of commanding the first ever anti-submarine operation successfully conducted exclusively by helicopters. During the hunt Santa Fe was attacked with depth charges and air-to-surface missiles and badly damaged; on April 25 she was caught on the surface off Grytviken.

Reckoning now that the sight of a wounded submarine might demoralise the enemy, Young - who for several days had been juggling with the problems of keeping his ships refuelled and out of sight of enemy aerial reconnaissance - agreed to an immediate landing.

He ordered a bombardment of open ground to demonstrate the superior firepower of the British and, while Sheridan's marines made their way along the steep slopes of a mountain and SAS troops approached through a minefield, his ships showed themselves at sea out of the mist.

When, the next day, April 26, the Argentine garrison at Leith was persuaded to surrender, the island had been retaken only 23 days after its invasion. Not a shot had been fired by ground forces of either side. Young signalled London: "May it please Her Majesty that the White Ensign flies alongside the Union Flag on South Georgia. God Save The Queen."

News of the helicopter crashes on Fortuna glacier had been, according to the Defence Minster John Nott, "the worst moment of the war for all of us [in the government]".

The news of victory brought welcome relief back in London. Outside Number 10, Mrs Thatcher told the television cameras: "Just rejoice at that news and congratulate our forces and the marines. Rejoice."

According to the official historian of the Falklands War, Sir Lawrence Freedman, an operation that had appeared difficult had turned out to be surprisingly easy. The citation for Young's DSO emphasised that the importance of Paraquet to the overall strategy of recapturing the Falklands could not be overstated; nor could Young's personal contribution to the success. A month later British forces made their main landing on the Falkland Islands.

Brian Gilmore Young was born on September 25 1930 in Kent, where his family, originally Irish Catholics, were farmers. He joined the Royal Navy in 1944 as a cadet, first at Eaton Hall, Chester, then at Dartmouth. He served as a midshipman and sub-lieutenant in the battleship King George V, the light carrier Theseus and the sloop Wren.

Young learned to fly in the United States, serving from 1954 to 1958 with 803 and 804 naval air squadrons, flying Sea Hawk jet fighters from the carriers Albion, Centaur, Bulwark and Ark Royal, and participating in ground attacks in Egypt during the Suez War.

From 1958 to 1960 he was on exchange service in the RAF as an instructor on Hunters, and then became senior pilot of 804 squadron in the carrier Hermes. Young's leadership qualities were recognised by two commands: 892 squadron in Centaur during the Confrontation in Borneo and the Royal Navy's 766 "top gun" squadron at the All Weather Fighter School.

Returning to general service, Young commanded the minesweeper Wiston and the 9th Mine Counter Measure Squadron based in Bahrain. His next few appointments prepared him well for his role as commander of Operation Paraquet: he attended the Joint Services Staff College; was Staff Aviation officer to Flag Officer Carriers and Amphibious; commanded the frigate Danae; attended Senior Officers' War Course at Greenwich; and was Assistant Chief of Staff (Warfare) to the Commander-in-Chief Fleet, and Chief of Staff to the Flag Officer Naval Air Command.

Young set and maintained very high standards which he expected everyone else to match, but he was also thoughtful to his crews.

Brian Young, who died on Christmas Eve, married, in 1958, Sheila Young, who survives him.


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by Stephen Luscombe