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Major-General John Chester OBE

Discussion in 'Roll of Honor & Memories - All Other Conflicts' started by GRW, Sep 30, 2015.

  1. GRW

    GRW Pillboxologist WW2|ORG Editor

    Oct 26, 2003
    Likes Received:
    Stirling, Scotland
    "Major General John Chester, who has died aged 71, took a leading role in the recapture of the Falkland Islands in 1982, when his meticulous planning led to victory in the war.
    In early 1982 Chester was the newly appointed brigade major at Headquarters, 3rd Commando Brigade, the brigade’s principal staff officer, and right-hand man and alter ego to its resolute commander, Brigadier (as he then was) Julian Thompson.
    The Argentine junta had invaded the Falklands on April 2, and there was no British contingency plan to retake the islands, since staff officers in the Ministry of Defence had only a few months before deemed any such attempt to be impossible. Nevertheless, the Royal Marines were ordered to embark and sail to evict the invader . The order was given to 42 Commando on a parade ground in Plymouth: “To the South Atlantic, quick march!”
    Chester headed the staff loading the brigade’s 3,500 men and its 4,500 tons of war stores over a weekend and on April 5 they sailed in the Task Force. Once at sea he immediately turned his mind to planning an opposed landing. Those who listened to Thompson’s orders, given a few days before the landings in San Carlos water on May 21, recognised that they were “a genuine masterpiece”.
    Chester, a tall, highly intelligent and impressive man, who concealed an acid, short-fused temper under a quiet exterior, was calm in the many crises that ensued. As the land campaign unfolded and the marines advanced in a series of short, sharp actions, Chester’s quick thinking and decisiveness ensured success on several occasions. Once, when an adjacent battalion moved forward without telling anyone and was reported as enemy, 3rd Commando’s gunners were about to open fire when Chester, overhearing the exchange of messages on the radio, ordered the gunners to wait while he checked, and eventually cancelled the order; a friendly fire or “blue on blue” had been prevented.
    On another occasion, a Special Forces operation went badly wrong some distance off to the flank of a night attack on Wireless Ridge, a key feature in the battle for Stanley, the port-capital of the Falklands, and the Special Air Service liaison officer asked Chester to divert troops to go to their rescue. Chester recognised that sending a rescue mission in the dark from a battalion in the midst of a night attack would probably end in disaster, and his trenchant and immediate reply was: “Bloody special forces, you think the whole world has to stop for you. We will come to your assistance when we are able.”
    Later, when the flimsy command post was attacked by Argentine aircraft, Chester, who had been examining a set of aerial photographs of enemy positions, calmly collected the pictures together, stacked them neatly on the table, and strolled to cover in a trench while 1,000 lb bombs exploded around him.
    After the Argentine surrender on June 14, a civilian jeep which Chester had commandeered broke down as he and Brigadier Thompson were driving to visit troops who were busy disarming sullen but heavily armed Argentine soldiers on the road to Stanley airport. At that moment a smart Mercedes jeep full of armed and truculent Argentine officers drove along. Chester waved it to a halt, told the officers to get out and walk, and he and his brigadier drove off in their new vehicle.
    Chester was appointed OBE for his role in the British victory in the Falklands conflict.
    John Shane Chester was born on April 21 1944 at Ipswich into a naval family and was educated at the Jesuit-run St Edward’s College, Malta, and St Joseph’s College, where, despite having contracted rheumatic fever, he excelled at team games.
    Chester joined the Royal Marines in 1963 and was recognised as an outstanding officer from his first days. He was awarded his prized green beret, the sign that he had passed the rigorous Commando course, in 1964, and served as a troop commander in Borneo during Konfrontasi, the Indonesian-Malayan confrontation. He went on to specialise in signals and became signals officer in 41 Commando when it deployed to Northern Ireland from 1968 to 1970. Subsequently he served two years as aide-de-camp to General Sir Ian Gourlay."

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