Craig “Mac” McDermott, who is originally from Sheffield, was a teenager on board the destroyer HMS Antrim when the 1982 conflict erupted into full-blown warfare around the island of South Georgia.Now Mr McDermott is launching a new campaign for the Scotland-based veterans’ charity Erskine to mark this year’s Remembrance Day.
He said: “When I first heard of the Falkland Islands, like many people I thought they were just off the north of Scotland. I didn’t know where they were – but there is no way I will ever forget them after everything that I witnessed.”
The 57-year-old said the seriousness of the situation was driven home to him when he was made to write his will aged only 17 as they steamed south.
Mr McDermott said: “We didn’t know what we were going into. We were naive and too young to understand the severity of what we were about to encounter.”
He said he only realised the gravity of the situation when HMS Antrim found itself at the centre of the British military’s operation to retake South Georgia.
The ship’s helicopter rescued 16 SAS men from the Fortuna Glacier before attacking the Argentinian submarine Santa Fe and then a 1,000lb bomb had to be removed when it crashed through the warship’s flight deck.
“Our helicopter attacked, dropping two depth charges to blow the stern out of the water, and immediately all hell broke loose,” Mr McDermott said.
After six hours of bombardment, the Union Flag was hoisted above South Georgia and “we seriously thought that was job done” but this was just the start, he said.
He added: “The air attacks were constant and there were several injured during each of the attacks. We had about 10 seconds’ warning when we were going to be attacked, it was simply a case of bracing.
“The suffering was indescribable and something that I will never be able to forget. I will always be scarred by all that I have seen, but it is for that reason I will always remember those who were not as lucky as me.”
Mr McDermott later became one of the first paramedics in the Royal Navy, before pursuing the same career in the civilian ambulance service, moving to Edinburgh.
Following an illness in 2019, Mr McDermott moved into Erskine Edinburgh.
Erskine, which is more than 100 years old, provides post-military support to 1,000 Scottish veterans and their spouses.
Mr McDermott is the face of Erskine’s Futures for the Brave campaign.
He said: “Without Erskine I don’t know where I would be now. It has done so much for me, I’ve got people to speak to, I’ve got food and shelter, and I can’t speak highly enough of the staff. Erskine has provided me with a lifeline, they truly support futures for the brave.”
Erskine’s chief executive, Wing Commander Ian Cumming, said: “This reminds us of the devastating physical and emotional impact that military conflict can have upon those who bravely served and upon their families, who bravely supported them.
“Erskine will always mark Remembrance, but we truly honour those who fell, by delivering meaningful care and opportunities to those who returned. Regardless of their age or circumstances, Erskine will strive to deliver the very best possible futures for the brave.”
– Information on Erskine and the Futures for the Brave campaign can be found here.