Auctions | December 5, 2013

Commander’s Handwritten Diaries from Falklands War For Sale at Bonhams

Two powerful handwritten diaries compiled during the Falklands war by Captain Kevin McGimpsey, Adjutant to 3 PARA, are on offer at Bonhams Gentleman’s Library Sale in London’s Knightsbridge on January 28th 2014. The two volumes are estimated at £2,000-3,000, and the proceeds will be donated to Parachute Regiment charities.           

Following the outbreak of hostilities, one of Captain McGimpsey’s responsibilities as Adjutant was to maintain the Commander’s Diary. The two volumes that he produced as the conflict unfolded, written in pencil on military stationary and typed up a month after the fighting had ended in July 1982, now form part of the official record of the war.

The diaries provide a behind-the-scenes account of the conflict; they assess the evolving political situation and the resulting combat from the perspective of the soldiers on the ground. The first volume, which is housed in a hardback cover, details the original crisis in the barracks and the management of troops on board the Canberra while the invasion force steamed southwards; the second loose-leaf volume describes the landing at San Carlos, the Battle of Mount Longdon, the capture of Port Stanley, and the return to the UK. 

Captain McGimpsey commented: “Writing and maintaining the diary became an obsession. When we transferred from the Canberra to HMS Intrepid prior to the landings, I reluctantly left Volume 1 with the rear party and was very relieved to get its return in Port Stanley".

On the eve of June 11th, as part of the final assault on Port Stanley, 3 PARA attacked Mount Longdon where enemy forces were heavily entrenched. After a fierce 10 hour battle, the objective was captured with the loss of 22 men, including Sergeant Ian McKay who received one of only two posthumous Victoria Crosses awarded during the conflict.

Captain McGimpsey’s diary includes an account from Operational Commander Major David Collect from A company. His note about the conquest for Mount Longdon is particularly poignant:

“The sight of young soldiers, tired, grim-faced but clearly triumphant, moving through the mist to check the enemy dead, with bayonets still fixed, will remain forever in the memory”.

Bonhams specialist Lionel Willis commented: “This is an important and remarkable document. Key parts of these journals were written in the stress of combat and it is striking how the tone remains cool, professional and matter of fact while momentous events were unfolding.”