This page is dedicated to the memory of:
Paul David Callan
45 Commando Royal Marines
Paul David Callan was born in Liverpool on 9 March 1961, to David Roy Callan and Pamela Elizabeth. They moved to Wigan when Paul was five years old, and then five years later they moved to Ellesmere Port in June 1971. Paul was the eldest of five children, with two brothers, Andrew and Michael, and two sisters, Jacky and Michelle. On his mother’s side, his grandfather was a Dunkirk veteran, whereas his paternal grandfather served in the Staffordshire Regiment for twelve years.
Paul was educated at the Parklands Junior School and then Mill Lane Secondary School, Ellesmere Port. After leaving school, he was employed by a local firm of industrial painters while waiting to join the Royal Navy. Although he did six months training and passed out of HMS RALEIGH, his ultimate ambition was to serve in the Royal Marines. He decided to leave and took his discharge papers straight to the RM recruiters. A year and a half later he entered into RM Commando training and passed the course to earn his green beret whereupon he was posted to 45 Commando RM in Arbroath. He then served in Northern Ireland where he volunteered for evening patrols, and in his chosen specialisation of chef, Paul was one of the team that made the Princess of Wales’s wedding cake.
In Spring 1982 Paul left the shores of England in the Royal Fleet Auxiliary Ship Stromness. 45 Commando RM landed in the Falklands on May 21st and Marine Callan was based with the unit support group at Ajax Bay, at one end of a building that was later to become famous as the Falklands Field Hospital. At dusk on the evening of May 27th this disused refrigeration plant was attacked by two Argentine Skyhawks. One of the bombs detonated near the main galley area after hitting a stack of anti-tank missiles. The explosion killed five and injured 27; Paul was one of the wounded. He sustained horrific injuries to his upper abdomen, and although he survived to reach the hospital ship, HMHS Uganda, the severity of his wounds could not be overcome by the skill of the surgeons or the devotion of the nurses, and he died of his wounds on June 10th.
The girls who nursed him refused to let him be buried at sea and instead asked Surgeon Commander Rick Jolly – OC Ajax Bay and a regular visitor to the hospital ship – to take his body back ashore to be buried alongside his five friends who had been killed. This was readily agreed and Paul was interred in a temporary grave there.
His body was returned to England at the end of 1982, and Paul is now buried in the 45 Commando RM cemetery at Arbroath. His Memorial service was full to overflowing, and his brother Andrew, who like his other brother Michael, had joined the Cheshire Regiment, sounded the Last Post.
Paul was a superb young man who loved spending time on leave with his family. He was especially close to his sisters, but never married. His friends from 45 Cdo and all his family miss him very much.
Even though our Paul has gone,
His memory here will now live on,
His smiling face we shall not see,
Yet in our hearts he’ll always be…
Letter from the Reverend David Barlow RN
Naval Party 1830, BFPO Ships
At sea, 23rd June 1982.
Dear Mr & Mrs Callan
Thank you for your letter of the 10th June which I received today. You will have heard by now of your son’s tragic death which took place on the morning of the day that you wrote.
Paul fought for almost a fortnight against terrible wounds, and during that time he was constantly attended by the specialists and nurses of the Intensive Care Unit. He underwent two operations and received nearly 50 pints of blood. The doctors ensured that, throughout the whole ordeal, he suffered as little pain as possible…
Two days before he died I gave him the Last Rites, although he was always unaware of his probable fate. I thought it better not to tell him and I waited until he was unconscious before saying the final prayers. After his death his body was returned ashore. There was no opportunity to consult you about this, but I guessed you would have preferred him not to be buried at sea. There is still a possibility that he will be returned to England with the others. You should know that his nurses, who were devoted to him, begged that he should be buried ashore – and I hope our decision will meet with your approval.
Paul was buried on the 10th in a simple ceremony at Ajax Bay. Our Royal Marine bandsmen lined the route as he was carried from the hospital ship, and many others turned out to pay their last respects. Paul was greatly admired for his courage, strength and courtesy. It was a very sad day when such a fine young man died. Indeed, the most awful thing about our loss has been the awareness that he was among the cream of our strongest, fittest and finest young Englishmen.
Paul had some friends from his unit who had also been wounded and had visited him each day. He was given the very best medical attention and was free from pain for most of the time. I was with him when he died. It was a great privilege to do whatever I could for him, and I am deeply sorry that despite our best efforts we failed to save him. We all thought he was very special, and his loss was keenly felt throughout the hospital ship.
With my sincere condolences.
The Reverend David Barlow RN
Extract from The Red and Green Life Machine (a diary of the Falklands Field Hospital) by Rick Jolly.
June 10th 1982
Back in Ajax Bay we were still ferrying customers by helicopter to Uganda, so I hitch-hiked a ride out to the hospital ship, briefed the Captain, and kept her command structure in the picture about the planned final assault on Stanley.
There was a sad little ceremony to undertake before we returned about twenty minutes later. Paul Callan, the young 45 Commando chef so grievously injured on the night of May 27th when we were bombed in Ajax Bay, had finally died of his wounds. Following up the tremendous efforts of Lt Col Bill McGregor and Major Malcolm Jowitt in our little field hospital, Surgeon Commander Roger Leicester had done his very, very best – but despite three operations and nearly fifty pints of blood, the young marine’s exhausted and badly-injured body had given up the ghost.
Slow marching, with their classic precision, a detachment of Uganda’s bandsmen ascended the ramp. Their precious load, a body bag containing their Royal Marines colleague, was positioned with great care and reverence in the Wessex helicopter’s cabin. The flight deck party then snapped off a sad salute that showed on their faces. We started up, engaged rotors, and then lifted off to deliver Paul Callan back to Ajax Bay, for burial with those of his friends who had gone before.