Medals & Coins, Arms & Militaria - 03 May 2018


By order of the recipient: the remarkable and historically significant Operation Mikado/ Plum Duff p

£10,000 - £20,000 £8,000

By order of the recipient: the remarkable and historically significant Operation Mikado/ Plum Duff pair of medals to Captain Andrew Legg, 22nd Special Air Service Regiment and Royal Hampshire Regiment, offered together with his Beret and associated memorabilia:

Medals: General Service 1962-2007, clasp: Northern Ireland (LT A LEGG R HAMPS), mounted individually for wearing, uneven toning but otherwise extremely fine; South Atlantic, with three loose rosettes (CAPT A LEGG R HAMPS (SAS)), in original card box stamped 'WITH ROSETTE', extremely fine. [3]

Together with: the recipient's beret, with OR's fabric badge as commonly worn by S.A.S. officers; the map which he carried on his mission into South America, showing, in small scale and without grid-lines or significant details, Tierra del Fuego and adjacent areas; his dress miniature GSM, his S.A.S. stable belt, blue fabric with metal buckle bearing the Regiment's winged dagger badge; an S.A.S. blue winged parachute badge, and a gold-on-red mess dress parachute badge; four S.A.S. Captain's rank slides; an S.A.S. wall plaque; and a copy of 'Ultimate Acceptance', the book written by the recipient about Operation Plum Duff, under the pseudonym William Barnes.

Graduated from the University of Reading with a MSc in Applied Mathematics in 1976. joined the Royal Hampshire regiment in Northern Ireland in March 1977 via Sandurst Direct Entry Course No 9. Passed S.A.S. selection test and the subsequent officer's week in August 1978, but obliged to remain with his Regiment for another tour in Northern Ireland, and then required to take the selection test again, owing to a change of training personnel. Passed S.A.S. selection for a second time in August 1980, and joined B Squadron as a Troop Commander in January 1981. Served with the S.A.S. in Oman, Northern Ireland, and as part of the UK Anti-Terrorist team.

Operation Mikado was a plan conceived at senior government level to deploy elements of the S.A.S. to Argentina to destroy the Exocet missiles that threatened the Falklands Taskforce, together with the pilots and aircraft based at Rio Grande. Operation Plum Duff was the code-name for an initial reconnaissance patrol to be led by Captain Legg which, during planning, mutated into a dual reconnaissance and/or opportunistic assault role. One consequence of this was that the eight man team carried explosives, and were obliged to reduce their allocation of rations to provide capacity for them. Legg, described as 'an unconventional officer who was popular with his men' flew via Ascension Island to a location over the frigid waters of the South Atlantic, where he and his team parachuted out of a specially converted C130 'Hercules', plunging with their equipment into the ice cold and turbulent ocean to await recovery by the Royal Fleet Auxiliary. Transferred by stages to the Aircraft Carrier H.M.S. Invincible, they set off on the last 450 miles of their journey in a stripped down Sea King helicopter, with a crew that specialised in difficult insertions and had trained to fly using night vision goggles. Planning had been conducted without any meaningful information about the military situation that they would face upon arrival, and unusually, the team themselves had been largely excluded from the deliberations. This had forced Legg to adopt a short term, reactive mindset. Upon approaching the primary drop off point, and believing that it might have been compromised, he ordered the crew to continue to a secondary location. They had been detected by Argentine radar, and the necessity of deploying countermeasures, together with foul weather, prevented this. Eventually they put down on the Chilean side of the border, and Legg set out to lead his men east into Argentina. Presently the inadequacy of their rations forced them to request a resupply using their increasingly erratic radio. By this stage their superiors in Hereford knew that the Argentines were aware of their presence, and had assumed that the men had already been captured. Upon making contact with their support team they were withdrawn by stages, always expecting to be re-deployed, until the order came for them to return to England, where a Board of Enquiry conceded that no blame could be assigned to Legg or the other personnel directly involved in the mission.

Andrew Legg left the armed forces in 1983, oppressed by feelings of guilt at having been unable to destroy the Argentine's Exocet capability. But to us his medal group presents a very different aspect. Not only does it tell the story of a seminal operation in the history of the S.A.S., of a pioneering and death defying feat of long range infiltration, and give us a first rate example of the mysterious proceedings of the British Special Forces; it also stands as testament to a man who's outstanding qualities as an officer spared his men from the inevitable fate of being captured and killed that would have fallen to their lot had he allowed his instinct for circumspection to be overridden by a personal desire for glory. The truth is that there was never any real possibility of he and his seven men destroying the exocets. The military objective which Legg felt guilt at not attaining was not a real one. What was real was the absence of intelligence about their objective, as exemplified by his map. They didn't know the exact location of any of their targets, such as the missile stores or pilot's mess, and as we now know the Argentines had taken the elementary precaution or relocating these assets anyway. Also real were the 3,000 well armed soldiers who would have opposed them had they somehow contrived to walk to Rio Grande with only a small supply of explosives to eat. A contemporary nickname for Mikado was 'Operation Certain Death'. Another officer might have failed to avoid that certainty, led his men into the trap that awaited them, left the nation lamenting a military catastrophe and eight families lamenting a personal one, and left the Argentines celebrating a propaganda coup of titanic proportions. But Captain Legg trod carefully, balancing the massive weight of his superiors' expectations with the immediate and unfolding situation on the ground, and at no stage giving up, or relinquishing the desire to continue with his mission. Thus the only casualty was his promising career. On the occasion of the sale of his medals, it is fitting to observe that to an objective mind the outcome of his efforts was the only form of success that was ever a possibility.

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