Nearly 600 people gathered at HMS Raleigh to pay their respects to a Royal Navy medical officer who saved hundreds of troops during the Falklands War.

Surgeon Capt Rick Jolly, who reputedly saved the life of every British serviceman he treated, died aged 71 on 13 January.

He is the only person to have been decorated by both Britain and Argentina for his service during the conflict, awarded the OBE by the Queen and the Orden de Mayo by Argentina.

Commander Ken Enticknap, owes his life to Captain Rick Jolly.

This is his account from when he found himself in the icy waters of Falkland Sound with Able Seaman John Dillon after their ship, HMS Ardent, was bombed.

Able Seaman John Dillan and I had struggled our way through the smoke, fire and razor-sharp twisted metal that was the aftermath of the air-raid on HMS Ardent, which had crippled the ship such that the crew had to abandon her in Falkland Sound.

It was early evening on 21st May 1982 and little did I know that this was the day I was to come into contact with an amazing man, someone who would save my life and become a really good friend; Surgeon Commander Rick Jolly.

HMS Ardent Falklands
HMS Ardent sank after heavy fire from Argentinian forces

Uniquely, though, he didn’t save my life on the surgeon’s table, like he had done to so many of the casualties of that conflict.

Despite me being badly injured, John and I extricated ourselves out of the ship by squeezing under a winch, which got us into fresh air.

We put lifejackets on, inflated them with a few puffs of smoke inhaled air and jumped into the water.

I’d hoped that we’d have been seen by the team on the bridge and that they would haul us out of the freezing cold South Atlantic.

Not so – looking back at the ship I saw HMS Yarmouth alongside taking the crew off, as smoke and flame poured out of Ardent.

A helicopter which seemed to appear from nowhere hovered over John and swiftly deployed the flight crewman, who splashed into the water in front of John and whisked him up into the cab. I was next.

This was to be my first encounter with Rick Jolly.

Rick Jolly
Commander Ken Enticknap RN (Retired) was rescued by Surgeon Capt Rick Jolly (right)

In an amazing act of bravery, Rick had realised that, as the only person in the aircraft other than the winch operator, he selflessly volunteered to go down on the wire to rescue the two of us.

When he splashed down in front of me, he hooked onto the strap on my lifejacket and before I knew it I was heading upwards into the helicopter.

I was really concerned that the lifejacket strap would fail and when I saw a Surgeon Commander’s rank insignia in front of my face, I thought I was doomed!

Commanders don’t come down on wires from helicopters and clearly, this one hadn’t put the proper lifting strap around me. Nevertheless, in seconds I was in the cab.

“Get these to Canberra, quick,” was all I heard Rick say before I lost consciousness.

I’d learned later that John Dillan was struggling in the water as his lifejacket hadn’t inflated and he was having great difficulty keeping afloat.

Rick quickly realised this and wasting no time, physically held him in his arms all the way up into the helicopter.

Consequently, when he’d come down for me he was exhausted, hence his unconventional method of hooking onto my lifejacket.

We’d laugh about this a lot in the years that followed but I will never forget the outstanding heroism he displayed on that day.

 

Rick Jolly + Ken
Surgeon Capt Rick Jolly with Commander Ken Enticknap and his family

Rolling forward an hour or so, I came too and found myself lying on the floor wrapped in field dressings and blankets with a large imposing character leaning over me asking if I was ok.

Recognising him as the Commander who’d pulled me out of the water, I said something along the lines that I’d felt better and ask him for my “survivor’s tot” (something of a tradition in the RN!).

He advised that it probably won’t be wise, all things considered, but he did return half an hour later with a glass of rum, dipped his fingers in it and rubbed them over my lips - it was a fantastic gesture, giving me welcome assurance that I maybe wasn’t as bad as I felt.

He then downed the rest in one, toasting our escape from terror and went off to do wonderful things in the “Red and Green Life Machine”.

After it was all over and we were back home settling back into normality we would meet reasonably often.

He became a staunch supporter of the HMS Ardent Association, which was formed to perpetuate the memory of our shipmates who are still on board, this in parallel with the formation of South Atlantic Medals Association '82 and I was able to share a full tot with him on a number of occasions.

He even turned up in the maternity ward whilst my wife, Frances, was in labour with our first son, Thomas - and that’s another story!

Rick has had a significant impact on my life ever since the moment we met going up on a wire dangling from a helicopter.

He was always engaging, jovial and full of bonhomme … An all-round good egg.

He will be remembered, indeed, for all the things he did, from surgery on the streets of Northern Island, to the Ajax Bay Field Hospital and for bringing Jack Speak to the bookshops (I have a signed copy, of course!) but he will always be in the forefront of my memory as the man who, having very little regard for his own safety, did something amazing to allow me to live.

He will be sadly missed.

Topics: