ON THIS DAY: 1982: 20-year-old Doncaster soldier becomes second town victim of Falklands War
Doncaster was plunged into mourning once again 34 years ago today as the town grieved the loss of its youngest victim in the Falkands War.
Edlington Para Private Stephen Illingsworth was just 20 years old when he died during the recapture of Goose Green on May 28, 1982.
Pte Illinsgworth, a member of the Second Battallion of the Parachute Regiment, rescued an injured colleague but then died after being shot by an Argentine sniper as he strove to retrieve abandoned enemy munitions to help the British supplies, running desperately low after a fierce firefight.
The two day battle to take Goose Green and Darwin cost the lives of 17 British personnel and 47 Argentines and his death came just a few days after Doncaster Merchant Navy skipper Captain Ian North was killed in a missile attack on his shipShortly before his death, Stephen had written to his father Gordon of Granby Road, Edlington saying: “Don’t worry about me dad, I’m trained to do this job.”
He is buried at the Aldershot Military Cemetery in Hampshire and was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal, although secret documents released years after his death revealed he had actually been recommended for the Victoria Cross.
In an interview in 2007, mother Joyce Illingsworth told us: "We were so proud. He was a right character. I didn't like the thought of him going but he was excited about it. He had to be where there was adventure. He couldn't just sit behind a desk or something like that. He liked to be where the action was.
"He wanted to be a paratrooper. He wanted to be in the elite. From a kid he wanted to jump out of an aeroplane. He used to come home on leave and then he used to go off to Bridlington to jump out of a plane even though that was his job. He just loved the thrill of parachuting.
"People said it would be over in two to three weeks and we knew it would take two to three weeks for him to get there on the boat so we hoped it might be over before he got there.
"No one wants their children to go before them. I said in my letters to him I would rather have a son who was a live coward than a dead hero. I never got to say goodbye or anything."
His actions have since been enshrined in military history after featuring in the novel Close Quarter Battles. The book, by former paratrooper colleague and ex-SAS soldier, Mike Curtis, is even dedicated to the young Doncaster soldier who died attempting to liberate the famous British colony.
Mrs Illingsworth said: "He'd already saved a young lad's life and got him back to safety and then because they'd run out of ammunition he remembered he'd taken some off the young lad when he'd tended his wounds.
"They said he wasn't awarded a medal for getting the soldier back to safety, any soldier would do the same, it was for going to get the ammunition to help them all. That was Steve all over."
“When we went to Buckingham Palace to collect his medal another young lad said Steve had also saved his life. He’d got shot in his legs and couldn’t get up but he said our Steve and another young lad dragged him to safety.
“When we met The Queen we were so proud. The Queen knew everything about our Steve because they must have to read up on everybody. She said I really know how you feel - which was true because she had a son (Prince Andrew) involved in the conflict as well.”
Apart from being immortalised in print, Steve’s legacy still lives on at Edlington Comprehensive where the school still hands out the Stephen Illingsworth Memorial Cup for those who have demonstrated exceptional achievement in sport.
His name also lives on in the Falklands where a street was named Illingsworth Road in his honour.