Nick Vaux enlisted in the Royal Marines in 1954 and after training, joined 45 Commando as a Second Lieutenant. In the following 36 years he had a varied career both ashore and at sea.
He served in Commando units, as an adjutant, as a 'Young Officer' instructor, developed a specialisation in Arctic training, and reached the very top of the Corps.
Vaux's most dramatic period of service was the Falklands War of 1982 as the Commanding Officer of 42 Commando RM. His part in the Commando's capture of Mount Harriet earned Vaux the Distinguished Service Order (DSO).
The career of a Falklands veteran
Nick Vaux enlisted in the Royal Marines in 1954. He undertook the famed Royal Marine Commando officer training course, and after 'passing out', joined 45 Commando as a Second Lieutenant.
Vaux joined the Commando at a period of great activity. The Commando was in Malta and Cyprus training for an assault on Egyptian Forces guarding the Suez Canal at Port Said, Egypt.
As a consequence, Vaux was part of the first ever helicopter-borne amphibious operation at Suez in 1956. 45 Commando sailed from Malta on 2 November.
They made the historic landings from HMS Ocean and HMS Theseus four days later landing a total of 425 men and 23 tons of stores and ammunition in just 89 minutes.
After undertaking various roles in other commando units and in Royal Marine shore establishments Vaux served with the Marines at sea.
In 1963 he trained and commanded a detachment of Royal Marines for sea service in HMS Ursa. Ursa was an anti submarine frigate which was stationed in the Caribbean during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
As Second in Command of 42 Commando Vaux also undertook tours of duty in Northern Ireland during the 1970s.
Vaux was a noted expert on Mountain and Arctic Warfare (M & AW). After he qualified in the field he experienced a number of winter deployments to North Norway before becoming a specialist adviser to the US Marine Corps (USMC) in 1979.
In 1981 Vaux received a commendation from the USMC "for his fine work in compiling a Cold Weather Handbook" for them.
He considers the M & AW experience amongst the Royal Marines in 1982 to have significantly contributed to success in the adverse conditions of winter in the Falkland Islands.
'42 Commando to the South Atlantic - Quick March'
When the Argentineans invaded South Georgia and the Falkland Islands in March 1982 Vaux was a Lieutenant Colonel, and the Commanding Officer of 42 Commando.
The Commando, who were based in Bickleigh, Devon, had just returned from Arctic Warfare Training in Norway and had begun their three week annual leave.
At 0400 on the 2 April the Director of Logistics and Administration of Commando Forces called Vaux and informed him that an Argentine invasion was expected and that his unit were being recalled.
Vaux himself was preparing to fly out to America on holiday and many of his men were abroad; some had even planned to get married whilst on leave.
Almost every member of the unit had returned for duty within three days. The unit had to hurriedly unpack from their exercises in Norway and repack in preparation to fight in the Falklands.
Major-General Jeremy Moore inspected 42 before they left. At the end of the inspection Vaux gave the now famous order '42 Commando, to the South Atlantic - Quick March'.
Vaux's commando unit was one of three - 40, 42 and 45 - which formed 3 Commando Brigade. The Brigade sailed with the Task Force that would engage the Argentinean Navy and Air Force, and retake the islands by an amphibious attack.
The Royal Marines Commando Units were perfect for this type of operation and had been training in amphibious operations since they were created in World War Two.
The 'Great White Whale'
42 Commando travelled south in SS Canberra, a converted cruise liner lovingly nicknamed the 'Great White Whale' during the conflict. With the ship's decks stripped out and helicopter landing pads replacing swimming pools, Canberra carried more than 3,000 troops aboard from 42 and 40 Commando, and 3 Parachute Regiment.
Vaux travelled in unaccustomed luxury - he had his own stateroom with en suite bathroom and mini bar. This was replenished daily - a resource that was later taken advantage of by his colleagues visiting from HMS Fearless and HMS Intrepid.
The Commando landed and trained on Ascension Island on the five week journey south. Aboard Canberra they used their time well preparing for the task and training in areas such as weapons handling, radio procedure, field craft, survival techniques and aircraft recognition.
The original plan was for 42 to be the reserve unit for the landing operations but, due to several fortuitous twists in circumstances, they soon became an integral and decisive part of the campaign.
Canberra entered San Carlos Water on East Falkland to land the amphibious attack on 21 May and came under severe air attack.
Due to the Argentinean air attacks, were swiftly landed and 42's war had begun. In the haste to land 42 Commando, however, much of their stores and equipment had to be left behind - a factor that would subject the unit's troops to hardship later on during the war.
Taking Mount Kent
After the landings Brigadier Julian Thompson again put Vaux and his Commando back in reserve.
As the rest of 3 Commando Brigade moved out of the beachhead the SAS reported that Mount Kent was only lightly held by the Argentineans.
Brigadier Thompson tasked 42 Commando with taking Mount Kent, bringing the Commando from a supporting role to a fighting one.
As Commanding Officer, or CO, Vaux ran the Unit's operations from Tac HQ (Tactical Headquarters). From there Vaux co-ordinated two major actions in the Falklands Campaign - the taking of Mount Kent and the attack on Mount Harriet.
Taking Mount Kent was crucial. It would gain the high ground so that British Forces could coordinate attacks on the mountain ranges still held by the Argentineans. These attacks left the Argentineans demoralised and led to their surrender.
But the operation for Mount Kent almost did not happen. Transport to their positions relied on helicopters and the operation was delayed, modified and nearly cancelled several times due to adverse flying conditions and the over commitment of the helicopters elsewhere during the war.
To make matters worse the Argentineans attacked the SAS cleared landing zone shortly after 42's first 'K' company landed, delaying the rest of the unit's movement and denying the availability of the helicopters.
The pilots could only provide one more trip rather than the two they needed. 'L' Company stayed at Commando HQ whilst the rest of the unit travelled to the landing zone.
The troops had to cram into the helicopters without seats or seat belts, on top of missiles, bombs, grenades and ammunition. 42 sacrificed rations in order to take spare batteries, whilst surveillance devices replaced fuel.
The rest of the unit landed to find that the SAS had not scouted the mountain and 42's 'K' Company had already moved off with their SAS guides.
Taking Mount Kent, however, was a relatively easy operation. The Argentineans had hastily redeployed to defend against British attack at Goose Green so when 'K' Company reached the summit they found abandoned weapons rather than troops.
The problem, was no longer the enemy, but the weather. The Company had to hold their position in wet, windy and freezing conditions without tents or sleeping bags.
The attack on Mount Harriet
'[An] excellent plan, executed with verve and dash'.
After taking Mount Kent Vaux's next objective was to capture Mount Harriet. Mount Harriet was an important tactical position that British Forces needed to be take in order to gain the advantage in the Falklands War.
In co-ordinated attacks on the night of the 11/12 June with 45 Commando and 3 Para, who attacked other mountains in the area around Port Stanley, the operation was recognised as the decisive action of the campaign.
Vaux observed that the Argentineans' main defences were positioned to cover the road to Port Stanley, so he devised a plan to attack the Argentines from behind in order to surprise them and spare his men from a full-frontal assault.
It was a very dangerous operation, Argentinean troops had covered the area around the mountain with landmines and the commando had to undertake much patrol work to even get to a position to begin the attack on Mount Harriet.
As CO Vaux had to coordinate 42's attack and spent much time beforehand visiting his companies at their strong holds and planning their assaults.
It was tradition to codename objectives with the names of distant loved-ones so Vaux named 42's objectives after his daughters. He named Mount Harriet 'Zoya' and Mount Wall 'Tara' while Goat Ridge was christened 'Katrina' after an American cousin.
Tac HQ were not to be involved in the frontline of operations. It was a surprise attack through a tight course of minefields and was therefore not appropriate to have HQ and all its equipment clattering behind the attacking companies.
Vaux, therefore, had to satisfy himself by observing and listening to the radio network from atop of Mount Wall.
The attack took place at night in order to surprise the approximately 500 Argentines holding the mountain strong point.
Vaux's inspired plan involved an elaborate hoax with 'J' Company acting as a diversion at the front of the mountain as 'L' and 'K' Company attacked from the rear.
It was a complete success and by first light the next day 42 Commando had secured Mount Harriet and linked up with 45 Commando, who had secured the Two Sisters Mountain.
After the successful operations on the high grounds of the Falklands the Argentinean surrender was quick to follow.
During the Falklands Campaign two men died and 41 were wounded or injured in action from 42 Commando. Many suffered from trench foot due to the wet conditions and boggy terrain.
On 24 June Vaux and his unit travelled back to Southampton on SS Canberra and arrived back to a hero's welcome. In his sumptuous stateroom Vaux had his first shower in 30 days.
Post Falklands career
Vaux received the DSO in 1983 for his part in the Falklands War. His citation reads -
'The excellent plan, executed with verve and dash by 42 Commando, was the work of the Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Vaux.'
Vaux left 42 Commando in 1983 after he gained promotion to the rank of Colonel. He transferred to Eastney Barracks to become Chief of Staff at Headquarters Training Reserve Special Forces RM.
Before leaving he left a legacy to his Mountain and Arctic Warfare Training by devising the 'Vaux Trophy Ski Patrol Competition' - a team cross country skiing and shooting race.
In 1986 Vaux attended the Royal College of Defence Studies, which gained him the qualifications required to attain the rank of General and lead Combined Forces operations.
Vaux gained promotion to Major General Commando Forces RM in 1987. He received a CB in 1989 before retiring from the Corps in 1990.