Steve was a quiet, rather mysterious child who did not show his feelings. He enjoyed play, but even this was serious. He constantly patrolled our house, broomsticks at the slope – something which our mother commented on when interviewed by newspapers after he was killed. He enjoyed dressing up in my old Air Cadet and RAF uniforms with his other brothers so seemed destined for a military career but for some reason joined WH Smith’s at Brighton’s Churchill Square on leaving school but became bored with this and after about two years joined the Army and made his choice of the Parachute Regiment – his destiny! He loved every minute of it. His career appeared to be his whole life, and he was truly dedicated. Even home on leave he had itchy feet to return to camp.
Steve didn’t seem to be very happy at school in the early years; he had moods. At one point, everything was “black” – his essays, his drawings, life as he saw it.
Rather than express his feelings, he would allow frustration to build up and either explode or do “something naughty”. To upset him was not a wise thing to do! I remember once (presumably having upset him in some way) I was reading a newspaper when missiles (lead soldiers) tore holes in it and made me dive for cover. Another time, my service ID “disappeared”. No cajoling of Steve would encourage him to produce it and I took a chance of returning to camp without it. Luckily, it mysteriously reappeared when I took leave the following weekend.
We took Steve to London Zoo when he was about seven or eight with his brother Ian and on arrival he asked to see the lions. So we went there first, on his insistence. After a few minutes he informed us that was all he wanted to see! “Can we go home now?” he asked!
He enjoyed appearing in school plays when at Junior School, memorable roles included Father Christmas and a gnome! At Grammar School he enjoyed history and left with a handful of O-levels which were sufficient for him to be offered a trainee manager’s job at WH Smith. He was focused on following up customers’ requests for particular orders. Perhaps this helped to relieve the boredom!
In the Paras, Steve had found his niche in life. The company, the battalion and the regiment came first. He volunteered for everything he could and took on extra responsibility, becoming an instructor in various roles. He served in many parts of the world, including active service in Northern Ireland and the Falklands.
His philosophy was that “there is no point in saving for the future because there isn’t one”. To this end, he enjoyed life and spent well and played hard. (He was extremely generous when spending on family Christmas presents.) In particular, he loved to tell about the fantastic excursions he made over the border into East Berlin, where he said he felt like a millionaire. He may have been poor, but your dollar allowed you to be treated like a king!
Steve Prior wanted action, adventure, to be “leading from the front”! But he was on a collision course with fate. Legend has it that Steve was first out of his landing craft onto a Falkland Islands beach with Ride of the Valkyries blaring from his ghetto blaster! In the end, Steve spent his last half hour crawling with Dave Abols, under intensive sniper fire, to rescue wounded private Worrall – an action described by John Gedder as “an epic of military courage and comradeship” and “modern chivalry”. They had already dragged another wounded para, Kirkwood, to safety under fire.
There could hardly be a finer epitaph and we are obviously very proud indeed of our brother.
One of Steve’s last requests in a letter home to Mum and Dad was for new dry socks. We hope they arrived!
By Bob Prior and familyRead More