Mon 5: I was told by Captain Young that I was to go to HMS Plymouth who needed a watch keeper more than them!
HMS Antrim and Plymouth were to be dispatched ahead of the assembling task force, along with the support ship RFA Tidespring, to find out just what was going on the island of South Georgia deep in the South Atlantic close to the Antarctic ice. HMS Endurance was on station there, monitoring the goings on of an Argentinian scrap metal company who, supported by a Company of Marines had raised the Argentinian National Flag and were intending to dismantle an old whaling station and weighing in the scrap metal for financial gain. This was against all international agreements and was causing untold political unrest.
To us at that time, all we understood was that Argentina had breached International Law and we were going to keep a close eye on things. We had no idea that what was developing had the makings of the first proper war time action the Royal Navy had been involved in since the end of the Second World War.
HMS Plymouth was even more short of watchkeepers than Antrim and so I was transferred to Plymouth where I remained for the duration of the conflict and it would be another three months before I was to set foot on land again!
While on watch in the middle of the night in Antrim, I had chatted with an older officer about spending time at sea and he told me stories of spending 60 days at sea in aircraft carriers in his younger days and I, having only ever spent a maximum of two weeks at sea previously, was in awe. Little did I know what was about to take place.
Tue 6: Arrived in HMS Plymouth 1130. Settled into Sick Bay!
My final destination, ship wise, was when I arrived onboard HMS Plymouth a Type 12 frigate, one of the oldest ships in the Task Force, in fact we celebrated her 21st birthday during the campaign. Climbing out of the helicopter at 1130, I was arriving just in time for lunch and made my way to the Wardroom. I knew that a friend of mine from Dartmouth College days was on-board, in fact we had met up for a beer in Gibraltar prior to sailing, so imagine his surprise when he was the person opening the door to me in the Wardroom; he knew they were expecting another officer but had no idea it was me!
I had arrived with a minimum of kit and there were no spare officer cabins available as Plymouth was the 6th Frigate Squadron Leader, carrying additional senior Squadron staff, so I had to bunk down in the Sick Bay. It was comfortable enough but during the day, while the Doctor and Chief Medical rating carried out their surgeries, I had to vacate, becoming bit of a wandering soul, camping out in other people’s cabins when they were not using them.
As we adopted ‘Defence Watches’ later in the campaign, where we spent six hours on watch followed by six off, I was able to ‘borrow’ my opposite numbers cabin, as he was on watch when I was off so his cabin also became mine and I remember vividly, becoming very familiar with the one music tape cassette he owned – ‘REO Speedwaggon’, I can still remember the sequence of songs!
Tue 13:RV Fort Austin 0600 – Long RAS, 7 1/2 hours! Embarked 20 SAS. Met up with Antrim and Tidespring and were told of our mission – To take back South Georgia!
During the following week I familiarised myself with the ship, carried out a few supplementary roles like ‘Entertainments Officer’ acting as DJ on the ships internal radio station on a couple of occasions and generally kept as many bridge watches as possible to hone my skills driving Frigates.
On Tuesday 13th we rendezvoused with RFA Fort Austin, a large stores and ammunition ship and completed a 7 1/2 hour Replenishment At Sea (RAS) where the two ships steamed very close together and passed stores, food and ammunition from one ship to the other by jackstay transfer, a system of ropes and pulleys passing between the ships.
We also embarked 20 SAS Special Forces troops who were to be instrumental in our next mission, to repatriate the island of South Georgia.
The following week was spent on passage South, continuous exercises and briefings. Gunnery drills, damage control (emergency) exercises and Argentine ship and aircraft recognition training, the traditional ‘enemy’ at that time was The Soviet Union, we could all recognise their ships and aircraft but Argentina?
Having the SAS on-board was interesting too, they trained relentlessly, regularly spending literally hours on the forecastle doing press-ups, sit-ups, skipping and other physical exercises. Their fitness was awesome! But they also spent their down time assisting the ships company with routine tasks, I remember it being said that they had told the mess members of the mess decks they were sharing that they would take over all cleaning duties while they were on-board as a form of payment for their board and lodgings!
We had crossed the Equator, traditionally paying our respects to King Neptune and were on our way.
Member since: 4th July 2012
I am David Ramsden, owner of thebestof bolton.