Falklands Conflict Recollections 30 Years On By Veteran David Ramsden - Part 3, 20 - 22 Apr
30th May 2012
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Tue 20:Entered 200MEZ around South Georgia.  Wondered whether we had been detected?

We entered the 200 mile Exclusion Zone around South Georgia, another psychological milestone; this was an area designated by the British Government as being hostile territory for any ships other than British. We were uncertain as to whether the Argentines knew we were there or not. The ship was now in a very high state of readiness for action but I think if I’m being honest we still didn’t really expect that things would get to the stage of ‘engaging the enemy’, that wasn’t something that any of us had ever experienced or really envisaged happening, life and world politics had probably been perceived as being too comfortable for too long. 

All our training had been directed against the Soviet threat and the idea of deterring a nuclear war, which again in all honesty wasn’t something that most of us expected would actually happen, believing that as long as we maintained an effective deterrent the consequences of nuclear war were too great for either side to be stupid enough to initiate. 

Actual war between two civilised countries was unthinkable to me, there was sure to be a diplomatic solution!


Wed 21:Dawn, Antrim put SAS ashore, we waited with QRF (quick reaction force).  Hit rough weather – saw icebergs.  

Heard in paper about our plan!!

2000 Now at 15 minutes notice for NGS (Naval gunfire support)


Today saw the start of the British attempt to retake South Georgia; the plan was for Special Forces to be put ashore far enough away from Leith and Gritviken, the Whaling Station where it was known that Argentine Marines had set up camp, so as not to alert them and they would make their way across the island and take the enemy by surprise.

The practicality of the plan depended on a huge number of variables, including weather, terrain and not least the endurance of the men involved. I had witnessed the ‘venting of feelings’ of one SAS Officer after one of the earlier planning meetings, during which options had been discussed as to which route should be taken to cross the island and his frustrations were something along the lines of ‘the SAS are highly trained and physically fit soldiers, not Supermen!’; It seemed that the suggestion was that their route would require them to cross glaciers, climb mountains and swim or canoe across freezing fjords, all while carrying the necessary fire power to achieve their aim at the other end!

All the time the ships were operating in an area of very high threat as it was thought there was an Argentine submarine somewhere close by. Our job in HMS Plymouth was to act in an Anti Submarine role and stand by with a Quick Reaction Force, just in case of anything unexpected, everything was a little tense! 

Later in the day we were crushed to find out via the BBC World Service that newspapers in the UK were reporting on the plans to retake South Georgia! We were sure the Argentines would be monitoring this too!


Thur 22:Endurance also put SBS ashore.  Antrim SAS in trouble due to weather – to be pulled out.  

Tidesprings 2 Wessex 3’s crashed – no casualties.  Finally rescued!  Endurance inserted more SBS.  Antrims SAS – Grass Island – driftedout while trying to get ashore.

Things were beginning to feel very real! What had started out just like it does in an exercise had suddenly turned into what seemed to be becoming what could be a humiliating disaster. 

The SAS Troop put ashore the previous day had run into horrific weather and requested to be pulled out. The two Wessex helicopters sent in to recover the troops had both crashed in blizzard conditions and a second SAS Troop attempting to get ashore by rubber boat from HMS Antrim were reported to be drifting out to sea, presumably because of engine problems. We wondered just how was this all going to end.

It was a long day and probably the day that I first realised, I mean really faced up to the fact that we were going to war and people might actually be killed, either by hostile action or simply by the hostile elements!

The day ended well, as although two helicopters had been lost, there had been no casualties and all the soldiers had finally been recovered onboard HMS Antrim. The events of the day would ultimately see the helicopter pilot from HMS Antrim receive a high award for bravery and skill in flying his helicopter.

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