30 Years ago, in March 1982, fresh faced, eager, excited and full of anticipation, I climbed aboard my first ever commercial aeroplane, bound for the Mediterranean coast of France, the Warship HMS Aurora and my second job as a Royal Naval Officer.
I was designated Correspondence Officer and to take over in post during the following two weeks as we sailed back to Plymouth while taking part in a major NATO exercise. It was impossible to have known that within a fortnight I would have transferred ships several times and be embarking on a venture that would see me travel thousands of miles and encounter experiences, thoughts and emotions that would literally change my life for ever!
Having spent a few days in Sete, in the South of France, where Aurora was enjoying an official, visit complete with cocktail parties, ‘Ship open to visitors’ and the like, we sailed to Gibraltar to join the NATO exercise ‘Springtrain’, escorting a convoy of ships from the Mediterranean to the UK.
I had taken minimal kit, having expected to be in Plymouth just a few short weeks later but within 36 hours of sailing from Gibraltar, news of Argentinean activity around the Falkland Islands and a signal tasking Admiral Woodward with leading a Task Force South meant that I became a commodity in short supply, a qualified Bridge Watchkeeper, supernumerary in the ship I was serving. So I began to be shuffled from ship to ship, HMS Coventry, Antrim and finally HMS Plymouth where after leaving Ascension Island I spent the duration of the Falklands Campaign.
After sailing from Gibraltar on the 29th March, it would be 101 days before I once again walked on dry land, again in Gibraltar. During that time I would face, uncertainty on a daily basis, anticipation and anxiety in copious quantities and emotions and experiences that have surely left their mark on my character. You hear people talk about life changing experiences but I defy anyone to encounter an experience involving the realisation that death may be a realistic outcome and for it not to leave it’s mark. My Captain, David Pentreath wrote subsequently, that he was proud of his young ships company who had, in the previous weeks, ‘grown up considerably!’
I kept a brief diary of events from the moment I realised that it was going to be an experience the likes of which I had never had before and memorable entries include ‘Preparing for War’, the first time the ship went to ‘Action Stations’ for real, the first attack on an ‘enemy ship’, the surrender of South Georgia and taking prisoners on-board our ship, the sinking of the General Belgrano and HMS Sheffield, contemplating my fate and writing a will!
Along with many other notable entries, chronicling my 101 days at sea, from entering San Carlos Water for the first time, engaging the enemy at close quarters, witnessing ships being bombed and sunk, ‘Burial At Sea’ and ourselves becoming the victim of an air raid which left HMS Plymouth, wounded and on fire; to entering Stanley Harbour to coordinate the repatriation of sovereign territory.
While I recognise that British Forces have been in action regularly and consistently around the world in recent years, the events in the Falklands in 1982 were the first significant actions since the second World War and as such very unexpected, so I have written and will publish a more detailed blog describing my recollections of what has become known as ‘The Falklands Campaign’ and look forward to sharing my experience on Twitter @DavidVRamsden with anyone who takes interest.
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I am David Ramsden, owner of thebestof bolton.