Part 4 23-29 May - Falklands Conflict Recollections 30 Years On By Veteran David Ramsden
6th June 2012
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Fri 23:Went to action stations for real, for the first time.  Hercules spotted us.  Action stations for 2 ½ hours.  Considered submarine threat.  Guppy EW.

After the events of yesterday, you can imagine my emotions when the ‘Action Stations’ alarm sounded unexpectedly for the first time, for real. Not accompanied by the usual ‘testing’ or ‘for exercise’ prefix and immediately followed by ‘Chaff’ being fired.

Chaff is the decoy system used to confuse enemy radar or missile systems. Canisters of aluminium foil strips would be fired ahead, astern and either side of the ship to create ‘blooms’, or radar reflective clouds which would create multiple radar contacts, simulating multiple targets, confusing the enemy surveillance radar or target acquiring radar into believing there was more than one target, hence confusing an incoming missile and hopefully causing it to miss the real target.

This sequence of events convinced me that we were under missile attack, generating a level of mild hysteria as I was about to pour a cup of coffee in the Wardroom. The Warfare Officers came in telling us that an Argentine Hercules aircraft had been detected on radar at quite long range and Chaff had been deployed to fool them into thinking our little squadron of ships was a much larger convoy! This went some way to calming the situation but nerves were beginning to stretch!

We remained at action stations for two and a half hours, having also detected the radar transmissions of a Guppy Class submarine, the type known to be used by the Argentinean Navy. So now we knew we had been detected and that the submarine threat was a real one!

Sun 25:RV Brilliant 0900 – Lynx recce spotted Guppy shallow.  Depth charged, when surfaced ours and Endurance wasp AS12 attack.  PM commenced NGS Gritviken 1315.  At 1615 white flag flew.Plymouth to Leith, 16 Marines would not surrender.  39 civvies. 1700 Heard that HMS Superb was sat under Vincento De Mayo(Arg aircraft carrier 25th May)

It was Sunday and it didn’t take long for things to escalate. Having rendezvoused with HMS Brilliant at 9am, the Lynx Helicopter from Brilliant spotted a Guppy Submarine just below the surface of the sea and an attack was launched. Having been depth charged by the Lynx, the submarine Santa Fe was forced to surface and wasp helicopters from HMS Endurance and ourselves pressed home the attack with AS12 air to surface missiles, damaging it to the point that its Captain decided to beach the stricken boat in shallow water close to the Argentinean stronghold of Gritviken.

At 1.15pm HMS Plymouth and Antrim formed a ‘Gunline’ and commenced shelling Gritviken. This was the first of many NGS (Naval Gunfire Support) actions we undertook during the conflict. Something I had been involved in several times previously for exercise but the real thing was somewhat different. The bombardment continued for three hours before the white flag was seen to be flying at the whaling station in Gritviken. The 39 Argentine civilians had given up but there were still 16 Marines holding out who would later be forced to surrender by our Special Forces ashore.

At 5pm this day we heard reports that the British Submarine HMS Superb was sat under Vincento De Mayo, the Argentine Aircraft Carrier. This was great news at the time but subsequently turned out to be a false report. The Carrier was never actually found and identified even though it was known to be at sea somewhere and expected to be seeking to attack the main Task Group as it steamed South.

Mon 26:At 2230 last night Marines finally surrendered.        0900 we went in and formally accepted the surrender.                2100 seems now like we have to transport POW’s to main task force.  39 civvies and 14 Marines.


The following morning HMS Plymouth dropped anchor in Leith Harbour and formally accepted the Argentinean surrender. The Officer Commanding the Argentine marines, Captain Astiz, was brought onboard and in a symbolic ceremony in the Wardroom, in the presence of Our Commanding Officer, Captain David Pentreath, the Captain of HMS Endurance and many of our ships company, the surrender was signed, captured on film and became one of the enduring newspaper images of the Falkland Conflict.

Unfortunately I was on watch, on the bridge at the time and missed the whole thing!

Having accepted the surrender, we brought onboard the remainder of the Argentinean contingent and turned the Junior Rates Dining Hall into a makeshift prison. Seeing the Argentinean prisoners up close and under armed guard in the main dining hall was a strange feeling. They were scruffy and dirty, a sorry looking bunch really. Their Commander, Captain Astiz spent some time talking to our First Lieutenant Iain Henderson, who said he seemed quite a decent chap but later, after the conflict, he was tried for War Crimes, apparently having committed atrocities during a previous campaign somewhere!

We spent the next few days steaming at speed, through heavy weather and in complete radio and radar silence to conceal our position, to join the main Task Force, still making its way South towards the Falkland Islands. It was around midday on 29th April we finally found them! 

The next day we spent long hours transferring personnel, stores and fuel to and from other ships.

We felt something of being the veterans already, since we had joined the ships heading South but already we had cut our teeth and carried out the first action of the conflict.


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