Ships Diary: 22.05.82 -> 31.05.82
Ships positions 22nd May Early morning drop off of SBS thanks to Ginge (Mark Offord ) for the information
San Carlos Water 22nd May (Malcolm Smith)
San Carlos Photo Courtesy
Smudge (Tony Smith)
Sat 22/05/82 (Grahams Diary Extract)
We have moved into the inlet
called San Carlos water. This where most of the landing craft came in it?s quite
sheltered and now has several Rapier land to air missiles on the headlands and
hills overlooking the bay. We went to action stations at 11.30 and we had several
false alarms in the morning and into the afternoon. It was only in the late
afternoon around 17.00 that an air raid started coming in. This time none of
them came really close thank god Again we were very pleased to see the dark.
Around 20.00 we were told to go and search for a merchantman to the South of
San Carlos Photo Courtesy Jed Stone
22/05/82 (Taff)Take SBS in for raid, landed by boat went OK. Landing by Helo aborted at 0500.
Z 2118072 MAY 82
FM HMS BRILLIANT
TO CTG 317.8
5 CASUALTIES NONE SERIOUS
FEW HOLES STBD SIDE
0 211850z MA Y 82
FM HMS BRILLIANT
TO CTG 317.8
INFO CTF 317
1. DAMAGE DUE TO CANNON STRAFFING AND CLOSE BOMB
BURSTS LIMITED TO OPS ROOM, FWD SEA WOLF TRACKER, NO2
NAV AL STORE, CPO MESS, 2016 SONAR, AND
2. ALL HOLES TEMPORARIL Y :BLOCKED, POWER RUNS BEING
REINSTATED TO FWD SEA WOLF SYSTEM
3. 5 CASUALTIES NONE SERIOUS (SHRAPNEL CUTS)
02210352 MAY 82
FM HMS BRILLIANT
TO CTG 317.0
1. CLOSER INSPECTION REVEALS 16 BITS FROM LARGE
CALIBRE CANNON AND BOMB NEAR MISS EXPLOSIONS.
A. FWD SONAR INSTRUMENT SPACE ABOVE WATER LINE
B. WARDROOM STORE ABOVE WATERLINE
C. FOXTROT ONE ELECTRICAL DISTRIBUTION CENTRE (3
D. WARDROOM BATHROOM (3 HITS)
E. NO 2 NA V AL STORE
F. NO 4 AND 8 ATU AND POWER CABLE RUNS (3 HITS)
G. OPERATIONS ROOM
H. SEA WOLF TRACKER OFFICE
I. CPO'S MESS
J. FWD SEA WOLF LAUNCHER
2. DAMAGE INCLUDES:
2016 SONAR RUNS, FWD SEAWOLF RUNS, FWD FUEL FITTING
MAIN , FWD FRESH WATER MAIN , SONAR CHILLED WATER, 19
VENT FAN (OPS AREA AND CAAIS), 19 COOLER, SFC FOR
STEERING GEAR, GWS25 LOOM TO LAUNCHER, EXOCET
CABLES, FWD DEGAUSING .
3. ALL HULL HOLES PLUGGED. SEA WOLF RECEIVING
PRIORITY FOR RESTORATION OF AS MUCH CAPACITY AS
POSSIBLE. DOWNSTREAM EFFECT HAS BEEN LOSS OF CAAIS
AND CONSEQUENT INABILITY OT OPERATE SEA WOLF IN ANY
OTHER MODE OR TO CONTROL CAP AIRCRAFT
0212025Z MAY 82
FM HMS BRILLIANT
TO CTG 317.8
1. THREE CASUALTIES TRANSFERRED TO CANBERRA.
2. DAMAGE INSPECTION REVEALS MESSY DAMAGE TO FWD
SEA WOLF CABLE RUNS AND EXOCET RUNS AND ALSO 2016
SONAR CABLES, REGRET RE-RUNS WILL NOT BE EASY AND
WILL PROBABL Y TAKE SEVERAL DAYS.
3. AFTER SEA WOLF (EXCEPT PORT TDS SIGHT) AND ALL
RADAR SYSTEMS OPERATIONAL. OTHER PROBLEMS MINOR.
Damage to chaff locker (Thanks
to Fred Ellot)
Sun 23/05/82 (Grahams Diary)
Early this morning us and
Yarmouth tried to stop a small merchantman by firing across her bows, so that
the SBS could then be taken by helicopter to overpower the crew. The small boat
kept going and finally ran aground and the occupants ran off so we left it.
We then returned to the main force who are a 100 miles off the island to carry
out repairs. This has given us a chance to relax slightly, butwe still had a
suspected air raid come in this afternoon but nothing came of it. The electricians
are working around the clock on our systems and everything is going well. We
had a RAS this morning so I was able to some fresh air. I also took some photographs
. The only thing that happened this evening is that one of our Sea Harriers
blew up Quite near. We are searching for wreckage now until 04.00 Some more
raids have taken place where we were yesterday and some ships have sustained
major damage, but quite a umber of there aircraft have been brought down. HMS
Antelope another type 21 has got a bomb embedded on board which they are trying
to diffuse, and Broadsword had a bomb go off 50 yds from her .
23/05/82 (Taff)Another quiet day (not that I'm complaining). Had mail today. Suppose to be going for repairs soon then it will be back in the front line again, it appears from all the Papers that every other ship except us is getting a mention, gets up your nose a bit considering Brilliant and Plymouth are the two ships to be involved in near on everything that has happened down here, still so long as we get home in one piece who cares!!!!!! Change of plan again we are staying with the Main Force tomorrow, Admiral fears an all out Air Strike, we can't rely on Seawolf so I don't know what will happen???????
(11am) - up at 0400 (Laon)
What happened on D-day (overleaf) and it went to plan with the exception that Broadward was to the North and we were to the south of the sound.
Your birthday/Fri 21st/D-day was the longest day of my life! I had ordered that we have the A/C control frequency readily available in the Ops room, more out of interest to know what was going on than anything else and ended up doing two days of fight control (Fri & Sat) when Antrim couldn't cope. In addition to that signal, A/C under my control splashed 4 Mirage and damaged another 3 Sky Hawks and 1 Pucara. None of the A/C under my control were damaged by Enemy A/C but the no.2 to "Sharky Ward", CO of 800 Sqdn Harriers - Invincible was hit by a ground based missile. He ejected safely but was captured by the Argis.
In short, in that one day we reduced by 25% the total number of serviceable Arg A/C! Quite a thought. However, it was not that easy. As you see from the signal we succeeded in our aim of defending the very vulnerable landing force but mainly by offering ourselves as the target!
The doubts about the forward system were shown to be correct and additionally, the extreme proximity of the land caused such difficulties that no engagements were made with the after system either (and this despite all the alternative drills we had been practising!). The damage to our force was: Antrim hit by bomb aft which luckily did not explode. Argonaut two bombs in board did not explode but required "careful" removal. Broadward cannon and machine gun fire into lynx helicopter, made holes in flight deck and damage in hanger. Aircrew hurt but no deaths. Ardent (the best of the T21! - by a long way) was hit by two bombs aft which did go off and after having a fireball explosion she burnt uncontrollably, the crew abandoned ship and she has now sunk. 20+ men died and a further 30 were injured. We were cannoned and machine gunned with hits in the CPO mess/offices heads and showers/Ops Room/sea wolf surveillance office/funnel 3" ready use locker etc.
In the Ops room (while I was controlling 4 aircraft!) there was one hell of a bang. I was hit on the left-shoulder by a small piece of shrapnel. PO Desmond has a large piece concuss him by passing across his scalp and then breaking a hole the size of an old penny piece in a cabinet. There were some other injuries as well and all of those requiring further investigate were flown off to Canberra. I'm totally ok.
To give you a feel for the situation their Sky Hawks were hunting in 4's and Mirages in 6's! All low level and pretty frightening. I'm sure that the ships company were getting pretty fed up not being able to fire sea wolf.
When darkness finally came I was almost worn out but delighted to have escaped so lightly. That night however there was no rest because we were sent off to conduct an SBS insertion by ship and boat near to a suspected airstrip right in the west of the island. Saturday morning started with me going to bed at 5am and up at 8.30am missing breakfast - your chocolate came in v. handy! The problem with this portion food control and then "action" messing is that one can't really afford to miss a meal! However, sometimes sleep becomes more important!
And so then Saturday (yesterday) - a quiet day but with a lot of CAP A/C to control. Broadsword with Coventry went to the west as advanced picket and this provided a 3 way platform across the Falklands with us in the sound and the carriers (yes you've guessed!) well to the East. I sometimes kept control of CAP and sometimes passed them to Coventry for control. This worked pretty well and certainly towards the end of the day, the fire control radar certainly caused a 6 Mirage raid to turn back. We never saw the 2 A/C Sky Hawk raid after its initial detection until it flew over head in poor visibility (where we had all hidden) in Grantham Sound.
Despite my closing two pairs of Harriers - one pair to the north and one pair to the south of the Falkland sound - I never held their Sky Hawks on radar but this was probably because we were in a bowl of hills. This did appear to be a token gesture by the Argis who are obviously under great pressure to maintain their pressure on us. We watch with "interest" to see if their navy will get involved noting that it was their naval CinC who started it all! I suspect the Air Force will be pretty sad with the navy soon and the army even madder once all our troops start moving - I note they supposedly have 4000 men ready to re-inforce the Falklands garrison but they have no way of getting heme here!
I believe the Argentineans are currently sending the rest of their air force down to the southern airbases and presume this is to mount another massive air attack as they did on 21st.
A couple of other things happened yesterday. Firstly a CAP A/C under my control proceeding to station on south coast saw an Argentinean FPB which he and his chum then straffed and sunk. Last night between 3-6am we chased a Falkland fishing boat which had been commandeered by the Args. The Lynx came under heavy fire initially and wanted to put two sea skua missiles into it but was told not to as it belonged to an islander. Instead Yarmouth and Brilliant pursued it inshore above until it beached itself in a mass of weed (called Kelp). We fired 4.5 and 40/60 warning shots at it and I gave the boat instructions on VHF radio. After beaching we saw two "boats" come away from the fishing boat and then coming towards us. We sent a troop of SBS to deal with it and them but the boats turned out to be life rafts. These were empty and we sank them. We left the fishing boat aground, partly because of the kelp and partly because of it being a local's boat. Also it was rather too close to dawn and we felt a little vulnerable on the south coast. We are now (as I write) back with the Carrier Group well out to sea - a lot of cable runs are around the ship to make up for that damaged. It is currently intended to go out of area to the east and get "patched up" and generally repaired in safety before being used again.
Having been away for a while and dashing about in the meantime we were down to 38% fuel but have just completed a RAS so now back to 100% fuel and aviation fuel.
This war is (really) and absurd war. It is likely that the casualties will be out of all proportion to the value of the islands. Brilliant will certainly never be "pretty" again. One listens to the claim and counter claims by the Press and the ridiculous things the Argentineans are saying ! The world service of the BBC/radio newsreel etc are very good particularly those at 1300/1500/1800 it rather sounds as if TV is its usual biased self.
I would like you to know that I have taken S-L's cherry blossom as a "focus to life" or lucky charm. I "touch" it every day when I think we are going into action as a reminder of what I have back home. I remember you all with love and affection then, and it steels my resolve to return again.
I'm glad the Pope has decided to go to Britain after all - Him not doing so would have represented a coup for Argentina.
San Carlos Sir Bedivere (IWM)
Mon 24/05/82 (Grahams Diary)
Morning Have just found
out that Antelope bomb has gone off, ships company have been evacuated to other
ships and she is on fire and sinking, and has probably sunk now. The ships still
left in the island area have been coming off very badly two of the Sir Galahad
ships have been it by bombs. The ironic thing about it all is that the bombs
are British made and a lot of them are not going off, shows British workmanship
for you, but lucky for us. We reckon another 7 aircraft were brought down yesterday,
the Rapier land based anti aircraft missile system is fully set up ashore now
so they are helping a lot. The two ships that are coming out the best so far
and have no damage at all is Plymouth and Yarmouth the two oldest ships down
here. They have also had there fair share in bringing aircraft down. Think some
of the Harriers are bombing Port Stanley as often as they can trying to stop
them from repairing the air strip. The only incident we had after the days of
air raids was a harrier jump jet got into trouble near the carriers and exploded
in mid air, our Sea Wolf system is meant to be fully operational now although
our exocet system still needs a lot of work on it due to shrapnel damage. Most
of our holes have been either bunged or welded and we are nearly back to new.
HMS Antelope damaged on the 23rd of May sank on the 24th (IWM)
Photo Courtesy Steve Birch (Bansai)
24/05/82 (Taff)Not in San Carlos Waters, but hear that the lads took a pounding and I've not heard the details, but Antelope got hit, 1 Dead, 5 injured. Ship on fire, unexploded bomb onboard. Splashed 6 Aircraft, I possible?
Although we went to Action Stations several times yesterday, and there is almost a desperation among the Argentineans to attack the landing force and the carrier group, the tension out here's no where near the same as that ashore. In the AOA (Amphibious Operating Area) we were at action stations from 11am to 8pm everyday. That means everybody as their post all that time. This is very wearing on the nerves!
Last night, there was utter pandemonium in the carrier group when a massive explosion occurred close to the north. We suspected a tanker of having been torpedoed and ships were making emergency turns in all directions while the warships struggled to cross "towards the bearing "cross-cut" to investigate. To keep the story short, it turned out to be a Sea Harrier in recovery to Hermes after a night bombing raid. Seemingly a 1000lb bomb exploded underneath and the subsequent fireball lit up the night sky. As we were stationed in close company to Hermes it was not surprising that we were first on the scene. I'm not sure what we were expected to achieve, but we were ordered to stay to search the area (from 11.30pm) to 0400 and until wreckage was found - Not surprisingly no wreckage was found and we are now rejoining the Carrier group.
I have included a signal from Broadsword attempting to realign the Admirals air defence policy and offer some air defence (in depth) to our ships in that anchorage. You will notice that many of my thoughts are expressed there. JC decided not to send any signal on his concerns and instead went to Broadsword to discuss my/our views. Broadsword herself delayed signalling for 2½ days but yesterday was undoubtedly too much even for "gentleman" Bill Canning. It appeared that Antelope had her main mast "knocked off" by one 1000lb bomb and another went into the ship but did not explode. I have (just 0800) been told that while attempting to defuse this it exploded and the ship is now sinking and there must be many casualties.
My anger with Woodward is that until pressed v. hard he has steadfast refused to put any air defence assets up threat preferring to keep them all with the carrier group for its defence. The carriers are kept at such a range that the CAP A/C have a long way to transmit before ever with the ships, cannot manage much up threat and have little fuel for actual combat while there.
It is my belief that the Replacement/Reinforcement group arrives today (Bristol etc etc) and I'm going to be v. interested to see if the Admiral tries to keep them as well.
Now MAIL that most important
of subjects. It was the original intention that we should be sent out of the
threat area to "get repaired" for later action. The Admiral has however
(perhaps not surprisingly) decided that despite our having an unreliable computer
system we are to stay to defend the Flagship! This means of course that for
50% of any day (at least) we cannot take the systems off line to let the WEs
have them and so our repair will be delayed. We have a large number of emergency
cable runs about now as a temporary patch to the problem and a lot of wiring
will be required to get us top line. Antrim who managed to get an unexploded
bomb off her is going for repair and may take mail with her so I'm trying to
get this letter finished and it off to her by then.
I received two letters form
you yesterday. One dated the 22 April and one the 10 May! As I note all of your
letters, that 5 to 9 inclusive are somewhere else. The problem of going/coming
from the Main Group (which we have been doing all the time) is that we tend
to miss store/mail etc. Our "missing" mail was sent into the AOA for
us and is in the RFA Stromness!
Your letter of 22 Apr
I dare not hope for promotion, let alone at a fixed date because I (and you) know how heartbroken I would be if it then did not happen - I do know however that a cap is v. expensive! Perhaps you would let me repay you in some way? (of my choice!)
Your letter of 10 May
I think that with my replying to your letters, as I receive them that you will see I am getting your letters 0 which are a life line under these trying and frustrating circumstances. Mike Simmonds (wife Vivian) showed me pictures of his daughters - v. sweet but not as beautiful as mine! Mike has shown himself v. cool in a crisis and taking the whole thing very well. I have accused him of taking notes of how we are reacting to stress which he did not deny!
Poor Suzie - she is right of course - we should attack these Argentinean A/C on the ground. Politically, of course this is not acceptable. There was a clandestine raid by helicopter using SAS which failed to attack Rio Grande. You will have heard reports of a helicopter found burnt out on the mainland - neither "we" nor "they" are saying anything about it but we all know and perhaps more important it is causing them strain in the mainland to think we might try again.
I would like you to thank Helen for her card - it was nice of her to write. Please explain that I am only writing to you and why.
What else can I say? The Argis have suffered severe Air losses but we must do better and would if well commanded.
I think of you all and dream of being with you all again.
I remain - Yours forever.
All my Love,
(A big hug and kiss for my girls from me please! xx)
Commenced 24 May 8am
This running note may be v. boring to read but most convenient to write as I can stop/start whenever I have a little spare time. I feel it is most important to record how things are/were! When this is read it will serve as a graphic account of the war in detail and hopefully its human angle. It is not my intention to write history, but it may well be important to reflect the poor quality of those in Senior Command.
The ineffectiveness/fickleness of the Sea Wolf missile and its restricted ability in confined waters are no joke. It is now a joke (but pretty poor one) that we are here to defend the Sea Wolf! I am now in no doubt that we were terribly lucky the other day for, after Sea Wolf failed to engage the A/C we opened up with 40/60 (short range gun) and machine gun.
We missed the A/C but hit the 1000lb bomb after it had been released. It exploded in the air and, apart from showering the ship in shrapnel, (some v. nasty indeed) failed to damage us - Had this hit us, I hesitate to even think what might have happened! - I wonder, should I tell of these things? But what merit if I did not? The important thing is that we scraped though and live to fight another day.
The person I was most concerned about was the Captain as he has this sublime belief that it will be alright on the day despite the fact that it is very wrong at the time. After the second day when I had to be v. pointed to get the ship stationed in a position of some geographic safety I told WEO v. firmly that he was to report the state of his weapons systems factually and not spiced with "rosy glow" - ("We'll probably have that fixed before the next air raid "). I made it quite plain that he (WEO) would be responsible for keeping us in area and not fully able to defend ourselves.
With great reluctance the Captain then declared the full list of our re-wiring requirements and we were hauled off (albeit to defend the Carriers initially!) to work on the required repair in a less hostile environment. I can understand the Captain not wanting to leave the landing ships "defenceless" by us leaving but I told him that unless he could have a reasonable confidence in his weapons systems then we were simply offering ourselves as a target in lieu. As if to prove the point the system failed 3 times on the next raid while it was in progress!
It had certainly become a stupid situation when, during an air attack men armed themselves and went on upper desk to shoot at the A/C in preference to being down below, where they could only wait, not fire back and might well suffer shrapnel damage from the cone of the blast on detonation.
I hasten to say I do not feel in any way guilty or cowardly in recommending this - I do feel that the Group must complement each others systems and not have the first threat to the Argentinean Air force to be close range weapons systems - this to me is a singular admission of failure and total lack of grip of the Aim to provide adequate air defence to the Amphibious Forces. Coventry today by simply turning her fire control radar on the Mirage raids made them turn away and indeed go home for they do not have much fuel to manoeuvre so far from home.
Despite the appalling and unnecessary losses and damage to our frigates we have made a major inroad into the Argentinean Air force capability. They still have a lot of Skyhawk A/C and so there is certainly a need for us to do more yet but, with the logic of "taking the war to the Enemy" we can easily do this. It does require T42's and the Cap A/C to be more up threat however.
There is one major advantage to the separation of Captain Black (Invincible) and the Admiral (Hermes) for they have to talk on covered voice communications and we can all "listen in". Black is a most sensible man and I have agreed with everything he has said and proposed. In my view, it is a pity he is not commanding the forces here. One can certainly sense his frustration as he repeatedly tries to get his v. good ideas through to this "submarine idiot" whose prize remarks about, "Were learning all the time" is certainly getting though to me - He should already have known - I attribute the loss of Sheffield to him for stupid and unnecessary stationing and force positioning within known Etendard / Exocet range.
The frigate losses are also his by his paranoia of defending the Carriers with T42's which should be up-threat defending the AOA! He really can't have it both ways, he either keeps the Carriers well out of range or brings them closer to better use his A/C with good defence in depth by T42 escorts - he can't (with conviction!?) be both out of range and keep all the T42's!!
Glasgow has suffered poor mechanical problems and her Captain is obviously trying to get her home - in the short term he has been sent to one of the repair vessels and I can't see them getting into the thick of the battle again.
It is amazing how the ships company bounce back but the tension is not far from their eyes. The difference in stress from being in the AOA to being with the carriers is immense. Enough of this gloom but I feel it important for my thoughts to be "on the record".
One wonders when will all
this end - The Admiral says we may need to maintain forces here for 3 years!
Having an exciting time wish you were here or rather wish I were there. Things have really hotted up now, us the Ardent Argonaut Broadsword antrim escorted the troop ships in. there were quite a few air attacks and we were strafed by a Mirage definitely bad news as since its chippy's part of the ship so muggins here has spent the past few days blocking all the holes up. Mind you it does have its advantages one hole was in the officers wine store one piece of shrapnel pierced a bottle of liqueur (tasty stuff). The damage wasn't too bad a few burst pipes and cables severed. Most of which has been repaired. Were now out with the carrier group to get our Sea wolf fixed, and also to protect the carriers since an air raid is expected.
I think I can do without this sort of excitement I would rather go trout fishing.
The foods getting a lot better, although some rather weird menus. Breakfast this morning consisted of tea roll bacon beans fish fingers and kippers and pineapple chunks. Pears yesterday. I could take quite a liking to this tinned fruit. They do it because during daylight hours we only have soup or pot mess. so that it can easily be stowed during an air attack. Last night was a bit tense, Action stations were piped around ten o'clock after an underwater explosion was heard plus a bang and a flash in the sky. It was thought that the Hermes had been hit by a torpedo. What actually happened was a harrier blew up with a full bomb load we don't know the reason yet. It was a shame about the blokes on the SeaKing that all ditched we were on the upper deck looking for survivors and picked up seven. A couple of them had been in the heli that ditched on South Georgia, twice in one month poor devils.
I don't think what we are doing is wrong in fact I believe its right. But when your oppo's carried off in stretchers it make you think how stupid it is for 20,000 blokes to be sent off killing each other, not because they have any animosity towards each other but because in the infinite wisdom of a few government officials it would be politically advantageous. Mankind is sick. This time Britain is in the right and the job has to be done. In the past we haven't had such a rosy hue, on some occasions. Sorry I'm speech writing again.
Having a sense of humour is a necessity in situations like these, you would crack up otherwise. It relieves the tension to laugh about something. Walking about with a sad head on will do no good. You get a bit hacked off sometimes but not for too long. It's quite an experience and I'll learn a lot about myself but it's a helluva school to learn in. We have just heard the antelope sunk. An unexploded bomb was being diffused I don't think there will have been many hurt; they have abandoned her except for the disposal experts. The only reason we were in the sound was to draw off the aeroplanes from the troops. Well it certainly worked, a dammed high cost, I know what its like to be canon fodder now.
Nearly 10.00 and still the chippy hasn't called for me mail is going off at lunch time so maybe he too is writing a few maileys.
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We pulled out and went back
to carriers chased a motorboat first didn?t sink it because if hostages on board
It beached itself in the kelp. They just finished putting Sea Wolf back in order
Coventry hit in danger of sinking Broadsword hit aft Suicide alley we call the sound they deserve the fluffy teddy now
Broadsword still talking on the radio not a sound from Coventry Antelope sunk yesterday
Action Stations Super Entards came out from behind islands 2 exocet fired hit Atlantic Conveyor Sinking Spent the night up to about 2300 picking up survivors from a raft dead men floating in the water we picked up 24 out of the life raft ---picked up 92 A lot of equipment gone down with that ship. The Coventry and Broadsword asked to be allowed out to 25 Miles because islands causing too much of an echo Admiral said no ?what cost? Is there a god not a chance. The flames of the ship burning can be seen 25 miles away A beautiful clear night the milky way in the sky the ship burning on the horizon so bloody futile Pacific sent out tonight rope caught prop tore it off. Boat was swamped it flooded the engine compartment. Starter done for possibly alternator .We took a bucketful of water out of the sump Ops room saw missiles launched from 26 miles away tracked them until they hit we were just 5000 yds to short to hit them. At least we know we can track them so there?s a good chance of hitting them if it works. Don?t know what?s happening tomorrow possibly taking Broadswords place (great) back to the shooting gallery
End of action stations,
Go to the upperdeck carrying an emergency light,
inky black night,
looming dark ship burning aft,
see the skipper one glance, understanding
Liferaft in the water scrambling net over the side.
beam the light onto orange plastic gently floating by, save him,
Atlantic Conveyor Immediatley after attack
Atlantic Conveyor (Plymouth) Steve Birch (Bansai)
Tue 25/05/82 (Graham)
Another bad day for us all
a very bad day it started off quiet enough, in the morning visibility was down
to a matter of feet due to fog also into the late afternoon it was quiet . Then
came a signal heads up west, meaning we knew of aircraft taking off from Argentina
on route to the islands and us. We had intelligence saying that they would try
for the carriers as it was independence day back in Argentina. Broadsword and
Coventry came under attack and brought down some aircraft been hit badly and
was in danger of sinking or capsizing. There have been what we believe to be
a lot of injuries and many are missing I only hope my friend Willie Preiestly
has got out, alright. Broadsword who had our helicopter on deck had a bomb smash
through the helicopter trough part of the flight deck and out the ships side
without exploding lucky noone was injured. While the rescue attempt were being
carried out on Coventry two low aircraft were spotted at about 26 miles away
from the force. They released Exocet missiles at 23 miles All the ships fired
Chaffe which is just bits of silver paper it worked for a second but the missiles
locked on again straight into the stern of the Atlantic Conveyor. Our weapon
systems locked onto both the missiles and tracked them all the way in but they
were unable to engage them because they were out of range. She was on fire within
minutes of being hit and it was getting dark we were told to get in as close
as we could and pick up people in liferafts. We picked up a life raft with about
24 in while we were doing this about five floated past, they looked dead a couple
had put there survival suits on wrong and were floating feet up. I think they
were picked up by helicopter. It was a terrible feeling knowing it could have
been you and so it goes on.
25/05/82 (Taff)Quiet start again but we can't relax, Antelope SUNK, San Carlos Waters took another battering, Covenrty SUNK, Broadsword damaged (no details)
Continues Tuesday 25 May
All was quiet overnight - I went to bed at 10 and found I'd had too much sleep at 4! I'm reading (more off than on) David Niven's latest book "Go slowly, come back quickly".
Well, today is the Argentinean
National Holiday celebrating the revolution - indeed, their Carrier is named
after it (25 de Mayo) we have had intelligence that the Arg's may, as a result
try to attack the Carrier Group on whom the whole operation hinges. They want
to use their Etendard + Exocet missile which, after the Sheffield incident worry
(a) they have a limited stock of them and
(b) there are a lot of ships in the carrier group so the chance if being the right one is pretty small.
Also the detail of the Sheffield attack was that there were 3 A/C + missiles - 1 hit Sheffield / 1 failed to fire / 1 missed. If these statistics hold then it might not be too much of a problem (hopefully!)
The Admiral send the following signal to the Captain "I know that you would wish to be back sooner, but you and your people deserve a break after so much exertion. Make the most of the time to get fixed properly - perhaps I can rest a bit while you are away!" The gist of this is that all our temporary wiring which appears to have brought our forward Seawolf system online will be strengthened / made good and all holes made up.
We will be detached soon to an area out of the war zone for 3 days. I believe that this will be after the "intelligence" threat of today has passed. I walked round the ship today with Buffer + MAA - we are grubby in the corners and need a good wash down but could be worse when we go to "TARA" we should be able to open all the doors, get some fresh air in and give it a rub-a-dub.
This has been a very bad day. Broadsward and Coventry were operating some 10 miles south of Pebble Island and the Args launched a continuing stream attack on the Falklands - nothing was heard for a long time and little on the HF frequency between the ships.
The Args played it well. Some Pucara light A/C flew round Stanley at low level and baited our CAP which were then not in position to defend Broadsword and Coventry. We received a cry from Broadsword that Coventry was under attack and would probably need a tow and they required A/C urgently. A mass of A/C were then launched but because of the distance, too late. The latest indications are that Coventry has sunk and that Broadsword had been hit aft (not sure of amount of damage).
The Captain put the ship into defence watches at 7.30 but I stayed in the Ops Room and we had an EW detection of Etendard radar at about 7.40 then shortly after this an unknown contact to the NW. We then saw them - contacts double (obviously missile release) as the missiles started in. The system immediately acquired them and the T.V. monitors showed them heading some 5 miles NW of us toward the Atlantic Conveyor. The missiles were so close together they were both on the same T.V. monitor. They were v. low and v. fast. We saw them hit the middle of the "Conveyor" and the explosion seemed to go through her and out the other side.
It is now dark and we believe their will be no more air attacks!? Atlantic Conveyor is burning and a team from Invincible are flying across to see if they can help - survivors are in the water and the deed has been done.
The Args did well today. Three attacks and their execution were nigh on perfect. One wonders what one has to do - From an Ops Room reactive view point we did it all right - the system seemed to work perfectly and I believe would have taken the missile. Regrettably the "Conveyor" was outside the range of our protection.
At the end of the day one will have to justify the enormous loss of ships and of lives and now I'm wondering if the Admirals options have now closed on him and even if we can win.
Let me say the heart rate
doubles on every attack and the grey hairs multiply! Glory be, we are still
here and still fighting - and indeed, still cheerful!
Photo's Courtesy Simon Stearman
Wed 26/05/82 (Graham)
Nothing much happened we
went to an area about 200 miles from the island for some minor damage repairs.
For a couple of days we had a bit of a rest and we saw some new films from the
ship that was repairing us the Stenna Seaspread. We also got a whole lot of
mail including a tape
We picked up 23 survivors from the Atlantic Conveyor last night and others picked up about 100, there are approx 15 missing believed dead, seems she never sank and some gear was salvaged but that's not confirmed. Broadsword is not too badly damaged and is back with the Main Force, bomb went through her flightdeck not exploding, no one was hurt. Coventry Sunk, approx 20 dead and 30 injured. My God it is costing us a lot of lives. Bristol Group joined us today, had mail, which cheered me up a little, felt really down, always on edge and it's beginning to get to me. RAS'd Fuel at 2230.
Where do we go from here? We are losing a ship a day and another being damaged. Yesterday we lost Coventry and the Atlantic Conveyor.
Coventry was seemingly hit by a mass air raid in the "middle" by a bomb, which, I believe, made her quickly capsize. As I write, we have no idea of her casualties but suspect they were considerable. There was a cry for more A/C support from Broadsword which was supplied - but too late.
The Atlantic Conveyor attack was seen clearly in the Ops Room. The missiles were targeted on Ambuscade who fired chaff which appeared to distract the two missiles. These then progressed and their homing heads located the Atlantic Conveyor who was defenceless. I saw the attacking A/C who briefly appeared on radar at 26 miles and fired at 24 miles. Our displacement from Hermes (who we were defending) was just over 1 mile and from Atlantic Conveyor then 4.5 miles. This was not sufficient displacement for us not to think the missiles were coming for us.
The system appeared to work well. We produced auto tracks and were acquired on both systems. We saw both missiles on the after T.V. monitor. They were flying v. low, fast and across us and we saw them hit "Conveyor". The fire rapidly went out of control and the crew abandoned ship into the life rafts. They were mostly wearing survival suits and in life rafts and we closed towards the area and alongside one life raft.
When we lowered the Pacific sea boat it was onto some dead bodies floating by! They looked so tragic, rather like "day-glow" dolls in their coloured suits and life jackets. Obviously, the cold water had been just too much. We rescued 24 and Alacrity 96 - Hermes 10 and so on. The final total and names are still being amassed.
On the sonar we could hear the explosions inside the ship and in the black of the night its sides melting with the heat into the sea. This ship had been about to go into the Amphibious Operating Area to load much needed stores, food, fuel, helicopters, bulldozers - A whole "tented City" for ground force Harrier operations etc - In short we could ill afford to have lost her in the shore battle for the Islands - let alone for the cost in lives involved.
Coventry had been operating with Broadsword north of Pebble Island - despite having stated that a T42 should operate no closer than 25 miles from land, Coventry was at 9 miles! On the second A/C attack, she passed across the Sea Wolf missile path and stopped Broadsword engaging! It's all if this had happened or if that . Yesterday the ifs went v. badly for us!
And what of today? We had the survivors of the Atlantic Conveyor on all day. They slept on camp beds in the wardroom last night - and were supposed to be flown of to British Tay this evening but a possible air raid developed and it all got cancelled, so they stay another night.
The nerves are pretty thin at the moment and to say I have black rings under my eyes would certainly be to understate the case! After the Exocet attack yesterday we are just a little rattled back here - it is a deadly missile and we have heard that Peru and Iraq (!) are selling them to Argentina - Also France is selling parts and South Africa some missiles.
There is a lot of money in war and a very useful test bed for new weapons systems. Its not too funny being on the end of them 'though. We were under surveillance from the Argentinean 707 and I must confess I insisted on our remaining at Action Stations until dark. This means that a lot of chaps miss a lot of sleep. If you are right, they all think "what a clever chap" if not they naturally grumble. After yesterdays attack however, there were not too many grumbles!
As I write I'm waiting (now 11.15pm) for another ship to finish a fuel replenishment before we commence - I expect to get to bed at about 2am - I might miss breakfast tomorrow and get up at 8!
Much more important, now that new ships have joined the group and Stromness rejoined after taking our mail to us in the AOA. I organized our helo to go to collect it all. It was in 4 different ships! Needless to say that
The Harriers have done amazingly well but they are terribly limited in range and rather tie us to limited maneuverability and sea room. Also they can't zoom about to react to a problem quickly or else they have no fuel when they get there. They are as good as the A/C control given to them and v. good once they get close - particularly at low level.
Mike Simmonds (our tame doctor) has settled in v. well. I've been using him as duty staff officer opposite Bob Davidson and so he had been v. aware of everything going on operationally which has pleased him.
The strain of Action Stations routine is mainly the lack of sleep and incredible heartbeat/dry mouth situation when one is under attack and anxious to do the right thing, not just for yourself but also for your shipmates.
Continued Thursday 27th: The RAS finished at 3am last night so I got up at 9.30 this morning - we have intelligence that the surface action group of the Arg Navy are to sail (perhaps this afternoon) to the Falklands. However, because of the of the damage done to our Exocet wiring we are not nominated as one of the pre-formed action groups against it. This was, I suppose, pretty inevitable, as the Args could hardly stay in "home waters" forever. Presumably they either thought their Air Force could win it alone or their aim was to weaken our surface forces before committal. Either way the removal of units from the AOA/Carrier Group is bound to weaken our overall defences We'll watch this space.
This war by press with arms dealers trying to come in with their latest weapons systems is pretty hard to take. It is a Politician's war however and they need to maintain their poll ratings and popular support and, as a result our strengths, weakness and intentions together with options appear to be a discussion point for the Args to gain valuable information.
How does one feel? Somewhat impotent - waiting - hoping - praying. But even more of being just small pawns on the table of International politics and intrigue.
Once we have our reinforcement troops from QE2 it will be over for the Args and we are close (within 2 weeks certainly) of major last ditch finish from them. They obviously feel v. strongly about all this with a fierce national pride. Their Air Force has suffered badly and if we can damage their Navy then things may change quickly.
My mind's at peace and
my spirit is with you all. Despite the "principles" involved and my
highly professional training I am revolted by this war. It's tragic loss of
life and how quickly it is lost - often not to the enemy at all but to the elements
(the dark, the tiredness and the sea).
Stenna Seaspread Photo Courtesy Jed Stone
Going back to the main Taskforce
this afternoon should get there by tomorrow morning. You heard that the Atlantic
conveyor went down, we picked up 24 survivors and one of the 21's picked up
92. Amazing some many survivors as two Exocet hit it. One guy we had on board
was 20ft away from where it entered the hull it didn't explode until later when
the fire caused by the second blew it up. The boys in the op's room tracked
it all the way in; we were just five thousand yards short to take it out with
Sea wolf. This repair ship we are by is a weird looking thing. Flat bottomed
three screws and two bow thrusters. It can keep within five meters of a ship
in a force 10. It looks hellish top heavy, the lads who came across said it
wasn't too bad at all stability wise.
29/05/82 (Taff)Spent last few days with Stena Seaspray, doing repairs and maintenance. Very quite, nice break, lots of hard work to do. Head South to Main Group some time today, R V with Force at midnight!! Good news concerning Troops ashore Darwin, Teal Bay, Douglas and Goose Green taken. Bad News 15 MEN lost doing it.
Refueling from MV British Tamar (Malcolm Smith)
RAS Fuel, detached to Suicide Alley with 4 Merchant Ships, hope to leave by 0500 tomorrow, went to A/S 1650 Air raid on Main force, possible Exocet Missiles, don't really know????
31/05/82 (Taff)Made it back OK from San Carlos Waters, but have to go in again tonight with another 4 Merchant Ships, should be out again before daylight, very quiet day thankfully!!
31/05/82 (Letter Home - Bill Oddy)Dear Mum and Dad