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HMS Clyde flies the Commando Logistics flag

4 October 2016
The flag of the Commando Logistics Regiment flutters in the strong South Atlantic breeze as the Falklands mist all but devours HMS Clyde.

This is Ajax Bay, location of Red Beach in May 1982 where the liberation of the islands began in earnest, site of the legendary field hospital dubbed the ‘Red and Green Life Machine’ and, when the sound of battle faded, location of a small memorial cairn.

On a nine-day island-hopping patrol of the British Overseas Territory she guards permanently, HMS Clyde returned to monuments to those killed freeing the Falklands from Argentine occupation 34 years ago.

Few memorials are more remote than that erected to destroyer HMS Sheffield, fatally damaged when she was hit by an Exocet missile; she became the first British warship lost in action since World War 2.

Patrolling these beautiful islands is Clyde’s primary mission and I’m very glad we got so many of my sailors ashore to meet the people that we’re here to protect.

Lieutenant Commander Conor O’Neill.

She is honoured on the nearest island, Sea Lion, off the south coast of East Falkland and renowned for its wildlife.

Fourteen sailors managed to wade ashore – kelp and breaking surf meant their boat could get no closer than 30ft from the shore – where they were immediately surrounded by the local sea lion populace which was keen to protect its new-born pups.

They were also treated to the sight of killer whales barely 15ft from the beach circling for food.

“Luckily, they were a lot further down the beach than our landing point,” said Engineering Technician (Marine Engineering) Moray Horn from Bo’ness in Scotland.

“To see them so close was astounding – a memory I’ll never forget.”

Having navigated their way around a colony of penguins and watched elephant seals scrap on the sand, the sailors reached the Sheffield monument on the south-western cliff top and carried out basic maintenance before formally paying their respects.

Next stop, about 100 miles sailing away, was tiny Port Howard, gateway to the second largest of the 770-plus islands in archipelago, West Falkland.

It’s the largest of the settlements on the island, home to 30 of its 144 inhabitants, plus the vital ferry link and a small airstrip.

Clyde’s crew were hosted by locals and shown around the museum, airfield and cemetery.

On the opposite side of Falkland Sound is the huge natural bay of San Carlos Water, exploited in 1982 as the site of the main amphibious landings.

Still standing – and still covered with contemporary graffiti – is the field hospital; wandering around the ruins proved motivational for HMS Clyde’s Leading Medical Assistant Will Randall.

“Seeing the ‘Red and Green Life-saving Machine’ cemented my understanding of an operation far from home, where training and skill saved so many casualties and prevented further loss of life," he said.

“The story of those who worked there is truly inspirational and definitely a place for all members of the medical branch to visit and appreciate.”

After time to reflect on the sacrifices made in 1982 at San Carlos Cemetery, where 14 of the 255 British casualties are laid to rest, the shore party was invited for cake and tea by landowners Gerald and Doreen for cake and tea.

“Patrolling these beautiful islands is Clyde’s primary mission and I’m very glad we got so many of my sailors ashore to meet the people that we’re here to protect,” said Clyde’s Commanding Officer Lieutenant Commander Conor O’Neill.

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