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HMS Forth honours 1982 heroes with anniversary tribute in the Falklands

22 May 2020

HMS Forth commemorated the sacrifices made 38 years ago to the day at the scene of the amphibious landings during the Falklands War of 1982.

Under the cover of darkness on May 21, 1982, the British Amphibious Task Group advanced into San Carlos Bay, where soldiers and Royal Marines came ashore and the ground campaign to re-take the islands began.

That attempt prompted an all-out response and frigates HMS Ardent and HMS Antelope were sank – the latter famously blew up as experts tried to defuse an unexploded bomb.

On the 38th anniversary, Forth – the Falkland Islands Patrol Vessel – followed in the wake of the heroes of that day to commemorate the sacrifices made.

At anchor in San Carlos Bay – in the vicinity of the wreckage of HMS Antelope – Forth’s ship’s company took part in a poignant wreath-laying ceremony.

For many on board, like Able Seaman El-leigh Neale, 21, this is the first time operating in the Falkland Islands.

He said: “It was an honour to take part in the wreath laying and a privilege to be able to pay our respects. Moments like this really re-iterate why we do what we do and provides a real sense of purpose to operating in the South Atlantic.”

On that day, passing under Fanning Head and past Chancho Point, the British Task Group began the successful beach landings, which would mark the start of the land campaign of the Falklands War. 

What followed on ‘Landing Day’ was an intense and bloody day of fighting for the supremacy of this vitally important stretch of water and was later referred to by Admiral Sir Sandy Woodward as 'a day which by any standards had tested once more the courage, the will to fight and the years of training of the Royal Navy'.

This time of year is always a time of reflection for those deployed in the Falkland Islands with Forth being in a unique position to patrol areas such as San Carlos Bay that were key battlegrounds during the conflict in 1982. 

The harsh environment in which the ship operates throughout the year also provides the sailors on board with an acute understanding of the difficulties faced by their forebears. 

A factor not lost on Petty Officer Birchall, 38, who spoke during the remembrance ceremony itself.

PO Birchall said: “Being here in the notorious and confined waters of ‘Bomb Alley’ brings home the reality of the many obstacles sailors had to overcome during the conflict. 
“It shows the incredible skill that was required by both sides to operate under such conditions where the environment and weather favoured nobody.” 

Under the unique circumstances of the present COVID-19 restrictions, the ceremony was conducted with full social distancing measures in place. 

However, such restrictions did not detract from the remembrance, nor hinder the ship’s company’s determination and commitment to carry out this duty. 

Lieutenant Commander Edward Munns recently assumed command of Forth in April 2020 and, having previously served as the Executive Officer in her predecessor HMS Clyde, he is fully aware of the importance of such events to both those at home and his sailors.

“Remembering those that came before us is always important and is especially moving when operating on a warship 8,000 miles away from our home and loved ones,” he said.

“Ceremonies such as this are a privilege to take part in, providing sailors with an opportunity to represent veterans around the world and to reflect on the courage and sacrifices of our predecessors and the struggles they endured.”     

It was an honour to take part in the wreath laying and a privilege to be able to pay our respects. Moments like this really re-iterate why we do what we do and provides a real sense of purpose to operating in the South Atlantic.

Able Seaman El-leigh Neale

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