Tuesday, June 12, 2007

12 June a quarter century ago


Glamorgan is hit!

The night of 11/12 June, 1982, was a push to take the high ground around Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands. Lacking the expected transport to move troops from San Carlos water, soldiers and marines had yomped the distance to the mountains surrounding Port Stanley.

British ground forces were outnumbered and out-gunned by an entrenched Argentine enemy. This was compounded by the fact that British troops were suffering from various degrees of weariness having had to hump all of their gear to the start lines, largely on foot.

45 Royal Marine Commando had patrolled toward Two Sisters, west of Port Stanley, for a week and had been involved in several short, violent fire fights. On the night of 11 June, 45 RM Cdo left the start lines to take the Two Sisters.

Her Majesty's Ship Glamorgan, a County-class destroyer had already been exposed to action in the Falklands. She had been involved in the 1 May bombardment of Argentine positions at Port Stanley and had narrowly escaped being hit by two 500 bombs delivered by Argentinian Mirage aircraft. She withdrew from the Stanley gunline until after dark. Later that night, after returning to the gunline, she was fired at from Argentine shore batteries without effect. On 25 May, Glamorgan came under attack by Exocet missiles and, although not hit, was nearby when the Atlantic Conveyor and all her vital supplies were destroyed. As a reprisal for the loss of Atlantic Conveyor, that same night Glamorgan took position on the Stanley gunline and bombarded Argentine positions during which she was once again the target of enemy shore artillery and again, to no effect. On the 30th of May she came under heavy fire from ashore as she once again took a position on the gunline. Later that day she was once again attacked by Excocet missiles with no effect. By nightfall she was sent to relative peacefulness as the sole escort for the Towing Repair And Logistics Area, a convoy which replenished ammunition, fuel and food, and effected repairs on damaged ships about 200 miles away from the islands.

HMS Glamorgan had already earned her stripes when she was called back to the gunline to support the attack by 45 RM Cdo on the Two Sisters. And the gunline was a dangerous place, HMS Ardent having been sunk and HMS Plymouth seriously damaged while on station as naval gunfire support ships.

Glamorgan shared a fault with the previously sunk HMS Sheffield - the 965 radar. Good in its day, it was unable to detect surface skimming missiles like the Exocet.

Glamorgan's recall to the gunline was essential. The attack on the mountains around Port Stanley required as intense a naval bombardment as could possibly be mounted and Glamorgan had already proven her worth in such roles. She participated on the night of 11/12 June in putting 1500 rounds into enemy positions on the Two Sisters allowing 45 RM Cdo to take one of the main Argentinian defensive positions. To do it, however, she had to remain on station longer than expected and soon came under intense air attack. Once again, the attack failed.

Then, from an improvised launcher which had been stripped from an Argentine frigate and mounted on a trailer ashore, an Exocet missile made its way toward Glamorgan. Undetected by radar, it was sighted by the Officer Of The Watch who had 10 seconds to react. 18 miles from shore and proceeding at considerable speed, he performed an anti-torpedo maneuver by turning the stern of the ship in the direction of the missile. Offering as small a target to the missile as possible and unable to launch chaff decoys, at 06:37, Glamorgan was struck by the missile at an oblique angle on the stern. The warhead did not detonate but the missile ricocheted into the hangar, destroying the helicopter and one Seacat missile launcher, starting major fires in the hangar and the galley below.

Within 2 1/2 hours all the fires had been brought under control and Glamorgan was underway again. 13 of her ship's company were dead and 14 more wounded. Glamorgan, though seriously damaged and without a helicopter, hangar or main cooking facility, was still able to fight. And, given the desperate logistics situation which now faced the British task force, that she might be called upon for further action was a serious possibility.

At 7:30 PM the company of HMS Glamorgan buried their dead at sea. She would sail home under her own power, arriving in Portsmouth on the 10th of July after 104 days at sea and 54 underway replenishments.

I never sailed in HMS Glamorgan, but I did visit her years ago. And I spent a long night in cold piece of hell thanking those sailors for every bullet they delivered.

Beyond the ending: There are distinctly few people in the world who would understand the relief one feels upon, after an exchange of callsigns, hearing the phrase, "On station. Ready for call for fire."

Some of the fear vanishes.

The price paid by HMS Glamorgan for her involvement in The Battle of Two Sisters was high. While the ship survived, she incurred the highest casualty rate of any single British unit in the battle.

The following Glamorgan's were committed to the deep at 51 degrees 50.5 minutes South 52 degrees 31.2 minutes West:

Petty Officer Michael Adcock
Cook Brian Easton
Air Engineering Mechanic Mark Henderson
Air Engineering Mechanic Brian Hinge
Acting Chief Air Engineering Mechanic David Lee
Air Engineering Artificer Kelvin McCallum
Cook Brian Malcolm
Marine Engineering Mechanic Terrence Perkins
Leading Cook Mark Sambles
Leading Cook Anthony Sillence
Steward John Stroud
Lieutenant David Tinker
Petty Officer Colin Vickers

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