A small party from Atlantic patrol tasking (South) HMS Portland have made a pilgrimage to First Mountain as part of a week of commemorations in the Falkland Islands to those who made the ultimate sacrifice in the 1982 conflict.
On the mountain’s eastern slope HMS Portland’s junior engineer Lyndin Burger saluted the Royal Navy’s fallen a few dozen miles from the spot where the wreck of HMS Coventry lies.
Before sailing for Pebble Island off the north coast of West Falkland, HMS Portland anchored in San Carlos Water with HMS Clyde – the Islands’ permanent patrol ship – and tanker RFA Black Rover – which provides fuel for Royal Navy vessels in the South Atlantic.
It was here, on May 21 1982, that soldiers and Royal Marines came ashore and the ground campaign to re-take the Falkland Islands from Argentine forces began.
That attempt prompted an all-out effort by Argentine air forces who sank frigates HMS Ardent and HMS Antelope – the latter famously blew up as experts tried to defuse an unexploded bomb.
To remember those sacrifices, a commemorative service was held at Blue Beach Military Cemetery attended by Commander Sarah West, Portland’s Commanding Officer, and members of her ship’s company, before an RAF Hercules flew over the anchored ships, dipping its wings in salute.
The acts of remembrance 30 miles to the northwest and Pebble Island, where HMS Coventry and frigate Broadsword were stationed on May 25 1982 to intercept incoming enemy aircraft, which they did until the Type 42 destroyer was fatally hit.
Portland’s Executive Officer, Lieutenant Commander Rob Brann, led a team of sailors to the to the simple but imposing memorial cross and cairn erected to the Coventry and the 19 men lost when she sank, with Engineering Technician (Marine Engineering) Burger laying a wreath on behalf of his comrades.
“I was extremely honored to lay a wreath at this memorial for our shipmates in HMS Coventry. It is important that we remember all those who died during the Falklands War,” he said.
Aboard HMS Portland, the ship’s padre, Reverend Matt Godfrey conducted services of remembrance which were attended by those who were unable to attend the services ashore.
The visits to the battlefields provided a solemn end to HMS Portland’s recent patrol of the UK’s South Atlantic territories which just a few days earlier found the Devonport-based frigate spending 48 hours anchored off Grytviken, ‘capital’ of South Georgia, some 850 miles from the Falklands.
The visit to the idyllic archipelago gave the ship’s company the opportunity to explore the abandoned whaling station and observe the abundance of wildlife that can be found along King Edward Cove and Cumberland East Bay at close quarters.
A popular destination was Penguin River – home to a colony of king penguins – once the sailors had negotiated their way past fur and elephant seals on the shore.
Equal popular were the grave of explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton, buried in Grytviken in 1922, and the South Georgia Museum, whose exhibits include a replica of the James Caird – the boat Shackleton used to help rescue his expedition party which became trapped in Antarctica in 1916.
Portland’s church officer, Lt Samuel Wall, led a service in the Norwegian Lutheran Church – one of the most southerly churches in the world.
And the ship herself hosted government officials and scientists from the British Antarctic Survey, granting them a tour of the frigate and lunch with a cross-section of the ship’s company. HMS Portland is in the later stages of her South Atlantic and Pacific deployment having sailed from Plymouth in January.