Tag: Royal Navy

OTD: Argentina Invades The Falkland Islands

On this day: 2 April 1982, Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands and South Georgia. In response to the invasion the British government dispatched a naval task force to engage the Argentine Navy and Air Force before making an amphibious assault on the islands. The conflict lasted 74 days and ended with an Argentine surrender on 14 June, returning the islands to British control. In total, 649 Argentine military personnel, 255 British military personnel, and three Falkland Islanders died during the hostilities. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falklands_War.

Unfortunately the sovereignty of the islands was never really sorted out and Argentina still maintains that they belong to Argentina, even going so far as referring to them as “Islas Malvinas“.

There were many memorable events during the conflict, and some that stand out are:  The sinking of the Belgrano, The Black Buck raids, Canberra and QE2 called up into service as troopships, the sinking of HMS Sheffield, HMS Ardent, HMS Antelope, HMS Coventry, RFA Sir Galahad, SS Atlantic Conveyor, The bravery of the ground forces and the success of the Hawker Harrier, the unpreparedness of the Falkands against invasion, and so many more. It makes for fascinating reading although very little appears to have been written from the Argentinean point of view.

There are many memorials to the Falkands war in the United Kingdom. Worth mentioning are:

National Memorial Arboretum:

The South Atlantic Campaign 1982.

Portsmouth:

Southampton:

Trinity Gardens, London:

There are quite a few resources on YouTube that deal with the Falklands too, and of course that memorable footage of the Canberra berthing in Southampton after the war. (Image opens in YouTube video).

The Canberra had a wonderful image in her one stair tower of her arrival home but sadly a good photo of the image was almost impossible to get.

The Falklands conflict happened the year after my national service and today the veterans of that war are also wearing their medals and realising that their experiences back then are forgotten so many years down the line, and some will ask themselves what was it all in aid of? The same is possibly true for those Argentinean conscripts that were sent to the Falklands on what was really a very poorly planned and futile exercise. It is the same question that we ask ourselves too.  General Leopoldo Galtieri did not expect the reaction that came from the United Kingdom, and neither did the rest of the world. Nobody thought that a naval task force would be up to the task, but they were very wrong. The Falklands conflict is just another war in a succession of small wars through the centuries, but sadly the lessons that were learnt have all been forgotten. 

DRW © 2020.  Created 02/04/2020.


OTD: Remembering HMS Repulse and HMS Prince of Wales

Amongst the long list of ships lost during the two World Wars are two battleships that were literally sent to their doom on this day in 1941.  The sinking of HMS Repulse and HMS Prince of Wales is well documented and I won’t repeat all that is written about them, suffice to say a better account of the battle may be read at the relevant Wikipedia page. Technically HMS Repulse was a battlecruiser, and if anything even more vulnerable to air attack due to the bad design. 

Memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum

Many of the survivors of the sinking would become prisoners of war in the subsequent battles that put South East Asia into Japanese hands, they too would loose their lives as a result of their captivity.

HMS Prince Of Wales in Singapore

HMS Repulse leaving Singapore

The loss of these two ships was yet another nail in the coffin for the big gun ship, and a display of how vulnerable they were to air attack. The image below was taken from a Japanese aircraft during the initial high-level bombing attack. The battlecruiser Repulse, near the bottom of the view, has just been hit by one bomb and near-missed by several more. The battleship Prince of Wales is near the top of the image, generating a considerable amount of smoke. The Japanese writing in the lower right states that the photograph was reproduced by authorization of the Navy Ministry.

Japanese high level bombing attack on HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse on 10 December 1941(NH_60566)

Japanese high level bombing attack on HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse on 10 December 1941(NH_60566)

 

DRW © 2019 – 2020. Created 10/12/2019.

Image of HMS Prince of Wales in Singapore: Abrahams, H J (Lt), Royal Navy official photographer. Post-Work: User: W.wolny / Public domain.

Image of HMS Repulse leaving Singapore: Adams W L G (Captain), Commanding Officer, HMS CORINTHIAN. Post-Work: User: W.wolny / Public domain

Image of HMS Repulse and Prince of Wales retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMS_Repulse_(1916), image is in the public domain, Unknown author   – U.S. Navy photo NH 60566


Four Ships Week

Regular readers will know that I have slowly been adding in reminders about important dates in South African naval history. The most prominent being in February when I commemorate Three Ships Month. Sadly though, it does not all end with those 3 disasters (although technically the Mendi was not a naval vessel as it sailed with a civilian crew while doing trooping duties). 

There are however four more ships that I am adding into these reminders, and they were all lost in April of 1942.  The men killed in these sinkings were seconded to four British warships that were lost in what has become known as “The Easter Sunday Raid“. 

I am not in a position to elaborate about the disasters that befell these ships, as there are others who have done a much better job than I have. I am heavy reliant on Wikipedia for the information below.

HMS Cornwall, was  a County-class heavy cruiser of the Kent sub-class built for the Royal Navy in the mid-1920s. Cornwall was transferred to the South Atlantic in late 1939 where she escorted convoys before returning to the Indian Ocean in 1941. she was transferred to the Eastern Fleet in March 1942 and  was sunk on 5 April by dive bombers from three Japanese aircraft carriers during the Indian Ocean Raid. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMS_Cornwall_(56)

HMS Dorsetshire, was a County class heavy cruiser  and a member of the Norfolk sub-class, of which she was one of two ships (HMS Norfolk was the other).  Launched in Portsmouth in January 1929, she was completed in September 1930.  After a long and varied career she was transferred to the Eastern Fleet to support British forces in the recently opened Pacific Theatre of the war.   On 5 April, Japanese aircraft spotted Dorsetshire and her sister Cornwall while en route to Colombo; a force of dive bombers then attacked the two ships and sank them. More than 1,100 men were rescued the next day, out of a combined crew of over 1,500. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMS_Dorsetshire_(40))

HMS Hermes, was the world’s first ship to be designed as an aircraft carrier, her construction began during the First World War but she was not completed until after the end of the war.  She  was commissioned in 1924, and served briefly with the Atlantic Fleet before spending the bulk of her career assigned to the Mediterranean Fleet and the China Station.  When the Second World War began she was briefly assigned to the Home Fleet and conducted anti-submarine patrols in the Western Approaches  before being  sent to patrol the Indian Ocean. She was refitted in South Africa between November 1941 and February 1942 and then joined the Eastern Fleet at Ceylon.

While berthed in Trincomalee on 8 April a warning of an approaching Japanese fleet was received, and she sailed that day for the Maldives with no aircraft on board. On 9 April she was spotted by a Japanese scout plane, and she was subsequently attacked by several dozen dive bombers shortly afterwards.  Without air cover she  was quickly sunk although most of the survivors were rescued by a nearby hospital ship, but 307 men were lost in the sinking. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMS_Hermes_(95))

HMS Hollyhock, a Flower-Class Corvette, was laid down on 27 November 1939 and launched on 19 August 1940. She was commissioned into the Royal Navy on 19 November 1940. Hollyhock was bombed and sunk by Japanese naval aircraft on 9 April 1942 east of Ceylon in the Indian Ocean, along with the aircraft carrier Hermes, the Australian destroyer Vampire and two tankers.  53 men lost their lives in the sinking.  (http://www.naval-history.net/xGM-Chrono-20Cor-Flower-Hollyhock.htm)

64 South Africans lost their lives as members of the crew of these 4 ships.  Unfortunately these losses were conveniently shunted aside in the quest to sanitise history, but slowly we are recognising that there is much more that we need to discover and commemorate.  

Further Reading:

The major inspiration for this post is The Observation Post, a  blog that was set up to keep contemporary South African Military history alive and reveal the truth – because historical “truth” in South Africa is so often skewed to some or other political agenda.

Recounting South African Sacrifice on the HMS Dorsetshire

Recounting South African sacrifice on the HMS Cornwall

Recounting South African sacrifice on the HMS Hermes

Recounting South African sacrifice on the HMS Hollyhock

DRW © 2018. Created 02/04/2018.  The Observation Post is created by Peter Dickens