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WEEK SIX, British Task Force Movements 3rd-9th May 1982

RAF Harrier GR3

on to 26. HMS Sheffield sunk


Summary of British Ships & Aircraft Departing

Royal Navy
Ambuscade, Cmdr P J Mosse RN
Courageous ?, Cmdr R T N Best RN
Exeter, Capt H M Balfour MVO RN
Valiant, Cmdr T M Le Marchand (awarded MID) RN

Merchant Ships
Alvega, Capt A Lazenby
Baltic Ferry, Capt E Harrison and NP 1960, Lt Cmdr G B Webb RN
Eburna, Capt J C Beaumont
Lycaon, Capt H R Lawton and NP 1900, Lt Cmdr D J Stiles RN
Nordic Ferry, Capt R Jenkins and NP 1950, Lt Cmdr M St J D A Thorburn RN
Saxonia, Capt H Evans and NP 1910

RAF Aircraft
9 (of 10) Harrier GR.3's of 1(F) Sqdn RAF


Army Aircraft
3 Scouts of 656 Sqdn AAC on Baltic Ferry
6 Gazelles of 656 Sqdn AAC on Nordic Ferry

At Ascension
No.845 D Flt - 2 Wessex HU.5's on Ascension to Intrepid
No.845 E Flt - 2 Wessex HU.5's from Intrepid to Tidepool
No.846 - 9 Sea King HC.4's on Canberra (1), Elk (3), Fearless (3), Intrepid (2)
8 Sea Harriers of No.809 NAS, 6 Wessex HU.5's of No.848 D Flt, 6 Harrier GR.3's of 1(F) Sqdn RAF, and 4 Chinooks of 18 Sqdn RAF on Atlantic Conveyor

Task Force Departures from Monday 3rd May - Monday saw the last nuclear submarines on their way to the South Atlantic when "Valiant" left Faslane for patrol off the Argentine coast. ("Courageous" also possibly left around now). Two more warships also sailed from other parts of the world for Ascension and on to the Total Exclusion Zone (TEZ) after carrying out guardship duties - frigate "Ambuscade" from Gibraltar on Monday and destroyer "Exeter" from the West Indies on Friday to replace the lost "Sheffield". Two merchantmen left with much needed supplies for the Task Force, but this time via South Georgia. On Tuesday 4th cargo ship "Lycaon" sailed from Southampton loaded with ammunition, and on Saturday refrigerated stores ship "Saxonia" from Plymouth mainly with food. Additional tankers also headed for the South Atlantic during the week. "Alvega" from Portsmouth for Ascension to serve out the war as a base storage tanker supplying heavy fuel oil, diesel and aviation fuel, and "Eburna" sailing from the West Indies having earlier been converted for fleet refuelling at Plymouth. Then on Sunday, part of 5th Inf Bde headed out from Southampton on RO-RO ferries "Baltic Ferry" and "Nordic Ferry".

Ascension - Late on Monday 3rd, two Vulcans and their Victor tankers (pictured below) took off to get one of the bombers to Stanley early next morning for "Black Buck 2". Meanwhile the build-up of aircraft continued. Starting on Monday, nine Harrier GR.3's from RAF Wittering (a tenth returned) reached Wideawake over the next three days after making the nine hour flight from St Mawgan. Of these, three stayed on to provide the first local air defence for Ascension and the other six prepared to embark on "Atlantic Conveyor" later in the week. During this week the two No.845 Wessex based on the island were joined in their vertrep duties by one of her Chinooks and by a flown-in Sea King HAR.3 which also provided search-and-rescue.

Now the bulk of 3 Cdo Bde followed in the wake of the slower LSL's. On Thursday 6th, "Canberra" left with 40 and 42 Cdo RM and 3 Para, and with both her and "Elk" carrying their own Sea King HC.4's. Accompanying them was RFA "Tidepool" and two escorting frigates. As they departed, the rest of the Amphibious Group ships were arriving to join "Fearless" and RFA "Stromness" (now with most of 45 Cdo RM on board), but only to stay for a short time. Assault ship "Intrepid" and transport "Atlantic Conveyor" reached the island on Wednesday, and the merchantman took on board the awaiting eight Sea Harriers and six GR.3's to add to her already large complement of helicopters. Finally, transports "Europic Ferry" and "Norland" got in with 2 Para after calling in at Freetown on the way. Within a matter of hours on Friday, they and the last of the amphibious ships were heading south.

South Atlantic - Later in the week, escorting warships "Antelope" and "Antrim" met and exchanged roles. "Antelope" carried on north with "Tidespring" and her POW's bound for Ascension, while "Antrim" took over the task of escorting the LSL Group south, in which she was joined by "Plymouth" from the CVBG. Further south, but back on Tuesday 4th, the Carrier Battle Group suffered its first, shocking casualty, when destroyer "Sheffield" was hit by an air-launched Exocet, the missile which exercised such an influence on Task Force operations throughout the war. Meanwhile "Endurance" on her own at South Georgia saw the start of the build-up there when two tugs arrived. RMAS "Typhoon" stayed through May, while "Salvageman" soon sailed to assist "Sheffield" but without success, and moved on to what was later known as the Tug, Repair and Logistic Area (TRALA) to the east of the Falklands. On Sunday, RFA "Blue Rover" followed them in to Cumberland Bay to take up her duties as station tanker.

RAF Victor tanker refuelling Jaguars. Note: these fighter types were not
employed in the Falklands War. (Courtesy - MOD, RAF)


Disposition of British Ships, Aircraft & Land Forces, including those Departing


UK Departures
Transports Baltic Ferry, Nordic Ferry, Lycaon, Saxonia
Tanker Alvega


Ships on Passage - Central/South Atlantic
DD Exeter
SS Onyx
SSN Valiant
FR Ambuscade
SSN Courageous?
LSL Sir Bedivere

Ships and Aircraft in Ascension Area

RAF Aircraft
Sea King of 202 and Chinook of 18 Sqdn RAF, Vulcans, Nimrods, Victors, Hercules, VC.10's

Harriers on Way South
Sea Harriers of No.809 NAS
Arriving Harrier GR.3's of 1(F) Sqdn RAF

Other Ships at Ascension or Reaching the Area on the Way South
Ambulance ships Herald, Hydra
Tankers RFA Bayleaf, Anco Charger, British Avon, British Dart, British Wye

Support Tankers in South Atlantic or in Tanker Holding Areas
RFA Appleleaf, Plumleaf
British Esk, British Tamar (leaves for Gibraltar), British Tay, British Test, British Trent
Water tanker Fort Toronto


3 Commando Brigade and Amphibious Group Ships
Assault ships Fearless, Intrepid
RFA Stromness, Tidepool
Transports Atlantic Conveyor, Canberra, Elk, Europic Ferry, Norland
FR Ardent, Argonaut

LSL Group
Sir Galahad, Sir Geraint, Sir Lancelot, Sir Percivale, Sir Tristram, RFA Pearleaf
FR Plymouth DD Antrim

In South Atlantic
RFA Tidespring, FR Antelope
RFA Regent

Carrier Battle Group
CV Hermes, Invincible
DD Glamorgan, Coventry, Glasgow, (SHEFFIELD lost)
FR Alacrity, Arrow, Brilliant, Broadsword, Yarmouth
RFA Fort Austin, Olmeda, Resource
with SBS and SAS

Submarine Force
SSN Conqueror, Spartan, Splendid

South Georgia
IPV Endurance
RFA Blue Rover
Tugs Salvageman, RMAS Typhoon
M Coy 42 Cdo RM


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revised 31/5/13