Saturday, 16 June 2012

16 June 1982, Minefields Mercenaries and Mountains

Log Book entry:  Pax transfer to Canberra, stores lift to Stanley, pax to San Carlos and Rtn  2.00 hours day .30 minutes night.

A very interesting day that started off with us taking the Captain across to the Canberra for a meeting and then us leading her into Port Stanley.  My log book entry seems to be a bit of a composite because we were flying on and off all day.
The first bit of fun was that the Argies had declared a minefield in the approaches to Stanley and although we were 'fairly' sure we had a safe route in someone had to go first - guess who?  I used the photograph below in an earlier post but it was actually taken during this transit.  We had gone to full action stations because of the mine risk and then realised on the Flight Deck that this would probably be the last time we would be at Action Stations for real and so ought to get some photographs.  The fact that we should really have been looking over the side in case we saw something in the water seemed secondary.  It sort of summed up our feelings at the time.

Behind you!!!

You won't be surprised to find we got in OK, and so we anchored with Canberra in the outer roads.  The reason for us being there was that Canberra already had some prisoners of war on board and was going into Stanley to take on more.  This is where it gets a bit weird.  We were there as her escort but were also told that we would be taking several hundred POWs as well and that they were the mercenaries that had been helping the Argies. Er - what mercenaries?  It's the only time I've hear them mentioned and strangely after making all sorts of arrangements for them on board the whole task was cancelled.  There was even talk that some of them were British.  To this day I've not been able to find anything apart from unsubstantiated rumours of US mercenaries on various discussion forums.  Great for a conspiracy theory though.

Us and Canberra the 'Great White Whale' although by now she was looking a bit rusty.  We are anchored just off Stanley.

The final part of the day was when we were tasked to go ashore and report to Government house for tasking.  It was weird to land there.  There were arms and explosives everywhere and there still seemed to be loads of Argie soldiers wandering around although they were more likely the officers who had been given parole to keep order.  Anyway Bob went into the building and we were tasked to take a passenger cross country to San Carlos which we duly did.  The fun came on the way back as it was getting dark.  The weather was closing in and heavy snow showers were setting in, forcing me down between the peaks of the mountains which had seen all the fighting recently.  At one point I was in zero visibility, far too low with nowhere to go in heavy snow and icing conditions.  Silly sod,  luckily we broke out of the cloud and made it back.  That would have been a good ending to the war - flying into the side of Mount Harriet!

As I said yesterday I am going to stop using my logbook and revert to my photo album to post about what we did between now and September when we got home (the last ship of the war to get back).  It was all a bit of an anti climax from now on and seemed to drag on forever.

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