Tuesday

11 Fd Sqn 1980-1982

11 Fd Sqn
1980-1982

1980 was a very busy year for 11 Sqn, with exercises in Cyprus, Germany and Norway, and a continuing commitment to operations in Northern Ireland. In September, the Sqn took the place of 59 Indep Cdo Sqn on Ex TEAMWORK, designed to practice the reinforcement of NATO's Northern Flank. 59 Sqn were required to stay on in Northern Ireland, so it was with some apprehension that 11 Sqn set sail for Norway onboard, amongst other ships, HMS INTREPID and HMS BULWARK. A great time was had by all, and a few days of adventure training were even squeezed in at the end.

1981 saw the Sqn on a six month tour of Belize, providing security as well as the more usual tasks of constructing roads and improvised bridges. The Sqn was also heavily involved in helping to make a success of the celebrations surrounding Independence Day on 21 Sep 1981 (What's Going On, Feb 1982).

When the Falkland Islands conflict began in Apr 1982,11 Sqn were required to provide support to the RAF Harriers on Operation CORPORATE. The Sqn Main Body of 147 flew from Brize Norton to Ascension Island on 9 May 1982, to board the Landing Ship Logistic (LSL) SIR BEDIVERE (137 men), and NORLAND (10 men, who later transferred onto SIR LANCELOT). The Sqn's plant, vehicles, and G1098 store were loaded onto the merchant vessel, ATLANTIC CONVEYOR, and accompanied by two members of the Sqn, set sail from Devonport for the Falkland Islands on 25 Apr.

The journey was due to take two weeks and, once under sail, the workshop constructed twin gun mounts for the Sqn LMGs and the men practiced anti-aircraft drills and carried out ship's routine. On entering San Carlos Water, the SIR BEDIVERE was attacked by Argentinian aircraft, including Mirage fighter bombers. The Sqn gunners opened fire, and claimed one Mirage shot down which was later confirmed by HMS FEARLESS. SIR BEDIVERE with 11 Sqn onboard finally landed safely at San Carlos on 23 May.

11 Sqn was the third RE unit ashore, after 59 Indep Cdo Sqn and 2 Tp of 9 Para Sqn. 11 Sqn landed a few days later for the particular task of supporting the Harrier force.

On 25 May, Argentina's National Day, the ATLANTIC CONVEYOR was sailing with HMS AMBUSCADE and RFA SIR TRISTRAM when it was spotted by the pilots of two Super Etendards, armed with Exocet anti-ship missiles. The planes dropped to sea level and raced towards the small convoy, and at 30 miles out and 200 yards apart, both pilots released their missiles. The escort ships released chaff to confuse the missiles' guidance system, which successfully steered the missiles away from them. Unfortunately, this left the unprotected ATLANTIC CONVEYOR the only remaining target. One missile missed, but at 1538 HRS, the other penetrated the ship's hull but miraculously failed to explode. Despite the best efforts of the Ship's Company, the ship had to be abandoned for fear of fire reaching 75 tons of cluster bombs in a hold. The intensity of the fire left the ship gutted, and her cargo destroyed beyond hope of salvage. Twelve of the Ship's Company were killed, including the Captain, the last to leave the ship, and in the following two days while she was being towed inland, the ATLANTIC CONVEYOR sank

11 Sqn lost all of their equipment, personal kit and stores when the ATLANTIC CONVEYOR was lost and quickly dug themselves in alongside the grass airstrip. They spent three weeks in slit trenches at Port San Carlos, acting as infantry and building and re-building the Harrier forward operating bases. The Sqn was given tools by 59 Sqn and constructed a fuel installation for Chinook, Wessex, and Sea King helicopters. 2 Tp kid a 260m Harrier strip, with forward operating pad and taxiway. This task was completed in 3 days and for the next two weeks they maintained it, carrying out major repairs within hours when Chinooks lifted the taxiway on three occasions and also after a Harrier crash. 3 Tp spent ten days at Goose Green clearing napalm, booby traps and mines, after the Argentine surrender at Darwin. In addition to these tasks, OPs and patrols were mounted by the Sqn as part of the defence of Port San Carlos.

On 23 Jun, 11 Sqn moved to Port Stanley, rather sorry to leave their now more habitable trenches at Port San Carlos. On arrival at Port Stanley, they laid a Harrier strip alongside the airfield and reinstalled the fuel installation for the Harriers that they had earlier stripped out. 3 Tp assisted with crater repairs to the runway, ready for the first C130 Hercules aircraft which arrived on 24 Jun.

On 25 Jun, the three troops were accommodated on the ATLANTIC CAUSEWAY, with the remainder in houses in the town

They commented that the weather was better than expected and rather like a November in Ripon! In mid August, the Sqn flew home to Lyneham by Hercules, with in-flight refuelling and a stop at Ascension Island. One observer commented, "25 hours in a Hercules is purgatory, but it's great to be home."

Since the landings at San Carlos, Sappers had a leading part in every stage of the fighting and were involved in the dangerous tasks of EOD and mine clearance.

Nine members of the Corps were killed in action and twenty four wounded some seriously. 11 Sqn sustained four casualties in the conflict:
Spr D A Cumberland - Wounded on 13 Jun 1982
Spr P A Rolling - Wounded on 14 Jun 1982
Cpl G A Notman - Wounded on 24 Jun 1982
Spr N W V Burke - Wounded on 14 Jul 1982





3 comments:

  1. Couple of errors in here, we moved to Port Stanley on the 15th of June, and Nipper was "wounded" on the night of the 14th June, regards Davy Crockett 2 Troop 11 Field Squadron

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  2. Just to let you know Harry Burke still has his leg and attends Sapperfest
    combat

    ReplyDelete