After The Falklands Campaign - A Short Personal Account
~ by Sqn Ldr Laurie Ramage (Retd), Ex OC 1312 Flt
Many books and TV documentaries have been produced about the Falkland Island Campaign of 1982. 1982! It seems such a long time ago. Because the conflict theatre was only really accessible by sea, 30 Sqn was not involved in the actual fighting. However, we certainly were involved with the defence and maintenance of peace after the cessation of hostilities. So, what has been written about that then? Actually, not a lot, but it may surprise you to know that personnel from 30 Sqn, and 24 Sqn, had a presence on the Island for the following 20-plus years.
As part of the on going effort to supply the Falklands, the Hercules was very quickly, and successfully, converted to a tanker. Not only was this role essential for in-theatre operations, but also to resupply the Falklands with personnel and vital supplies for many years after the campaign.
1312 Flight's Role
This was a daily task and could take several hours with each vessel having to be photographed for the 'Intelligence' boys. This was done at low-level (250ft or lower sometimes), 270kts (max low-level speed for a C130K) but with 60 - 70 ships to be checked, this was a tiring and tedious job.
Our last two roles were Search and Rescue and Casualty Evacuation. The seas around the Falklands could be treacherous and unpredictable. When a storm blew in some of the lucky fishing vessels might be able to reach the safety of harbour, but for many weathering the onslaught of heavy seas and very strong winds was their only option. Our Hercs carried a full sea survival kit on board, mainly for people either in lifeboats or in the water. To lift the injured or sick off a ship the services of the brave lads in their helicopters were required. In this case, the Herc was used for 'top cover' and was needed to established communications with the vessel before the arrival of the helicopter.
As many of you will know, South Georgia is where the action started in the South Atlantic. It was about 4 hours flying time south east of the Falklands in a Herc and it's main settlement was called Grytviken. It was our job to drop valuable supplied and mail to the small garrison there. Fine, except for the fact that Grytviken lay within a very small bay surrounded by very steep mountains.
Having completed the drop, we would carry out a recce around the island to see if anyone was hiding out in the old disused whaling stations - thankfully, we never found anyone.
Virtually everyone on the Sqn at that time, did a 4-month spell away from there loved ones in the South Atlantic.. Immediately after the conflict Sqn personnel were accommodated in 12'x12' Army pattern tents. If you were unlucky enough to serve your time during a Falklands winter - watch out!
After a few years of the Coastels they were sold to be made into a civilian prison. Before that could be done... they had to be upgraded! The eventual move to the purpose build RAF Mount Pleasant saw the accommodation become a little more 'standard'. The whole accommodation area, affectionately known as the Death Star, was a large single level expanse of Swedish style rooms and corridors.
1312 Flight's buildings were by the air traffic tower, as far away as possible from the main admin side of the Station on the far side of the Airfield. Not surprisingly, this suited most of us especially as there was an aircrew 'feeder' close by that we shared with the air traffic guys and gals. This was a happy time with a total of 40 personnel (3 x Herc crews, and approximately 25 ground crew) providing the manning. In late 1995, things were about to change.
"VC10s are coming!"
I know, I know, as daft as it seems 2 x VC10s were due to take the place of the Herc tankers. In a nutshell, the Hercs were getting a little worn due to high fatigue and continual punishment from the weather. Our lords and masters decided that they needed to reduce the number of expensive VC10s in the UK and either mothball them or shift them to another budget - am I sounding a bit cynical? So the fatigued Hercs were about to be replaced by an even more fatigued aircraft - brilliant! These aircraft were restricted to just 1.5g, which is next to nothing really and you'd have to be very careful in a turn. As a true testament to RAF engineering the VC10s are still there, although I doubt very much they are doing the sort of tasks we did - perhaps the tasks we did are no longer required in these days of chumliness e.t.c, anyway, on to more important things...
There were lots of (OK, some) places to look at including Government House, where the early action took place, the Christ Church Cathedral with it's whale bone archway at the entrance, to name just two. Decent shops were not exactly abundant - The Pink Shop was about the only place to find souvenirs however, the East India Company did run a small grocery store which doubled up as a trading station.
Drinking in local pubs basically came down to The Victory Bar which I have to say, at that time, was rather intimidating especially to non-locals. Thankfully, the general attitude to the British Forces was quite good. If you wanted a slap-up meal and decent surroundings, the best you could get was at The Upland Goose - run by Des.
Rest and Relaxation!