Tower Hill: 'Lest we forget'

Falklands War Memorial to Members of the RFA and Merchant Navy

Introduction

This site is not the place to discuss the background, build-up to and aftermath of the Falklands War as there are many books and websites covering this topic. Suffice it to say that this was a war about disputed territory - the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands. On 2 April 1982, Argentine forces landed in the Falklands and rapidly captured it and the other islands. Despite the distance and difficulties involved, the British under Margaret Thatcher dispatched a force to retake these islands and by 14 June 1982 the Argentine occupying force surrendered.

During the 74-day conflict 649 Argentine military personnel, 255 British military personnel and 3 Falkland Islanders died. Included in this total were 8 members of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary and 9 members of the Merchant Navy.

A memorial to those of the RFA and MN who lost their lives was commissioned and paid for by private donations, merchant seamen, merchant shipping lines, Trinity House and the Government of the Falkland Islands. It was erected in the extreme South-East corner of Trinity Square Gardens adjacent to the memorials to the seamen who lost their lives in WW1 and WW2 and have no grave but the sea. It is maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission like the other memorials at Tower Hill.

What will happen to the Falkland Islands longer term only time will tell. In 1994 Argentina added a claim to ownership of this territory to its constitution.

The Memorial

The memorial was designed by Gordon Newton of War Memorial Limited - See External Ref. #8. The theme of the memorial was very appropriately chosen to be "Time and Distance" which is represented by a sundial whose base is a compass rose with a bronze anchor and chain forming the gnomon. The compass points were manufactured from polished black granite and the base is made of Portland stone with bronze panels containing the names of the Merchant Navy and RFA casualties and their ships. I am indebted to Mr Newton for supplying this information.

Dedication

The memorial was dedicated on Merchant Navy Day 4 September 2005 by the First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Alan West GCB DSC ADC. The Chaplain to the British and International Sailor's Society was in attendance.

Falklands Memorial Dedication/ Falklands Memorial Dedication/ Falklands Memorial Dedication/ Falklands Memorial Dedication/ Falklands Memorial Dedication/ Falklands Memorial Dedication/
Photos of the dedication of the memorial on 4 September 2005. [7]
After unveiling the memorial Admiral West paid tribute to the crucial contribution made by the Merchant Navy during the Falklands War which saw the loss of the merchant vessel Atlantic Conveyor as a result of enemy action. He said, "Men and women of the Merchant Navy worked shoulder to shoulder with those of the Royal Navy during the campaign to liberate the Islands, as they did in the two world wars of the last century, and have done so since." Also in attendance at the memorial ceremony were Captain John Sail, Chairman of the Merchant Navy Association, Commodore Bob Thornton RFA and Lt Col Ben Bathurst, Commanding Officer 1st Battalion Welsh Guards. A guard of honour was provided by Royal Naval Reservists from HMS President, along with the Royal Marine Band from CTCRM Lympstone.

General Views of the Memorial

Falklands Memorial/
View of the Falklands Memorial looking North-West towards the former Port of London Authority building. [1]
Falklands Memorial/
View of the Falklands Memorial looking towards the Tower of London [1]
Falklands Memorial/
Dedication panel on the Falklands Memorial [1]

RFA Sir Galahad

RFA Sir Galahad was a 6,390 GRT Round Table class LSL (Landing Ship Logistics) vessel that had been completed for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary by Alexander Stephen and Sons at their Linthouse yard in 1966. This class was built to support amphibious warfare missions and could carry 340 or more troops and had a cargo capacity of 16 light tanks, 34 mixed vehicles, 122 tonnes of fuel and 31 tonnes of ammunition. Landing craft could be carried in place of lifeboats, but unloading was mainly handled by three onboard cranes. She was capable of 17 knots and was armed with two 40mm Bofors guns.

On 6 April 1982 Sir Galahad set sail for the Falklands from Devonport for service in Operation Corporate - the Falklands Conflict. She carried 350 Royal Marines and 3 Gazelle helicopters from 3 Commando Brigade Air Squadron. She was part of the Amphibious Landing Group which assembled at sea and consisted of RFA Sir Galahad, RFA Sir Geraint, RFA Sir Lancelot, RFA Sir Percivale, RFA Sir Tristram and Plumleaf(2). They were escorted by LPD (Landing Platform Dock) HMS Fearless, and frigates HMS Alacrity and HMS Antelope. They proceeded to Ascension Island where HMS Intrepid replaced HMS Alacrity; the group then went forth to the Falkland Islands - entering the Total Exclusion Zone on 8 May 1982.

On 21 May 1982 RFA Sir Galahad entered San Carlos Water with the Amphibious Landing Group. On 24 May 1982 she was attacked by Argentine aircraft in San Carlos Water - christened "Bomb alley" by the troops - and hit by a 1000lb bomb which failed to explode and was successfully removed.

Sir Galahad/
An IAI Dagger aircraft passes low over RFA Sir Galahad at anchor in San Carlos Water on 24 May 1982. Photo by the Commando Forces News Team [3]

On 8 June 1982 RFA Sir Galahad and RFA Sir Tristram were preparing to unload soldiers of the Welsh Guards in Port Pleasant when they were attacked by Argentine A-4 aircraft at 14:00 local time. RFA Sir Galahad was struck by two or three bombs which set her alight and eventually killed 48 soldiers and crewmen. Captain Philip Roberts ordered the vessel to be abandoned and was the last to leave; he was later awarded the DSO. Seaman Chiu Yiu-Nam was awarded the George Cross for rescuing 10 men trapped below decks despite the raging fires (further details below). The burnt-out hulk was towed out to sea on 21 June 1982 and sank; it is now an official war grave.

Roll of Honour

The information in the following tables are provided by courtesy of the Historical RFA - External Ref. #4 Armed service personnel are commemorated on their own memorials but their names have been included here as this seems appropriate.

Forename Surname and Honours Rank Service
Barry C. Bullers Lance Corporal Army Catering Corps
Anthony Burke Lance Corporal 1st Battalion, Welsh Guards
Jim R. Carlyle Lance Sergeant 1st Battalion, Welsh Guards
Albert M. Connett Private Army Catering Corps
Ian A. Dale Guardsman 1st Battalion, Welsh Guards
Michael J. Dunphy Guardsman 1st Battalion, Welsh Guards
Peter Edwards Guardsman 1st Battalion, Welsh Guards
Clifford Elley Sergeant 1st Battalion, Welsh Guards
Ian R. Farrell Lance Corporal Royal Army Medical Corps
Mark Gibbey Guardsman 1st Battalion, Welsh Guards
Blenn C. Grace Guardsman 1st Battalion, Welsh Guards
Paul Green Guardsman 1st Battalion, Welsh Guards
Gareth M. Griffiths Guardsman 1st Battalion, Welsh Guards
Christopher F. Hailwood 3rd Engineer Officer RFA
Paul Anderson Henry, GM 2nd Engineer Officer RFA
Denis N. Hughes Guardsman 1st Battalion, Welsh Guards
Gareth Hughes Guardsman 1st Battalion, Welsh Guards
Brian Jasper Guardsman 1st Battalion, Welsh Guards
M. Anthony Jones Private Army Catering Corps
Anthony Keeble Guardsman 1st Battalion, Welsh Guards
Kevin Keoghane Sergeant 1st Battalion, Welsh Guards
Leung Chau Electrical Fitter RFA
Michael J. Marks Guardsman 1st Battalion, Welsh Guards
Andrew G. McIlvenny Corporal 9 Independent Parachute Squadron, Royal Engineers
Richard W. Middlewick Private Army Catering Corps
Christopher Mordecai Guardsman 1st Battalion, Welsh Guards
Andrew J. Morris 3rd Engineer Officer RFA
Stephen J. Newbury Lance Corporal 1st Battalion, Welsh Guards
Gareth D. Nicholson Guardsman 1st Battalion, Welsh Guards
Roger Nutbeem Major Royal Army Medical Corps
Colin C. Parsons Guardsman 1st Battalion, Welsh Guards
Eirwyn J. Phillips Guardsman 1st Battalion, Welsh Guards
Gareth W. Poole Guardsman 1st Battalion, Welsh Guards
Ken Preston Private Royal Army Medical Corps
Mark W. Rollins Craftsman Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers
Nigel A. Rowberry Guardsman 1st Battalion, Welsh Guards
Anthony R. Streatfield Lance Corporal Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers
Sung Yuk Fai Butcher RFA
Philip A. Sweet Lance Corporal 1st Battalion, Welsh Guards
Wayne D. Tarbard Sapper 9 Independent Parachute Squadron, Royal Engineers
Glyn K. Thomas Guardsman 1st Battalion, Welsh Guards
Nicholas D.M. Thomas Lance Corporal 1st Battalion, Welsh Guards
Raymond G. Thomas Guardsman 1st Battalion, Welsh Guards
Andrew Walker Guardsman 1st Battalion, Welsh Guards
Christopher F. Ward Lance Corporal 1st Battalion, Welsh Guards
James F. Weaver Guardsman 1st Battalion, Welsh Guards
Malcolm Wigley Seargent 1st Battalion, Welsh Guards
David R. Williams Guardsman 1st Battalion, Welsh Guards
RFA Sir Galahad/
Memorial panel to RFA Sir Galahad [1]

Chiu Yiu Nam

The bravery and modesty of this remarkable man is clear from his obituary in the Daily Telegraph on 7 March 2012. It seems both shabby and shameful to me that he did not get a pension but such were the terms of his employment.

On the afternoon of June 8 1982, Chiu Yiu Nam was serving as a seaman in the Royal Fleet Auxiliary Sir Galahad, one of five Landing Ships Logistics (LSL) which ferried troops and stores around the islands, and were manned by British Merchant Navy officers and Hong Kong Chinese crewmen. Chiu, as one of the helicopter flight deck party, was also trained in firefighting.

In an attempt to outflank Argentine positions, Sir Galahad and her sister ship Sir Tristram had been sent to Port Pleasant, on the south coast of East Falkland, and elements of the Welsh Guards were waiting to disembark when the ships were attacked by five Skyhawk jets of the Argentine air force.

Three aircraft dropped bombs on Sir Galahad, one of which penetrated an open hatch, its explosion generating a fireball which swept through the tank deck, where many troops were and where ammunition and petrol were stowed. A second bomb exploded near the galley area, killing Chiu’s friend, the ship’s butcher, Sung Yuk Fai, and injuring many others.

As the stores on the tank deck began to ignite and explode, causing intense local fires, the master of Sir Galahad, Captain Philip Roberts, was reluctantly considering whether to give the order to abandon ship. Chiu, meanwhile, realised that there were soldiers trapped inside. Wearing a protective asbestos suit, he fought his way through the smoke and flames into the bowels of the ship, where he was confronted by scenes of confusion and devastation. After leading out one man, he went back for another. He continued to return, bringing men to safety until he realised that there was no one left alive. Only then did he obey the order to abandon ship. In all, 48 seamen and soldiers were killed and many more badly burned. Of those who survived, at least 10 owed their survival to Chiu.

Chiu was remarkably modest about what he had done: on the journey home in the tanker British Test, Capt Roberts quizzed his crew about their role during the bombing of Sir Galahad without discovering Chiu’s heroism. It was only later that the Commanding Officer 1st Battalion Welsh Guards, Lt-Col Johnny Rickett (who had disembarked the night before the air attack), interviewed his guardsmen and heard about an unknown rescuer whose identity had been hidden behind a protective hood. Further inquiries revealed that this had been Chiu.

He remained reluctant to be recognised officially for his bravery. In 1983, however, he agreed to fly from Hong Kong to London, where the Queen invested him with the George Medal.

Chiu Yiu Nam was born in 1949 in Guangdong province, mainland China, and little is known of his background. He represented one of the last generations of locally-recruited sailors (others were from places such as Goa and Malta) who had helped man the Royal Navy's ships for hundreds of years.

He retired from the RFA in 1989 for health reasons, and lived quietly with his mother and younger brother in Hong Kong. He declined an invitation to fly to London for the 25th anniversary of the Falklands conflict, but was flattered to receive a handwritten letter from Margaret Thatcher at a reception organised by the local branch of the Royal British Legion. He also met the Duke of York, who visited Hong Kong in 2010, and last year the Earl of Wessex, speaking to both princes through an interpreter.

Locally-entered seamen like Chiu do not receive pensions, and when he died he was dependent on monthly financial assistance from the Hong Kong government. His cremation on February 24 was paid for by the Hong Kong and China branch of the Royal British Legion.

He was unmarried.

Chiu Yiu Nam, born 1949, died February 14 2012

RFA Fort Grange

RFA Fort Grange was a 16,049 GRT Fort Class fleet replenishment ship completed in 1978 by Scotts Shipbuilding and Engineering Company and capable of 20 knots. She was one of two vessels of this class and designed to carry ammunition and general naval and victualling stores. She had a single spot flight deck and full hangar facilities. The roof of the hangar was strengthened for use as an emergency landing spot enabling the vessel to operate 4 Sea King helicopters. She was refitted in April 1982 and the work was completed in time for her to be used in the Falklands War.

In May she was loaded with aviation fuel (AVCAT) and embarked for Ascension Island with 824 NAS C Flight and 3 Sea King HAS2 helicopters. She suffered engine problems en route to the Falkland Islands but reached the Total Exclusion Zone on 26 May 1982.

On 30 June 1982, whilst in San Carlos Water, William Frazer the Quartermaster suffered a heart attack and died and is commemorated on the memorial.
He was buried at sea at position 52° 02" 6' S, 54° 18" 6' W. Note:I have been advised by Chris White of HistoricalRFA that the memorial incorrectly lists the casualty as William Fraser due to an administrative error that will be corrected when the plate is replaced - though this is likely to be a long time into the future.

The following article by Peter Sharpe provides further information:

Falklands Forgotten/
Article by Peter Sharpe [6]
Forename Surname and Honours Rank Service
William Frazer Quartermaster RFA
RFA Fort Grange/
Memorial panel to RFA Fort Grange [1]

RFA Fort Grange later served during the First Gulf War and was awarded Battle Honours, then supported a relief operation in Bangladesh following major damage caused by a cyclone. In 1994 she was assigned to Operation Grapple to support UN efforts in the conflict in the former Yugoslavia.

RFA Fort Grange/
RFA Fort Grange at Pearl Harbour in 1986. [2]

At the end of Operation Grapple, in 2000 the vessel was renamed Fort Rosalie after a refit. As of July 2016 she remains in service with the RFA.

RFA Sir Tristram

RFA Sir Tristram was a 6,600 GRT Sir Lancelot Class Landing Ship Logistics (LSL) completed in 1967 by Hawthorne Leslie Shipbuilders at their Hebbern yard and capable of 17.5 knots. She was brought into service with the RFA in 1970 and undertook duties in Libya and British Honduras during the 1970s.

At the outbreak of the Falklands War she was in Belize and was diverted to Ascension Island to join the Amphibious Landing Group. She set sail from Ascension Island on 29 April with RFA Sir Galahad, RFA Sir Geraint, RFA Sir Lancelot, RFA Sir Percivale, RFA Plumleaf, HMS Fearless, HMS Intrepid and HMS Antelope. She entered the Total Exclusion Zone on 8 May 1982.

RFA Sir Tristram/
RFA Sir Tristram - date and location not known. [5]

She entered San Carlos Water on 21 May 1982 and sailed to Fitzroy Creek on 6 June 1982. On 8 June 1982 she was bombed and extensively damaged by an Argentinian Skyhawk aircraft at Port Pleasant, Fitzroy Creek just south of Bluff Cove and was hit by three bombs - one entering 25 tank starboard passed through without detonating. One bomb passed across the tank deck entered 25 tank Port where partial detonation occured blowing out a large plate on the port quarter and causing damage to the forward bulkhead. The third bomb exploded under 25 and 26 tanks rupturing the ships hull. It is believed this bomb also contributed to the combined effects of the other two bombs. Fires soon started in the steering flat above which were pallets of ammunition and the ship was abandoned. She sent her lifeboats to assist in the evacuation of her sister ship RFA Sir Galahad nearby. Two members of the crew were killed in the attack. The rest of the crew were evacuated to the LPDs HMS Fearless and HMS Intrepid. She eventually grounded on her stern door and was afterwards towed off by her sister ship RFA Sir Geraint and taken to Port Stanley to be used as an accommodation hulk while a decision was made about her future.

Forename Surname and Honours Rank Service
Swi Kami Yeung Sailor RFA
Sik Chee Yu Bosun RFA
RFA Sir Tristram/
Memorial panel to RFA Sir Tristram [1]

In 1983 she was taken back to the UK, repaired and re-entered service in 1985. After a distinguished career including service in the Gulf War and Balkan Conflicts, she continued in service with the RFA until 2007 when she was converted into a Training Ship and was still in use for this purpose in 2016.

Atlantic Conveyor

Atlantic Conveyor was a 14,946 GRT steam turbine-powered hybrid container-RORO cargo ship built for Cunard Steamship Company by Swan Hunter at their High Walker Yard. Completed in March 1970, she was capable of 23 knots. In April 1982, in an amazing feat of engineering carried out by the Royal Navy Dockyard at Devonport, she was transformed to carry fighters and helicopters to the South Atlantic to replace those expected to be lost in action. The strengthening applied to her decking made her capable of use as a platform for launching jump jet aircraft making her the first merchant navy jump jet aircraft carrier. She was not fitted with either active or passive defence systems.

The primary purpose of Atlantic Conveyor (or ACO) was to transport Wessex and Chinook helicopters and Sea Harrier fighters. Additional cargo included cluster bombs, rocket motors, anti-tank missiles, grenades, and small arms - most of these stored in normal containers - plus a "tent city", stacker trucks, combat support boats, specialist spares and material for constructing a temporary airfield. The cargp was loaded and ACO set sail on 25 April 1982 for Ascension Island via Freetown in Sierra Leone. Further fighters were loaded at Ascension. The harrier aircraft were transferred to HMS Hermes and HMS Invincible between 19 May and 21 May and a number of helicopters and weapons were delivered over the following few days.

Atlantic Conveyor/
Atlantic Conveyor being re-fuelled by RFA Tidepool en route to the Falkland Islands. A British Aerospace Sea Harrier FRS.1 of 809 Naval Air Squadron is being moved aft on the deck. [3]

On 25 May ACO was ordered to proceed to San Carlos Water under cover of darkness to disembark all remaining helicopters at first light. This did not happen as the vessel was struck by two air launched AM39 Exocet missiles fired by two Argentine Navy Super Étendard jet fighters. The missiles had been fired at the British flagship HMS Hermes but, as a result of evasive action and counter-manoeuvres, the missiles struck Atlantic Conveyor instead. The missiles penetrated the port side of the vessel and ignited her inflammable cargo. The engines stopped, smoke spread through the ship and efforts to extinguish the fires failed. The crew abandoned ship with some being picked up from the bow by helicopter and others taking to the sea.

Twelve of those aboard perished - three from the Royal Navy, three from the Royal Fleet Auxiliary and six from the Merchant Navy. The men of the Royal Navy are commemorated on the Royal Navy memorial at Plymouth but their names are shown below with their fellow seamen.

Name Rank Service
Adrian J. Anslow Air Engineering Mechanic (R) Royal Navy
John B. Dobson Bosun (Petty Officer I) Merchant Navy
Edmund Flanagan Chief Petty Officer Royal Navy
Frank Foulkes Mechanic (Petty Officer I) Merchant Navy
David R. S. Hawkins Assistant Steward Merchant Navy
Ronald Hoole First Radio Officer Royal Fleet Auxiliary
James Hughes Mechanic (Petty Officer II) Merchant Navy
Ian H. North, DSC Master Merchant Navy
Ng Por Laundryman Royal Fleet Auxiliary
Don L. Pryce Leading Air Engineering Mechanic (L) Royal Navy
Chan Chi Shing Laundryman Royal Fleet Auxiliary
Ernest N. Vickers Mechanic (Petty Officer II) Merchant Navy
Atlantic Conveyor/
Memorial panel for Atlantic Conveyor. [2]

Image Credits

  1. Photograph by the Site Owner
  2. By courtesy of Wikipedia Commons - By PH1 Janver, USN (U.S. DefenseImagery photo VIRIN: DN-ST-87-04024) [Public domain]
  3. By courtesy of the Imperial War Museum © Crown copyright. IWM (FKD 180)
  4. By courtesy of the Imperial War Museum © Crown copyright. IWM (FKD 161)
  5. By courtesy of the Imperial War Museum © Crown copyright. IWM (MH 27589)
  6. Cutting by courtesy of Billy McGee. Original source currently unknown.
  7. Original photos by courtesy of Billy McGee - enhanced by Brian Watson