The case for the award of the South Atlantic Medal (Without Rosette) to HMS Ledbury, HMS Brecon & The RMS St Helena
Reason for Deployment
As the Falklands conflict progressed, it became increasingly clear that a major “clearing-up” operation would be required after the war, to make the ‘ Islands’ coastal waters safe. Port Stanley, Port William, and San Carlos Water in particular were littered with all types of unexploded ordnance, aircraft wreckage, jettisoned fuel tanks and other hazards.
The first step was the well-documented conversion of the five ocean-going trawlers into minesweepers. These vessels (JUNELLA, NORTHELLA, CORDELLA, FARNELL and PICT) arrived in Stanley shortly after the surrender. They successfully swept a high proportion of the moored mines laid by the Argentines outside Port Stanley harbour. The Hunts (HMS Ledbury and HMS Brecon), with their computerised mine hunting facilities and remotely controlled submersibles (RCMDS) were ideally suited to finishing off the excellent job done by the trawlers and dealing with all the underwater hazards left in the aftermath of the war.
Preparations for Deployment
Contingency plans were drawn up in late April 1982 to recall personnel from courses, demand extra stores and muster and check all mobile equipment. Full details of every item likely to be required were needed at an early stage to allow the selection of the most suitable support ship to be taken up from trade (RMS St Helena). The ‘green light’ was received from the MOD in early May and the first priority was to take the Hunts out of their Operational programme and bring them to full readiness for deployment under war conditions. On the 15 May 1982, HM Ships Brecon and Ledbury left Rosyth Naval Base for OPERATION CORPORATE.
The Hunts operated superbly throughout CORPORATE in atrocious weather conditions. All the remaining sea mines were dealt with, wrecks of HMS Antelope, Ardent and Coventry were located in order to recover some of their equipment and marked. Five Argentinian fighter aircraft which had not been reported as being shot down were discovered on the seabed. The sunken Argentinian supply ship Rio Carcarana was also located in Falkland Sound, her ensign flying in the current. She had been sunk by Sea Harriers from HMS Hermes on the 16th May. Unexploded bombs were disposed of. Sea lanes were surveyed and made safe. The divers, working in freezing cold and murky waters had many grisly and dangerous jobs. Despite all the hard work the South Atlantic Medal was denied the three ships. We had entered the war zone outside the set parameters for issue of the medal. Numerous attempts have been made to the Government/MOD, but it has been to no avail and nothing has been forthcoming. It is a great disappointment as, war or not, the ships had been operating in very dangerous waters, the threat was still real as no official surrender was made at the time of our deployment.