I read with interest your article on Gary Boxall and his memories from the Falklands conflict.
I, in no way, would want to diminish his or anyone else’s pride in a job well done at the time. Every person on every vessel sent to the south Atlantic contributed to the success of the operation.
But I would like to remind, or inform, you and your readers of how a lot of the success was due to the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA).
Everyone remembers the Sir Galahad and Sir Tristram being bombed and destroyed in Bluff Cove whilst trying to land troops in an advance position. Both of those ships were Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessels, and as such were manned by UK civilian MN officers, and Chinese national crew from Hong Kong. Several of these crew members lost their lives at that time.
Every merchant ship that went from the UK to the south Atlantic had one RFA officer onboard. They were there to enable the ship’s own crew to cope with RN/RFA procedures, especially when it came to radio procedures, ordering spares and refuelling at sea. Those vessels were STUFT, or Ships Taken Up From Trade. The Atlantic Conveyor was STUFT and the RFA officer on board lost his life. The Atlantic Conveyor was positioned so as to be the target rather than HMS Invincible.
HMS Invincible’s endurance at sea was entirely due to the RFA ships that accompanied the Royal Navy ships to the south Atlantic. All of the RN ships would not have gone much more than a week or so without being refuelled at sea. They may well have ran out of food as well. The RFA ships re-supplying them at sea with all their requirements. In that respect, that is what the RFA did, and still does to this day. The endurance records of the Invincible I feel sure was beaten by some of the RFA vessels in the fleet.
If you look at any of the photos from San Carlos water during the landings period, of all the ships in those photos the largest ones were either RFA or STUFT vessels, ie the biggest targets. Even the Canberra was in San Carlos and STUFT.
Again I repeat that I no way would want to diminish the professionalism and dedication of every Royal Navy crew member. Nor would I want to take away any of the pride that all, of those personal have in doing a “good job”. The same goes for all of the Army, Marines and RAF personnel.
I just want to educate you and your readers that the RFA also played a very important and decisive part in the whole operation to recapture the Falkland Island in 1982.
Paul Martin Bradley
Second Officer, Royal Fleet Auxiliary (Retired)