Falklands War: Portsmouth Dockyard Workers Honoured

A plaque has been unveiled at Portsmouth Naval Base to commemorate the part dockyard workers played in preparing the Royal Navy fleet for conflict in the Falklands War.

Many of them had been told they were to about to be made redundant when the call came in for them to ensure 127 task force vessels were ready for action.

Portsmouth Dockyard workers were instrumental in redying the 1982 task force for the Falklands War.

"There was a lot of respect given to the fighting arm - the sailors and the Navy, and not quite as much recognition to the dockyard, who were really under threat of losing their jobs and livelihood at that time," Nigel Linger, Chairman of Historical Trust, Portsmouth Dockyard, said.

He explained at the time staff worked "round the clock to get ships prepared", recalling that: "Hundreds of thousands of dockies suddenly turned up, worked extra time, to show what a good job they could do, without being really told or asked [to]".

A third of the ships involved in the conflict were prepared at Portsmouth, according to the Portsmouth Royal Dockyard Historical Trust, with the labour force working long hours to ensure the vessels were ready.

Aircraft carriers HMS Invincible and HMS Hermes, both prepared at Portsmouth Dockyard, were the first two ships to sail as part of Operation Corporate on 5 April 1982.

Unveiling ceremony at portsmouth base of historic dockyard plaque for dockyard workers for falklands war efforts 301020 CREDIT BFBS.jpg
The plaque recognises the efforts made by Portsmouth Dockyard workers as they prepared Royal Navy vessels for the Falklands War.

Grahame Willocks helped prepare the Invincible-class carriers for war.

He said hopes the plaque might help give some insight into the job they did at a turbulent time in history.

"If we hadn't gone in, the ships wouldn't have been ready [and] the ships wouldn't have sailed and the ships' staff would have done a lot of work themselves," Mr Willocks added.

When the conflict began, the same sense of camaraderie that was felt in the dockyards seemed to be also felt in the wider public.

"There was this sense of outrage, really, that these little islands that were British on the other side of the world, that somebody had walked in and invaded them," Historian Nick Hewitt said.

"It's the only time, since the Second World War, that the whole naval base infrastructure had to mobilise to send [a] fleet to sea and it's the last great naval war that the Royal Navy has fought, really.

"It's the last time that Royal Navy ships were lost in action since the Second World War," he added.

The Trust behind the commemorative plaque hopes more might soon be placed in dockyards around the country, to make sure those who prepared the vessels for the Falklands War are also remembered.

Former Estimator, Grahame Willocks at portsmouth dockyard looks at specs of vessels prepared there for falklands war 301020 CREDIT BFBS.jpg
Former Estimator Grahame Willocks worked at Portsmouth Dockyard.

The Royal Navy ships that were prepared at Portsmouth for the operation in the Falkland Islands include: HMS Hermes, HMS Invincible, HMS Intrepid, HMS Fearless, HMS Bristol, HMS Diomede, HMS Herald, HMS Hydra, HMS Dumbarton Castle, HMS Leeds Castle, and HMS Ledbury.

Some Royal Fleet Auxiliary ships that were involved in the conflict were also prepared in Portsmouth. These included: RFA Brambleleaf, RFA Black Rover, RFA Grey Rover, RFA Olna, and RFA Stromness.

The Falklands War ended on 14 June 1982.

Following the end of the conflict, a number of vessels were sent to Portsmouth for damage repairs caused by bombs or missiles, such as HMS Antrim, HMS Glamorgan and HMS Onyx.

In recognition of the close ties between the City of Portsmouth and the Falklands, last year the Falkland Island government presented the city with a Falklands flag.

Cover image: The plaque was unveiled on Friday.