HMS Clyde relishes the return of spring

Spring is in the air… for HMS Clyde as the Falklands emerge from the harshest winter in living memory according to islanders.

The Royal Navy’s permanent presence in the South Atlantic has endured temperatures regularly below zero and patrols when gusts peaked at 70 knots.

Such weather has not curtailed day-to-day operations in the Falklands, however, which entail a mix of reassurance visits to the remote communities and combined training with the RAF and Army units stationed 8,000 miles from the mother country.

One shelter was offered by the narrow bay at Port Howard, largest settlement on West Falkland (human population 20, sheep population 40,000).

The hamlet is surrounded by rocky mountains with only a small channel allowing access from the sea that only opens in the last few metres of the approach – the gap opens to reveal a lake surrounded by snow-capped mountains.

The joint nature of the South Atlantic is very rare in the modern and busy world we so often operate in.

Lt Cdr Storton

Clyde is too large to berth at the ferry ‘port’, so anchored while the ship’s company went ashore to visit locals. As they did they were treated to the sight of an RAF A400 transporter conducting a routine of its own banking over the warship.

Another break in the weather allowed the ship to cross Falkland Sound to visit San Carlos Water, scene of the landings which led to the islands’ liberation in 1982.

Clyde anchored near to the wreck of HMS Antelope, destroyed when an unexploded Argentine bomb was triggered during the act of defusing it – causing a series of catastrophic explosions which tore the frigate apart.

In confined waters which became known as ‘bomb alley’ in 1982, the ship’s company had time to reflect on the fight that the amphibious task group had on their hands.

And Lt Cdr George Storton, Clyde’s CO, plus a small number of crew conducted a ceremonial changing of the Union Jack flying over the graves at San Carlos Military Cemetery.

Throughout the winter patrols, Clyde has hosted personnel from other services, including RAF chefs and members of the Roulement Infantry Company. 

“The joint nature of the South Atlantic is very rare in the modern and busy world we so often operate in.

"From practising air defence with RAF Typhoons through to deploying with a section of 2 Para it has been a great experience for the whole team,” Lt Cdr Storton said of Clyde’s austral winter.

And the harsh weather has not prevented regular two-and-a-half-mile runs by the ship’s company to Bertha’s Beach where the local gentoo penguin colony resides.