Falklands tug honoured with namesake £15m ship repair barge in Portsmouth

Topic: Equipment and Tech Storyline: HMNB Portsmouth

Falklands veterans spoke of their pride that an unsung workhorse of the 1982 conflict was formally honoured in Portsmouth.

Ocean-going tug RMAS Typhoon – crewed by a mix of civilians and Royal Navy personnel – performed numerous duties in the South Atlantic, from towing damaged/broken down vessels, to ferrying supplies and personnel around the task force.

To mark the 40th anniversary of the start of the campaign, a new support barge/ship lift which was delivered to Portsmouth Naval Base earlier this year has been named in her honour.

Dubbed the ‘jack-up barge’ by naval base personnel, the £15m ship repair and maintenance barge is intended to revolutionise the way the city’s extensive flotilla of ships – from mighty Queen Elizabeth-class carriers to the Mine Counter Measures vessels – are maintained.

The specialist vessel has four moveable legs which extend to the seabed allowing its large working platform to be lifted out of the water, creating a stable platform from which to carry out repairs and lift machinery, even whole ships such as Hunt-class minehunter Ledbury.

Crucially, its arrival means that smaller vessels are once again able to undertake maintenance in the covered ship repair facility allowing projects to be delivered faster and cheaper, working 24/7 where necessary in a more controlled environment.

This in turn creates more available ships and increases the capacity of the Naval Base to carry out repairs and speeding up the complex process of keeping ships ready for duty.

“The best 21st-century ship repair facilities use covered ship repair and flexible assets such as Typhoon 3000 to deliver their outputs and I am proud that this modern and effective process is now more widely available for Portsmouth Naval Base,” said Naval Base Commander Commodore JJ Bailey.

First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Ben Key formally named the barge after addressing guests – including civic leaders, Falklands veterans and even Typhoon crew - gathered around a model of the barge in one of Portsmouth Naval Base’s ship halls.

“I thank you, for what you did, playing your part to liberate the people of the Falkland Islands, and for showing that we will stand up to tyranny, and that aggressors will fail.

“We see this self-same agility, and unity of purpose across the naval bases, the hubs which allow us to sustain a global Fleet and project UK power and influence across the globe. “

 “I am hugely honoured to be invited to this naming ceremony,” said Typhoon’s former master Bruce Stephens who, ever the mariner, today lives aboard a converted Dutch barge on the Trent in Nottinghamshire. “I have very fond memories of serving in command of RMAS Typhoon, a fine Ocean Tug with a wonderful ‘can do’ crew.”

Falklands veteran Jez Downie from Leicester hopes the decision to remember Typhoon will be repeated. “I think it’s a good thing to do – I remember the ships we lost during the Falklands conflict and think it would be good to see some of our new ships named in the same way,” said Mr Downie, who served aboard assault ship HMS Intrepid, maintaining her weapons systems.

Another veteran attending was Peter Burgess, who served on HMS Broadsword. “The memories this evokes are memories that have never left me, it’s a time you wish to forget but also it’s a memory you feel proud to have been involved with, we did what was needed to be done without question.

“I lost some good shipmates on other ships, and they are the ones we think of all the time, events like this do help to remember the sacrifices made.’

Typhoon was the first UK ship to leave for the Falklands following the invasion of the islands – ahead of the main task force dispatched to liberate the islands.

Once she reached the South Atlantic, she was heavily engaged in supporting front-line operations, from delivering up to 18 tonnes of fresh water to ships and units and loading elements of 17 Brigade aboard ferry-turned-troopship MV Norland ahead of the landings at San Carlos.

One week after the liberation of the islands, it was Typhoon’s sad duty to tow the burned-out wreck of RFA Sir Galahad to open water, where she was scuttled by torpedoes from the submarine HMS Onyx.

Upon her return to the UK, the vessel served for another seven years until she was sold off and eventually converted into a trawler. 

We see this self-same agility, and unity of purpose across the naval bases, the hubs which allow us to sustain a global Fleet and project UK power and influence across the globe.

First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Ben Key