Plaques honour efforts on the Rock and in Rosyth behind Falklands victory

Topic: PeopleRemembrance Storyline: Remembrance

Forty years to the day hospital ship Uganda left Gibraltar for the Falklands a memorial honouring those who made it possible was unveiled.

The Naval Base on the Rock became the latest dockyard to pay tribute not just to the men and women who sailed south in 1982, but the thousands of people in dockyards, bases and establishments who supported them – the liberation of the South Atlantic islands demanded a national effort.

Over the past couple of years, plaques have begun to appear at key sites – starting with Portsmouth Naval Base – thanks to a campaign spearheaded by former HMS Hermes sailor Andrew Cave who felt those who worked around the clock to prepare, fix, convert, load and store the Operation Corporate task force in rapid time.

Among them, employees of Gibraltar dockyard whose contribution to life-saving in the 1982 conflict has been acknowledged with a plaque at Ragged Staff Gates.

In just 65 hours, veteran cruise ship SS Uganda – which took groups of schoolchildren on educational holidays – was turned into a hospital ship.

Some 600 hospital beds were loaded, wards, operating theatres, an intensive care unit, X-ray facilities and laboratories were built and kitted out.

A flight deck for helicopters was added to the stern of the ship for ferrying casualties to land and satellite communication was installed to maintain contact with other ships in the task force.

The Gibraltar yard also converted survey ship HMS Hecla into a makeshift ‘floating ambulance’, ferrying casualties from the battlefield to Uganda for their longer-term care.

By the time Uganda’s hospital ship duties were over, some 700 personnel from both sides had been treated on board.

The overseas territory’s military and civilian leaders joined veterans, former dockyard workers, the Gibraltar Heritage Trust and the UK-based Friends of Gibraltar Heritage Society for the ceremony, including Governor Vice Admiral Sir David Steel, Chief Minister Fabian Picardo and Commodore Steve Dainton, Commander of British Forces.

Another yard where a memorial plaque has been installed is Rosyth whose employees in 1982 converted five trawlers into makeshift minesweepers.

Around 50 current and former employees, Royal Navy personnel, veterans and representatives from the local community attended the unveiling ceremony, among them Alf Ramsay, today a production engineer on site.

“During the Falklands conflict I was working in Bay 5 at the dockyard, just a stone’s throw from where I am currently working to help deliver the Royal Navy’s new Type 31 Inspiration class frigates, full circle in 40 years!

“When ships returned to Rosyth from the Falkland Islands, including HMS Plymouth, the entire yard was down at the South Arm to cheer them back in.”

When ships returned to Rosyth from the Falkland Islands, including HMS Plymouth, the entire yard was down at the South Arm to cheer them back in.

Alf Ramsay