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Sailors and Royal Marines of HMS Albion mark Falklands War tragedy

14 June 2021
Royal Marines and sailors deployed to the Baltic with HMS Albion have held a ceremony of remembrance in tribute to those lost in a Falklands War tragedy.

Six men were killed when landing craft Foxtrot Four was attacked and sunk by Argentine aircraft on June 8 1982 as she ferried a cargo of vehicles to help troops in the closing stages for the liberation of the South Atlantic islands.

Each June 8 since, Foxtrot Four’s parent unit – 4 Assault Squadron Royal Marines – has staged a memorial service, originally on veteran assault ship HMS Fearless, more recently on her successor, Plymouth-based HMS Albion.

The assault ship is currently deployed to the Baltic as the lead ship of the Littoral Response Group (North) and during their training with NATO on the annual Baltops exercises, Royal Marines and sailors gathered for a commemoration.

Foxtrot Four had already made a name for herself in the 1982 conflict, having rescued more than 100 men from HMS Antelope shortly before the frigate spectacularly exploded and broke in two. 

Bill Parry, who was only 18 years old and on his first ship, recorded a moving account of his experiences that day. He remembers clearly the actions of Foxtrot Four, and describes its commander Colour Sergeant Brian Johnston as “the bravest man he never got to thank”.

The Royal Marine demonstrated his skill and bravery again when he took his landing craft to Goose Green to collect vital communications vehicles for the Army’s 5 Brigade.

In a remarkable feat of pilotage, in darkness and without modern navigational aids, he loaded the vehicles and was returning to Fitzroy when Foxtrot Four was bombed and sunk by Argentine Skyhawk aircraft. Only two of the eight crew survived.

The memory of Colour Sergeant Johnston and his men lives on. In addition to the annual service, a new Foxtrot Four replaced the lost craft and was renamed Foxtrot J – J for Johnston, a tradition maintained to this day.

Sergeant Gavin Smith, current Foxtrot J coxswain in HMS Albion, said: “It is important to remember the sacrifice that these men made not so long ago on operations that any of us could be potentially involved in.

“It is a personal honour to be the coxswain of our own memorial LCU FJ, where it is a privilege to able to command this craft and honour those who gave everything for our success. It will keep us humble but also makes us be the best we can be so as not to tarnish their memory. Lest we forget.”

Reverend Paul Andrew, Royal Navy Chaplain in HMS Albion, added: “As a Chaplain it's always an honour to be involved in remembrance services but even more even when it's to remember and honour an event that is so close to the hearts of those you serve with. Remembering the crew of F4 reminds us of the great traditions of the Naval service and those exceptional individuals who did so much in helping to save the lives of those on the bomb stricken Antelope, before they themselves played the highest price any of us can pay. 

“All this as they sought to do their part in liberating the Falklands. Remembering them whilst at sea in HMS Albion on LRG(N) with FJ Juliet's crew, makes our service more poignant.

“Remembering the sacrifice of those on FJ is at the heart of what we do and guides us to live by their example. May they rest in peace and rise in glory.”

Two Sea Harriers patrolling the Falkland skies immediately avenged the loss of Foxtrot 4, bringing down three of the Skyhawks with Sidewinder missiles.

The final resting place of Foxtrot Four has never been found – the only wreck from the Falklands War still unlocated.

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