About this site
About This Site/ Purpose
Forty years ago, I was a recently qualified Royal Navy Medical Officer and proud parent of my newly born first daughter. On learning of the outbreak of hostilities, I perhaps selfishly, or through some sense of duty, pestered the medical appointer for a chance to do my bit for the war effort. He eventually relented and posted me to Conveyor (my first ship) to prepare the way for a whole host of medical personnel who would be setting up a field hospital on board. The crack team of surgeons and aviation experts didn't materialise and it was left to me and my staff of one LMA to do the best we could in the two weeks before she sailed... "And by the way could you [as a trained diver] procure some diving gear as you might have to clear mines at the beachhead?"
And so started an exciting adventure... The stuff of war films, or so it seemed at the time.
A month after Conveyor sailed she was hit by Exocets and we were forced to quit her after a torrid time perched above her raging inferno of a cargo as the flames made their way towards the magazine. And then came the trial by water which even I as a young fit diver only just survived...
It became clear in the following weeks and months that I and others had been severely shaken up by our experiences. Something I dealt with by looking into equipment deficiencies, by returning to the Falklands on my second ship and through lecturing to new recruits. A year later, I put the whole episode behind me and went on to enjoy mentally stimulating research laced with exciting adventure in the Navy until leaving in 1991 with a PhD and hopes of becoming an astronaut.
On the 30th anniversary of Conveyor's loss, a young researcher looking for a new angle on the Falklands war asked me to talk about Conveyor on a live BBC show. In preparation, I looked back at my notes and carried out a little research to find out what historians and veterans had made of the conflict all those years ago. A few relevant official documents had reached the public domain including a heavily reacted copy of the Board of Inquiry Report into Conveyor's loss (since removed). Reading through this, it became clear that both survivors and the public had been misinformed about the action in which Conveyor had been hit. Far from being an isolated unit hit by a lucky shot, Conveyor had been sailing in close company with the Flagship which must surely also have been at risk. And why had Conveyor been ordered onto a course that was diametrically opposite to her rehearsed defensive manoeuvre?
So, as a historical exercise, I decided to contact eye-witnesses to the events to see if I could piece together a reasonable version of Conveyor's life as an emergency carrier. Along the way, I have met, talked to and held email conversations with many veterans who have not wanted to bother others with their stories. Through these contacts, and in some cases their war diaries, it soon became clear to me that the attack on the British carriers of the 25th May 1982 had been an important turning point in the war that should be documented accurately. Accordingly, I have waded through newly released ships logs, Cabinet minutes and even a secret report on the matter sent to Mrs Thatcher in order to build a plot of the attack.
But there are still gaps in the detail to be filled. So I would welcome contact with any veteran who witnessed the 25th May Exocet attack from any of the surrounding ships including Hermes. I'd also like to gather and share, where desired, the personal recollections of any member of Conveyor's permanent or transient crew. There can be real benefits to sharing the story, even after all these years. So, I do hope you'll make contact.