On a fine late spring evening a Royal Marines Commando casts a wreath into the English Channel as his shipmates stand rigidly to attention on HMS Bulwark in memory of past sacrifices.
Twenty-nine years to the day earlier, forebears from Bulwark’s predecessor HMS Fearless were killed in the later stages of the Falklands conflict.
Six men were lost when landing craft Foxtrot 4 from Fearless’ Royal Marines unit 4 Assault Squadron was attacked by Argentine aircraft in Choiseul Sound on June 8 1982.
By then the small craft and its crew, led by C/Sgt Brian Johnston RM, had carved their names in history thanks to deeds during the San Carlos landings.
At the height of hostilities on May 24 1982, C/Sgt Johnston brought his craft alongside the stricken frigate HMS Antelope and began to assist with fire fighting and the off load of survivors.
Despite the severity of the fire and the threat of an unexploded bomb, the senior NCO remained alongside until he had successfully completed the evacuation, rescuing over 100 Antelope sailors (the ship subsequently blew up – a terrifying moment captured by an iconic photograph).
For his actions, C/Sgt Johnson was awarded the Queen’s Gallantry Medal.
Nearly 30 years later, 4 Assault Squadron Royal Marines has a new home on Bulwark and one of its landing craft is named Foxtrot Juliet – J for Johnston and his comrades.
Each year Bulwark pauses to remember the men of F4 and 2011 was no exception as she conducted trials off the South Coast following her recent refit.
The service of remembrance, led by the ship’s chaplain Rev David Roissetter, gave 4 Assault Squadron a chance to remember former colleagues who have fought and died whilst undertaking a similar role, working from an amphibious ship with their craft, just as they do today.
There was added to poignancy to this year’s commemorations, however, as the ship also honoured four men of 42 Commando who have recently lost their lives in Afghanistan.
“The heroism, bravery and sense of duty shown by the crew of Foxtrot 4 in the Falklands is something that is worthy of remembering and sets an example to today’s landing craft crews.”
“It is something that makes all RM and RN personnel proud to serve in 4 ASRM and HMS Bulwark, following in the footsteps of a previous generation of amphibious specialists.” said the assault ship’s amphibious operations officer, Lt Col Jim McLaren RM.
HMS Bulwark begins Operational Sea Training at the end of June in preparation of taking on her new role of Britain’s flagship and on-call assault ship later this year in place of her sister HMS Albion, currently serving east of Suez.
Source: royalnavy.mod, June 17, 2011