The following is a text of a message sent by HMS Fearless at the end of the Falklands Conflict for press release.
Fearless returns Triumphant.
After 100 days at sea HMS Fearless returns triumphant from the Falklands.
The 13000 ton assault ship sailed from Portsmouth on April 6 after feverish preparations to embark Commodore Michael Clapp (flying his broad pennant as Commodore Amphibious Warfare) and his staff and to load elements of 3 Commando Brigade, including the headquarters of Brigadier Julian Thompson. These elements included 3 Seaking and 3 Scout helicopters of 846 Naval Air Squadron and 3 Commando Brigade.
Fearless thus became the amphibious headquarters ship and took a leading role in the amphibious landings at San Carlos and subsequent support of ground and helicopter forces.
Fearless stopped at Ascension Island to replenish food, fuel and stores and make final preparations and adjustments for the water for HMS Intrepid (after a magnificent effort in remanning with her old ships company) to catch up. There was also a chance for the Marines and Paras to take much needed exercise and for a lucky few to enjoy a tropical beach for 2 hours each, even if they did have to fill sandbags for the ship at the same time.
The approach into San Carlos Water for the assault overnight was carried out in total darkness and almost complete silence. It was not until daybreak that Fearless ships company could see the place soon to be known as Bomb Alley. In the early stages Fearless and other ships in the anchorage were attacked repeatedly by aircraft of the Argentine Airforce and Navy; Fearless herself escaping with slight damage, a few injuries and some very near misses, but credited with a share of 4 Argentine jets shot down. The Argentine pilots came to regard the anchorage as Death Valley, according to one prisoner of war, such were their losses in the next weeks under withering fire from ships and shore elements.
Fearless then became headquarters ship for General Jeremy Moore and his staff, supporting also elements of the 5th Infantry Brigade and 846 Naval Air Squadron. The force headquarters staff remained embarked throughout the final battle for Stanley. At times the ship was host to over 1500 people and overall the flight deck saw over 5000 helicopter deck landings, as well as a passing visit from a Sea Harrier.
Engineers and firefighters saw service in other ships damaged in the war, helping with heavy metal repair to bomb damage and being lowered from helicopters to fight fires in Argonaut, Plymouth and Sir Galahad. Fearless also provided safe haven for survivors of the Antelope and some owunded or lightly injured survivors of the Sir Tristram and Sir Galahad tragedies, as well as an Argentine jet pilot who parachuted injured into San Carlos Water after his Skyhawk was shot down during an attack on the assembled shipping.
After the taking of Goose Green, much Argentinian equipment was discovered, set to work by Fearless personnel and in some cases put to use. For a short time an Argentine anti-aircraft gun was fitted to the flight deck and manned at action stations before bening handed on to a logistic ship whose need was the greater. Several helicopters were found in working condition and were soon in use, albeit with a fresh paint scheme. Several ships were taken, repaired and sailed with the White Ensign including 2 with crews from Fearless, MV Monsunnen, stolen from the Falklanders by the Argentines, and the oil rig tender Yehuin, proud commands for 2 young officers.
After the surrender Fearless was directed to take into custody General Menendez and 3 other senior Argentine staff officers, and they remained until the ship sailed from Stanley. Fearless spent the final week off Port Stanley lending support to the reconstruction effort ashore.
Constant companions in San Carlos were the stalwarts fot the press corps, including reporters, Mike Nicholson, Brian Hanrahan, Jeremy Hands and Max Hastings. Most of the photographs seen in the newspapers covering this period were developed in Fearless' tiny photographic studio. Strong competition to the professionals came from Fearless' own amateur TV camerman who produced daily colourvideo reports from the ship and ashore for the nightly Fearless TV news.
The return is not without sadness, however, as only 3 of the 4 embarked landing craft of the 4th Assault Squadron return with Fearless. Landing craft Foxtrot 4 was attacked and sunk by an Argentine aircraft and Captain Jeremy Larken and the ships company mourn the loss of the coxswain and 5 of the crew. A fund for Foxtrot 4 has been started and contributions from their shipmates already exceed 8000 pounds.
The ships company look forward to being reunited with their loved ones, some well earned leave and the chance to refurbish Fearless fully before her further employment in the Autumn.