Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Churn at the Shipyard

This week my southeastern Pennsylvania shipyard has been prolific. Completing the 14,394-ton SMS Braunschweig, the American protective cruiser USS Olympia as well as two versions of the 9,745-ton Spanish battleship Pelayo.  (I do have to say I like the look of the WTJ miniatures.)

It is the smallest of the lot the HMS Endurance impresses me.  This is one of the most important ships of the second half of the twentieth century. At 93 meters in length and 3,600 tons displacement this ice patrol ship would easily be over looked in most naval ports. But she is an icebreaker with a pedigree.

Yet this little ship over a misunderstanding started the largest naval adventure in the South Atlantic since the Hunt for the Graf Spee, in 1939 not to be confused with the 1914 hunt for the squadron under Admiral von Spee. It was her planned withdraw from the South Atlantic they gave the Argentines the perceived signal that the British were no longer concerned with the Falkland Islands.

This is understandable as she was the sole patrol ship for Her Majesty Government in these waters. With her withdrawal and no planned replacement the Empire appeared to be giving up her interests in the Falklands and South Georgia island over European Cold War issues.

Once war was to come to the Falklands the HMS Endurance fought bravely carrying marines and support helicopters allowing for the retaking of South Georgia island. She was also the primary platform for the attack that sank one of Argentina’s two operational submarines, the ARA Santa Fe. Not a bad return on an investment of buying a second hand Danish icebreaker.

Would the Junta lead by General Galtier have conducted the invasion if they knew Prime Minister Thatcher was not going to back down? Probably not, but that is far from certain. There would never have been an invasion though if they knew of the pluck and spirit of the Royal Navy and the HMS Endurance.

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