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Remembering Royal Navy Frigate HMS Plymouth and her historic role on Falklands Liberation Day

HMS Plymouth may now be gone, but the Type 12 Royal Navy Frigate’s role in the Falklands War will never be forgotten.

The warship had a colourful career, but she signed her name into the history books when she hosted the Argentine surrender in her wardroom, on June 14, 1982.

Consequently, there was a huge campaign to have the Devonport-built Frigate preserved as a permanent memorial to all who fought and died defending the Falklands  Liberty – and huge sadness when she suffered the ignominy of being broken up in a Turkish scrapyard in 2014.

HMS Plymouth
HMS Plymouth (Image: HMS PLYMOUTH TRUST)

HMS Plymouth was built at No.1 Slip in South Yard at Devonport Dockyard, and was launched by Viscountess Astor on 20 July, 1959. She was named after the city of Plymouth and was only the second warship in the history of the Royal Navy to be so named.

She served as the leader of the 22nd Escort Squadron between 1963 and 1964, and leader of the 29th Escort Squadron from 1964 to 1966 in Singapore and Australia. Then, between 1966 to 1969 Plymouth underwent a major modernisation, with a a hangar and flight deck added to her aft to allow her to be the operations base for a Westfield Wasp helicopter.

HMS Plymouth under tow to Glasgow in 1990. The vessel would never return to Plymouth.
HMS Plymouth under tow to Glasgow in 1990. The vessel would never return to Plymouth.

In 1982, HMS Plymouth was one of the first Royal Navy ships to arrive in the South Atlantic following the Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands and South Georgia.

On April 28, alongside Antrim, Brilliant and Endurance, she helped to recapture South Georgia during Operation Paraquet. Royal Marines used her Westland Wasp helicopters to land on the island and attack Argentine troops. Her Wasp helicopter also took part in the attack on the Argentinian submarine Santa Fe, which was badly damaged and later captured by Royal Marines.

On June 8, 1982, HMS Plymouth was attacked by Argentine Air Force fighter-bombers – and hit with four 1000lb bombs and several cannon shells. While all of the bombs failed to explode, one detonated a depth charge and started a fire, one went straight through her funnel and two more destroyed her anti-submarine mortar.  Five men were injured in the attack.

Then, at 2100 hours on June 14, 1982, the commander of the Argentine garrison in Stanley, General Mario Menéndez, officially surrendered to the British Major General Jeremy Moore, in her wardroom.

Capt Alfredo Astiz signing the surrender aboard HMS Plymouth. Picture provided by former 42 Cdo Royal Marine Angus Mason who helped to re-capture South Georgia. (Image: Angus Mason)

After the war, HMS Plymouth returned to Rosyth Dockyard for a full repair and a refit, but she was decommissioned a few short years later, in 1988.  She still remained afloat though, being run as as a floating museum – until the collapse of the Warship Preservation Trust in 2006, when she was taken to the Vittoria Dock in Birkenhead.

In 2013,  Peel Ports, owner of the docks where the vessel was berthed, said it had been granted ownership and had sold her on to a Turkish scrap merchant.

HMS Plymouth at Birkenead
HMS Plymouth at Birkenead (Image: LAURENCE SHARPE STEVENS/HMS PLYMOUTH TRUST)
HMS Plymouth Trust campaigned tirelessly to stop the Frigate being broken up for scrap
HMS Plymouth Trust campaigned tirelessly to stop the Frigate being broken up for scrap (Image: HMS Plymouth Trust)

But the HMS Plymouth Trust, which was set up in 2012 to rescue the decommissioned vessel, disputed the claim. However the trust lost its legal battle to save her and HMS Plymouth broken up in  the Aliaga scrapyard in TurkeyTurkey in 2014.  She was the last surviving warship from the Falklands conflict.

She became embroiled in controversy after controversy, leading to accusations and recriminations over her fate. Supporters who went to Turkey in a last ditch bid to save her learned there was a veil of secrecy over her demise, with all photos and videos of her destruction being banned by the scrapyard bosses.

HMS Plymouth in a picture reportedly taken from the Turkish coast on 12/09/2014, shortly before she was broken up for scrap
HMS Plymouth in a picture reportedly taken from the Turkish coast on 12/09/2014, shortly before she was broken up for scrap

Above  is one of the last known pictures of  HMS Plymouth, taken shortly  before  she was run aground and  hacked apart at the Aliaga scrapyard in Turkey.

At the time, there were rumours suggesting parts of the vessel have been gifted to the Canadian authorities, such as the famous number 6 on funnel, a bridge telephone and a porthole.

However, the Canadian government told The Plymouth  Herald they had checked with their embassy in Ankara and confirmed they have “never heard about this”. The spokesman added: “We are not aware of any such gifts and we have not invited anybody to any handing over ceremony (or other) related to this ship – which to our knowledge has no Canadian connection.”

Many of the ships artefact were removed following the demise of the Warship Preservation Trust, which saw the vessel’s ownership transfer to Peel Holdings.

In a statement, originally released in February 2013, a spokesman for Wirral Council said: “‘For the last 12 months, Wirral has held various items for safe keeping, all the time talking to the Royal Naval Museum and HMS Plymouth Association about how they can best be kept to ensure that HMS Plymouth is never forgotten.

“This has resulted in various artefacts, including the ships bell, being transferred to the possession of the Royal Naval Museum.

“There were however some items, including the Chapel and the plaque, that the museum did not take. As Fort Perch Rock, New Brighton, which already houses a number of permanent maritime and aviation based museum displays, had expressed an interest, it was decided that the Fort would be an appropriate home for both the Chapel and the plaque.”

 

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