Falklands Memorial Plaques – HMS Drake.

19 Jul

Story written and shared by Colyn Thomas to Admiral Lord West

During the Falkland war I was the Officer in charge(Inspector) of 79 shop in North Yard HM Dockyard Devonport, And while we were preparing to send ships down to the Falklands I was requested by Surgeon Captain Trousdale through our head of department- Mr Charles Barnes (DM6) to arrange the manufacture of medical aids for the surgeons to repair legs, arms etc, these were all manufactured to the highest standard in stainless steel and sent to the Naval Hospital Stonehouse and the field hospital on the Falkland islands. The surgeon in charge of that field hospital was Surgeon Commander Rick Jolly from Crafthole the next village to ours and I bet he never knew that these parts were made for use by his medical team by a guy from a neighbouring village in Cornwall. I have never talked to him about it. But I understand that they were used to repair the limbs of both British and Argentinean troops. I recently went to Rick Jolly’s funeral at HMS Raleigh; my wife went to school with Rick’s wife Sue.

One of the officers that frequently visited me at the workshop and staff at 81 shop was Captain Ian North from the Atlantic Conveyor who the lads quickly named Captain Birds Eye because of his appearance.

At the end of the Falklands war I was requested by the then Dockyard Manager – Mr J Bedbrook through my head of department – Mr Charles Barnes to design and have manufactured two polished brass plaques, of approx two foot square and ¼ inch (6mm) thick to be hung in the church at H.M.S. Drake in honour of the 22 crew who were killed on H.M.S. Antelope, and members of the crew killed from H.M.S Ardent. I designed the plaques, assisted with the manufacturing the engraving jigs (part of which I still have) and got one of my supervisors with a member of his staff, a Mr. Morris Glyn to engrave it for me. I remember that one of the names on the Plaque was APOWEM (R) Andrew Peddler Palmer a lad from Penzance who was trying to help defuse one of the bombs.

Colyn Thomas on the left of the picture with Morris Glyn is on the right just after the manufacture of the plaque.

The plaques were completed, polished and lacquered and taken to HMS Drake were they were hung on the wall at St Nicholas Church and a Memorial Service was held, My wife and I attended, the church was full. I remember CDR A West and CDR N Tobin were in attendance and I was personally thanked by them for getting the memorial plaques manufactured. I can only assume that they are still there. I know that HMS Ardent eventually sank after being hit by three Argentine bombs from waves of Argentinean aircraft and that Commander West was the last to leave the ship.

After the ceremony Andrew Palmers father approached me and asked if I could make him a replica smaller version of the plaque in memory of his son. This was done and presented to him. I am told that it took pride of place on the sideboard of Mr. Palmers house and he showed everyone that visited him. Both Mr. and Mrs. Palmer went to the Falkland Islands twice to visit Andrews’s war grave. It all proved too much for Mrs. Palmer and she died from a broken heart, and I understand that Mr. Palmer who worked for Lucas Engineering at Penzance died within weeks soon afterwards.

A few weeks after the Plaques were hung on the wall at the Church at HMS Drake I was summend to DM 6’s Office, to be told that some very elderly lady, a grand mother of one of the lads killed on HMS Ardent had noticed that one of the lanterns was missing from the engraving of the ships crest. On investigation I noticed that it was missing from my temp plate, so the plaque was brought back to the shop and the omission rectified.

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