HMS Ardent shipmate Nigel Woods, the assistant Canteen Manager, returned to the Falklands Islands for the first time in 31 years and paid a poignant tribute to our 22 lost shipmates from that fatal day in May 1982.
Serving onboard the Type 23 frigate HMS Argyll (as the ships Canteen Manager) Nigel and the frigate left the UK in February 2013 and headed South for duty as Falkland Islands Patrol ship. The long journey took them via the west coast of Africa where they carried out exercises with various different Navies and Coastguards. But sad news from home took Nigel off the ship for a while. “I had to come home for a month because of the death of my brother Martin with lung disease but managed to get back onboard before the ship got into cape town for a two week Self Maintenance Period (SMP).”
After the SMP HMS Argyll continued South heading first to South Georgia and then onto the Falkland Islands arriving on station 11 June 2013. Now anchored off Port Stanley the ship took part in the Falklands liberation day celebrations, “I got invited to the service and then onto the parade and then onto the town hall for drinks and food.” Nigel was hoping to meet up with Falklander, and a great friend of the HMS Ardent Assocation, John Ferguson but he was away on business. Not all was lost though as Nigel explained, “…. I got gripoed and he took me around Port Stanley to the different pubs!”
The frigate then sailed from Port Stanley and went to the different settlements around the Falkland Islands, “…to help out with different things, one of those was San Carlos where I managed to get ashore and lay a wreath at the [Falklands War] memorial and on the way back to the ship we stopped at the buoy that marked where HMS Ardent was sunk on the 21 May 1982 and I laid another wreath at sea. That night the captain gave up his cabin to me so I held a mess meal for HMS Ardent which I invited 8 of the ships company to attend and the captain as well of course. That went off very well and it was the end of what was a very emotional day.”
HMS Argyll left the Falklands early July and sailed back up the coast of South America and into the Caribbean arriving back in Plymouth in September. Looking back Nigel concluded: “This was my first time back to the Falklands for 31 years and this was also my last deployment before I retire in May 2014.”