Royal Marines and sailors from HMS Bulwark’s Royal Marines squadron gathered on a beach for a poignant commemoration of the loss of landing craft during the 1982 Falklands Conflict.
The Plymouth warship conducted the service on Portsmouth’s Eastney Beach on the anniversary of the deaths during the battle to reclaim the islands from the invading Argentina’s armed forces.
The landing craft, identified as ‘F4’, was under the command of Colour Sergeant Brian Johnston when it was dispatched from HMS Fearless in poorly-charted waters and under significant threat of air attack to recover military vehicles at Goose Green. In a remarkable feat of pilotage, in darkness and without modern navigational aids, Brian reached Goose Green and loaded the vehicles
However, shortly afterwards, the landing craft was bombed and sunk by Argentine Skyhawks and all but two of F4’s crew were killed including C/Sgt Johnston, Mechanical Engineering Artificer A S James, Sergeant R J Rotherham, Leading Marine Engineer D Miller, Royal Marines A J Rundle and R D Griffin.
Lieutenant Colonel Jim Fuller, commanding officer of 4 Assault Squadron Royal Marines, said: “Four Assault Squadron Royal Marines gathers every year on the 8th June to remember the crew of F4 and this year’s event was made even more poignant by the presence of 4ASRM and their landing craft on Eastney Beach. This was also very well supported by members of the Royal Marines Association and former members of HMS Fearless’ ship’s company.”
Corporal Allenby, landing craft coxswain, said: “We understand it was typical of Brian Johnston’s ‘can do’ attitude that on that day, in spite of the clear and present threat, he decided to sail back down Choiseul Sound in daylight.”
For an earlier action rescuing sailors from the stricken warships HMS Antelope, Brian Johnston was awarded a posthumous Queen’s Gallantry Medal for bravery. Despite the severity of the fire fight and the threat of an unexploded bomb CSgt Johnston remained alongside the warship until he had successfully completed the evacuation, rescuing over 100 HMS Antelope. One of HMS Bulwark’s landing craft has since always been named in recognition of CSgt Johnson and the rest of his crew.
The ship will return to Plymouth before visiting her affiliated area of Durham County this month.
Images Crown Copyright