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RFA Sir Galahad

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Jim T
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RFA Sir Galahad

#1 Post by Jim T » Mon 11 Jun, 2007 7:59 pm

I just thought that I would let you all know of my experience concerning trying to join the RFA Sir Galahad Association, which is run by the old ships Captain, Philip Roberts. First I will give you a little background.

Back in 82 I was a young 17 year old Royal Marine, who was selected to be part of the RM detachment for the Sir Galahad. I had passed out of Commando Training Centre RM on the 19th March 1982, so was "Fresh out of the box"

We joined the ship at Ascension Island around the 17th April and quickly settled into the ships routine of watch keeping, air defence, anti diver actions etc etc and any other duties that could be thought of for us.

After the initial landings we were bombed in San Carlos water and ended up with an unexploded bomb punching through the side of the ship and coming to rest in one of the mess decks on the port side. The ship was evacuated (to the Fort Austin?) and after soak period of a few hours to see if the bomb went off voulenteers were sought from the RM detachment to reboard the Sir Galahad and assist the EOD team whilst they defussed it. To cut a long story short I ended up physically carrying the UXB, along with a couple of other Booties and EOD guys, along the Tank Deck of the ship where we placed the bomb in a half inflated Gemini. The Gemini was then floated off the loading ramp, taken well away from other ships and then sunk.

Repairs were made, and the ship declared operation again.

I was onboard, below decks on the 8th June when we were hit whilst anchored in Bluff Cove. I won't go into details.

After Bluff Cove I was re equiped and sent ashore. I have little memory of this period.

I ended up serving for 9 years in the RM and left the Corps in 1990. In 1997 I was injured at work and was required to see an Occupational Therapist. By the end of my first visit I was diagnosed with PTSD relating to the Falklands and bombing of the RFA Sir Galahad! Up until then I had never considered that I had any problems, even though I had never had a full nights sleep since 1982, constantly remembered specific events, became tearful from no real reason, couldn't watch or listen to anything relating to the Falklands War etc etc. You see I thought that this was just "My lot in life" and didn't think that it affected my work or home life.

Anyway....enough dripping.

A couple of months ago I was surfing the net when I came across the details of one of the Sir Galahads old ships officers (first name Alistair). His e mail address was published, so I dropped him a line asking if anyone ever got together to commemorate those lost onboard the Sir Galahad and the ship its self. He replied and gave me details of the RFA Sir Galahad Association, which is run by Philip Roberts the old ships Captain.

In due course I e mailled Roberts and gave him my details and awaited a reply. No reply ever came.

I recontacted Alistair to check I had the correct e mail address, only for him to inform me that it was Officers only and those deemed worthy of belonging to the association. In fact Alistair had been so angry at this that he resigned from the association, something which I discouraged him from doing and which I think is a great shame.

Come 25 years tomorrow I can say with my hand on my heart that not one day has gone by without me thinking back to that fateful day. It has imprinted itself on my very being and I will live with the events for the rest of my life, as I am sure others will.

I am deeply afronted that as I was "only" an Other Rank on the day we were hit I, along with others, am deemed unworthy of joing an association which should be open to all who were onboard that day. In short the whole dismissive attitude just makes me bloody angry!

People sometimes forget that Simon Weston wasn't the only person onboard the Sir Galahad 25 years ago and, in my opinion, EVERYONE who was onboard when we were hit was wounded. Maybe not physically but definately mentally.

Anyway rant over. I will not be participating in any of the planned 25th aniversary events for my own personal reasons. However I would have attended an RFA Sir Galahad dinner, as it may have helped me lay some ghosts to rest by speaking to others who were onboard that day.

Jim

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#2 Post by harry hackedoff » Tue 12 Jun, 2007 5:50 am

Jim, that`s outrageous mate. He`s hi-jacked the name and turned it into an Officers dining club.

You could go for option B and start your own Association. Nothing too hard, e-mail contact list, couple of newsletters a year and an annual get together. Call it the RFA Sir Galahad All Ranks Association
Here’s some contacts, firstly, the Welsh Guards Association secretary, Brian Keane,
brian_keane@yahoo.com

The RFA have an Association, here,
www.rfa-association.org.

and an unofficial site, here,
http://www.toysoutofthepram.com/index.html

Contact here,
oic@toysoutofthepram.com

and a topic from their forums here
http://www.toysoutofthepram.com/forum/v ... c.php?t=32

Good luck Jim :wink:
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#3 Post by La Langosta » Tue 12 Jun, 2007 9:33 am

"Toys out of the pram" is a brills name!!

Thought it was one of your wind-ups Monsieur Hackedoff, but couldnt help myself from clicking the link to find out :lol:

Jim, as I said before, it most certainly wasnt just officers and selected others who went Down South.
That Roberts bloke needs to be taken to task over his tinpot dictator attitude.
As you say, a damn shame that others feel the need to resign from the Association due to the mentality of those who are in charge.

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#4 Post by harry hackedoff » Tue 12 Jun, 2007 3:51 pm

The other "Knights" have all got re-unions with no restrictions. This prick needs a good slap. :wink:
I am serious Jim, this Roberts charecter has hijacked the name and that is bang out of order. And you could easily organise a Sir Galahad Association considering the numbers involved mate.
Once again Jim, good luck mate :wink:
Loreeeen, stop yer greetin an awa an shite in yer bed :evil:
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Artist

#5 Post by Artist » Tue 12 Jun, 2007 4:45 pm

Go for it Jim!

Pricks like this arsewipe seem to think they are the be all and end all. Form your own Association and once it's up and running inform the prick that if he ever dares to interfere you will have his bollox for the LHSM's latest ear rings.

Artist

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#6 Post by La Langosta » Tue 12 Jun, 2007 5:13 pm

harry hackedoff wrote: Loreeeen, stop yer greetin an awa an shite in yer bed :evil:
Done that already, which is why I am spending time here :P :lol:

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Re: RFA Sir Galahad

#7 Post by Groupie59 » Fri 08 Feb, 2008 8:43 pm

Jim
You have been sourly treated. Disgusting really.

I was a member of the Navy Diving EOD teams down there. I didn't do the Galahad. That was a CD2 called Tommo. and the two ringer was a guy called Bernie Bruen. He always had a fiddle with him. Mind you I think they did the second bombs. She was hit again after the time you mention. The next time was fatal and those two walked around while it was still burning and cooking off all the ammo. They have told me about the sights they saw.

I have just spent a year writting it all down and it has helped me no-end with my head. If you know what I mean. I kept a 60 page diary whilst there so that helped. I wouldn't have known where I was on what day other wise. We worked 20+ hours a day.

I've just had it published and it's going well. I hope you get over your demons mate.

Tony Ex MCD

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introduction

#8 Post by Bernie UXB » Fri 01 May, 2009 1:19 pm

Hello, I am Bernie UXB and I am keen to post observatiions in persuit of this topic. Please allow me to.
Bernie UXB

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Galahad

#9 Post by Bernie UXB » Fri 01 May, 2009 1:20 pm

Jim,

Your story touched me deeply and the way you were treated made me very sad. Thinking about it robbed me of sleep, which is why I am writing this at three o'clock in the morning – a situation to which, I am sure, you will be no stranger. But, if it is of any comfort, you are not the only one to be treated shabbily. I was subject to so much of it for six years after the Conflict that it eventually drove me out of the Service; and all this was from people I had never met but who professed to know me and insisted in spreading hateful stories with no basis in truth. No doubt their gossip bought them many pints in the bar and they felt bigger men for it.

I have a particular affinity with Galahad through three connections, both during and after the hostilities.

The first was the eight and a half hour task of removing the 1,000lb bomb from the battery charging room, where it had lodged among all the smashed carboys of acid. I am sorry if I do not remember you being there to help us (Tommo, Buster, Whiskey and me – all of Fleet Clearance Diving Team Three), but it was a time fraught with danger, working in uber-close proximity to the bomb and having to continually wash ourselves off from the acid that was destroying our clothes. Sitting amid the wreckage with the bomb partially resting on my knees, while straining on a tackle in one direction and a chain hoist in the other, was not conducive to recognising the few people who came to help. But you will remember the uncertainty and tenseness as we craned the weapon diagonally through the hatches above and lowered it into the Gemini full of cornflakes packets – to keep it in exactly the same attitude as it had landed and thus prevent its detonation - and how Tommo and Buster took it away from the ship's side and into the dark of the San Carlos night.

The second occasion was at Buff Cove when Tommo and I boarded Galahad (we had already saved Tristram by putting out the fires and checking for UXBs – another story) to see if we could salvage her yet again. But she was still shuddering to explosions deep within and burning so fiercely that bulkheads were glowing red hot. We did what we could but there was not much we could achieve. We found one young lad on the deck and covered him up as best as we were able but it was impossible to move him. It is a memory that still haunts my waking, midnight hour.

RFA SIR GALAHAD AT BUFF COVE

She lies as lies the rabbit or the doe,
With broken back and rapid, shallow breath,
Who rises even yet before its foe
And shouts defiance; shouts it unto death.

She lies and cries from pity and from shame;
Looks up to give a blind and helpless call
Whose answer echoes, calling out her name,
"No-one will come. There is no hope at all."

She lies and sighs so lonely in the dawn,
Her bulkheads at the mercy of the tide,
Her lifeboats gone, their ladders left forlorn
Who slowly swing and scratch and scratch her side.

She lies and dies; she sees the waves advance
And waits to feel them wash her life away;
Until the long, grey ships her pleas entrance
And softly come to help her on her way.

The third occasion was when I was asked to take Galahad out to sea and sink her using explosives. It was not a job I wanted to do and, as no-one could agree on the best way of achieving it, the task was left to a later date, by which time my Team had left the Falklands.

Much like Diver Tony, I also wrote a book about the events, largely to clear my mind of so much pain but also to give the Divers of FCDT3 the recognition that they deserve. If you would like to read more of their story, have a look at: www.warpoetry.co.uk/Bernie_Bruen_poetry.html
There are things there that you should read, particularly: 'To a Young Galahad', 'Tristram at the Cove', 'We Are the Cowboys' and 'The Senior Leech'. The full history is in 'Keep Your Head Down' (Book Guild), if you can find a copy.

Good luck to you, Jim. These things will never go away (and nor should they) but by sharing them we can lessen the pain they bring.

Bernie UXB

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#10 Post by Mike90 » Fri 01 May, 2009 1:40 pm

I'm hoping Jim has logged on every now and then since posting this but as his last post was in December 2007 you might want to email him to get in touch instead.
http://www.militaryforums.co.uk/forums/ ... ofile&u=37
All the best, Mike.

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#11 Post by Russ Smudge » Tue 12 Jan, 2010 3:56 am

Every once in a long while I look through a small bag of military websites, not so much to reminisce about past events, moreover to see if I recognise any names of people with whom I might once have known or shared common experience. Having only just seen the original 2007 posting from Jim T., and the various responses and comments that followed, I would like to share a couple of thoughts also.

Although with the passage of time my communications with Jim are now somewhat limited to exchanging Christmas greetings (2009 included), family well wishes and the odd email ‘funny’ circular I do, and will always, consider Jim to be one of my greatest and truest friends. No doubt this is due to the bonds we forged ‘down south’ and in particular in our pairing as a gpmg team aboard the Sir Galahad.

I, along with another youngster (17 yr old ‘Jock’ Dunsmore) were the other two ‘fresh-out-of-the-box’ marines who, alongside Jim, volunteered to return to the stricken ship to assist Cdr. (then Lt.) Bruen and his team with the UXB. I certainly recall Lt. Bruen and his haunting fiddle playing echoing throughout the darkened ghost ship and later hand wrestling the bomb toe-to-toe with him and his team of true heroes down the rear part of the roll-on, roll-off deck. Over the many years I could probably count on two hands the number of times I have mentioned the story to people I know, possibly due to a fear of becoming an ‘Uncle Albert’ with his “….during the war..” stories or, perhaps that it would likely be received with complete disbelief or, at least, as an exaggerated yarn. After all, who in their right mind would accept that a UXB expert would bring a fiddle to work and that a 1000 lb bomb was disposed of by settling it upon a semi-inflated Gemini dinghy filled, pyramid-like, with cornflakes, weetabix and rice krispies, and which was then towed off the rear ramp into the starlit night to be sunk a few hundred yards from the ship. It still sounds crazy to me.

I also seem to recall, as memories get corrupted, trying to hold up the front end of the bomb as it swung around sling harnesses attached to a small fork lift which was used to initially lift it, so as to stop the cracked nose cap from hitting the metal floor. However, once the bomb was sunk the first thing we did was neck a few stiff Pussers Rums from the optics in the small officers’ mess cabin.

In light of Jim’s enquiry with the Sir Galahad Association, and the inexcusable failure of its body to even acknowledge his communications, I am saddened. It is one thing to be rejected but to be ignored is a far greater insult. It might be the case that its membership is restricted to officers or those who were officially part of the ship’s crew, which I accept, but the organization should open its arms, perhaps even as honorary members, to people like Jim who, as a very young man, put everything on the line to save the ship. Jim was the first of three marines from a ships detachment of 14 to volunteer to go back to a 5000 ton supplies ship fully laden with ammunition and a 1000 lb bomb precariously parked aboard.

But for the skill and daring of Lt. Bruen and his team, had the bomb gone off there would have been no parts to put in a box to ship home and, although the ship succumbed to more successful bombing soon after, which is another chapter of our memoirs entirely, who among the Sir Galahad Association membership can say they did more than Jim?

Cdr. Bruen might not directly recall Jim or some of us other participants (after all he did have his hands full – quite literally – and his mind on the immediate task at hand) but perhaps he might recall a minor incident which demonstrates Jim’s typical commando sense of humour and natural practical joker mentality. When we first arrived back on the ship to assist the UXB team we noticed Lt. Bruen looking at the deck around him, obviously searching for something. A few moments later Jim came up to me wearing a green military life vest and offered one to me with a “here, you should wear one of these” comment. Having donned the vest with an air of gratitude for Jim’s caring gesture I was soon after confronted by Lt. Bruen who, with a pointed finger, indicated to me that the name on the outer flank of my vest (hidden to my vision) was Lt. Bruen and that I was in fact wearing the vest he had been searching for when we first came aboard. My first reaction was to look across at Jim who was creased up giggling highly satisfied with his prank, having overheard Lt. Bruen looking for his vest earlier.

Who confronted with such a situation as we had arrived in would think first to play a joke on his oppo? Jim T. that’s who. Other pranks included a requisition Jim made on my behalf (unknown to me) to use the ship Captain’s bath. This request was tannoyed throughout the ship to the huge guffaws of a packed galley of squaddies, along with Captain Robert’s response of ‘f@#% off marine Smith’. By way of counter prank I made the near fatal mistake of creeping up on Jim during his night time ship’s patrol and, having been spotted next to the ships engine room exhaust vents, I came close to catching a 7.62mm round when Jim shouted ‘Commando Comic style’ “Halt, who goes there?” Trying to laugh off the ill-conceived mischief it quickly became apparent to me that Jim could not appreciate my attempts to be recognized due to the pitch black night and the noise of the ship’s engines. Hearing the cocking of his SLR from only 8ft away I pretty much screamed in his face that it was “only Smudge”. Thank God he heard me as I would have been a friendly fire statistic there and then. Our memorable joint prank was testing our gpmg accuracy on a single penguin swimming a couple of hundred yards off the ship’s stern on the pretence that we believed it to be the head of an Argentinean frogman who might be looking to attach limpet mines to the underside of the ship. The Captain was not amused as, upon our initial burst of fire, four other marine gun teams quickly joined the action.

God bless you Jim T. and all who sail in you. Any association that does not have you as a member is all the worse for it.

Finally, thanks to the UXB guys would ensured my mother got her stupid son back in one piece I that I could later have a wife and four fantastic kids of my own.

Russ 'Smudge'

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#12 Post by Bernie UXB » Tue 12 Jan, 2010 3:26 pm

Well, I have to say that Smudge's story is a very interesting one. Sadly, it rings no bells with me - perhaps more's the pity.
The route taken by the Galahad bomb by fork lift truck et al along the tank deck and so off the stern ramp is rather at odds with my memory of hoisting it from the battery charging room, through hatches and lowering by crane into the gemini full of (only) cormflakes packets alongside.
However the Smudge's account is certainly more graunchy and full of incident.
So, good luck to the both of you and keep the flag of Galahad's memory flying high.
Bernie Bruen.

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#13 Post by Russ Smudge » Tue 12 Jan, 2010 6:28 pm

Bernie,

Thank you for commenting, and so quickly. It is no surprise that you do not remember an incident which may have been trivial to you but which caused me some carefully planned embarrassment (courtesy of Jim T.). As for the movements of the bomb, my memory too is that the bomb was moved with a number of hands only a short distance to the Gemini, via crane/hoist (or, in my head fork-lift), but which was them dragged out of the rear part of the deck onto the the loading ramp complete with bomb on top. As for the buffer contents it might well have been just cornflakes. 28 years softens the memory on some of this stuff.

After all this time it would be an interesting social experiment to see if any two people on board recall the same 'facts'. The strange thing is that pretty much the only events I now remember about the whole 'down south' experience are humourous ones. Like Jim I had the spectre of PTSD hover over me for a while as a result of Bluff Cove but this was fairly soon after the hostilities were over and I was fortunate enough to exorcise that demon relatively quickly. Life is good and I often thank God that I was not among the lost legion who perished aboard the old ship.

If there is ever a reunion of some sort, like Jim T., I would be pleased and honoured to attend.

Russ 'Smudge'

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Re: RFA Sir Galahad

#14 Post by spardy » Fri 08 Oct, 2010 11:28 pm

I was a Junior engineer officer on the Galahad and, like a lot of these people on this discussion, I volunteered to return to the ship to assist in getting her back to life after the first bomb. I remember boarding the ship which was very eerie as it was as silent and dark as it never had been - a ghost ship for sure. My role, along with another of my colleages (plus the second engineer who sadly lost his life at Fitzroy) was to breath life back into her so that the guys mentioned in this forum could do their job. I remember that my job was to get the first generator running to get some power into the ship and then to expand life such as lights, pumps, heating, cranes etc to bring her to a state of readiness.
We had to get some comressed air in the emergency tank to allow us to start the first generator -this was a long time waiting for the small emergency compressor (which was hand cranked to get started) to produce enough compressed air to make that one initial attempt of starting one of the four main generators - sitting vulernable in a 'dead' ship. The first rumble of the generator kicking into life produced bated breath in case the uxb reacted. I remember sitting in the Machine Control Room (MCR) in the engine room whilst you guys did your excellent job - spending many hours there until we managed to rid the UXB and waiting for the rest of the ships complement to return. It all seems such long ago, but then sometimes it feels like yesterday!!

I must admit I have been back to one of the many Assosciation gatherings (25th), but as an engineer officer I felt quite alianated from the other 'Deck' officers although the majority loss of life (from an RFA crew perspective) were from the engineering crew - four of my close friends and working colleauges were killed in Fitzroy. I fully agree that it would be a great idea to have a 'anbody who were there on that day' reunion, since none of us are getting any younger!

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