Flashback: The day HMS Hermes returned to Portsmouth in triumph

HMS Hermes, the aircraft carrier, returns from the Falklands in 1982
HMS Hermes, the aircraft carrier, returns from the Falklands in 1982

BOB HIND'S NOSTALGIA: We'll never forget Ernie and Sue from number twenty-two

0
Have your say

The demise of HMS Hermes rekindles indelible memories of the carrier’s emotional return to Portsmouth after serving as the Royal Navy’s flagship in the Falklands War.

The warship, which is set to make her final voyage after ending her service life with the Indian Navy, was greeted by thousands when she returned from the conflict in 1982.

Relatives and friends crowded the dockside to welcome home the 1,700-strong crew and her complement of Royal Marines plus survivors of the sinking of HMS Sheffield.

The rust-streaked aircraft carrier - named after the winged messenger of the Greek gods - had begun her 8,000-mile mission to the South Atlantic on April 5, 1982.

Just over 100 days later, she was saluted by flypasts by RAF Harriers, Army Lynx helicopters and a naval Hunter training squadron as she arrived in Portsmouth, replying a 17-gun national salute.

One side of the ship has been daubed with a scoreboard marking the 46 enemy aircraft shot down by the Sea Harrier fighters launched from her deck.

HMS Hermes returns to Portsmouth from the Falklands in July 1982 PP624 ENGPPP00120130606105929

HMS Hermes returns to Portsmouth from the Falklands in July 1982 PP624 ENGPPP00120130606105929

The Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, had been flown onto the carrier by helicopter as she approached port.

Captain Lynley Middleton was modest about his ship’s role in the South Atlantic. ‘It was all absolutely routine, daily attacks, nothing untoward’ he said.

Hermes had been set to be decommissioned in 1982 after a 1981 defence review but when the Falklands War broke out, she was made the flagship of the British forces.

She set sail for the South Atlantic just three days after the Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands, carrying 12 Sea Harriers - to be famously counted out and then counted back in again by BBC reporter Brian Hanrahan - and 18 Sea King helicopters.

It was all absolutely routine, daily attacks, nothing untoward

Captain Lynley Middleton

One of these was piloted by Prince Andrew, whose picture clenching a rose in his teeth on the ship’s return to Portsmouth was published around the world.

Hermes served with the Royal Navy for another two years before being paid off in 1985.

The following year she was refitted and sold to India, recommissioning and sailing as INS Viraat from 1987 until now.

falklands 25 File dated 17/12/82 of Prince Andrew in Portsmouth in front of a crowd welcoming the carrier HMS Invincible home from the Falklands. The Duke is to leave the navy and take on more Royal duties, including promotion of British business abroad, Buckingham Palace confirmed Wednesday December 13, 2000. See PA News story ROYAL Duke. PA photos. MAYOAK0003059481

falklands 25 File dated 17/12/82 of Prince Andrew in Portsmouth in front of a crowd welcoming the carrier HMS Invincible home from the Falklands. The Duke is to leave the navy and take on more Royal duties, including promotion of British business abroad, Buckingham Palace confirmed Wednesday December 13, 2000. See PA News story ROYAL Duke. PA photos. MAYOAK0003059481