The HMS Intrepid, Falkland War Veteran

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HMS Intrepid (L11)

The Proud HMS Intrepid and her forty year saga that took her through the Cold War, to the Falklands, to eBay.

In the past 250-years some eight of His Majesty’s Ships Intrepid sailed with the Royal Navy of Great Britian. These ships fought in virtually every modern naval war since that time, tied up with the Comte de Grasse at the Battle of the Chesapeake, blocked the harbor at Zeebrugge, chased the Bismarck, evacuated Dunkirk and were lost in exploring the Arctic. However arguably the most famous of these HMS Intrepid was the one that slipped down the ways down at John Brown & Co Ltd, Clydebank and delivered into commission on March 11, 1967.

For a cost of £10.3 million pounds she was the second and last of the HMS Fearless class LPD’s ever produced. At a full load of 16,950-tons the 520-foot vessel was the size of an early World War One Battleship. She was manned by 580 Royal Navy sailors and could carry almost an entire 700-man Royal Marine Commando unit along with more than 40 tanks and vehicles and 8 landing ships. Up to 5 large helicopters could be accommodated on her flight deck and she carried defensive armament for anti-aircraft self defense.

Falkland Islands Service- Operation Corporate

Ever the victim of Ministry of Defense budget cuts the ship was planned to be decommissioned in 1982 when she was only a teenager during the height of the Cold War. She was (amazingly enough as history would have it) to be sold to Argentina, however the Falkland Islands War (Guerra de las Malvinas) erupted which canceled that plan outright and brought her back into full service.

She sailed with the British Task force loaded with troops and commanded by Capt. Peter.G.V. Dingemans. In her holds she carried 4 LCU and 4 LCVP landing ships that would prove invaluable to the invasion once most of the large transport helicopters were lost aboard the Atlantic Conveyor which was sunk due to an Exocet attack. During the conflict she landed 3 PARA Paratroopers on Green Beach at Port San Carlos. She endured in the ‘Bomb Alley” of San Carlos harbor where more than 30 almost back to back Argentine air raids took place.

HMS Intrepid helped fight off, along with the rest of the Falklands Task Force, these assaults on the bridgehead. Her crew, firing 40mm Bofors cannons designed in World War Two, was credited with several victories against modern Argentine A-4 Skyhawks and Mirage fighter bombers.

Post War Service

HMS Intrepid continued to serve with the Royal Navy until the end of the Cold War. She was placed in a reserve ‘mothballed’ status in 1991 Portsmouth with only a caretaker crew. On August 31, 1999 she was officially decommissioned. Her machinery was cannibalized to enable her older sister ship HMS Fearless to maintain her place on the active list until 2002.

Once the new larger and more modern Albion-class of LPDs was commissioned to replace the then 35+ year old veterans, their days were numbered. By 2003 both HMS Intrepid and her sister ship were on the disposal list and moved to Fareham Creek in Hampshire. In 2007 HMS Fearless was sent to Belgium to be scrapped and up to 95% of her materials recycled or reused.

Ignoble End to a Brave Ship

Some 300 former crewmembers and Falkland conflict veterans signed an unsuccessful petition to save the HMS Intrepid as a floating museum and presented it to Prime Minster Gordon Browns residence at Dowling Street. She was unceremoniously broken up by Leavesley International Graving Dock in Liverpool. Her scrap metal sections were set aside for reuse and many of her non-recyclable mementos were auctioned off by the breaker on eBay including keys to her armory, the ships compass, and soap dispensers. Tragically other famous ships such as the USS Olympia and USS Ticonderoga may soon face such an ignoble ordeal.

Commodore David Steel, Portsmouth Naval Base Commander, said upon her final disposal in February 2007:

“All Royal Navy ships eventually reach the end of their working lives. HMS Intrepid played a key role in the Falkland Islands 25 years ago. Following her post-tour leave in Portsmouth she can head gracefully into recycled retirement knowing that her replacement, HMS Albion, will continue her good work around the world.”

Her motto was “Cela va sans dire” (“That goes without saying”) and she will be missed.

Sources:

  1. Evans, Michael, Falkland’s warrior bows out (again), The Times February 13, 2007
  2. HMS Intrepid heads into ‘graceful recycled retirement’ MOD News Release February 12, 2007
  3. Hastings, Max and Jenkins, Simon The Battle For The Falklands,
  4. HMS INTREPID To Be Broken Up In UK Shipping & Shipbuilding News – 20 February 2007
  5. Farewell to a warrior: Falklands veteran broken up (and you can claim a piece on eBay)
  6. Daily Mail, January 23, 2009
  7. The HMS Intrepid Old Boys and HMS intrepid Association http://www.hmsintrepid.com/
  8. Sharpe, Robert Jane’s Fighting Ships, various editions
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