RFA Personnel on STUFT Ships
In 1982, when the British Task Force sailed for the South Atlantic it had been quickly realised that extra ships would be needed to transport the vast amounts of supplies and troops to the conflict zone, and so various ships of the UK Merchant fleet were either chartered or requisitioned for use. These ships were called STUFT ships, an acronym that means Ships Taken Up From Trade.
These ship were taken from the UK’s dwindling Merchant Fleet and included tankers, dry cargo, refrigerated cargo, Roll on Roll off ships as well as off shore support ships and ferries as well as two of the most famous passenger liners of their day. They were all quickly converted to their new roles in various naval or civilian dockyards, most had a minimum fit for naval communications as well as SATCOM or SATNAV, sometimes both, they were all fitted with RAS gear and a few had defensive weapons fitted and a helicopter landing deck.
Of the 40 Merchant ships that went south with the Task Force, or who arrived before the surrender in June 1982, 26 of these ships carried small RFA compliments amongst their crews to advise on RAS or to aid with communications. In addition 4 of the ships also carried members of the STO(N) department, more commonly known as the Stonnery to load and handle the cargo, either dry stores or ammunition.
Without these men, who carried out duties on ships for which they were unfamiliar, the conflict in the South Atlantic could never have taken place, as the Royal Navy and RFA would never have been able to transport the men and equipment to the Falklands and they would have found it impossible to maintain an 8,000 mile supply line.
These are the ships that our RFA and STO(N) colleagues sailed on as supernumeraries, with a brief history of their movements.
A Silver Line tanker chartered for use in the South Atlantic as a base storage ship. Alvega was in Le Havre when she was chartered and sailed from there on the 1 May 1982 for Portsmouth; she was fitted with RAS gear and left Portsmouth on the 5 May 1982 for Ascension Island. The ship was used as a base storage tanker at Ascension until August 1982 when she was relieved by the Cunard tanker ‘Lucerna’.
Alvega then sailed for the Falklands where she was based at San Carlos, again as a base storage tanker, returning to Rosyth on the 21 March 1984.
2nd Engineer Officer – P. Hoyland
3rd Officer (X) – S. Bell
2nd Radio Officer – G. Corbyn
PTO III – I. Fiest
SOG C – D. R. Maleham
This tanker was chartered from Panocean on the 18 April 1982, arriving at Portsmouth on the same day, she had RAS gear fitted and then sailed for Fawley on the 22 April to load ACVAT. She sailed for the South Atlantic on the 24 April 1982
The ship operated in the TRALA for a period, before entering San Carlos Water on the 27 June 1982 to restore and act as a refuelling station there. She sailed for the UK on the 28 July 1982, arriving at Portsmouth on the 16th August; she then sailed for Fawley on the 24 August, sailing for the Falklands again on the 25 August 1982 as a short-term storage and supply tanker. This ship remained on MOD Charter until March 1984, making a number of journeys between the Falklands and UK.
1st Officer (X) – T. Holtham
1st Radio Officer – R. Mitchell
PO (D) – A. Pounds
This vessel was a Cunard Ro Ro container ship which was requisitioned on the 14th April 1982 whilst laid up on the Mersey. She sailed from Liverpool for Plymouth on the 15 April for conversion to an aircraft and helicopter support ship, on completion she embarked Wessex and Chinook helicopters, and then sailed for the South Atlantic o the 25 April 1982. Atlantic Conveyor arrived at Ascension on the 5 May, where she embarked harrier aircraft, sailing on the 7 May with the HMS Fearless group.
Whilst waiting to transfer Harriers to the Carrier Battle Group on the 18th May she was struck by an Exocet Missile launched by Argentinean aircraft, the ship was engulfed in flames and quickly abandoned, unfortunately 12 members of the crew, including the three RFA seamen were lost. The ship was taken in tow by the tug ‘Irishman’ on the 28 May, but whilst under tow in bad weather she broke her back, the for’ard section quickly sank, whilst the aft section had to be sunk by gunfire.
1st Radio Officer – R. Hoole (KIA)
Sailor – C. S. Chan (KIA)
Sailor – Ng Por (KIA)
T/DSTO(N) – H. P. Ormerod
SOG C – R. W. Edgecombe
This ship was a Blue Star Line refrigerated cargo ship that was chartered on the 28 May 1982 as a food transport. Sailed from Sheerness for Portsmouth on the 30 May 1982, arriving the following day when she as fitted with a helicopter landing platform and RAS gear. The ship left Portsmouth for the South Atlantic on the10th June 1982, and after calling at Ascension, she joined the Carrier Battle Group on the 1 July. The ship entered San Carlos Water on the 4 July, later moving round to Port Stanley where she was used as a floating supermarket. Avelona Star left Port Stanley on the 11 November 1982 for return to the UK to restore, before returning to the Falklands. The ship made a number of trips between the UK and the Falklands before being returned to her owners during May 1984.
2nd Officer (X) – D. Shennan
1st Radio Officer – S. Tudor-Jones
This tanker was chartered from Lloyds Industrial Leasing on the 12 April 1982; she sailed for Portsmouth from Tenerife on the 1 May, arriving on the 7 May where she was fitted with RAS gear to enable her to act as a Fleet fuelling ship. The ship sailed for the South Atlantic on the 12 May 1982. Balder London entered San Carlos Water in June 1982. The ship remained on station until late July 1982, when she sailed for the UK, arriving at Plymouth on the 26 August. The ship was returned to her owners, but was then taken on long-term charter to the MOD in March 1984 and renamed RFA Orangeleaf.
2nd Engineer Officer – G. Wilson
3rd Officer (X) – D. Methuen
1st Radio Officer – P. Richardson
A BP River Class Tanker that was chartered on the 20 April 1982 for Fleet fuelling duties, she arrived at Portsmouth on the day of her charter for fitting with RAS gear, before sailing for Plymouth on the 22 April. Departed for the South Atlantic on the 26 April 1982 to refuel RFA ships, returning to Portsmouth on the 5 June, then on to Portland on the 11 June, before sailing for the South Atlantic again on the 14 June 1982. The ship returned to the UK in December 1982, before sailing for Grangemouth and return to her owners.
Chief Officer (X) – D. Pursall
1st Radio Officer – M. Seymour
PO (D) – B. Sullivan
Another of the BP River Class Tankers that was chartered as the ship arrived at Portsmouth on the 9th April 1982, where she was fitted with RAS gear, before sailing for Loch Striven on the 11 April to load. The ship sailed for Ascension Island on the 22 April, arriving on the 4th May. The ship left the following day to take up a holding position mid way between Ascension and the Falklands to refuel RFA’s on their way down and back from the islands. British Dart joined the Carrier Battle Group on the 31May to collect homeward bound mail, before returning to Ascension Island on the 16 June. Arrived back in the UK, at Plymouth on the 16 July before sailing for Grangemouth and return to her owners.
1st Officer (X) – C. Knapp
1st Radio Officer – M. Glanville
CPO (D) – R. Rogers
SG1A – M. Hiscock
British Enterprise III
An offshore ship requisitioned from British Underwater Engineering at Dundee on the 18 May 1982, for use as a Despatch Vessel. The ship sailed to Rosyth the same day for conversion, sailing for the South Atlantic on the 26 May. Arrived back in the UK, at Portsmouth on the 29 August, later moving to Leith for return to her owners.
1ST Radio Officer – M. Marshall
Technical Superintendant – R. Burt
A River Class Tanker chartered from BP on the 6 April 1982 for use on Fleet Fuelling duties. The ship sailed from Hamburg on the 5 April, arriving at Portland on the 7 to have RAS gear fitted, before sailing on the 11 April to rendezvous with the Task Force on the 14 May to begin refuelling RFA Ships. Arrived back at Ascension Island on the 26 May with survivors from HMS Sheffield. Arrived at Portsmouth on the 8 June to reload, before sailing again on the 14 June for Motorway Tanking Duties between Ascension and the Falklands. British Esk returned to Campbeltown in April 1983, before sailing for Grangemouth. The ship stayed on charter to the MOD until 1984.
Chief Officer – M. Pagan
1st Radio Officer – A. Holmes
CPO (D) – F. Ginger
SGIA – A. Simmons
Another of the River Class tankers chartered from BP for Fleet Fuelling duties. Arrived Portsmouth on the 9 April 1982 for fitting of RAS gear before sailing for Milford Haven on the 10th April to load fuel. She sailed for the South Atlantic on the 14April, she reached Ascension via Madeira on the 28 April. The ship then moved to a holding area south-west of Ascension to refuel ships of the task force, which included a record breaking RAS with RFA Plumleaf which lasted 52 hours and 40 minutes.
The ship returned to Ascension, before sailing for Gibraltar to reload, arriving on the 14 May and sailing again on the 17 May for duties in the South Atlantic. The ship returned to Gibraltar once more on the 24 August via St Helena. Sailing back to the South Atlantic on the 6th September and accompanied HMS Lowestoft on a journey that took in Ascension Island, Tristan da Cunha and St Helena. The ship remained on charter to the MOD until 1984.
1st Officer (X) – B. Waters
1st Radio Officer – I. Schofield-Beevers
CPO (D) – W. Elliot
SG1A – J. Plumb
A BP River Class tanker that was chartered on the 6 April 1982 for duties as a Fleet Fuelling ship. The ship arrived at Plymouth on the same day from Swansea for fitting of RAS gear and to load fuel. Sailed for the South Atlantic on the 9th April 1982, and after calling at Ascension Island, she proceeded to the TRALA to refuel RFA ships. She transported the survivors from Atlantic Conveyor to Ascension. Returned to Plymouth on the 16 June to reload, then sailed back to the South Atlantic. The ship made a number of trips between the UK and the Falklands until June 1983 when she was returned to her owners.
Chief Officer – J. Redhead
1st Radio Officer – D. Nicholas
PO (D) – G. Thompson
SG1A – W. Parkin
The BP River class tanker was at Rouen when she was chartered on the 9 April 1982 and arrived at Portsmouth the same day to have RAS gear fitted and load fuel. The ship sailed on the 11 April for passage to Gibraltar, arriving on the 15 April and leaving for the South Atlantic on the 18 April, via Ascension Island. The ship was held in the Tanker holding area; she took survivors from RFA Sir Galahad to Ascension and then returned to station. Arrived back at Portsmouth on the 4 July where she stayed until the 17 July, before sailing to Grangemouth for return to her owners.
1st Officer (X) – G. Spencer
1st Radio Officer – W. Curtis
PO (D) – S. O’Shaughnessy
SG1A – R. Bruce
Another of the fleet of BP River Class tanker that was chartered at Portsmouth on the 12 April 1982, she was fitted with RAS gear to enable her to operate as a Fleet fuelling ship, before sailing from Portsmouth to Fawley on the 13 April. The ship sailed on the 15 April for the Isle of Grain, arriving on the same day and sailing for Ascension Island on the 17 April 1982. The ship was assigned to the TRALA until mid June 1982 when she sailed for Ascension Island with survivors from RFA Sir Tristram; she sailed from Ascension for Portland arriving on the 5 July. The ship made three further trips between the UK and South Atlantic and remained on charter to the MOD until October 1983, when she was returned to her owners.
1st Officer (X) – F. Brady
1st Radio Officer – B. Duignam
PO (D) – T. Bigwood
SG1 – J. Hunter
A BP River Class tanker that was chartered at Portsmouth on the 20 April 1982, after fitting of RAS gear she sailed for Plymouth on the 22 April, sailing for the South Atlantic on the 25 April. British Wye was bombed by an Argentinean Hercules C130 aircraft in the South Atlantic, one bomb bounced off the deck and the rest completely missed the ship. The ship operated in the TRALA until she returned to Portland, arriving on the 11 July. The ship sailed on the 22 July, arrived in Singapore Roads on the 18 August 1982, she left there for Bahrain. Sailed from Bahrain on the 3 September for Loch Striven, via Mombasa arriving on the 2 October 1982. The ship was returned to her owners on the 5 October 1982.
2nd Officer (X) – P. Breeze
1st Radio Officer – R. Walsh
PO (D) – E. Hurrell
This Ro-Ro container ship was chartered from Sea Containers on the 12 May 1982 for use as an aircraft and helicopter carrier. The ship left Le Havre on the 14th May and arrived at Plymouth on the 15 May for conversion, which included a hangar and flight deck. On the 20 May Sea King, Chinook and Wasp helicopters were embarked and the ship then moved to Start Bay before sailing for the South Atlantic. The ship arrived at Ascension Island on the 31 May, where she embarked further aircraft, including a Gazelle and Harriers. She sailed on the 3rd June for the TEZ, arriving on the 10 June, she then moved to Port William on the 17 to unload her aircraft, sailed for the UK on the 13 July and arrived at Southampton on the 1 August 1982 to reload, before sailing on the 7 August for Portsmouth, sailing for the South Atlantic the same day.
The ship arrived at Port William on the 25 August and after unloading her aircraft she embarked Wessex and Chinook helicopters, plus two captured Pucara aircraft before sailing for the UK, arriving at Southampton on the 23 September 1982. After a refit she was returned to her owners, the ship was purchased by the MOD in March 1984 and converted to a helicopter training ship to replace RFA Engadine, the ship was renamed RFA Argus.
1st Radio Officer – P. Allen
A Shell tanker chartered on the 13 April 1982 at Invergordon after arriving from Hamburg, she sailed for Plymouth arriving on the 18 April for fitting of RAS gear. Sailed for St Anna Bay in the West Indies on the 20 April, then sailed for the South Atlantic on the 8 May 1982 to take up station in the TRALA. Returned to the UK on the 19 August for return to owners.
2nd Officer (X) – R. Craig
1st Radio Officer – A. Weaver
PO (D) – F. Gould
A motor tanker chartered from Canadian Pacific on the 7 April 1982, the ship left Denmark the same day, arriving at Southampton on the 10 April to have RAS gear fitted. The ship was loaded with fresh water and sailed for the South Atlantic on the 19 April and after calling at Ascension Island on the 29 April, before sailing South in the early part of May. The ship operated independently for a time, supplying fresh water to ships of the Task Force, before moving to the TRALA from the 6 to 10 June. Fort Toronto then moved to Port William on the 17 June and remained there as a base water tanker. The ship eventually returned to the UK in April 1984 and was returned to her owners.
1st Officer (X) – J. Goddard
1st Radio Officer – B. Cridge
CPO (D) – B. Foggin
SG1 – E. Jones
This Geest Line refrigerated cargo ship was requisitioned for service on the 7th May 1982 to transport food to the Falklands, the ship was at Avonmouth when she was requisitioned and sailed for Portsmouth the same day, arriving on the 9 May for conversion, which included fitting of a helicopter landing platform and RAS gear, after loading she sailed for the South Atlantic on the 21 May. The ship arrived at South Georgia on the 11 June 1982 to transfer stores to RFA ships. She then sailed to join the Carrier Battle Group, arriving on the 21 June, the following day she entered San Carlos Water and then on to Port William. Sailed from Port Stanley on the 3 August and arrived back at Portsmouth on the 19 August 1982, then on to Avonmouth for a refit and return to owners.
2nd Officer (X) – R. Bourne Officer in charge of Naval Party NP1920
1st Radio Officer – A. Glen
CPO (D) – P. Hughes
DSTO(N) – R. A. Reeve
CO – M. Mackenzie
SOG C – A. E. Tarrant
SOG D – L. D. Pritter
Sen Storekeeper – K. Tompson
Sen Storekeeper – V. Truscott
Stores Assistant II – P. Gardiner
Stores Assistant II – R. Good
Stores Assistant II – J. Bishop
Stores Assistant II – B. B. Adamson
Stores Assistant II – P. A. Howden
Stores Assistant II – J. Murray
Stores Assistant II – L. Zabek
Stores Assistant II – R. Benson
Stores Assistant II – A. Boyle
Stores Assistant II – N. Carter
Fitter – H. Garland
This British Telecom cable ship was requisitioned on the 24 April 1982 for use as a despatch vessel. The ship sailed from Southampton for Plymouth on the 27 April for fitting of a helicopter platform and RAS gear; she also received SATCOM and 2 x 20 mm guns. Sailed from Plymouth on the 29 April for the South Atlantic, calling at Ascension on the way to load supplies and a detachment of Royal Marines. Arrived at Grytviken, South Georgia on the 25 May, loaded steel plates taken from the abandoned Whaling station, then sailed to join the Task Force on the 30th May. Returned to South Georgia on her way North to Ascension Island, arriving there on the 19 June for minor repairs. Rejoined the Task Force on the 4th July visiting Port Stanley and South Georgia, before returning to Ascension to change her crew. The ship carried out further duties in the South Atlantic before returning to the UK on the 30 November, she then sailed for a refit at Glasgow before return to her owners.
2nd Radio Officer – I. Evans
This China Mutual Steamship cargo vessel was chartered on the 26 April 1982. She arrived at Falmouth on the 14 April 1982 for laying up, but was immediately sent to Southampton where she arrived on the 26 April to load cargo and be fitted with SATCOM and RAS gear, the ship sailed for the South Atlantic on the 4 May. Arrived at South Georgia on the 28th May to transfer her cargo of ammunition to RFA Stromness, after completion she sailed for the TRALA on the 11th June and then on to San Carlos Water, where she anchored on the 15 June, before moving to Port William on the 20 June. Returned to the UK on the 21 April 1983. The ship remained under charter to the MOD until she arrived at Falmouth for layup 20 July 1983.
2nd Radio Officer – J. Harvey
Queen Elizabeth 2
This ship is probably one of the most iconic Passenger Liners of the late twentieth century; she was requisitioned from Cunard on the 3 May 1982 as a troop ship, when the ship arrived back at Southampton from the USA. Three helicopter decks were fitted, as well as RAS gear and she embarked 5 Infantry Brigade and two 825 Squadron helicopters before she sailed for South Georgia on the 12 May 1982.
The ship anchored in Cumberland Bay on the 27 May 1982 and began transferring her troops to RFA Stromness, Canberra and MV Norland, then took on board survivors from HMS Antelope, Ardent and Coventry. The ship sailed for the UK on the 29th May, arriving at Southampton on the 11 June and after unloading her passengers she underwent a refit before being returned to her owners.
Senior Radio Officer – D. A. McKenzie
This Cunard refrigerated cargo ship was chartered as a food transport on the 28 April 1982, she sailed from Bremerhaven on the 29 April, arriving at Portsmouth on the 30th April for conversion and after fitting of a helicopter landing platform, SATCOM/SATNAV and RAS gear she sailed for Plymouth on the 7 May, arriving the next day. Left the UK on the 8th May for passage to South Georgia where she arrived on the 23 May to transfer her cargo to RFA ships there, she then sailed for the UK, arriving at Portsmouth on the 28 June. After reloading she sailed again for the Falklands. The ship was slightly damaged when she ran aground in Port William on the 17 August. Returned to the UK on the 27 October at Portsmouth, then on to North Shields for a refit and return to her owners.
2nd Officer (X) – W. Walworth
1st Radio Officer – R. Philp
CPO (D) – W. Collings
SG1A – C. Benny
PSTO (N) Staff
DSTO(N) – W. R. Meek
SOG C – D. F. R. Soden
SOG D – T. Hawkins
Sen Storekeeper – C. K. Nair
Sen Storekeeper – R. J. Searle
Clerical Officer – A. J. Mines
Stores Assistant II – G. S. Cook
Stores Assistant II – M. Gallagher
Stores Assistant II – P. A. T. Hamson
Stores Assistant II – T. P. Galloway
Stores Assistant II – D. G. Stevens
Stores Assistant II – L. W. Smale
Stores Assistant II – J. R. P. Butt
Stores Assistant II – M. D. Knight
Stores Assistant II – T. W. Jordan
Stores Assistant II – D. G. Parker
Fitter – G. M. Bradley
This King Line tanker was chartered whilst the ship was en route from New York to Portsmouth. The ship arrived in the UK on the 15 May 1982 for RAS gear to be fitted, she sailed for Milford Haven on the 19 May and after loading she sailed for South Georgia on the 24 May. The ship arrived at South Georgia on the 18th June and became a Base Storage tanker there, before moving to the Falklands on the 14 July, eventually leaving Port Stanley on the 26 August 1983, arriving at Plymouth on the 23 October 1983 and after a refit was returned to her owners.
3rd Officer (X) – M. Rossiter
2nd Engineer Officer – J. Lee
1st Radio Officer – T. Stafford
An offshore support vessel that was chartered from Stena Caribbean on the 25 May 1982 whilst at Savannah Georgia, USA, the ship was sent to Charleston, South Carolina for modification including the installation of SATCOM/SATNAV and a heavy machine shop. On completion the ship sailed for the South Atlantic on the 6 June, calling at Ascension, where she picked up Naval Party NP2010 then on to the Falklands via St Helena. From the Falklands she made two trips to St Helena, before moving to South Georgia where she assisted with the salvage of the Argentinean submarine Santa Fe. In July 1982 she sailed for Port William, arriving on the 26 July to carry out ship repair and support duties until October 1983. The ship arrived back in the UK on the 13 November 1983.
This ship was purchased by the MOD as a maintenance ship for the South Atlantic and was renamed RFA Diligence in 1984.
1st Radio Officer – J. Shorter
This offshore support vessel which was owned by Stena Atlantic, was in the Thistle oil field when she was requisitioned on the 8 April 1982, she arrived at Peterhead on the 10 April and was then sent South to Portsmouth the following day, arriving on the 12 April for installation of SATNAV/SATCOM and a heavy machine shop, the ship sailed for the South Atlantic on the 16 April and after calling in at Ascension, she arrived at South Georgia on the 16 May, then moved to the TRALA on the 20th May to carry out damage repairs to various RN ships. The ship was moved to San Carlos Water on the 17th June until she sailed for the UK on the 25 July, arriving at Portsmouth on the 18 August. The ship was re-chartered on the 1 September as a diving support vessel for recovery work on the wrecks around the Falkland Islands, she was returned to her owners in February 1983.
1st Radio Officer – M. Troman
Requisitioned from Wimpey Marine on the 4 May 1982,this offshore support vessel arrived at Rosyth on the 5 May for modification, including the installation of SATCOM and RAS gear, the ship left Rosyth on the 13 May for Portsmouth to complete loading, sailing south the next day. Arrived at South Georgia on the 8 June and laid moorings in Stromness harbour, Leith Harbour and off Grytviken. Sailed for Port Stanley on the 22 July to lay moorings there and at Port William.
The ship left the Falklands on the 12 August, arriving back in Portsmouth on the 4 September; she then sailed round to Southampton for refit before being returned to her owners
2nd Radio Officer – S. Senior
Ascension Island which is roughly mid way between the UK and the Falkland Islands became a strategic staging post during the Falklands War. Nearly all of the ships heading south passed through Ascension to pick up supplies, aircraft or in some cases to exercise their troops ashore before the actual landings on the Falklands.
Ascension Island was discovered in 1501 and remained uninhabited until the early part of the 19th century, when a small garrison was established there because Napoleon was being held on St Helena. Up until 1922 the British Admiralty controlled Ascension, after this date it became a dependency of St Helena. Widewake airfield was built during World War 2 to act as a staging post between Brazil and Africa, the airfield was further developed by the Americans and up until the start of the Falklands War the Island was sparsely populated with the airfield, a satellite tracking station and a Cable and Wireless relay station.
At the start of the war many men were stationed on the island to support the Task Force, man the airfield and provide security, the facilities were at best sparse and at worse primitive, though all of those who served on Ascension from the RFA and STO(N), provided a first class service sometimes under extreme conditions.
Cadet (X) – S. Bell - Liaison Officer
DSTO(N) – R. J. Baldwin
SOG C – D. A. R. Taylor
SOG D – K. Willis
Senior Storekeeper – J. Seager
Stores Assistant II – B. Winter
Stores Assistant II – S. J. Trenchard
EMA – D. M. Evans
Crane Driver – K. W. Palmer
FLT Driver – J. H. Crook
FLT Driver – A. T. Davidson
FLT Driver – J. M. Frampton
FLT Driver – G.S. Read
Slinger – K. F. B. Thorn