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P&O Goes to War - Canberra and Uganda in the Falklands

2022 marks 40 years since the Falklands conflict. On 2nd April 1982, Argentine forces invaded the British overseas territory of the Falkland Islands, sparking one of the largest major conflicts since WW2.

Canberra - Grytviken, South Georgia during the Falklands conflict.

Lasting 74 days, the conflict was the first military action since the Second World War that utilised all Armed Forces elements.

Sadly 255 British personnel lost their lives defending the Falklands, of whom 86 were Royal Navy, 124 Army, 27 Royal Marines, 6 Merchant Navy, 4 Royal Fleet Auxiliary and 8 Hong Kong sailors. Seven ships were also lost to enemy action and nine aircraft were shot down.

The sinking of ATLANTIC CONVEYOR during the Falkland conflict.

The merchant navy played a big part in the conflict. And sadly 12 sailors lost their lives when the Atlantic Conveyor was bombed.

ACL and Cunard marked the 40th anniversary of the ‘darkest day in ACL’s history’ when its vessel, the Liverpool registered Atlantic Conveyor, was struck by two Argentine Exocet missiles killing 12 crew during the Falklands War on 25th May 1982.

P&O’s very own Canberra was requisitioned as a troop ship to carry the Marines and Para troops into battle. Against all odds she survived, playing a vital role as a troop ship.

Dennis Scott- Masson

Captain of Canberra during the conflict

Captain Christopher Burne was was the senior naval officer on Canberra in charge of Military operations

Hospital Ship - ss Uganda

The Other P&O ship to be requisitioned was Uganda. Whilst on a Mediterranean cruise she was called up for military duty, and she discharged her 315 cabin passengers and 940 school children, who were on an educational cruise, in Naples. When Uganda was docking in Naples, reporters turned up their microphones to hear a ship full of school children singing "Rule, Britannia!".

Her call sign during the conflict was “Mother Hen”. She briefly returned to educational cruising, but only for a few months as in January 1983 she took the Queen's shilling a second time and returned to duty as a troop ship serving between Ascension Island and the Falkland Islands.

You can read more about working on Uganda during this time in Peter Langton's excellent book

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