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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 July 2006, 10:55 GMT 11:55 UK
The end of an era for naval legend
RFA Sir Galahad
Sir Galahad was the first ship to sail into Umm Qasr during the Iraq war
Her name will always be associated with one of the darkest days in recent British military and naval history.

When RFA Sir Galahad was bombed during the Falklands War in 1982, 48 lives - a fifth of all British fatalities - were lost. Many who died were Welsh Guards.

The badly damaged ship was sunk and in 1986 a new Sir Galahad was launched.

On Thursday, she made her last journey under the Royal Fleet Auxiliary's flag, as she sailed from Marchwood to Portsmouth to be decommissioned.

The ship means a lot to the RFA and her departure is inevitably tinged with sadness
Capt Rob Dorey

Captain Rob Dorey said: "This is a significant time for many who have been associated with RFA Sir Galahad over the years.

"The current ship has seen service throughout the world and made a valued contribution to many operations, including the supply of humanitarian relief to people in desperate need."

Sir Galahad was the first ship to sail into the Iraqi port of Umm Qasr during the war in 2003, bringing humanitarian aid to the country.

But the name conjures strong emotion in many who took part in the Falkland's conflict.

Capt Dorey said: "Many associations originating from the Falklands campaign still hold the name of Sir Galahad dear to their hearts.

"This was evident during the recent farewell visit to South Wales, where a number of veterans from the Galahad association and the Welsh Guards were hosted onboard.

RFA Sir Galahad being attacked in Bluff Cove
Nearly 50 people died during the attack in Bluff Cove in 1982

"The ship means a lot to the RFA and her departure is inevitably tinged with sadness."

It was on the 8 June, 1982, that Sir Galahad and her sister ship RFA Sir Tristram came under attack in Bluff Cove at the height of the British operation to recover the islands from their Argentine invaders.

Nearly 50 soldiers and sailors died, but among the survivors was Welsh Guardsman Simon Weston, who suffered horrific burns in the attack.

Sir Galahad caught fire almost immediately and the badly damaged ship was towed out to sea and sunk as a war grave.

Horrific scene

The captain of Sir Galahad, Phil Roberts, later gave his account of the day.

"It all happened very suddenly. The planes came out of nowhere and they bombed us and the ship was set on fire very rapidly," Capt Roberts said.

"We had to abandon ship fairly quickly. The scene was horrific."

The original ship was built in 1966 as a "landing ship logistical". Its role was to support amphibious operations by landing troops, tanks, vehicles and other heavy equipment in port or on any suitable beach.

Capt Dorey said the current RFA Sir Galahad would be replaced by a new, larger "Bay Class" ship called RFA Cardigan Bay.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
"The name still means an awful lot in people's hearts"



SEE ALSO
RFA Sir Tristram on last journey
16 Dec 05 |  Hampshire
War hero to give conference talk
12 Sep 05 |  Manchester

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