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Warship Wednesday: HMS ENDURANCE

11 April 2022

HMS Endurance was a Chatham based Royal Navy ice patrol ship deployed in the South Western Atlantic. Her primary role was to maintain a British presence in the Antarctic area and to provide support for the Overseas British Territory of the Falklands.

Image: HMS Endurance in the ice, Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust collection

The ship would spend each Antarctic summer in the southern hemisphere, conducting hydrographic and oceanographic surveys, acting as support ship for the British Antarctic Survey and Guard ship.

The ship was originally the Danish vessel Anita Dan, built by Krogerwerft, Rendsburg, launched in May 1956. The Anita Dan was purchased from Denmark in 1967.

In 1968 the ship was converted for Royal Navy use. During the conversion the hull was strengthened for operations in the ice, scientific and surveying equipment was installed as well as the addition of a flight deck and hanger for two Royal Navy Wasp helicopters. An unusual feature for a RN ship was that her hull and mast were painted vivid red for easy identification in the ice; the ship was affectionately known as the ‘Red Plum’.

She was 305ft long x 46ft wide and had a maximum displacement of 3600 tons. The ships complement was 119 (13 officers and 106 ratings, including a small detachment of Royal Marines) plus 12 spare berths for scientists.

Image: HMS Endurance in the ice. Chatham Dockyard Historical Society collection.

 

Endurance and the Falklands

Based at Chatham, Endurance was due to be withdrawn but the Falklands conflict meant she continued in service and the decision to dispose of the ship was cancelled.

During the Falklands conflict, Endurance was commanded by Captain Nick Barker and carried 22 Royal Marines. She was a major Signals Intelligence asset. Her helicopters helped disable the Argentine submarine Santa Fe and launch the final assault that recaptured South Georgia.

The final enemy surrender off the South Sandwich Islands was signed in her wardroom. She also rescued two wildlife filmakers caught up in the conflict.

Endurance made a triumphal return to Chatham Dockyard from the Falklands on 20th August 1982. It is estimated that 20,000 people lined the River Medway to welcome her home. She had been at sea for 11 months and was the first and last Royal Navy ship present in the conflict.

According to the Captain “It was the greatest day of our lives. HMS Endurance was the only HM ship to return from the Falklands to the Medway and the people of south-east England waited to welcome her in their tens of thousands.”

Teresa Dench, Visitor Experience Assistant at The Historic Dockyard recalls the day Endurance came home:

“Once the ship had docked, and the crew were ‘released’ they were running down the gangway and their wives and
girlfriends were running towards them.” 

“Women were literally climbing up their men. There were tears and laughter – an extremely emotional scene.”

Image: HMS Endurance ‘The Red Plum’ arriving at Chatham Dockyard 20th August 1982 (Chatham Dockyard Historical Society Collection).

Image: HMS Endurance returns to Chatham Dockyard. Chatham Dockyard Historical Society Collection.

 

Image: HMS Endurance returns to Chatham Dockyard. Chatham Dockyard Historical Society Collection.

 

 

In 1986 HMS Endurance underwent a major ‘life extension’ refit at Devonport Dockyard, Plymouth. She was finally ‘paid off’ in November 1991.

The ship was named after Sir Ernest Shackleton’s ship Endurance , which sank in the Weddel Sea after being trapped in the ice; the wreck of the Endurance has recently been discovered.

 

With thanks to Volunteer, Tony Peacock, for researching and writing this blog.

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