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Military


HMS Endurance II (Ex- Anita Dan)
Ice Patrol Ship [IPS]

HMS Endurance was converted to an ice patrol ship in 196768 and accepted into the Royal Navy in 1968. Her 1986 refit extended her life until at least the mid-1990s. HMS Endurance was armed with two 20mm guns and carries two Wasp helicopters with AS 12 missiles. Light infantry weapons were also carried for the ship's Royal Marine detachment.

Sir Ernest Shackleton's Endurance was crushed in the ice of the Weddell Sea during his 19141915 Antarctic expedition. HMS Endurance (1967), pennant number A171, served as the British Antarctic ice patrol vessel from 1967 to 1991. HMS Endurance (1991), also pennant number A171, was a class 1A1 icebreaker in service between 1991 and 2008 as the replacement for the first HMS Endurance.

The primary role of this vessel was to patrol and to survey the Antarctic and south Atlantic, maintaining a sovereign presence in that area and supporting the global community of Antarctica. One consequence of the 1974 Defence Review, which resulted in a phased rundown of overseas commitments outside NATO was a decision to take HMS "Endurance" out of service. The Defence Secretary in the Labour Government proposed to abandon "Endurance" but was overruled. The decision to withdraw "Endurance" was controversial in the House at the time.

The Royal Navy's Ice Patrol Ship Endurance was to be withdrawn from service under John Nott's notorious 1981 Defence Review. Reports that "Endurance" was to be withdrawn in 1982 immediately led to serious misunderstandings on the part of the Argentine Government that Her Majesty's Government were no longer prepared to defend the Falkland Islands. This action contributed to the Argentine belief that Britain was unwilling and unable to defend her possessions in the South Atlantic.

A letter was sent from the British embassy in Buenos Aires in the summer of 1981 saying that all Argentine newspaper articles "highlighted the theme that Britain was 'abandoning the protection of the Falkland Islands'." An British intelligence report in 1981 noted "that the withdrawal of HMS 'Endurance' had been construed by the Argentines as a deliberate political gesture since the implications for the Islands and for Britain's position in the South Atlantic were fundamental."

When they were informed of the decision to withdraw HMS "Endurance" the Falkland Islands Councils held a joint meeting on 26 June 1981, following which they sent a message to Lord Carrington in the following terms: "The people of the Falkland Islands deplore in the strongest terms the decision to withdraw HMS Endurance from service. They express extreme concern that Britain appears to be abandoning its defence of British interests in the South Atlantic and Antarctic at a time when other powers are strengthening their position in these areas. They feel that such a withdrawal will further weaken British sovereignty in this area in the eyes not only of Islanders but of the world. They urge that all possible endeavours be made to secure a reversal of this decision."

The Argentines wanted transfer of sovereignty and no British Government were able or willing to accept transfer of sovereignty or to consider it unless it was acceptable to the islanders themselves. That was the dilemma. It affected both Governments. Parliament and Governments of both parties have insisted that the wishes of the islanders are paramount. Successive British Governments had been negotiating, at least since the military coup in March 1976, with an unstable, brutal, fascist regime. The main mistake British Governments made was believing that either Parliament or people would ever have agreed to any transfer of sovereignty over a small British community to such a regime.

There was a difference of opinion between the Foreign Secretary and the Secretary of State for Defence about the withdrawal of HMS "Endurance". Representations were made by the Foreign Secretary for the non-withdrawal of HMS "Endurance" to the Minister of Defence. It was discussed on many occasions, not necessarily at the Overseas and Defence Committee [OD]. In the case of the Thatcher Government, it was the Foreign Secretary who was overruled when the decision to abandon "Endurance" was announced. Combined with other mixed signals sent by the Britishduring negotiations, this led Argentinean military strategists to believe that seizing the Falklands would be met with only token resistance, followed by acquiescence.

HMS "Endurance" sailed from Portsmouth on 13 October 1981. Until the Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands and South Georgia HMS "Endurance" carried out her normal duties in support of the British Antarctic Survey bases and of the inhabitants of the Falkland Islands; in the course of these she conducted hydrographic, geological and life science work.

It was Argentina which decided to invade. The British Government probably could not have foreseen that invasion, or prevented it. The fact was that the invasion ocurred while HMS Endurance was on station. Following the Argentine invasion, HMS "Endurance" became a part of the task force operating in the South Atlantic. Despite her relatively limited military capacity, HMS "Endurance" made a useful contribution to the operations in the South-West Atlantic, especially because she was the only ship in the task force with the capability to operate in ice conditions. She played a valuable role in the operation to recapture South Georgia and was subsequently involved in the recovery of South Thule.

On 19 March 1982, Argentina initiated the conflict by landing 30 scrap metal salvagers on South Georgia Island and raising the Argentinean flag. The next day, HMS Endurance was dispatched from Stanley with half the Falklands garrison embarked - 22 Royal Marines and one lieutenant. They were under orders to deport the salvagers back to Argentina. The ship was armed with 2 Oerlikon 20 mm cannons and 2 Helicopters Wasp with sixteen AS 12 missiles and with GPMG 7.62 mm. This was enough armament to deal with 39 unarmed civilians.

Endurance arrived on 23 March and landed the Royal Marines. On 26 March, 100 Argentinean troops arrived by sea, purportedly to defend the salvagers. The outnumbered British force observed thetroops until 03 April, when the Royal Marines on South Georgia surrendered after the fall of Stanley. This Argentinean diversion on South Georgia achieved surprise, and provided a pretext for the 02 April invasion of East Falkland Island and the capture of Stanley. Most importantly, it removed half the British Falklands garrison and its only warship from the main action to come at Stanley.

At 16.10 GMT on 6 February 1989 HMS Endurance struck an iceberg while manoeuvring at low speed in very confined waters near Cape Scrymgeour in Antarctica. The ship suffered damage below the waterline which was quickly contained by temporary repairs carried out by the crew. There were no casualties and no pollution resulted from the accident. Subsequent examination revealed that the damage may be more serious than initially thought. The ship then carried out limited operations from Hope bay and returned to the Falkland Islands for further examination and repair.

After the Falkland Islands were retaken in 1982 the decision to scrap Endurance was reversed and she was scheduled to remain in service until the mid 1990s. However by the end of the 1980s she was over thirty years old. HMS "Endurance" was an elderly ship by any standards and was used in very demanding conditions. In 1989 she collided with an iceberg. This breached the hull and caused serious structural damage to the aging vessel. Since the collision with an iceberg in 1989 it had been normal practice for annual docking to include a detailed survey of the structure and metallurgical condition of the hull.

In July 1991 HMS "Endurance" entered her routine maintenance period on return from the Antarctic. She had an extensive structural survey during this period and a decision on her deployment this winter would depend on the results of that survey. The requirement for a replacement was being considered and no decision had been taken. The Government announced on 14 October 1991 that "Endurance" was no longer fit to deploy in Antarctic water; and was to be decommissioned. MV "Polar Circle" had been chartered to replace HMS "Endurance" in the Antarctic this season.






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Page last modified: 30-09-2021 18:41:44 ZULU