24.05.22 The Clerk

Banquet update – May 2022

The date of the Coachmakers’ Banquet draws near and by the time you read this there will be only 13 broadcasts of the Shipping Forecast before we sit down to dinner in the Guildhall.

HOWEVER, as a result of a small number of cancellations due to changing plans and creaking limbs that require replacement, a limited number of seats have become available for those of you out there who may wish to take advantage of this late opportunity.

Unfortunately, unlike a late holiday booked at the airport terminal for a fiver, all you can eat thrown in, the ticket cost remains £200 per person, but for that you will enjoy an extremely entertaining evening, help raise funds for the chosen charities and be part of a memorable event. Or not, the choice is yours. If you do wish to be part of the Coachmakers’ Banquet 2022 contact the Clerk at clerk@coachmakers.co.uk or call him on: 07505 089841.

On 25th May 1982, Argentina’s National Day during which its independence is celebrated, a lot happened in the South Atlantic, not all of it good as far as the Task Force was concerned.

Although the much vaunted Argentine aircraft carrier, the ARA Veinticinco de Mayo, formally HMS Venerable, did not show up as expected, aircraft of the Argentine Air Force and Navy did. As a result, the frigate HMS BROADSWORD was damaged while operating north of Falkland Sound and HMS COVENTRY was seriously damaged, ultimately sinking. Out to the east while in company with the Carrier Battle Group, an exocet missile attack by Argentine Navy Super Etendards did for the MV Atlantic Conveyor, a large cargo ship taken up from trade to ferry much needed stores and most importantly, heavy lift Chinook helicopters. She was destroyed in the ensuing fire and eventually she also sank.

This was a significant setback to the Task Force and ultimately led to the Royal Marines of 45 Commando making their famous “yomp” across East Falkland. Indeed it was the legs of the Royal Marines that had to do much of the work that should have been done by the lost Chinooks to get themselves into position to fight their Battle for Two Sisters, the twin 1,000 ft high peaks that were key to the defence of Port Stanley. One can only imagine the thoughts that went through the minds of the individual Royal Machines as they plodded relentlessly towards their objective, carrying 60kg packs on their backs over ankle twisting terrain in the foulest of South Atlantic weather and all the while short of food and other basic supplies. That they ultimately fought so well and so successfully in the battle on the night of 11th-12th June 1982 is a testament to the training, leadership and quality of people who wear the Green Beret; but please, don’t tell them I said that!

Notwithstanding, on the night of 25th May a future Liveryman of this Company was having to come to terms with his own problems and the severest dislocation of the expectations that he had woken up to in the morning. Liveryman Rear Admiral Simon Henley MBE who in 1982 was a young Lieutenant serving as an Air Engineer Officer (AEO) who, shortly after the Atlantic Conveyor was hit, found himself unexpectedly in a life raft that day. Having been instrumental in preparing many of the aircraft in the Atlantic Conveyor for their journey south, he had to watch as the ship slipped beneath the waves, taking with it all the kit for which he had been responsible. To read Simon’s story in his own words, follow this link.

A young sailor who watched this tragic scene unfold was a 23-year old Steward called John Cash. He was serving in the Type 42 Batch 2 Destroyer, HMS EXETER, and like so many of us that spring, found himself 8,000 miles away from home in the middle of a war zone when until 2nd April he had been very happy to be deployed with the ship fulfilling the West Indies’ Guardship duties enjoying the delights of a less “aggressive” routine in the sun. Moreover, not only was he having to contend with this very different routine, he was also on the upper deck of the EXETER when the Atlantic Conveyor was struck by the exocet missiles.

John Cash

In a rare example of right time, right place, decades before the age of mobile phones with digital cameras, one of his shipmates happened to take a picture of John at the moment the exocets struck the Atlantic Conveyor.

Mr Cash went on to become a Warrant Officer before retiring from the Royal Navy and for many years he has worked as a Beadle in the City supporting a number of Companies. He has also served as the Toastmaster to the Coachmakers’ Company for a number of years and helps the Assistant Clerk to keep the Clerk in check.