For many, Remembrance Day will bring to mind the bloody conflicts of the First and Second World Wars, but we will gather together not only to remember those two wars but also recent conflicts, in which British and commonwealth troops have served, were killed or wounded – Iraq, Afghanistan, Belize, Bosnia and The Falklands, to name a few. It was with these conflicts in mind that Bob Hughes of The Resident heard that one of the British Navy’s Type 42 Destroyers was paying a visit to Lisbon last week. It was HMS Exeter, the fifth ship to bear this illustrious name that was launched in 1976.
Exeter was credited as being the last ship to engage and shoot down an enemy aircraft with a surface to air missile during the battle for the Falkland Islands. It so happens that, at this time of remembrance, one of our locals in Lisbon, none other than the national chairman of the British Legion in Portugal, Ron Goddard, had been a serving officer aboard the Exeter during the Falklands conflict.
Ron was delighted to hear that the Exeter was coming to Lisbon and, with the help of the British Embassy here, he was reunited with his old ship. Our guide on board, Lieutenant Commander Ivor Humphrey, gave a full tour of the ship and Ron found that very little had changed over the years.
The ship joined the task force east of the Falklands, just as the major attack on the Force in San Carlos Water commenced. Exeter was one of the few ships to shoot down an Argentinean aircraft with the Sea Dart missile system. The flight, which had already considerable experience flying with units from the Special Boat Service, was co-opted for several clandestine missions behind enemy lines.
“Returning to the ship, anchored among a nervous and trigger happy task force in San Carlos Water in the dead of night, was always a risky business,” said Ron with some feeling. The helicopter was used on several occasions by the Task Force Commander to divert enemy attention from incoming raids and to try to seduce the land based Exocet missiles from their lair in Port Stanley.
The flight returned again to the Falklands with the ship for a further patrol in 1983. During his time as Flight Commander of HMS Exeter, Ron was awarded the Air Force Cross. He is now retired and living in Lisbon.
Last year, the Exeter paid respects to the last Exeter with a memorial service at her final resting place in the Java Sea. Many may remember its victory in the battle of the River Plate against the German Pocket Battleship Graf Spee and its sinking by the Japanese Task Group in the Java Sea.The Exeter sailed to Gibraltar last Sunday and on to Casablanca, to attend remembrance services there before heading to Malta.
Poppy Appeal and Remembrance
The Royal British Legion is co-ordinating the Poppy Appeal and Remembrance Day Services throughout Portugal. This year is one of the Legion’s biggest efforts with more than 250 collection boxes in place throughout the country. Volunteers are also collecting at important events and airports. Last year, more than 17,000 euros was collected nationally, some of which was distributed to needy ex-servicemen and their dependents living in Portugal. Locations of the collection boxes and details of the Portugal Branch of the Royal British Legion can be found at www.portugal.legionbranches.net
A Service of Remembrance will be held at St George’s Church in Lisbon this Sunday, November 13, at 10.15am.