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NAVY NEWS, DECEMBER 2007 33
Ascension days
THESE are unseen echoes of the Falklands confl ict – men and machines preparing for war.

For a few weeks in the spring and early summer of 1982 tiny Ascension Island (at its widest it’s about fi ve
Two youngsters watch as a Sea King returns to HMS Hermes, accompanied by HMS Broadsword
(centre) and HMS Y
miles across) served as the springboard to victory in the South Atlantic.
armouth in Clarence Bay
And recording all the preparations of Britain’s Armed Forces was Bob Shackleton, a telecommunications
engineer, who clicked away merrily with his camera.
Back in 1982, Bob was working for the South Atlantic Cable Company which operated the SAT1
telephone/communications cable linking South Africa with Ascension, the Canaries and the Iberian
peninsula.
Pretty much every ship which took part in Operation Corporate dropped anchor at some stage in
Clarence Bay to take on supplies, flown into Ascension’s sole airfield, Wideawake.
Before the 1982 conflict, the runway handled just 250 flights a year. At the height of preparations for
the liberation of the Falklands, it was dealing with 800 movements every day.
A support team of 1,000-1,500 Service personnel, led by Capt Bob McQueen RN, oversaw the
mammoth operation to provide the Corporate task force with all it needed.
Of course the Argentinians would have been mightily interested in goings-on at Ascension and a news
blackout was imposed with forces passing through the island forbidden to call home.
A quarter of a century on, no such restrictions apply and Bob is keen for his photographs to serve as
an historical record of those fateful months. More than 130 images are being donated to the RN Fleet
Air Arm and National Maritime Museums, plus naval historian Gordon Smith’s Naval-History.net.
He does, however, need some help in identifying the units and ships involved – not especially easy
as many vessels had painted out their pennant numbers and names and removed badges by the time
they reached Ascension.
From the berets (and the numerous obligatory RM ’taches) Bob believes the men marching in the main
picture are possibly Royals of 40 Commando, but any suggestions or corrections would be gratefully
received.
You can see the rest of his collection at www.naval-history.net/FpxAAscension.htm.
Reporting from the Fleet
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