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Falkland Islands - British Islands in the South Atlantic 



Falkland & South Georgia



HMCS Afterglow OHMS cover with variation gap "192 6"


Operation Keyhole / Falkland War 1982    (published in the Upland Goose Spring 2012)


After the capitulation of the Argentine Forces on South Georgia at 25 April 1982 and the end of the Falkland War at 14 June 1982, there was only one remaining British Territory occupied by Argentina – the Argentine Base Corbeta Uruguay on Southern Thule, one of the South Sandwich Islands. This base was illegally opened 1977.


For South Georgia it had been a busy time until the capitulation of the Argentine Forces and also in the days after that with visits of ships bringing stores and troops for the Falklands. The great passenger liner Queen


Daynes cover from the Gurkhas on board of Queen Elizabeth 2. The Gurkhase sailed from UK with the QE2 and arrived in the night of 27/28th May 1982 in Cumberland Bay. At 28th may they were crossdecked to MV Norland for delivery to San Carlos Waters, Falkland East

_________fig. 1


Elizabeth 2 entered Cumberland Bay and anchored beside SS Canberra, which delivered those who had come South on QEII to San Carlos Water, including the famous Gurkhas (see cover and photo).

From 2nd June HMS Antrim acted as guardship, a ship equipped with Exocet missiles. Many tankers, repair ships, troop carrier, tugs etc. filled Cumberland Bay.







Canberra (in the background) in Cumberland Bay, a picture out of an unknown newspaper/journal - RMS St. Helena in May 1983, private photo

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ fig. 2


Only one day after the signature of the capitulation document in Government House in Stanley, Admiral Woodward received order to evict the Argentines from Southern Thule.

The difficult task was given to Captain Barker, the Captain of HMS Endurance, which undertook a patrol in mid-June at South Georgia, not of the unknown Argentine military presence of the Argentines at that base but because of the weather. Satellite pictures showed the seasonal pack-ice only about thirty miles south of Southern Thule.


For the task were available:

HMS Endurance, the only ship common with the hard weather conditions at the beginning of the winter,

the Salvageman as rescue tug,


tug Salvageman, a very very powerful ship for pull out ships of ice, the photo pictured with kind permission of Kingston Mouldings - and ship's cachet below

fig. 3 ____________________________________



the frigate HMS Yarmouth and

the tanker RFA Olmeda.


On board was Lieutenant Keith Mills, the leader of the defenders of South Georgia at the time of the Argentine occupation with his RM detachment, who were back at South Georgia and were very keen to evict the Argentines. Keith Mills detachment was augmented by a small element of “M”-Company.


There were a few helicopters on board the ships, giving a limited capability of returning to South Georgia in the case of bad ice conditions and using them to land the RM on the South Sandwich Islands.


HMS Endurance and Salvageman reached Southern Thule at 19th June. HMS Yarmouth and RFA Olmeda were expected on the morning of 20th June.

It was not known how many base personal were in Corbeta Uruguay. The estimate was between 10 and 80.


Philatelic cover of the Argentine Base Corbeta Uruguay - one of the last known dates in 1982           - fig. 4



Cover of the M-Company at 14th May 1982 on board HMS Endurance


M-Company occupied Mt. Larsen behind the Argentine station at June 19th and had to suffer night temperatures of -20 degrees Celsius, with the chill factor was -52.

Next morning Yarmouth and Olmeda arrived. Captain Barker put his ship close to the shore in front of the base, when 3 white flags were waved out of the base.

10 prisoners were evacuated to the Olmeda and the Marines of the M-Company hoisted the Union Jack – see fig. 5 - and the last military action of the Falkland War had ended on Southern Thule without casualties on either side.

But the work wasn't yet complete on the South Sandwich Islands and the men had to hurry up because of the approaching pack-ice.


Royal Marines on South Sandwich Islands and the Red Plum - HMS Endurance    

____________________________________________________________________________   fig. 5


The same day, June 20th, a John Daynes cover, a British Forces Mail Aerogramme, was struck with a boxed cancel of the RM Detachment of HMS Endurance.

British Forces Mail Aerogramme cancelled with the cachet of the RM Detachment of HMS Endurance at 20th June 1982, the day of the recapture of the Argentine Station Corbeta Uruguay at Thule / S. Sandwich Islands      

_______________________________________________________________________________ fig. 6


While the 10 captured Argentines were guarded on the Olmeda, the tanker and HMS Yarmouth departed immediately for South Georgia, while the Endurance and the Salvageman remained off Thule until 22nd June to close the former Argentine Station and to make it weatherproof.

By 24th June, HMS Endurance and the tug were back in Cumberland East Bay.

HMS Yarmouth after the recapture of Southern Thule on it's way back to the Falklands

_______________________________________________________________________________ fig. 7



The Argentine South Sandwich Islands Station Corbeta Uruguay 1982 - Wikipedia

________________________________________________________________________________ fig. 8


Further interesting covers have been illustrated in POLAR POST, as mentioned in the references below.



- Operation Paraquat, Roger Perkins, 1986

- The Forces Postal History of the Falkland Islands & the Task Force, J.A. Daynes 1983

- POLAR POST, Vol. 31, No. 1, CD-ROM of the Polar Postal History Society of GB


Copyright © 2010-2015 - Klaus Hahn

The copyright of that article published on my website remains with the author (Klaus Hahn) and the society (FIPSG)



Interested in more philatelic articles about similar topics? - Then join the FIPSG - Falkland Islands Philatelic Study Group

or/and the PPHSGB - Polar Postal History Society of Great Britain

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