HMS Alacrity's "mine" run in the Falklands

A quick question to those who would be able to answer. Would a type 21 have been able to detect the existence of mines in Falkland Sound by the use of active sonar, or did it really take a run up and down the entrance of the sound as ordered to ascertain the presence or not of mines?

Cheers in advance for any replies
A close friend of mine was on Alacrity down south. He has told how they made the run and everyone who wasn't required down below was made to get above the water line. I believe it was just a case of send frigate through, if it blows up then it's mined. Better to find out with a frigate than a troop ship. As Sandy Woodward said about the Sheffield and Coventry they were their to protect the carriers and troop ships. They did a good job. Not sure if the guys on board would be able to put it that way but i suppose he had a point.

He also told me about one of his stoker mates cutting the brackets off the hatches used to fix the padlocks to lock the hatches. "I've seen those old war films, if we get hit they'll lock us down there", or words to that effect. He's told me he's never been so tired in his life. He was a stoker but everyone took their turn in the gun bay and I believe Alacrity was one of the busier ships down there.

I'm not an expert on this, or anything else for that matter :) but i believe the towed array sonar was being used to detect enemy submarines they knew could be in the area. As I understand it when they reeled it back in the end had been sheared off and I believe the Argies reported to have fired a torpedo at a type 21 in that area on that date. If true my mate was but few seconds from not being here to tell the tale.
Exactly as per the versions I have heard and read. However, somebody told me that a type 21 should have been able to detect mines by using active sonar, either the 162M or 184M. Being completely ignorant of the capabilities of the sonar on board the T21s, I was wondering if this was a valid statement or just a case of someone talking out their backside.

The version I read was the noisemaker had a big dent in it, with regards to the torpedo attack, but I might be mixing that up with another incident.

I believe all minesweeping done in the campaign was a bit belts and braces, likewise with the three converted trawlers. I think their crews spent a lot of time laying on the deck.
RO5well - The elderly Ton Class Coastal MCM vessels in service at the time were unsuited for the long passage and heavy seas expected in the South Atlantic. The first two of the new Hunt Class MCM vessels were not yet operational so it was decided to requisition five deep sea trawlers from Hull (FARNELLA, CORDELLA, JUNELLA, NORTHELLA and PICT) and fit them with rudimentary minesweeping equipment. Originally PICT was to be present solely as a stores ship. However, to minimise loss should ships be lost, stores were distributed evenly among the squadron allowing PICT to be commissioned as a fully fledged minesweeper. These ships, crewed by the ships' companies of Ton Class vessels based at Rosyth, were designated the 11th MCM Squadron and sailed from Portland on 27 April 1982 with the Senior Officer in HMS CORDELLA. PICT's conversion delayed her departure such that she joined the squadron on 30 April while 150 miles west of the Portuguese coast.

The ships’ companies of the minesweeping trawlers had it tougher than most. They endured rough weather, unreliable machinery and lack of proper self-defence armament, communications and navigation systems. Sailing to and fro on their various missions carrying stores and personnel in the dark, emcon-silent and with all lights extinguished for security, they frequently ran the risk of being rammed or fired on by both enemy and friendly forces.

During the night of 10 June, HMS PICT, (sister ship of the GAUL that had sunk in unknown circumstances while fishing) was tasked with HMS CORDELLA in support to influence sweep Berkeley Sound. The idea was to clear an area for ships that would provide naval gunfire support for the final stages of the assault on Stanley. HMS PICT was the only ship available that had the special sweep system necessary. Transferring all non-essential crew to HMS CORDELLA at sea at the entrance to Berkeley Sound, HMS PICT began sweeping but the risk increased markedly early in the operation when the influence sweep failed. Clearly PICT was not built as a minesweeper and any breach in the hull would have resulted in the ship's rapid sinking. Undeterred, knowing the importance of the mission, and in the knowledge that the Task Force Commander had accepted the risk of loss of a trawler, HMS PICT's Commanding Officer decided to turn his ship into a guinea pig. HMS PICT was made as noisy as possible by running all machinery at various speeds and revving up the main engine while completing the required number of runs through the area. Fortunately no mines were found, HMS CORDELLA transferred the remaining crew back to HMS PICT and her CO was subsequently awarded a Mention in Despatches.

Between 23 June and 4 July, when the weather allowed, the minesweeping trawlers of the 11th MCM Squadron swept the enemy minefields at the entrance to Port Stanley. They bagged ten of the 21 deadly moored mines laid by the Argentineans, the other mines having broken adrift and floated away or failed to deploy from their sinkers properly. CORDELLA did not sweep any mines as she was always out in front using her sweeps to protect the other ships and hopefully in safe water. PICT, next in line swept three mines. One of these nearly hit NORTHELLA which had to manoeuvre hurriedly to avoid it. NORTHELLA swept two of her own, JUNELLA four, and FARNELLA one mine. Another of PICT's mines was towed inshore by JUNELLA on 26 June and rendered safe for shipping back to the UK for analysis.
Thanks for that NG, there's not a lot of info about the role they played down south
I was on Rosyth FMG when the trawlers came in and was involved with the conversions, (as a lowly MEM(L) mainly scrubbing out the fish holds and assisting with ballast loading)
I was also pencilled in as crew for Farnella until a crash draft for Illustrious came through.
More about the minesweeper trawlers in the Falklands

Glad to see so much interest. Just to fill in some gaps:

The five minesweeper trawlers of the 11th MCM Squadron arrived at Ascension Island for fuel on 11 May 1982. They were supplied en route by air drop from RAF C-130s.

Hercules Re-supplies 11th MCM Sqn (1) med.jpg

Hercules Re-supplies 11th MCM Sqn (2) med.jpg

Hercules Re-supplies 11th MCM Sqn (3) med.jpg

On 13 May, they sailed for South Georgia where they arrived on 26 May. Various high value ships such as the QE2, packed with the men of 5 Brigade, vital stores and ammunition, began arriving from 28 May. It was vital to transfer these essential supplies to the CANBERRA, NORLAND and various RFAs that shuttled between South Georgia, the Task Force at sea, and the bridgehead at San Carlos. Instead of anchoring for a respite, the minesweeper trawlers worked tirelessly day after day cross-decking troops, stores and ammunition, sometimes in atrocious Antarctic weather with wind speeds exceeding 100 knots, before heading on towards the Falklands.
Cordella and Northella with QE2 at Ascension med.jpg

The trawlers joined the main Task Force on 7 June. During the nights of 12, 13 and 14 June, CORDELLA, PICT and JUNELLA conducted covert operations re-supplying SAS and SBS teams deployed variously along the coast.

The particular mine swept off Port Stanley and recovered for investigation is normally displayed in the Minewarfare section at the Maritime Warfare School, HMS Collingwood. It was exhibited at the Imperial War Museum as part of the Falklands 25 exhibition in 2007 and is seen here with Lt Cdr Martyn Holloway RN, CO of CORDELLA and Senior Officer of the 11th MCM Squadron.

Martyn Holloway with recovered Argentine mine at Imperial War Museum med.jpg

Despite forming, working-up and leading the five converted trawlers of the 11th MCM Squadron to the Falklands and back without a single casualty, he received no public recognition for his extraordinary achievements.
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War Hero
He also told me about one of his stoker mates cutting the brackets off the hatches used to fix the padlocks to lock the hatches. "I've seen those old war films, if we get hit they'll lock us down there", or words to that effect.
You raise an interesting historical point.

Sounds very melodramatic. The hasp & staple on doors & hatches is for locking-off compartments for maintenance or to restrict access rather than egress, such as asbestos removal, shot blasting, etc., during maintenance, or at least that's what I've always assumed.

I've yet see conclusive evidence of anyone actually locked into a compartment in action - in fact I wonder whether it was ever the case - they have escape hatches on "modern ships" in any case. I did hear rumour of someone breaking their arm trying to open a door clip because some chimp used a samson bar to close it, for some unfathomable reason during the Falklands campaign.

On my ship we couldn't get the guys out of the magazine fast enough after it was hit by a bomb and they sadly died. The guys in the boiler room popped out through the Tech Office because the ladder was smashed.

Has anyone got any factual info regarding this claim that people used to be locked in compartments at action? I imagine this was a practice during WWI, if ever.


War Hero
Seeing that photo reminds me a mate of mine was a Tiff on one of the "ellas".

He recounted the tale of transferring troops to/from QE2 in South Georgia and as their little ship drew close to the towering liner, they radio-ed QE2: "Permission to come alongside, port aft". This was during a busy period of ships coming and going with stores & personnel. They got a distracted response from the QE2, "Approved, port aft. Which ship are you again?"

To which the little ship replied "*******ella. Which one are you again?". ;-P
Had a trawl(sorry) through the net and cant find very much on the "Ella`s" at all, it seem to say that they were returned back to their civilian owners in the Aug. Seem to remember operating with a couple of them about 1984/5. More STC stuff I suppose.
Last say on minesweeping 'guinea pigs' in the Falklands

Between 31 May and 2 June 1982, an MCD Lt Cdr (whose service had been extended for the duration of the conflict), a CPO(MW) and two LS(MW)s manned one of HMS INTREPID’s two LCVPs (Landing Craft Vehicles & Personnel) to tow the hurriedly-developed Assault Minesweeping System Mk 1 (AMSS 1) through the Port Salvador approach channel to Teal Inlet and confirm it was clear of mines prior to the amphibious landings. AMSS 1 comprised a noisemaker combined with an Australian Defence Industries 'Dyad' buoyant electro-magnet.
Don't tell him your name, Pike!

Yes, I do ask a lot of questions, mainly for research reasons. I am currently working on an article on the Sea Slug being used against Port Stanley airfield and a couple of other targets. The thing is, I am also on a couple of the forums from the other side of the fence, and see a lot of billy bollox being spouted about certain things, hence the question on the sonar capabilities of the active sonar on a Type 21.

The rest of the mine-sweeping story is fascinating, and deserves a book in its own right.


Agree with RO5well on the mine sweeping side of things, there's been shed loads written on all aspects of the Falklands but this seems to have been completely overlooked. Maybe not "glamorous" enough of a subject.
Spoke to my mate yesterday about this and he told me the story of Alactrity's mine run. I won't put into print what he said because he's asked me not to.

All I can say is that people can be either very brave, very stupid or a bit of both.

Either way, massive respect.
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