MINISTRY OF DEFENSE CHARTER 1987


Acknowledgement

Whilst looking for something totally unrelated to Purple Warrior I stumbled across these photographs taken I believe by Dave Atkinson, the Viscount's Radio Officer, who kindly gave me a set thirteen years ago. I thought his photographs deserved to be shown on this site so I have added a few brief notes to accompany them. Two of my fellow Officers assisted in the narrative which follows but because I value my ability to walk I have therefore omitted to mention them by name, I would however like to thank them both.



Loading Army Vehicles at Plymouth



Loading Army Vehicles at Plymouth


In the October/November of 1987 an exercise named Purple Warrior took place off the coast of West Scotland. The scenario was that an enemy force had invaded and taken possession of a friendly country. The British Government decided that it would go to the assistance of the said country and a relieving force was assembled on the coast of Southern England. Of all the Merchant Navy RORO's chartered for the exercise Viking Viscount was the only one which flew the Red Ensign the rest came from all over Europe, perhaps a reflection of just how few ships now fly the Red Duster.

Prior to actually going on the exercise an extra ramp was fitted to the stern door so that we could discharge our vehicles onto the mexi floats, unfortunately it was discovered at the last minute that the ramp was too narrow due to the wrong specifications being given to the contractors. When Viscount arrived in Plymouth the contractors commenced work once more on the ramp and subsequently we were delayed sailing. Having completed our preparations somewhat erratically we sailed from Plymouth to rendezvous with the main convoy off the Bristol Channel.

Amongst our passengers we carried Royal Marines, Queen Alexandra nurses and Military Intelligence (oxymoron). The nurses and Military Intelligence used some of the ship's many cabins but the royal Marines had to rough it on the garage deck. The area had been carpeted and a double screen went all the way round the deck, space heaters were provided for warmth and the troops used toilet/washing facilities normally provided for fare paying public.

During the passage the ship prepared for total blackout conditions with all the windows being papered and taped over and all the outside light fuses being removed. On rendezvousing with the convoy we were informed that because of our inability to function as intended we had to escort a floating drydock instead. This drydock's top speed was in the region of 5-7 knots an impossible task for the Viscount even running on one engine out of three and so we spent most of the trip North going round in circles. Whilst the convoy proceeded North under the protection of Royal Navy ships and submarines below the surface the convoy was harried all the way by the invading nation's submarines. It was possible in the quieter areas of the Engine Room to actually hear the pinging as the detection equipment used by both forces struck the ship's hull.



Arrival at Luce Bay



Sir Geraint arriving at Luce Bay



Sir Tristram getting ready to Discharge



Sir Geraint discharging to a Mexi Float



Sir Lancelot in Foreground



Sir Tristram loading to Landing craft



Sir Percivale in Foreground



Mexi Float on its way to discharge



Landing Craft arriving at LSL



DFDS Ship discharges to Landing Craft



DFDS Ship discharges to Landing Craft



HMS Fearless or Intrepid



Equipment going ashore by Air



Unknown RORO



Unknown RORO



Sea King Helicopter

On arrival at Luce Bay the Fleet dropped anchor and proceeded to disgorge the relieving forces by way of landing craft , mexi floats and helicopters including our own Troops and equipment.



Rendezvous with Olwen



Olwen Alongside



Olwen Alongside



Olwen Alongside



Exercise over Olwen prepares to leave



Olwen departs

After this operation had been completed we sailed to we rendezvous with the Fleet tanker Olwen to simulate a replenishment at sea. A short while later however the weather took a distinct turn for the worse and we returned to either Luce Bay or Morecombe Bay and sat out the storm. During the storm unknown to anyone an automatic float in one of the header tanks situated in the starboard funnel malfunctioned and for thirty-six hours overflowed out onto the deck and down the scupper.



Sea King Helicopter approaches during Storm



Sea King Helicopter approaches during Storm



Sea King Helicopter approaches during Storm

Because of the sheer amount of rain falling no one noticed the header tank water pouring over the deck and it wasn't until we lost suction in one of the fresh water tanks that it was realised the ship had a problem. We therefore had to sail to Stranraer to take on water, you can imagine our amazement when we were confronted with the water bunker arrangement, a 0.5 inch garden hose down the sounding tube. We were unable to go alongside the normal berth because of ferry traffic so had to be content with the facility provided. This was aggravated by the fact that every time a Sealink ferry arrived on the other berth our supply was terminated for the duration of its stay. However it did allow us to go ashore and celebrate the Second Mate's birthday, what I remember it was a memorable run ashore.



Landing Craft alongside Stranraer



Landing Craft Departs Stranraer



Landing Craft at Stranraer as carried by HMS Fearless or Intrepid

It was then decided to leave the Viscount alongside and act as a rest and recuperation place for the returning troops to have a hot meal and clean themselves up. One of the funnier aspects was to see these hairy assed squaddies departing the ship each clutching a Townsend Thoresen carrier bag full of goodies all set for the coming mopping up operation.

After the exercise had ended for us we departed Luce Bay and sailed South to discharge our troops in Plymouth and then on to Southampton for refit before once more taking up our rather more mundane duties ferrying passengers backwards and forwards to France.