Thursday, 27 February 2014

2014 - A Distinguished Visit : Captain Martin Reed RD


Captain Martin Reed RD* 

Life Vice President of SAMA 82


On February 6th, 2014 Merchant Captain Martin Reed RD* and his wife Denise Donnelly visited Buenos Aires

Captain Martin Reed

Former Merchant Navy Captain Martin Reed (70) was Chief Officer of the P&O liner SS Canberra which played a vital part as a troop ship in 1982.Member of the Royal British Legion. Reed returned to Malvinas in 1984 as Executive Officer of the SS Uganda, which was the 1982 hospital ship. He later commanded several luxury liners. 11

In 2003 Captain Martin Reed was elected Chairman of the SAMA82.

In 2006 he gave a lecture on the South Atlantic Medal Association 82 at the International Colloquium: The Falklands-Malvinas Conflict Twenty-Five years on which took place at Willoughby Hall in Nottingham University. Captain Reed wrote a chapter of the book Hors de Combat: The Falklands-Malvinas Conflict in Retrospect. 4 He became a member of The Nottingham-Malvinas Group. In 2012 Reed was the Merchant´s Navy representative at the RBL Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall.

Captain Martin Reed RD* is the Life Vice President of SAMA 82.

Note: Captain Martin Reed was awarded the Reserve Decoration(RD*) It is awarded initially after 15 years unblemished career in the Royal Naval reserve, with the bar being awarded after a further 10 years.


Former Merchant Navy Captain Martin Reed RD* was Chief Officer of the P&O liner SS Canberra during the 1982 Conflict. He is married to Mrs Denise Donnelly Clinical nurse specialist in Palliative care attached to Trinity Hospice in Clapham, London from 1992 - 2003. They live in Dorset. (Photograph taken by the author in Buenos Aires)


The South Atlantic Medal Association (SAMA 82) is the the Charity caring for those awarded the official medal which was awarded to almost 30,000 British service men and women and civilians who took part in the 1982 conflict. Its Royal patron is The Prince of Wales and its National President is Lt General Sir James Dutton.

Other Life Vice Presidents are co founders Surgeon Captain Rick Jolly (Commander of the Surgical team at Ajax Bay) and Denzil Connick(Corporal at the Anti-Tank Platoon of 3rd Battalion, the Parachute Regiment).

Co founder Captain Rick Jolly

Captain Rick Jolly went to medical school at Bart’s in London and qualified in 1969. He became a Royal Navy doctor to 42 Commando Royal Marines. In 24 years of service he completed two tours with the Fleet Air Arm as a Flight Surgeon, Medical Officer recruitment / Officer training in the Dartmouth Training Ship HMS Bristol, and at the Britannia Royal Naval College. As Officer Commanding (OC) Medical Squadron of the Commando Logistic Regiment RM, Jolly was Senior Medical Officer of 3 Commando Bde RM in the Malvinas Campaign of 1982 and commanded the field hospital at Ajax Bay.

Rick Jolly - Doctor for Firend and Foe - Nottingham Malvinas

For his efforts at Ajax Bay he received an OBE in the Queen’s 1982 Honours List. During a visit to Argentina in 1998 Rick was also awarded the Oficial Orden de Mayo by the Argentinian Government, thanks to his efforts in treating wounded Argentine servicemen and drawing attention to the post-war care of Malvinas veterans. As such he is perhaps the only serviceman to have been decorated by both sides of a conflict. He published two books: Jackspeak, a humorous dictionary of British naval slang and usage and Doctor for Friend and Foe.

Before the battle of Trafalgar Nelson wrote a prayer in his cabin, saying: ‘May humanity after victory be the predominant feature in the British Fleet.’ As a naval officer those words meant a lot to me so looking after the enemy’s wounded as though they were your own was instinctive.

"People assume you’ve got to hate your enemy but that couldn’t be further from the truth. The only people who know what you’re going through are the people on the other side"

Over the years I’ve been asked what I’d do if I had to choose  who to treat first, an Argentinian or a Brit. My answer was 

always whoever needed attention more urgently. As far as I am concerned you have to be able to look into your soul and like what you find there.

Dr Jolly, the hospital’s senior medical officer, insisted that all his men follow his example. And they were happy to do so, treating the wounded enemy with complete respect as the conflict raged across the Falklands in South Georgia, Goose Green and Port Stanley.

They used to make the sign of the cross prior to an operation and they would be very relieved when they woke up after surgery and found all their body parts were still intact.¨

Dr Jolly’s favourite patient was a terrified fighter pilot, rescued from the freezing waters of the South Atlantic. “His name was Ricardo Lucero,” says Dr Jolly. “He was coming in to attack one of our ships when he got a missile right up his tail pipe. He ejected at the last minute, badly broke his knee and was fished out of the water”. 

An incredible TV documentary has been made to commemorate the actions of Dr Jolly and his men, called Falklands Combat Medics. Dr Jolly, 68, who is now retired and lives in Plymouth, was awarded the OBE in the months following the war. 8

Co founder Corporal Denzil Connick

 Connick took part in the Battle of Mount Longdon and was wounded from artillery fire losing his left leg and being badly injured in the other. Mr Connick has suffered continuing problems with his leg and had to wait two years to have a benign growth removed from his leg stump caused by his prosthetic leg. 6

Denzil Connick

2 Para are based at Aldershot in Hampshire and form part of 16th Air Assault Brigade, along with the Pathfinder Platoon. 3 Para is located at Dover in Kent. During the 1982 Conflict 2 and 3 Para formed part of 3 Commando Brigade. 2 Paras captured the Darwin/Goose Green isthmus on 28/29th May.3 Paras made a night attack to seize Mount Longdon on 11/12 June. The 3 Paras lost 23 killed and 48 wounded in the battle for Mount Longdon plus 12 wounded before the assault and countless who suffered with their feet- 2 Paras assaulted later Wireless Ridge.(Burguess, J Captain RAMC. My experiences in the Falklands islands war (Operation Corporate)-JR Army Med Corps 153(S1)21-24.

Captain Martin Reed´s description of the South Atlantic conflict

"We were on the last leg of a three-month world voyage, sailing from Naples to Southampton when we received a strange message: ‘Be prepared for a change of plan".

April 2, 1982, and the MoD was already looking into ships capable of troop carrying.

An advance party of military planners boarded Canberra on an unscheduled stop in Gibraltar on April 4, and by Monday had worked out where to put 2,500 troops.

Mr Reed said: "By Friday evening the swimming pool was a flight deck, we were rigged for refuelling at sea, all troops equipment and stores were on board, and volunteer British crew from all over the UK had replaced our Indian and Pakistani crew".

The liner sailed three days later for the South Atlantic, carrying paratroops, Royal Marine commandos and vast supplies for war.  She later also landed the Welsh Guards and the 5th Infantry division, transferred from the QE2.

I had gone from looking forward to seeing my family
on leave, to sailing my ship towards a war.

On May 6, Canberra sailed south, escorted by the frigate HMS Ardent.

On May 19 the crew transferred troops to the landing ships HMS Fearless and HMS Intrepid. The next day a Sea King helicopter crashed with numerous casualties, and Canberra’s new hospital came into its own as the dead and wounded arrived.

Captain Reed said: “Our stadium area, which once hosted passenger entertainment, now had a triage, a resuscitation area and a four-table operating theatre area. And our night club was now a 50-bed recovery ward.” May 21 brought the Battle of Falkland Sound and thrust Canberra right into the firing line.

Mr Reed said: “With no warning an aircraft hurtled toward us, up on its wing tip and pointed straight at us. “We shot, missed and the plane shot over us. As the boys changed ammo, I shot around the back of the bridge, watched the plane disappear and saw my hands shaking.

The vessel was ordered to move away from the islands, which left Mr Reed with mixed feelings. He said: "We sailed with much needed stores still on board, feeling as if we were running away."

“We saw Ardent aground and burning in the distance but made for safety with some terribly wounded men aboard. On June 14 the Canberra had 4,144 Aregentine prisoners on board and hundreds more men in the ship’s company but with a lifesaving capacity of only 3,551. In the 94 days since it had left Southampton they had travelled 27,187 miles, serving 646,847 meals. 11

Captain Reed said: "We saw Ardent aground and burning in the distance but made for safety with some terribly wounded men aboard." 

HMS Ardent was a Royal Navy Type 21 frigate. Built by Yarrow Shipbuilders Ltd, Glasgow, Scotland. She was completed with Exocet launchers in 'B' position. She was sunk by Argentine aircraft in the Falkland Sound on 22 May 1982. Three Argentine Navy A-4Q Skyhawks of 3rd Fighter and Attack Naval Sqd. hit Ardent with at least two bombs on the stern,a number of unexploded bombs which ripped into the hull, and several near-misses. This mission was carried out from a land base at Rio Grande. Navy aircraft used a dozen 500 lb (230 kg) retarding tail bombs during the attack. The following attack after the first wave of the Argentine Navy Aviation, was done by three A-4Q of the same force. Commanded by Lieutenants Benito Rótolo (3-A-306 on first pane), Carlos Lecour (3-A-305, second) and Roberto Sylvester (3-A-301, last) performs the second stage attack that definitely sinks HMS “Ardent”. One of the bombs launched by Lt. Lecour was the one that exploded inside a fuel storage initiating a fire that caused the sinking.

Captain Martin Reed RD* Life Vice President of SAMA 82 (The South Atlantic
Medal Association 1982) and Brigadier General VGM (R) Segio Fernandez
(Argentine Army) President of AVEGUEMA (Malvinas`s War Veterans
Association). Buenos Aires, February 2014.

Captain Martin Reed and his wife Denise at the museum Brigadier General Juan
Martín de Pueyrredón (1815). (Historical National Monument since 1941) in
Acassuso, Province of Buenos Aires. February 2014. (Photograph taken by the author)

The SS Canberra (The Big White Whale)

SS Canberra was an ocean liner, which later operated on cruises, in the P&O fleet from 1961 to 1997. She was built at the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast, Northern Ireland at a cost of £17,000,000. The ship was named on 17 March 1958, after the federal capital of Australia, Canberra. She was launched on 16 March 1960, sponsored by Dame Pattie Menzies, GBE, wife of the then Prime Minister of Australia, Robert Menzies. She entered service in May 1961, and made her maiden voyage starting in June. In the 1982 Conflict she served as a troop ship. 

After the war, Argentine pilots claimed they were told not to hit Canberra, as they mistook her for a hospital ship.( Ward, Sharkey (1992). "24". Sea Harrier over the Falklands. Cassell Military Paperbacks. p. 271. ISBN 0-304-35542-9) In 94 days at sea the SS Canberra steamed over 25,000 miles without a mechanical fault, carried 5000 troops into battle, repatriated over 4000 Argentine POWs, treated 172 wounded soldiers and sailors 1, 84 serious operations over 25 days . 11

SS Canberra - Nottingham Malvinas

SS Canberra

The Canberra dealt with 172 casualties, including 90 Argentinians. Their original task having landed 3rd Commando Brigade, was to have remained in San Carlos as PCRS, Primary Casualty Receiving Ship, administering surgical and medical recovery and passing on casualties to the UGANDA.

Blood groups were checked on the British marines bled in Canberra and an error of 2.7 percent was found between the actual group and that stamped on identity discs.The Canberra had two field surgical teams. A limited supply of blood was brought ashore by the Parachute Field Surgical Team from the Norland and by the Naval Surgical Support Team from SS Canberra but the situation was alleviated as the Argentine prisoners volunteered blood donations. (Annals of the Royal College Surgeons of England 1984)

The arrival to Madryn 3

On June 18, 1982 , four days after the end of the conflict, the transport ship ARA Bahía Paraíso of the Argentne Navy left at the Luis Piedrabuena dock to 1,661 men and a day later the SS Canberra did the same with another batch of 4,100 Argentines. This last landing is remembered with great affection, as the soldiers were able to make contact with the population.

The Norland docked, on the 21st , with 1,992 men, and then the ARA Almirante Irizar , bringing on board 956 troops of the Argentine Army.

"It was the day we ran out of bread Madryn" recalled Julio Calvo president of that city´s veterans center .The soldiers arrived asking for a piece of bread , a staple which during the conflict not consumed.

Conscripts who arrived on the continent were brought to the former barracks Lahusen, where the municipal bingo is now situated. They remained there a few hours after which they were transferred to their respective garrisons. "It was then that the neighbors of Madryn made contact with the soldiers, brought them bread and chocolate and opened their doors for them to contact their families by telephone ."

The SS Canberra was withdrawn from service in September 1997 and sold to ship breakers for scrapping, leaving for Gadani shipbreaking yard, Pakistan the next month. She did not give up without a fight however; her deep draft meant that she could not be beached as far as most ships, and due to her solid construction the scrapping process took nearly a year instead of the estimated three months.

Master DJ Scott-Mason

Dennis John Scott-Mason who died aged 81 on November 16, 2010 was Master of the P&O Liner Canberra during the 1982 conflict.He was born at Carshalton Beeches and educated in Pangbourne College before joining Shaw,Saville &Albion as an appretince in the troopship Empire Deben. In 1950 Scott-Mason was transferred to Ranchi of the Peninsular&Orient. He was Master of the 24,000 ton steamship Chusan and later of the school ship Uganda. Scott-Mason attended the maritime tactical course at Woolwich and the senior officer war course at Greenwich. He married to Annie-Marie Grisar, a Belgian, in 1958. 1

Master Dennis John Scott-Mason

Scott-Mason was awarded the CBE  and made ADC to the Queen.  (The Telegraph 01 Dec 2010)

Argentine Army Conscript Milton Rhys

Argentine Army Conscript Milton Rhys´ great-grandfather was William Casnodyn Rhys, a Baptist preacher ,an ultra-nastionalist from Port Talbot. Grandfather was born in the Rio Chubut valley (Patagonia),David Rhys a carpenter. Milton Rhys, a choirmaster is proud of his heritage. His Cwm Rhondda is flawless, his T-shirt a tribute to Wales’s rugby team. Yet, he has never been to Wales and, despite some effort, cannot speak Welsh. His is a split identity, half-Welsh, half-Argentine.(2) At the end of the 1982 Conflict shells landed around Government House, one killing two NCOs and injuring Rhys in the back.

As the British marched into the town, Rhys, a Seventh-day Adventist by upbringing, sought comfort in the Christ Church Anglican Cathedral on Ross Road where he was heard praying by Bronwen Williams a nurse at the local hospital from Cegidfa in Mid Wales. Neither Bronwen nor Milton could speak much Welsh, according to Ioan Roberts in Rhyfel Ni (No to war) an interesting book exploring the experiences of both sides in the Malvinas war (GwasgCarreg Gwalch). 7

Rhyfel Ni: Y Cymry A'r Patagoniaid Yn Y Malvinas: Profiadau Cymreig O Ddwy Ochr Rhyfel Y Falklands / Malvinas- Roberts, Ioan-Published by Gwasg Carreg Gwalch, 2003 

Note: In 1852 Thomas Benbow Phillips of Tregaron established a settlement of about 100 Welsh people in the state of Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil. Many of these colonists later moved to the more successful colony in Argentina as part of Y Wladfa ("The Colony"). The best known of the Welsh colonies, the colony in the Chubut Valley of Patagonia known as Y Wladfa Gymreig ("The Welsh Colony"), was established in 1865 when 153 settlers of the clipper Mimosa landed at what is now Puerto Madryn. 12 Gaiman is a cultural and demographic centre of the "Y Wladfa" in which Welsh-Argentines are concentrated. Of the 25,000 Welsh speakers in Argentina, many are in the Chubut region, particularly in the original Welsh settlements of Trelew and Trevelin. In the early 21st century, approximately 50,000 Patagonians are of Welsh descent, of whom around 5,000 are Welsh speakers. Print newspapers: Y Drafod, Welsh language newspaper since 1891 and Clecs Camwy, new Welsh monthly newspaper, 2011

The Cathedral and whalebone arch

Rhys was taken as a POW to the SS Canberra where Captain Martin Reed was Chief Officer. The conscript helped as translator. Milton Rhys was seated with hundreds of others in a big room with a big piano, 300 or 400 soldiers. The British told them to organise themselves into those who needed the toilet, the bath and the doctor.

Rhys was astounded when the SS Canberra docked at Puerto Madryn, a few miles from his family home. 9,10

Flying the flag, Milton Rhys left and Carlos Antonio Alcarraz both descendants of Welsh settlers in Patagonia. Photo:Paul Grover-The Telegraph-28 Mar 2012.

  1. Captain `DJ`Scott-Mason-The Telegraph 01 Dec 2010.
  2. Eckhardt, Marcelo-Homenaje por Malvinas-La balada del soldado solo-(2009):A Milton Rhys.
  3. 3-Evocan el retorno de soldados de Malvinas-Elciudadanoweb, Jun 19,2012
  4. 4-Garcia Quiroga,Diego and Seear,Mike-Hors de Combat: The Falklands-Malvinas Conflict in Retrospect.-CCCP 2009. 20
  5. 5-Grace, Michael L.- The great British liner-The SS Canberra- The last gasp of the British Empire
  6. 6-Gwent veteran's disgust at MoD compensation move-Campaign
  7. 7-Jones,Ivor Wynnie-Opinion:Fortright & Fearless
  8. 8-Payne,Will and Dagnell,Andrew-Incredible story of the Falklands war hospital that treated victims from both side of conflict-Mirror News-Mar 25, 2012.
  9. Rhys,Milton VGM(Personal Communication)
  10. Tweedie,Neil-The Welsh Argentine who fought the British-The Telegraph-28 Mar 2012
  11. Waite,Debbie-Poppy Appeal: Falklands veteran proud of hisrole in freeing islanders-Oxford Mail -5th November 2012. 99. Poppy_Appeal__Falklands_veteran_proud_of_his_role_in_freeing_islanders/
  12. 12-Welsh settlement in the Americas.