The Viola’s inadvertent involvement in the Falklands War features fleetingly in a fascinating exhibition currently among the attractions at the Maritime Museum in Queen Victoria Square, Hull.
“All in the Same Boat”, which runs until Sunday 25 November, tells the story of the Norland, the ship which was released by North Sea Ferries after being requisitioned to join the Task Force in 1982.
Various members of the Norland’s crew tell of their experiences sailing to Ascension and then to the South Atlantic, delivering British forces to the battle zone and repatriating prisoners of war to Argentina.
Their accounts are displayed on wall panels and are also presented in a short film, with the men telling stories of camaraderie and conflict, human kindness but also the horrors of ships sunk and lives lost as the battles raged.
It’s worth taking the time to read through a folder put together by Brian Lavendar, Norland’s Radio Officer, as his own memoirs of the voyage. Among the dramatic photographs compiled by Brian is one of the bay at Grytviken. It’s more than 36 years old now and has lost quality from being copied, but you can just see the Viola in the bottom right corner, alongside Albatross.
Brian reported that Norland arrived in Grytviken on 27 May 1982 carrying survivors from HMS Antelope, which had been lost to a strike by Argentine aircraft.
He wrote: “We arrived Grytviken old whaling station about midday and around 5pm the QE2 arrived out of the gloom from the UK with some 2,200 troops of the 5th Brigade on board. Over the next 24 hours the Welsh and Scots Guards were transferred to Canberra and 800 men of the 7th Gurkha Rifles and the 16th Field Ambulance were transferred to Norland.
“We said goodbye to the Antelope survivors who were going home on the QE2. One came to me and gave me his still packed survival suit and said ‘You will probably need this more than me now’. I never knew his name but I’ll always remember his gesture and that suit is one of my most treasured possessions.”
The exhibition is free of charge and is highly recommended.