Monday, November 29, 2010

#501 Falkland Islands...Thanks Juan Mauricio!

The 3 stamps on the first row were released in December,2009 for the Maritime Heritage Part Six featuring HMS Exeter.

Five ships of the Royal Navy have been named after the city of Exeter in Devon. Two were built in the 20th Century and both were to play important roles in the history of the Falkland Islands.

HMS Exeter (68) – 4p and 20p
A York-class heavy cruiser, she was commissioned in July 1931. She joined the Atlantic Fleet and was a regular and welcome visitor to the Falklands. On the outbreak of war in 1939 she formed part of the South American Division with HMS Cumberland and, together with the light cruisers Ajax and Achilles, engaged the German pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee in the Battle of the River Plate on 13th December 1939. This heroic action, which resulted in the scuttling of the Graf Spee several days later, was Britain’s first major sea victory of the war and achieved worldwide fame for Exeter. Captain Langsdorf said of Exeter before taking his own life after the scuttling of the Graf Spee, "I knocked out their foremost guns; I smashed their bridge; yet, with only one gun firing, they came at me again. One can only have respect for such foe as that". Outgunned and outranged, Exeter was hit by seven 11-inch shells and suffered considerable damage. With many of her crew dead and wounded, her three guns out of action and her speed reduced to 18 knots she was forced to withdraw from the battle and to make for Port Stanley in the Falklands for emergency repairs. Such was the damage that most of her crew, which included two Falkland Islanders, were temporarily billeted ashore with the people of Stanley. Returning to England Captain Bell’s farewell message to the Islanders concluded “Long shall we remember you with gratitude in our hearts”. For her part in the battle she received the fifth ‘Battle Honour’ for her name.

After extensive repairs while back in England HMS Exeter was then sent to the Far East, arriving in Singapore only days after the Japanese had launched their onslaught in December 1941. After providing convoy escort for several months, on 27th February 1942, Exeter - along with American, Australian and Dutch cruisers and destroyers - participated in the confused and chaotic engagement known as The Battle of the Java Sea. During that battle, Exeter was hit in ‘B’ Boiler Room by an 8” Japanese shell which significantly reduced her speed and forced her to retire to Surabaya to effect emergency repairs. During that same battle the Dutch destroyer Hr Ms Kortenaer and the British destroyers HMS Electra and HMS Jupiter were sunk, while later that same evening the Dutch cruisers Hr Ms Java and Hr Ms De Ruyter were also sunk.

On the evening of 28th February, after completing what basic repairs she could at Surabaya, HMS Exeter, accompanied by the destroyers HMS Encounter and USS Pope, attempted to escape into the Indian Ocean via a circuitous route through the Java Sea, intending to use the Sunda Strait to exit. However, four Japanese heavy cruisers and their accompanying destroyers found her hundreds of miles short of there on the morning of 1st March and a new encounter ensued; a naval battle which is oft now referred to as The Battle off Bawean Island.

Initially the allied trio was detected while heading west by a Japanese destroyer which was accompanying two of the Japanese heavy cruisers. Realizing that her small band was in no condition to fight a prolonged engagement, HMS Exeter turned north hoping to evade. However, within an hour, and with the initial Japanese force in hot pursuit, she ran head on into two more Japanese heavy cruisers and their accompanying destroyers coming down from the northwest. Cornered, she turned back east and a running battle ensued. After trading salvos with the enemy for over an hour without being hit, Exeter’s luck ran out when an 8” shell slammed into ‘A’ Boiler Room knocking out all her propulsive and electrical power. Stopped almost dead in the water and at the enemy’s mercy she was finally overwhelmed by the odds against her. With no hope of saving his ship Captain Gordon ordered scuttling charges set and the crew to abandon ship. As Exeter was sinking she was helped on her way by Japanese ship-launched torpedoes; and in time another ‘Battle Honour’ was added to her name.

HMS EXETER (D89) - 30p and £1.66p
HMS Exeter (D89) was the seventh Type 42 destroyer and the fifth ship of the Royal Navy to be called Exeter. Designed to provide area air defence to a group of ships, a secondary role was to provide naval Gunfire Support, take part in anti-surface operations and to provide anti-submarine capabilities. Type 42’s are often used to provide aid during disaster relief operations.

Built by Swan Hunter Shipbuilders Limited, she was commissioned on 19th September 1980. In 1982 she was deployed from the Caribbean to the Falklands to replace the HMS Sheffield, where she was credited with shooting down four Argentine aircraft. Exeter was the last ship to engage with enemy aircraft before the end of the conflict and was awarded the eighth ‘Battle Honour’ for her name.

She was also involved in defence activities in 1991 when employed as an escort for a US Battleship and Mine Counter-Measures Unit off the Kuwait coast during the 1991 Gulf War, for which she received her final ‘Battle Honour’. Exeter has been posted to 14 major deployments since she entered service and in 2004 visited the supposed position of her predecessor in the Java Sea to remember her last action and sinking as described above.

In 2005 she took part in the International Fleet Review to mark the 200th Anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar, in 2008 anchored in the Thames to host the launch of the Bond novel Devil May Care and in 2007 attended the 25th anniversary commemorations of the Falklands War at Newquay, Cornwall, as the last remaining Royal Navy ship in commission to have served in the Falklands.

In May 2009, the ceremony to decommission Exeter was held at Portsmouth, with 325 invited guests, including the Lord Mayor of Exeter and it seems that there may not be another HMS Exeter for several decades. During her lengthy service around the globe Exeter clocked up almost 900,000 nautical miles.

The 2p and 10p stamps on the second row are from 2008 Aircraft definitives showing Boeing 747 and Lockheed C130 Hercules.

The Boeing 747, which first took to the skies in 1969, was then the largest passenger aircraft ever flown. The initial type being 231 ft long with a wing span of 195 ft, it could carry 500 economy class passengers at a speed of 528 knots and maximum take-off weight was 775,000 lbs. The first 747 to visit the Islands was in May 1985, this aircraft landed at Mount Pleasant Airport shortly after the airport was opened, it was operated by British Airways at the commencement of a year long airbridge contract with the Ministry of Defence. The service was for two flights a week with the aircraft doing a straight turn around at Mount Pleasant Airport and routing from Brize Norton via Ascension Island. This entailed relief crews being based at both Ascension Island and MPA. A further 747 aircraft was introduced onto the Falkland's airbridge during the 1990`s but this time being operated by Air Atlanta.

The Hercules aircraft designed by Lockheed in the United States of America was first flown in 1954. This aircraft was first introduced into the RAF service in 1967 and is still serving in one form or another today. RAF Hercules aircraft played a very significant role during the Falkland's War in 1982 carrying out flights between the UK and Ascension Island with equipment and personnel. When the task force headed south the Hercules continued to support them by dropping mail, essential supplies and occasionally personnel. The Hercules fleet flew a total of 13,000 hrs between 2nd April and 14th June 1982. The first RAF Hercules to land in the Falkland Islands occurred on 24th June at Stanley Airport. This wasn't the first Hercules to land at Stanley Airport however, as the Argentines had landed a number of their aircraft there both before and during the War. The RAF continues to operate the Hercules aircraft at MPA.

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