A Collection of Medals for the South Atlantic Campaign 1982

Date of Auction: 5th December 2018

Sold for £800

Estimate: £1,000 - £1,200

The South Atlantic medal awarded to Leading Marine Engineer Mechanic J. C. ‘Nick’ Carter, H.M.S. Endurance, who had the dubious honour of being ‘captured’ by the Argentineans some six weeks before the outbreak of hostilities

South Atlantic 1982, with rosette (LMEM (M) J C Carter D088113W HMS Endurance) nearly extremely fine £1,000-£1,200

Footnote

Leading Marine Engineer Mechanic (Mechanical) John C. ‘Nick’ Carter was serving aboard H.M.S. Endurance in mid-February 1982 when she was granted permission to dock for maintenance and re-storing at the Argentine naval port and holiday resort of Mar del Plata. The Argentine navy granted the privilege of permitting Captain Barker, R.N., to berth inside the main naval base. His engineers were allowed to use the naval workshops for repair work and the ship was treated almost as though she was an Argentine vessel.

‘Captain Barker and his officers particularly enjoyed the company, at dinner and at a cocktail party, of a charming Argentine officer named Captain de Fragata Horacio Alberto Bicain. He was the commanding officer of the submarine Santa Fe. He and Barker were destined to meet again, only a few weeks later, under very different circumstances.

The positioning of the Endurance, inside the naval base area, placed her in close proximity to the tightly guarded submarine base. Lieutenant Dick Buckland, one of the Wasp observers, cruised into this area on his sailboard and was promptly ordered out - with much blowing of whistles and pointing of rifles - by the sentries. Much more frightening was the experience of two leading ratings who inadvertently wandered into an unfenced military area one night when returning to their ship. The Endurance’s berth placed her nearly a mile from the bright lights of the city and the route took the ship’s company through a tightly patrolled security zone. It was easy, in the dark, to become lost. Tab Hunter and Nick Carter had enjoyed an excellent fish supper and were happily anticipating the comfort of their bunks when suddenly they were blinded by searchlights. Rifle shots cracked past their ears and they threw themselves flat. Armed guards quickly grabbed the two sailors, searched them thoroughly and emptied their pockets. Among the possessions taken from them were the ship’s identity cards - printed in English and Spanish - known as the ‘you can’t shoot me’ chitties.

After an hour in confinement, and having been interrogated by an officer waving a pistol in their faces, they succeeded in drawing attention to the chitties in their pile of personal effects. They were escorted back to the Endurance with a stern warning to be more careful in future’ (Operation Paraquat. The Battle for South Georgia, R. Perkins, refers).

For the full story of the Endurance’s significant role in the South Atlantic campaign, see the memoirs of her charismatic and outspoken skipper, the late Captain Nick Barker, R.N., entitled Beyond Endurance: An Epic of Whitehall and the South Atlantic; see, too, his detailed obituary in the Daily Telegraph, and Roger Perkins’ definitive history Operation Paraquat.

As the ‘sole regular bearer of the White Ensign south of the Equator’, the Endurance represented the only visible trace of British interests in the Falkland Islands being taken seriously, so when news was received that she was to be withdrawn and scrapped, Captain Barker took up the offensive with Whitehall. Fortuitously for British interests, he won a reprieve, and, as a consequence, his ship and his crew were able to play a crucial part in the capture of South Georgia and at the retaking of the outlying dependency of South Thule, and in an associated S.B.S. operation.

Barker, ‘who had a swashbuckling disregard of rules and regulations which was bound to annoy bureaucrats’, paid a heavy price for his intuitive and determined intervention into the world of diplomacy and politics, any promise of flag rank being effectively curtailed before the War even started. Equally upsetting was the fact that his C.B.E. was not announced until the October following the main Falklands Honours List, but by then his respect for such accolades had clearly dwindled. As he later remarked, on hearing that a formal Falklands inquiry was to be established, “Most of those who might be found culpable [for the invasion having taken place] have been knighted, promoted or decorated - or all three.”

Sold with two news cuttings, copied research and a later ‘H.M.S. Endurance’ cap tally.