On Friday May 4th 2012 P&O Cruises MV Aurora was the host location in Southampton for the Fourth Hospital Ship Uganda Reunion for the thirtieth anniversary of The Falklands War fought between Britain and Argentina in 1982.
Approximately 100 personnel (accompanied by spouses/partners etc) who served on board the hospital ship at that time marked the anniversary with a commemorative luncheon on board MV Aurora. Attendees included Royal Naval Doctors and Naval Nursing personnel, Royal Marine stretcher-bearers, P&O Cruises personnel of all levels and others who were selected to support the work of the rapidly converted floating hospital. Uniquely, a number of former patients, some of the most severely injured survivors from the Falklands War, who were treated and cared for on board the hospital ship in 1982, also attended the event.
The P&O Educational Cruise Ship SS Uganda was requisitioned by the British Government on April 10th 1982 in
Alexandria. From there the ship proceeded via Naples to Gibraltar, where a hasty conversion to Geneva Convention/Red Cross livery took place in 3 days in HM Dockyard Gibraltar. On April 19th the ship sailed for the uncertainties of the South Atlantic, returning to Southampton August 9th 1982.
The last British Hospital Ship to serve in a war zone was during the Korean War some sixty years ago. Her Majesty’s Hospital Ship Uganda was the first British Hospital Ship in history to embark casualties directly from the battlefields by helicopter, a process that was to save many lives throughout the conflict.
More than 700 severely injured servicemen were treated on board the hospital ship while she was operational, which included 100+ Argentinian personnel.
The team of forty Queen Alexandra’s Royal Naval Nursing Service personnel were the only female military personnel working within the Conflict Zone (TEZ), and QARNNS junior ratings the first female RN ratings in history to serve at sea.
Linked Publication: The story of Her Majesty’s Hospital Ship Uganda during the Falklands War can be read in White Ship – Red Crosses http://www.melrosebooks.com by author Nicci Pugh