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Hong Kong seamen, survivors of attacks by Argentinian war planes, are greeted at Kai Tak Airport in 1982, after returning from the Falklands war. Photo: CY Yu

When Hong Kong seamen returned from the Falklands war in 1982, including survivors of air attacks on their ships

  • 400 Hong Kong civilian seamen sailed to the Falklands conflict in the South Atlantic in April 1982, mostly for logistics duties for the British Navy
  • In June 1982, 87 seamen – survivors from two ships that were attacked by Argentinian aircraft – were greeted at Hong Kong’s Kai Tak Airport on their return

“About 400 Hongkong seamen employed by the Royal Fleet Auxiliary are on their way to the Falkland Islands to carry out logistics duties for the Navy,” reported the South China Morning Post on April 28, 1982.

A spokesman for the Joint Services Public Relations Service said that “although the RFA ships are manned by civilians, crew members are ‘obliged under contracts to operate in war zones’”. He said none of the 400 were dispatched from Hongkong. Most were on the high seas or sent from Britain. He also pointed out that their contracts had made provisions for compensation in cases of injury or death.

“The spokesman said he could not comment on the number of RFA vessels recruited for supportive functions in the military confrontation between Britain and Argentina. A spokesman for the Hongkong Seamen’s Union said they did not know whether the families of the seamen had been informed. He said they are trying to find out the names of the 400 seamen and the vessels on which they are sailing.”

Eventually, the union did find out, and on June 23 the Post reported, “some 87 Hongkong seamen who survived the Argentine air attacks on two landing craft, the Sir Tristram and Sir Galahad, are expected to return home on Saturday [June 26]. Their next of kin have been informed of their return, a spokesman for the Joint Service Public Relation Services said. They are among the 102 Hongkong Chinese serving on the two warships which were attacked while Britain attempted to regain the Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic.”

Relatives packed the arrival hall of Kai Tak to welcome the return of the Hong Kong seamen from the Falkland Islands. Photo: CY Yu

“In addition, 11 seamen who were injured during the air raid are still in hospital ships or hospitals in the United Kingdom. The spokesman said four seamen had been listed as ‘missing, presumed dead’.”