Operation Black Buck

Before celebrating the end of the Falklands War, and its anniversary, and also sharing our experience this weekend of one of the epic machines of war that partook in operations I’d like to share a brief background of why the war occurred.

The Argentines built a Fort on East Falkland that was destroyed by the USS Lexington in 1832 in relation for the seizure of US seal ships in the area. In 1833, a British force expelled the remaining Argentine officials and began a military occupation. Tension intensified on 19th March 1982 when a group of Argentine scrap metal merchants (infiltrated by Argentine Marines) raises the Argentine flag at South Georgia Island.  This act would later be identified as the first offensive action in the war. Argentine forces invaded the Falkland Islands on 2nd April 1982, Margaret Thatcher, the British Prime Minister at this time wasn’t having any of this and raised her army in defence.

During the 1982 Falklands War, Operations Black Buck one through to seven were a series of extremely long-range ground attack missions by Royal Air Force (RAF) Vulcan bombers of the RAF Waddington Wing of which only five missions were completed. The objective of these missions was to attack Port Stanley Airport and its associated defences. These raids, at almost 6,600 nautical miles were the longest-ranged bombing raids in history at that time. Staged from Ascension Island close to the Equator, the Vulcan wasn’t designed for pinpoint accuracy bombing. Instead it was designed for the cold war (and for that it was ahead of its time in technology terms). The crew of five relied on a series of eleven refuelling planes in order for theme to reach their destination and to open the bomb hatch, a series of ropes and bicycle chains to unload their bombs. It was pot-luck if they hit their target—or not.

The photos below are of one of the remaining Vulcans. They are no longer allowed to take to the skies but this one can still taxi at Southend-on-Sea Airport where it is kept and maintained. The photograph of the man between Dave and I is of air electronics officer Flt Lt Hugh Prior who was on the first and seventh Black Buck mission. It was a pleasure to both meet and listen to Flt Lt Prior speak about the first Black Buck mission, the complexities involved in why their plane went rather than the selected one initially and indeed the decisions that had to be made along the way. They were spotted on enemy radar and shot at. They hit the target—the runway—with just one bomb. Releasing them just twenty seconds later and their efforts would have been a failed mission. Brave men. The crew on that mission with Ft Lt Hugh Prior were: pilot Flt Lt Martin Withers, co-pilot Flt Lt Peter Taylor, navigator radar Flt Lt Bob Wright and navigator plotter Ft Lt Gordon Graham.

My respect to all heroes of the Falklands War 2nd April - 14 June 1982.


by Donna Siggers
Copyright (2022) Republished (2024)