The Fortuna Glacier Rescue

April 21 1982 – Falklands Islands - British SAS troops had been unwisely deployed from HMS Antrim, and RFA Tidepool to Fortuna Glacier on South Georgia island in the face of expected bad weather.

The next day, a call for their evacuation was ordered, and one Royal Navy Westland Wessex HAS.3, and two Westland Wessex HU.5 helicopters (XT464 and XT473) of 845 Naval Air Squadron are deployed in an attempt at rescue the stranded SAS troops in extremely difficult weather. The troops were soon located, and loaded on to the helicopters. As the rescue helicopters were preparing to depart in treacherous conditions, one Wessex 5 crashes on the glacier, but thankfully all aboard survive.

The crash survivors are then redistributed onto the other two helicopters, whereupon the second Wessex 5 attempting to depart, also crashes during lift-off…

The pilot of the third helicopter, Lt. Cmdr. Ian Stanley is forced to leave the seventeen men on the glacier as he turns his already overloaded helicopter back to the HMS Atrium.

Night fell, and pilot Lt. Cmdr. Ian Stanley , and navigator Lt. Chris Parry, returned to the glacier under darkness. The loading 17 men into a helicopter able to carry 5, launching back into storm conditions for the attempted return to HMS Antrim. On arrival, Lt. Cmdr. Ian Stanley was met with a heavily pitching ship in rough seas. Lt. Cmdr. Stanley slammed his helicopter in a most ungracious, and most successful return to the deck, victoriously concluding the rescue of the seventeen stranded men...who would have most likely perished ion the glacier that night had it not been for the bravery and professionalism of Pilot Lt. Cmdr. Ian Stanley and two other airmen who were awarded the Distinguished Service Order for operational gallantry during the rescue operation performed on that night.


Due to fears of public reaction to the loss of three helicopters, the Ministry of Defence chose to suppresses news of this amazingly daring rescue...but now you know!


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1 comment

  • Graham Barnes

    Incorrect facts regarding South Georgia, Fortuna Glacier rescue. RFA Tidespring, not Tidepool !
    I know, because i was there, and the 2 Wessex lost were ours. 845 Sqn C Flight.

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