A Fun and Historical Trip on a Falklands F8 Landing Craft

On Tuesday 9th July, a group of VOS service users convened at Boathouse 4 in Portsmouth’s Historic Dockyard for an exciting afternoon on the water – with a difference. While visiting this iconic Portsmouth location, we learned the history of the vessels it houses and experienced the thrill of riding in an operational Foxtrot 8 Falklands Landing Craft!

A vital maritime institution

Boathouse 4 makes for a fascinating visit on its own, absolutely packed with water craft from canoes and landing craft to cutters and motor torpedo boats. Many of the vessels are either extremely rare or the last surviving examples of their kind, making it an invaluable resource for and working monument to UK Military and Naval history.

In fact, there are so many vessels housed under its extensive rafters that some visitors have described it as “difficult to plan a wander around”, which we think is a good thing – you can always come back for more! You can even see boats being actively maintained and restored, testament to the passion and dedication of the Boathouse 4 staff.

About Foxtrot 8

F8 is the only surviving seaworthy craft from the Falklands war, and was a major feature during Isle of Wight Armed Forces Day at the end of June 2024.

Widely known for her work in the South Atlantic during the 1982 Falklands war, the landing craft was one of four such vessels carried on the HMS Fearless. F8 and her sister craft were vital to landing Royal Marine and Paratroop personnel at San Carlos Water (AKA ‘Bomb Alley’).

Tirelessly ferrying stores and support from ship to shore, she only halted when enemy air raids occurred. As IOW Armed Forces Day event organiser Ian Dore reminded us, “There is nothing glamorous about war – F8 is a reminder of some of the grim experiences of battle… but also of the courage of both the troops going ashore and those operating the craft itself.”

VOS’ day out on Foxtrot 8

Right off the bat, this event proved extremely popular, with tickets being snapped up on the VOS Eventbrite page a couple of days after the trip was announced via emails and VOS’ Facebook page. Trips aboard F8 are very popular with the public, so this VOS outing was a treat for all involved.

Once everyone was safely aboard F8, it was out onto the open water to get a truly unique view of Portsmouth Harbour. The boat has been made fully accessible, although only one wheelchair per trip is permitted, customised wheelchairs that are light and able to get on are acceptable. Otherwise you need to transfer into one the Boathouse 4 wheelchairs: for more details and questions on this, please contact Wendy at VOS: wellbeing@vosuk.org

A visit with meaning

It’s worth noting that Boathouse 4 also proudly hosts some of the last surviving landing craft from the Normandy landings near the end of WW2. With D-Day 80 still fresh in the minds of Portsmouth residents and Armed Forces Veterans around the UK, this made our day out a poignant and epic voyage through history.

The fact that F8 is a rare survivor from Falklands War seacraft really made it feel like we were sailing in a living legend. Our tour guide’s wealth of knowledge about the vessel and its use in the conflict made for fascinating commentary throughout our experience. We’d wager he taught even the experienced seafarers amongst us a thing or two!

Considering she is a relic from a war that happened the better part of 50 years ago, F8 remains in fantastic condition. With all her heritage and the stories she has to tell via her keepers, she represents many valuable lessons we can continually engage with and learn from.

“It’s crazy to think that there were 70 men crammed into this craft; that people went to war in these things,” said VOS Wellbeing Manager Wendy.

There’s so much to see and do at Boathouse 4 – and it was all the better for spending a day out with the lovely, lively group of service users. The weather might’ve been a bit grey, but spirits were high!

Feedback from Service Users on the trip

‘I have loved the trip – Wendy has been a wonderful host, and the guide was very knowledgeable.’

‘A great trip around the harbour in a historic craft – very informative with lots of humour.’

‘Thoroughly enjoyed it and it was very informative. Gavin, our guide, was brilliant… I would recommend it to anyone who’s interested.’

VOS is here to support veterans from the UK Armed Forces service, the Merchant Navy, and their partners. If you know a veteran (from any time of service) located in Portsmouth, the Isle of Wight, Gosport, Fareham or the Solent area, please pass our details along.

If you’re a veteran or partner and are thinking about getting in touch, we would love to hear from you. Call us on 02392 731 767, visit one of our drop-ins, or email admin@vosuk.org.

Please note that VOS is not a crisis service. If you need immediate support, please contact one of the following:

  • Your GP or NHS 111
  • Attend A&E or call 999 for medical emergencies
  • The Samaritans on 116 123 (24 hours a day, 365 days a year)
  • A trusted family member or friend

Get in touch your way

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