In May 1972 I was the Junior First Officer of 'Queen Elizabeth 2', with Captain W. J. Law RD. RNR. in Command. I was the Senior Officer of the 12 - 4 watch, and also in charge of training.
On the evening of the 17th May the Captain called us all in, and advised us of the 'Bomb Scare'. On the 18th May we were advised that there would be a parachute drop from a Hercules C130 RAF Transport aircraft the next day. A rendezvous was arranged, and I was instructed to take away one of the ship's cruise launches to pick up the parachutists.
The next day we arrived at the rendezvous. It was not a very nice day, heavy overcast, light drizzle, fortunately little wind, but a swell of about six to ten feet. The cloud level about 250 feet. We were informed that in theory the cloud was to low for the parachutists to jump, but it was decided that they would jump above the cloud  base.
The ship was stopped, and I took the launch away with a crew consisting of Second Officer Warwick, Engineer Officer Mason, one of the ships doctors, and some Able Seamen, four I think. We went away from the ship, up wind, where we laid a smoke trail so the aircraft could see the wind direction on the surface. At that point, as QE2 was vanishing in the drizzle, I did think that if that great ship went bang, we were an awful long way from the nearest land. I remarked on this to our Irish doctor who was in the boat with me, and he answered. "That's OK the nearest land is only one and a half miles away, straight down". That ended that conversation.
The Hercules came in low over the ship, saw where the launch was, making smoke, and then climbed into the cloud with his huge aft ramp open. I was informed by radio that the first 'stick' of two had jumped, and the first I saw of them was as they dropped through the cloud. Then I received another message that the second 'stick' of two had jumped, and to pick them up first, as one man was unconscious. This we duly did, and got them both into the launch. It turned out that the unconscious man was the Captain from the Royal Ordinance Corps, and he had never jumped out of an aeroplane before. Many years later I met the navigator of the Hercules, and he told me what had happened on the aircraft. The RAOC Captain, seeing just space outside the ramp, collapsed unconscious, so they pushed him out of the aircraft, and his parachute opened automatically. Our Doctor gave him an injection of some sort, and the man 'came to', and asked where he was. When told he said "Oh great, you mean I have jumped". We then motored over to the other two men, who were waiting patiently in the water. After we had got them, with all their equipment, onboard we motored back to the ship, by which time had come a lot closer to us.
After the launch was hoisted back onboard QE2, I took the four men up to the bridge, where all the senior officers were assembled. I thought what I do now, so I introduced the Lieutenant Royal Marines to Captain Law, they shook hands, then the Royal Marine peeled open the front of his wet suit, shoved his hand inside, and pulled out a newspaper, saying to our Captain, "I don't suppose you have read to-days London Times Sir". That reduced some of the tension on the bridge, and I left. We had been away from the ship for just forty-five minutes.
The ship was searched from end to end, and only one suspicious trunk was found. That was blown open by the experts, which was found to contain only dirty washing, and that was that.
The voyage continued uneventfully to Cherbourg, where a mass of media people joined the ship, and I kept well out of their way. The ship then proceeded on to Southampton, where I went on leave.
A post script. As we were hoisted back onboard someone took a photograph us all in the launch, and this was sent on to the UK, and it appeared in all the major newspapers. The only person in my family not to recognise me in the photo was my Mother!
Captain Robin Woodall