Remembering the Fallen: On this day in 1982, HMS Sheffield, a Royal Navy Type 42 destroyer, was attacked. She’d been deployed to the Falkland Islands following the invasion by Argentina and was on radar picket duty when she was struck by a single Exocet sea-skimming missile that had been been fired by a land-based Argentine Navy Super Etendard jet. She caught fire which rapidly spread out of control. After the crew had spent about five hours trying to control the blaze but to no avail, the ship’s commanding officer, Captain James ‘Sam’ Salt reluctantly gave the order to abandon ship. She sank six days later whilst under tow. By coincidence, the Task Force commander, Rear Admiral John ‘Sandy’ Woodward, was one of her former captains.
Sadly 20 men died and a further 24 were injured. Today we remember:
(Top row in the photograph, left to right):
~ Cook Neil A Goodall, 21
~ Weapons Engineering Artificer 1 Andrew C Eggington, 35
~ Petty Officer Weapons Engineering Mechanic Anthony R Norman, 25
~ Petty Officer Marine Engineering Mechanic (Mechanical) David R Briggs DSM, 25 – the only one whose body was recovered
~ Acting Chief Weapons Mechanician Michael Edward Gordon Till, 35
(Lower row in the photograph, left to right):
~ Cook David E Osborne, 22
~ Catering Assistant Darryl Marvin Cope, 21
~ Petty Officer Cook Robert Fagan, 34
~ Lieutenant Commander John S Woodhead DSC, 40
~ Lieutenant Commander David I Balfour, 37
(No photographs were available for the remaining crew members):
~ Sub Lieutenant Richard C Emly, 32
~ Leading Marine Engineering Mechanic (Mechanical) Allan J Knowles, 31
~ Laundryman Chi Keung Lai
~ Leading Cook Tony Marshall, 31
~ Weapons Engineering Artificer 1 Kevin R F Sullivan, 35
~ Cook Andrew C Swallow, 18
~ Weapons Engineering Mechanician 2 Barry J Wallis, 26
~ Leading Cook Adrian K Wellstead, 26
~ Master-at-Arms Brian Welsh, 34
~ Cook Kevin J Williams, 20
The spokesman for the Minstry of Defence at the time, Ian McDonald, on that day issued the following sombre statement to a stunned and disbelieving Britain.
‘In the course of its duties within the Total Exclusion Zone around the Falkland Islands, HMS Sheffield, a Type 42 destroyer, was attacked and hit late this afternoon by an Argentine missile. The ship caught fire which spread out of control. Eventually, when there was no longer any hope of saving the ship, the ship’s company abandoned ship. All who abandoned her were picked up. It is feared there have been a number of casualties.’
HMS Sheffield, pennant number D80, was the second warship to bear this name after the Town class cruiser that had served with distinction in the Second World War that was eventually scrapped in 1967. She was the lead ship of the Type 42 class of destroyers. She was laid down at the Vickers shipyard at Barrow-in-Furness in 1970, launched by Her Majesty the Queen in 1971 and commissioned in 1975. Like her predecessor, she was still known affectionately as the ‘Shiny Sheff’. In the short time she was in service, the ship and her crew forged close links with the city that bore her name. The ship’s motto was ‘Deo Adjuvante Labor Proficit’ which is Latin for ‘With God’s help our labour is successful’. This motto also features on the Coat of Arms of the City of Sheffield. Today there is a permanent memorial to the crew who died on board HMS Sheffield in Sheffield Cathedral. Also preserved here is the White Ensign flag that was used on board the first HMS Sheffield along with its ship’s bell. Along with so many other memorials, they preserve the memory of the 20 men listed here who sadly did not make it home.
HMS Sheffield’s loss in the Falklands made her the first Royal Navy warship to be lost in combat since the end of the Second World War.
Si vis pacem, para bellum.
(Written by Mark Kahn, for whom HMS Sheffield has special meaning).