RNA 10 Area
Unity, Loyalty, Comradeship and Patriotism
 

HMS Sheffield - May 4th 1982.

HMS SheffieldAt approximately 10 A.M. on the 4 May, HMS Sheffield was at defence watches, second degree readiness, as part of the British Task Force dispatched to the Falkland Islands during the Falklands War. Sheffield had relieved her sister Coventry as the latter was having technical trouble with her Type 965 radar. Sheffield and Coventry were chatting over UHF. Communications ceased until an unidentified message was received stating simply "Sheffield is hit!". The flagship, Hermes dispatched the escorts Arrow and Yarmouth to investigate, and a helicopter was launched. Confusion reigned until Sheffield's Lynx helicopter unexpectedly landed aboard Hermes carrying the Air Operations Officer and Operations Officer, confirming the disaster.

Sheffield picked up the incoming missile on her ancient Type 965 radar (an interim fitting until the Type 1022 set was available), and the Operations Officer informed the Missile Director, who queried the contact in the ADAWS 4 fire control system. The launch aircraft had not been detected as the British had expected, and it was not until smoke was sighted that the target was confirmed as a sea skimming missile. Five seconds later, the Exocet impacted Sheffield amidships. Such was the lack of warning, there was no time to engage in defensive manoeuvres, leading to a change in policy that all ships believing to be even possibly under missile attack would turn toward the threat, accelerate to maximum speed and fire chaff to prevent a ship being caught defenceless again.

The Exocet was fired from one of two Super Étendards launched from Río Grande, Tierra del Fuego, and was piloted by Captain Augusto Bedacarratz, who commanded the mission. It was launched at the point-blank range of six miles; the British had expected it to be launched from long range (45 miles) at medium altitude, hence the difficulty in classifying it and taking effective countermeasures. It struck amidships, approximately 8 feet above the waterline on Deck 2, tearing a gash 4 feet by 10 feet in size in the vicinity of the galley, which occupied the full width of the hull. The MOD report into the sinking of the Sheffield concluded that; "Evidence indicates that the Warhead did not detonate" . Some of the crew and members of the Task Force believe however that the missile's 363-pound warhead did in fact detonate upon impact. Regardless, the impact of the missile and the burning rocket motor set Sheffield ablaze. Accounts suggest that the initial impact of the missile immediately crippled the ship's onboard electricity generating systems and fractured the water main, preventing the anti-fire mechanisms from operating effectively, and thereby dooming the ship to be consumed by the raging fire. It is also suggested that the ship's anti-missile radar was incompatible with the satellite communications link which reduced the chance of the Exocet being intercepted, although neither the Type 965 radar nor the Sea Dart missiles carried by Type 42s are particularly well suited to intercepts of low-flying missiles.

After the ship was struck, her crew, waiting to be rescued, sang "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" from Monty Python's Life of Brian. The burnt-out hulk was taken in tow by the Rothesay class frigate Yarmouth but was scuttled at 53°04'S, 56°56' W on 10 May 1982 because of bad weather turning the ship into a waterlogged hulk, making it the first Royal Navy vessel sunk in action in almost forty years. Twenty of her crew (mainly on duty in the Galley-area) died during the attack. The wreck is a war grave and designated as a controlled site under the Protection of Military Remains Act 1986.

Roll of Honour - HMS Sheffield.

* Petty Officer David R. Briggs, D.S.M.
* Catering Assistant Darryl M. Cope
* Lieutenant Commander David I. Balfour
* Weapons Engineering Artificer Andrew C. Eggington
* Sub-Lieutenant Richard C. Emly
* Petty Officer Cook Robert Fagan
* Cook Neil A. Goodall
* Leading Marine Engineering Mechanic Allan J. Knowles
* Laundryman Lai Chi Keung
* Leading Cook Tony Marshall
* Petty Officer Anthony R. Norman
* Cook David E. Osborne
* Weapons Engineering Artificer Kevin R. F. Sullivan
* Cook Andrew C. Swallow
* Acting Chief Weapons Mechanic Michael E. G. Till
* Weapons Engineering Mechanic Barry J. Wallis
* Leading Cook Adrian K. Wellstead
* Master-at-Arms Brian Welsh
* WEO Lieutenant Commander John S. Woodhead, D.S.C. Read his citation in the London Gazette.
* Cook Kevin J. Williams