The Sinking of HMS Sheffield (with video)

On the morning of 4 May 1982, the HMS Sheffield, a type 42 destroyer just over 400 feet long and over 4,000 tonnes, changed places with her sister ship HMS Coventry which was having problems with her radar. The ship was armed with a 4.5 inch gun and two SAM launchers. The role of the type 42 destroyers was to act as a protective screen for the two aircraft carriers, troopships and logistical vessels of the Royal Navy Task Force steaming from Ascension Island toward the Argentine held Falklands.

In recent days the Falklands conflict had intensified. South Georgia had been recaptured on April 25th, Argentine and British aircraft had fought dogfights in the skies over the South Atlantic and the ARA General Belgrano had been sunk by a British submarine with the loss of over 300 sailors.

An Argentine surveillance plane detected the Sheffield and two Super Entendard jets armed with Exocet missiles took off from an airbase (since the sinking of General Belgrano, the Argentine carrier ARA Veinticinco de Mayo had returned to port and would remain there for the duration). The war planes refueled in midair and dropped altitude for a low level attack. They were between 20 and 30 miles away when two Exocet missiles were fired.

The outmoded Type 965 radar (the latest Type 1022 had not fitted) did not pick up up the enemy aircraft and only picked up the inbound Exocets until five seconds to impact. The skipper had no time to order 'chaff' (strips of metal foil designed to confuse in bound missiles) to be launched or to take evasive action. Even so one of the Exocets missed and struck the sea over a mile from its target. The second struck home amidships above the waterline on deck 2. The warhead did not explode but rocket propellant and diesel oil tanks in the engine room sparked a fire that doomed the ship which had its electrical and water fighting systems rendered inoperable. 20 men died in the computer room and galley area. Many more were injured especially with severe burns. As the surviving men waited on deck to be rescued by helicopter and flown to other ships in the flotilla from their own burning ship the crew began to sing Monty Python's Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life

After the fires were out the severly damanged vessel was inspected and burnt out hulk began to be towed to by the frigate HMS Yamouth however the high seas caused water to flood into her side and on the 10 May she sank to the bottom. Today the wreck is designated as a war grave under the Protection of Military Remains Act 1986.



Vaggelis said...

I remember that day! I was only 11 years old. I couldn't believe that an HMS lost like this but from the other hand as a country we were about to order those days the Mirage 2000 with Exocet missiles for our Hellenic Air Force...

john fasoulas said...

I was 2 years old. Exocet is a very good missile and Greece has land based - airplane - and shipboard ones


That was the main reason for developping CIWS (Close In Weapon System). The anti-ship missiles have many capabilities and the only thing that can shot them down is CWIS. Unfortunately the Royal Navy took this lesson the hard way.