35 years on from the sinking of HMS Sheffield by an Exocet missile, the full and un-redacted Board of Inquiry (BOI) findings have been made public. A heavy-handed piece by Ian Cobain in the Guardian heaps blame on the ship’s operations team and implies results of the inquiry were subject to a sinister cover up .
Mr Cobain’s article is reasonably well researched but the bare facts need to be seen in their full context before making accusations. Unless you were aboard HMS Sheffield between 14.00 and 14.04 on 4th May 1982, you can never know precisely what happened or what it felt like to be on the spot. Despite the supposedly reliable evidence of the board of enquiry now available, we should exercise caution when passing quick judgments on the actions of men on the frontline 35 years ago. Theoretically, the statements of fact recorded during the BOI should be accurate, but years later some of its contents are still contested by those who were there. What is certain is that there were failures at many levels that led to the destruction of Sheffield. Who should be blamed and to whether blame should be apportioned at all is a complex matter.
Something wrong with our bloody ships
In 1982 the RN was primarily an anti-submarine navy, much of its institutional focus was on the threat posed by the Soviets and in particular their submarines. The RN did, however, still regularly deploy outside of the NATO areas, HMS Sheffield had just spent 6 months in the Persian Gulf when she was sent to the Falklands. The ASW focus had resulted in a navy that retained a broad spectrum of capability, but the heavy investment in its critical nuclear submarines had contributed to a surface fleet that was inadequately armed and equipped.
The Type 42 destroyer was designed as an air defence ship and built to a tight budget resulting in a slightly compromised platform. The main Sea Dart system was usually very effective against medium and high altitude targets but the fire control radars did not have the ability to successfully track low-level targets. Although the sea-skimming missile threat was well understood and the RN possessed their own ship-launched Exocets, the entire Royal Navy fleet of the time lacked effective Close In Weapons Systems (CIWS). (The only exception were the new Type 22 frigates armed with very effective Sea Wolf). This was a glaring institutional failure that is hard to explain, especially as the Soviets had many potent anti-ship missiles.
Space and funding constraints would not allow the fitting of the Sea Wolf missile on the Type 42 and the only back-up weapons were 2 manually-aimed 20mm Oerlikon cannons, dating from WWII. The Sea Dart was not always reliable and it seems extraordinary that a cheap second line of defence consisting of several modern 20 or 30mm cannon mounts had not been fitted. The Sheffield also lacked basic electronic jammers that could confuse missile radars. The best option would have been the Phalanx CIWS that had been in development since 1973 and was proven in service with the US Navy by 1980. Phalanx is entirely automated and would almost certainly have saved the Sheffield. It was hurriedly purchased by the RN and subsequently fitted to many surface ships, it is still in service today.
The only other potential defence against Exocet was the chaff launcher which fired clouds of aluminium strips that create false radar echoes to lure the missile away from the ship. Chaff was successfully and liberally used by the task force later in the war but relied on alert reactions, perfect timing and ship handling to place the ship away from the chaff cloud as it floated downwind.
There also existed many shortcomings in warship design and equipment fit that were quickly exposed by the Exocet strike. The use of formica panels were a hazard that created lethal flying shrapnel shards when subject to blast. Some escape hatches were found to be too small for men dressed in breathing apparatus. The Rover portable fire pumps were unreliable and there was inadequate fire-fighting equipment held onboard most ships. There was insufficient attention to the dangers of smoke in the design of ventilation and provision of fire curtains. Standard-issue nylon clothing was found to have melted in contact with fire, severely exacerbating burns. The ship contained PVC cable insulation and foam furnishings that gave off toxic fumes in a fire.
No single individual can be held accountable for these decisions which are typical of a long period in a peacetime mentality where painful lessons learned in past conflicts fade from consciousness and funding pressures result in corners being cut.
The BOI implied that despite the inadequacy of the ship’s equipment, Sheffield could have saved herself by being better prepared. It is clear the operations room was not functioning well when the missile was detected, 30 seconds before impact, but part of this was unfortunate timing.
The Captain was resting in his cabin at the time and “The anti-air warfare officer had left the ship’s operations room and was having a coffee in the wardroom while his assistant had left to visit the heads”. No one can be on duty 24/7 and everyone had to pace themselves and take breaks. Fatigue was a particular problem for commanders in the Falklands who could not fully relax for weeks on end. The timing of these absences was exceptionally unlucky but not an indicator of slackness. When hit, Sheffield was not at actions stations which requires the entire crew to be closed up, but in defence watches where half the crew are on watch while the other half rest.
The BOI did find that the Principal Warfare Officer did not react as he should have and the AA Officer was absent from the ops room for too long. (You can read an explanation of his actions in a statement by the AAWO, Lt Cdr Batho, here) Sister ship, HMS Glasgow detected the aircraft and Exocets and reacted better. In a further stroke of bad luck, at the exact moment of the attack, Sheffield was making a transmission on her SATCOM which blinded her UAA1, a masthead sensor which could detect electronic emissions from aircraft and missiles, further reducing potential warning time. As the Guardian reported with relish back in 2000, the Entendard aircraft were detected by radar operators on HMS Invincible, a full 19 minutes before the Exocet hit Sheffield. Plagued by a series of false contact reports in the preceding days, the senior officer on Invincible responsible for air defence of the whole task force classified the contact as “spurious” and no warnings were issued. It was not just a few men on Sheffield who were on a steep learning curve in the early part of the war.
The Guardian quotes the BOI as saying some of the crew were “bored and a little frustrated by inactivity”. This has been selectively quoted by the Guardian article – the BOI actually says in the preceding sentence “the atmosphere on board was tense but there was no evidence of complacency.” The easy victory at South Georgia and the simple sinking of the cruiser Belgrano had given rise to a perception back in the UK that the war would be “a walk-over”. This was not the case amongst the task force as is clear from the biography of Admiral Sandy Woodward.
Sheffield’s CO, Captain Sam Salt was an experienced officer and a seasoned submariner. He was perhaps more concerned with the submarine threat over the air threat but this is was partly due to faulty intelligence assessments and confusion among some officers about whether the Argentine airforce was capable of air-air refuelling required to get within range. Virtually every personal account of the Falklands war notes the poor quality of intelligence about the Argentine intentions and order of battle that was provided to the task force from London.
The BOI reports that when the incoming missiles came into view, officers on the bridge were “mesmerised” by the sight and failed to broadcast a warning to the ship’s company. This is not consistent with accounts of survivors who say that Sub Lieutenant Clark who was on the bridge, saw the incoming Exocet and shouted “missile attack, hit the deck!” over the main broadcast.
In keeping with history
Conflicts throughout history are littered with examples of mistakes, particularly at the start of hostilities. The loss of HMS Sheffield was a horrible shock to the RN and was news around the world. But lessons were learned and procedures are changed rapidly. The painful experience gained probably saved others, it was no coincidence that later in the conflict HMS Glamorgan survived an Exocet hit. The ship was alert, detected the missile and made a pre-planned turn that prevented the missile from penetrating the hull and main missile magazine.
Admiral John Fieldhouse who commanded the Taskforce from Northwood and later became First Sea Lord, decided not to court-martial officers on Sheffield who were implicated by the board of enquiry. Fieldhouse was noted for his humanity and was one of the most outstanding officers the RN has had since WWII. There are those who would like to portray this as a “cover up” but people who may have made fatal mistakes in combat have to live with the consequences of their actions for the rest of their lives. There are men that are still suffering today from the effects of what they experienced onboard HMS Sheffield and many of the veterans are angry about the release of the BOI and the Guardian article which they call “misrepresentative” and an “insult to the heroes of that day”. The Guardian article also hardly mentions the many outstanding acts of courage by the ship’s company in trying to save their ship after she was hit, some of which are recorded in the BOI report.
Having won the war, it made more sense to focus on how things could be done better in future than hand out punishments for failure. Undoubtedly mistakes and errors made during the conflict were kept in-house. Some of those who suffered loss or injury may want to see specific individuals named and punished but as discussed, it was a collective failure. Airing the dirty washing in public may have achieved little, added to the suffering of the bereaved and detracted from what was an incredible achievement overall.
Sister ship HMS Coventry was sunk later in the conflict despite being alert and ready. In every armed conflict mistakes are made, usually, it costs lives but this is the terrible nature of warfare. Hindsight is a wonderful thing but is it not a luxury anyone has in the moment. The RN did conduct extensive analysis what happened and the lessons from the Falklands led to drastic changes to warship design, training and concept of operations. Many of these lessons are still kept alive in the RN today, particularly by the globally-renowned Flag Officer Sea Training organisation.
Responsibility starts at the top
The Falklands War was ultimately a triumph for Mrs Thatcher, standing against tyranny and holding her nerve while others would have given in. However, it could be argued that it was the actions of her government that created the conditions for the war in the first place. John Nott’s 1981 Defence white paper planned to axe the South Atlantic Patrol ship HMS Endurance, together with the Navy’s aircraft carriers and amphibious capability and was perceived as a green light by the Argentines. Numerous officers and diplomats had tried to warn the Foreign Office of exactly what could happen if British resolve to defend the Falklands was seen to be waning. The men who died on HMS Sheffield might perhaps still be with us if the Thatcher government had not planned those defence cuts.
The principal of armed deterrence remains every bit as relevant. Spending on a properly equipped navy now may ultimately save bloodshed and far greater loss in a future conflict. This principle was ultimately proven in the peaceful victory of the Cold War and politicians of today would do well to consider this.
As far as I am aware,the causes sinking of HMS Glorious and the grounding of HMS Penelope are still secret. In at least one of those case’s, in absence of the report, one would have to conclude that the cause was disgraceful behaviour from the commanding officer.
If you want I can fill you in on the reasons for the sinking of the Glorious, I have information writting by some of the surviving officers.
I would certainly be interested. I read a book by a journalist whose father was one of the key figures and was killed.Its ridiculous that, despite being born 2 decades after war ended, I will probably never get to read the truth.
The truth is unlikely to be worse than the rumours.
I served on HMS Plymouth during the Falklands War, I wasn’t on board Sheffield so can’t comment on her state of readiness or moral. On Plymouth we prepared for war on the way South, we experienced action at South Georgia before the rest of the task force even arrived. We were a tight disciplined ship and moral was high, I have no doubt in my mind that, that was a factor in our survival, especially on the day we were damaged in action. The article certainly suggests the moral on Sheffield was low and the discipline lax.
It is easy to criticise with all the facts some 35 years later, the actions taken were based on the information at hand at that time in History so I think we should be looking at the lessons learnt from this and how we prevent this happening going forward.
The Type 42 was designed as a cheaper alternative to the cancelled type 82 and the older county class , it was a lot smaller with little room to update systems within the hull size and cramped in both operation and accommodation for the crew. However these ships served the RN very well over some 38 years.
my personal view is we are potentially looking at the same situation now with the type 31, smaller, cheaper and more hulls in the water (maybe?). There size limitations will mean it will be difficult to add equipment which given the Type 45’s and 26’s hull size will be easier if given the funds from the treasury.
T42 was an odd beast, whilst in some respects cutting edge with its all Gas Turbine propulsion it was also in other areas obsolete. It had a radar system developed in the 1950’s combined with a missile system developed in the 1960’s crammed into a hull designed during the 1970’s that was the bare minimum to get the weapon system to sea.
It should be noted that whilst we were messing about with a woefully old Type965 radar as a stop gap until the Type1022 was available the Americans had already deployed the far more modern AN/SPS48 3D search radar.
Yes Radar 909 might have been developed in the late 1950’s but it was a very effective radar. The article is correct to say that it was more effective against high level targets but this is simply a matter of topography – no radar is capable of tracking low level targets over the horizon. It is incorrect to state that the missile was unreliable. It was a medium range anti aircraft missile operating in an environment close to land. Sea Wolf was a short range, point defence missile system that was ideal to operate in such an environment. An additional restriction was the range of the Sea Dart missile. 909 could track targets at a range 2 and half times the maximum range of the missile. Radar 909 can and did track low level targets and lessons learnt from the Falklands introduced several modifications to improve this capability.
There is nothing to blame on the ship’s operations team.
Why?… because the Sheffield was cought by surprise by MV Daggers the 1st of may.
There was no missile in the attack.
There was no fire from de missile´s fuel remnant.
Did you ever make a port visit (probably around a Christmas) to St. Petersburg Florida? I could have sworn I toured your ship as a kid. It was either the Falmouth or the Plymouth. I know I toured an Amazon too.
1988 – 89. December..
HMS Plymouth was in St Petersburg for AMP and leave whilst deployed as West Indies Guardship (WIGS).
Great run ashore and many of us had family fly over from U.K.
Thanks for hospitality …..
HMS Sheffield and the Type 42 destroyer. Why is it that when reading the above article I have this feeling of a coverup. As we all know the T42 was a cut down T82, the type was cramped not just for the crew but for electronics such as radar and communications outfits. You could not operate the radar and comms at the same time. Weapon outfits were also limited including the Sea Dart magazine outfit 22 rounds. She had no space for a Sea Wolf launcher and it was not possible on the Batch 1 T42s to install the CIWS effectivly. The hull was light in its construction with aluminuim being used exstensivly, alu, fire and saltwater is a bad mix. Cable instalation was not protected or armoured, again to save weight and cost. The T42 and its faults is what happens when the bean counters tried to build a ship of war without taking into account the requirements of war. If only the bean counters would understand that it is not the size of the hull that is the main cost in a modern warship if the hull of the T82 was used but equipped as a T42 she could have had the Seawolf light installed and the CIWS and the Sheffield would have survived. As for the officers not being in the operations room at the time, even if they were what could they do they had no radar in operation and no weapons to fight the threat. THAT IS THE FAULT OF A SHORT SIGHTED GOVERNMENTAL BEAN COUNTER.
Couldn’t operate the radar and comms at the same time? Totally inaccurate. I believe you’re confused with the simultaneous operation of the EW and Satcomms systems which wasn’t possible – as mentioned in the article.
The whole episode of the Sheffield is a coverup.
They (the RN) are trying to cover up what really happened… and what really happened is that the fire was caused by the impact of a plane bomb (not missile) with a generator.
And this attack was on May 1… not the 4th.
That’s a bold claim to make without quoting any supporting evidence.
“The best option would have been the Phalanx CIWS that had been in development since 1973 and was proven in service with the US Navy by 1980. Phalanx is entirely automated and would almost certainly have saved the Sheffield.”
I would be sceptical about that, the performance of Phalanx especially the early blocks against Sea Skimmers has always been under question. It has notably failed to take out sea skimmers or more than one occasion or failed to track properly. This is one of the reasons why there has been a shift to PDMS or larger calibre gun systems using smart munitions.
Phalanx is better than nothing, has slightly greater reach than Goalkeeper and is useful against other types of targets.
You’re right about Phalanx. It actually only went into service on a very small number of US ships in 1981, so the idea it could have been present is a little disingenuous. It also had a reputation in its early days for being very, very unreliable. The Phalanx of today is a very different beast, and it has to be said is still regarded, correctly, as being of marginal use. No Navy on earth was actually in a decent position in 1982 regarding hard kill of ASM’s. The USN had only just started to introduce Phalanx, Aegis had barely arrived. In fact the RN with Sea Wolf was arguably better equipped, with a better system than anyone else in 1982 for point defence. It’s also instructive that the RN bought Phalanx originally only for those vessels that couldn’t fit Goalkeeper (incidentally I’m not sure I believe the effective range figures for Phalanx vs Goalkeeper. 30×173 has similar muzzle velocity and greater mass so should be effective much further than 20×102, I think a lot of the comparisons compare maximum range to effective range)
The one legacy of the Sheffield should be that “Designed for but not fitted” should never be allowed. In 1982 anything that could float was sent south, including Trawlers to act as Mine Sweepers and Townsend Thoresen Ro/Ro tubs because capacity had been allowed to be eroded even when we had 50 odd escort ships.
The T42’s where a classic example of what the T31’s will be. Everybody knows that the bigger T82 was the ship that was needed as the requirement was the same to escort and provide Air Defence for valuable assets. just because that changed form an Aircraft Carrier to a Container Ship carrying all your Helicopters made no difference, the threat and consequences of success were the same.
Thus the T26’s are designed as High End ASW operators to provide escort to Ships in the N Atlantic or to Task forces, 8 is not enough to do that and the 5 GP versions could have been equipped quickly with Tails and could operate using other equipment without to high degree of competency. Even 40 T31’s can not perform the same duty. We are even talking of making them out of Aluminium and having no Anti Air capability. It is amazing that the RN lets politicians forget items learnt the hard way only 35yrs ago, with people still living with the scars (both physical and mental) from the same mentality that has taken hold in the MOD over the last 7yrs. it is telling yet again it is a Conservative Government overseeing this dereliction of duty.
T82 not type 42? I doubt that you’ve ever served on either because they had the same anti-aircraft missile system! It wasn’t the type of ship that caused the losses and it seems that you just want to have a political dig. The problems that caused the loss of the ships in the Falklands were investigated afterwards. Chief amongst these were the graduation to the thinking that missiles were the be all and end all. The Falklands proved that the old fashioned “curtain of lead” was still a deterrent. Added to this was the difficulty of operating a fleet inside very confined waters (excluding the loss of Sheffield). However, the greatest lessons were learnt in damage control: Firefighting systems that could be isolated; cables not secured by plastic cable ties; insulating material for the same cabling replaced; better (non flammable uniform); hatches that could be transited by men in Fearnaught suits and BASSCA (later EDBA) and the best of all (although any serving member of the RN/Veteran may grimace) was the introduction of FOST to practice the implementation of the damage control practices (including the “Sheffield Scenario during the Thursday war).
I agree that the RN has (and always will) suffer the peacetime issue of cuts. Look at History, from Nelson through to the Falklands, governments cut the numbers of ships/personnel during peacetime only to realise their folly when war broke out again. Hopefully it may never happen again (and it wouldn’t under Corbyn because he will happily sign away the Falklands and Gibraltar against the wishes of their citizens) but I’ve heard it said quite often that the only thing that will rescue the forces from the never ending cuts is another Falklands style conflict.
What would happen today if the RN were to lose 2 Destroyers in combat? That would take us down to 4.
Would there be a Destroyer build programme, or would we not bother replacing them?
Is there any strategic plan to rebuild lost assets in a future conflict?
There’s barely a strategic plan to build warships in the first place, so forget about plans or contingencies to account for losing any!
It’s long been my view that you need to factor some flexibility into fleets to account for the unexpected and any armed service needs to be prepared to suffer losses when on active operations.
I’d say the Army and RAF are still a bit better at this but the RN is stretched as thin as clingfilm. Only 15 years ago HMS Nottingham almost went to the bottom and that wasn’t even the result of enemy action!
What would happen if a T45 or T26 suffered catastrophic damage today? If we need an absolute minimum of 8 T26 for example then surely it’s rational to build 9 or 10. Instead financial desperation leaves the MOD basically saying to the RN you’re not allowed to have an accident!
Absolutely. The “Manning & Ship numbers crisis” (frankly, both of these should be put together) should be cause for an inquiry. Might it be time for a Royal Commission to investigate the matter?
It doesn’t even need to be combat, look at what has happened in the US navy with 2 Destroyers involved in serious collisions which will keep them out of service for months possibly years whilst they are repaired. if that situation happened in the RN it would be major issue.
in short we need more ships NOW!
Mrs Thatcher and the Navy top brass covered up for the anti air warfare officer and his deputy, who left their post, at the crucial time of the attack.
For the sake of Mrs Thatcher and the Conservative Party re-election, these two men got off scot free for contributory negligence that left 20 fellow officers dead. One of these incompetents even got promoted to Captain.
Day by day, Britain’s descent into third world Banana Republichood is becoming more entrenched.
This is surely justice denied?
This and the Sgt. Blackman incident go to the heart of whether military justice should be administered separately from the civilian sector. The military judiciary looks to be both incompetent and susceptible to party political interference.
The tone of the article is all wrong out of a misplaced sense of protecting the Navy. Imagine if you’re a child of one of the 22 dead on HMS Sheffield and how they’re feeling today? Shojuld the Guardian really have sugar coated issues?
BBC article from 2001 where a surviving sailor from HMS Sheffield alleges a cover up and that his evidence was REMOVED from records and the Navy denies it. We know better now.
Ship steward Craig Bryden claimed that, almost a minute and a half after Mr Batho was called to the Operations Room, he appeared in the wardroom “aimlessly sauntering down a ladder”.
Mr Bryden also alleges that statements he made to a confidential Board of Inquiry about Mr Batho’s absence from his post were struck from the record.
He told the BBC: “I’ve suffered. All the guys on board have suffered.
“I feel that it’s time the public know.”
Some feel that Captain Sam Salt has been made to carry the can for the events which led to the loss of the ship.
Anyone reading this and thinking of joining the forces needs to think long and hard about how junior soldiers, sailors and airmen are treated.
Completely predictable you would cry “cover-up” and point fingers of blame concerning things you barely understand.
You can read the full statement about his actions from Lt Cdr Batho here: https://www.navy-net.co.uk/community/threads/help-needed-loss-of-hms-sheffield.55833/page-2#post-956281
True, can’t you moderate him away? It’s not like his bile and hatred is subtle now is it? He’s probably writing all this trash from North Korea or some such other people’s paradise.
He has the right of free speech. After all the RN exists to defend freedom and democracy. Iqbal can say and believe whatever he likes, even if it is complete and utter rubbish. Only personally abusive comments get deleted.
True, but I would venture he is abusive.
The only purpose I can see of allowing him to continue is that his cretinous posts are often so egregious it makes the grown ups respond. So perhaps he is helping matters in a completely, absolutely, unintentional way.
Well done with the site by the way. Uniquely effective in my opinion.
Navylookout, many thanks for the statement.
The Lt Cdr accepts he was not at his post but briefly in his quarters reading an intel report and checking cloud base and in the wardroom, where he may have been given a cup of tea.
He also states, ‘I would be the first to admit that I made a serious error of judgement and I should have stayed in the Ops Room throughout my watch. The only thing I would say is that there is no certainty that if I had, the outcome would have been different.’
The Navy Board stated both men ‘prima facie demonstrated negligence’. The government was trying to sell Type 42s for export and so it was decided by the brass ‘“to avoid, the more doubtful cases creating the wrong atmosphere in the press and souring the general euphoria”.
Under these circumstances, surely an investigation would have been warranted? If not to apportion blame then at least for lessons learned purposes? ‘Souring the euphoria’ will prove cold comfort to the families.
It is quite obvious that you have never served and don’t understand the term “defence watches”. A ship is at “Action Stations” – all crew closed up at their respective “action station” during actual conflict. This is obviously unsustainable for long periods of time and is relaxed to “defence watches” when the possibility of action has diminished. This requires only half the crew to be “up and about” whilst the other half sleep. This is by no means easy either, defence watches were either 6’s or 7 and 5’s (I preferred the latter). This meant 6 (or 7 hours) on watch, 6 (or 7 hours) off watch followed by 6 (or 5 hours on with the corresponding 6 or 5 hours off watch. This resulted in a minimum 12 hours on watch, with your 12 hours off watch consisting of eating, sleeping, bathing and relaxing. Of course, your off watch could be interrupted by action stations. Food and drink weren’t allowed in the Ops Room (which was also kept dark), therefore during defence watches, the opportunity was taken for personnel to be allowed to “stretch their legs”, go to the bathroom or have a cup of coffee/tea – obviously keeping sufficient personnel still manning the consoles. It is clear from the report that this is exactly what was going on at the time of the attack. If you’ve never been in such a situation, experienced the repeated “action stations” when unknown contacts are detected then I would say that you’re not in a position to judge anybody’s actions. I was not on the Sheffield but I had several friends that were (and some still are). I do not hold the AWO or Sam Salt responsible, these things happen in war. The benefits of hindsight and time are remarkable and I’m sure both parties would do things differently. Yes they made mistakes but they weren’t incompetent or negligent.
Oh my, if Lord Haw Haw here and the BBC said it, it must be true.
Both utterly reliable sources obviously, both with a long track record of honesty, integrity and accuracy.
Oh, hang on a minute, that’s not right is it?
I was waiting for you to come up with some toxic old tosh dressed up as heart bleeding concern.
You are a marxist and anti British as is clear from your littany of toxic posts on every single wrotten comment you have posted on here.
As for banana republich hood, that is what you lot want isn’t it? You want us all weak and dependent on the state. Well, this country is full of bums, but it is also full of hard working, self reliant people who care about the country and it’s standing in the world.
As if a chump like you would have a clue what happened on that valiant ship all those years ago, one way or the other. You want to blame someone, blame the Argentininans.
That’s well over the top. To err is human, but it’s hardly valiant to sit there and get sunk.
What an amazing thing to say.
What about all the heroic efforts of the crew to save the ship and fight the fires for four hours after the strike, and I would hardly think acting as an ASW picket ship in a contestested war zone thousands of miles from home is a trip around the Solent now is it?
I’d just mention that it’s what you call a “third world banana republic” that sank them.
Sounds a bit like the British thinking about the Japanese prior to Singapore.
It seems that there needs to be far better oversight of UK Naval affairs generally; be it in warship construction and numbers, battle preparedness and assessment of capabilities right down to our Merchant Navy’s adequacy for an island state.
Ultimately all this should come from political leadership. There is the rub because it seems they don’t want to know. All the parties are to blame. Chiefly this is because there are so few ex service people or indeed really dedicated and knowledgeable in defence MP’s in Parliament. I have written off the House of Commons in this regard and believe this is probably a role for the Lords where a really powerful Maritime or tri-defence group should exist and have the right to call anyone to account for their actions or neglect. Neglect should also cover the Treasury’s lack of providing the necessary resources.
Heading this up should be a Minister of Marine and Air.
I don’t think ex-service people are under-represented in Parliament, by my reckoning there are over fifty MPs who are former or current members of the armed forces, including several who have seen active service and at least one who reached senior rank. In fact there are at least twice as many veterans as you would expect from a representative sample of the UK population. The Lords, unsurprisingly, has even more. Whatever problems the armed forces are facing, it isn’t because there are too few veterans in Parliament.
Far too many of them actually represent the military /industrial complex.
However many there are it seems they aren’t being listened to.
At the end of the day its war, are government must have expected some losses when they sent are men down there. While a investigations should have been carried out to learn why it happened and so as to prevent it. No soldier, sailor or airmen should ever be arrested for what they did in war else it was something particularly bad.
Harry, why stop at military personnel?
No policeman, fireman or Doctor should ‘ever be arrested’ unless its ‘something particularly bad’.
After all, they all wear uniforms and have high pressure jobs’protecting society, that can be life threatening. Society owes them a great debt, like forces personnel.
I wonder why we bothered with War Crimes legislation. After all, ‘soldiers will be soldiers’.
I’m prepared to cut them some slack, it’s not like they wanted this to happen.Fending off guided missiles was a fairly new thing,that had only been tried a couple of times before. It’s a fairly similar type of thing asking a policeman to apprehend young drug dealers, it’s almost impossible to do a perfect job, particularly if you don’t know that they’ve swallowed packages.
In the euphoria of victory it was overlooked that the RN didn’t perform particularly well. Some of the equipment was hopeless, tigerfish and rapier mk 1 were totally ineffective and flammability and damage tolerance was disgraceful for one of the main naval forces in WW2 less than 40 years earlier.
I think that it might be dawning on some of you how unsustainable a carrier battle group is. Imagine a similar crisis today. I reckon that we would struggle to get 3 destroyers manned and away within a month,we know that at least 2 will be out of action for anything up to a year. If the enemy times it right (not difficult to time with an open society like the UK) it will take a couple of months to get a carrier away.
You actually had a decent statement started there but you had to ruin it by yet another dig at something out of context. Delete your post after the word “earlier” and I would actually agree with you!!
Arthur Herman puts it well:
“The Sheffield was commanded by Sam Salt, a five-foot-four human dynamo, strong, intense, and voluble. his father had died in a submarine in World War II, his godfather was “Red” Ryder, who had led a daring commando raid on the U-boat base at St. Nazaire, which had won him the Victoria Cross. Salt’s ship was a Type 42-class destroyer, equipped with Sea Dart antimissile missiles; but they were useless until someone realized the Sheffield was under attack.
For a crucial thirty minutes no one did, Salt was in his cabin, unaware of Glasgow’s frantic warning; the operations room was hooked up to its satellite communication link, blotting out any trace of the Exocet’s own radar path on Sheffield’s radar screen. In fact, since there was no sign of planes or enemy activity no one believed they could be under attack until the officer on the bridge, Lieutenant Peter Walpole, noticed a smudge of smoke about six feet above the water a mile away, headed right for them.
Beside him was Brian Layshon, commander of Sheffield’s Lynx helicopter. He saw it too, and thought: “My God, its a missile!” Walpole had just five seconds to grab the ship’s microphone and shout: “MISSILE ATTACK! HIT THE DECK” before the Exocet struck starboard amidships at 680 miles an hour.”
That missile was fast: Whatever the veracity of the guardian’s article, the officers did not stand ‘mesmerised’.
At that range and speed….the crew were lucky to get that warning from Lt Walpol at all. Mesmerised? More like oh crap we are done for 🙁 there wasnt anything the crew could have done….the problem went back to the design and integration of the type 42s systems and their blatantly outdated type 965 radar that was equiped to ships in the 1960s….only HMS Exeter had the type 1022 radar that the whole class should have had. They Type 45 would have kicked ass in this situation….however in Anti ship and Anti Sub warfare the 45 is very vulnerable. IMHO the type 45 was built for the Falkland war 🙁 not a good way to build your ships
One day I might get the time to look THIS up: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perseus_(missile)
Hopefully if this thing actually gets off the drawing boards, the anti-ship missile problem will be dealt with. But how long till that happens, if ever? 🙁
Root cause of Falklands War points to Dennis Healey. Decided RAF could take over functions of
carrier borne aircraft. If Ark Royal and Eagle or their projected replacements (CVA01 program)
had been around, Argentina never would have invaded and we wouldn’t be discussing Sheffield.
Queen Elizabeth Class deters possible aggressors.
Not without any aircraft it doesnt….atm its a multi-billion £ party barge. It will only have 3 CIWs Block 1b defending itself
Yet again a very cheap shot at a ship that is not operational and not intended to be operational until 2020 – when it WILL have aircraft. Having served on Lusty and now been on the QE it is very impressive. The trials with the 2 F35’s went exceptionally well and the UK will have a significant capability for the next 50 years. On a negative note, I do agree with the fact that we have insufficient escorts. A minimum of 25 are required IMHO.
Most tragedies have a complex web of contributory factors including somewhere humans. This is no different. It is perfectly reasonable not to call into question the bravery or intent of its crew whilst at the same time recognising that the ship wasn’t operating at or near its most effective. For that those in charge bear a degree of responsibility. No more than the politicians who wouldn’t spend the money on the right kind of ships but responsibility none the less. I think we do no service to ourselves as a country by hiding these things although I suspect that the Govt was as much responsible as the RN for keeping it secret lest their own shortcomings be exposed as well.
Plus Ca Change!
How about, STOP spending billions on foreign dictatorships and foreign aid, and use it for 3 more Type 45s, another 5 Type 26 frigates, how about keeping HMS Ocean, HMS Bulwark, HMS Albion. My god, politicians should be kept away from defence…
Precisely, why aren’t politicians badgered about this? Keep sending money overseas to subsidize others while Royal Navy grows steadily weaker.
“why aren’t politicians badgered about this? ” ……………… not to mention that at the time the Argys had a secondhand British aircraft carrier. It is, however, speculative whether this launched the French-built plane, which fired the Exocet in to HMS Sheffield. Funny old game, the War Industry ??
The Super Etendards flew from mainland Argentina. What is extremely annoying is the French team that prepared the Exocets for their “mission” and also instructed the Argentinians how best to utilise them.
I have just re-read Sandy Woodward’s book, and although he is guarded in his words, it is pretty clear that he regarded the officers of Sheffield as culpable in the sinking – from Captain Salt down.
Sam Salt, nor the AWO have disputed that things could/should have been handled better (culpable) but they shouldn’t be considered neglible or incompetent. RHIP but it also has it’s share of responsibility. Sam Salt recognised and bore this burden.
There is nothing to blame to the crew and officers in the sinking.
The Sheffield was cought by surprise by MV Dagger planes… one of them place a bomb inside the ship that causes the fire.
HMS Sheffield was hit on 1st of May by Argentine Air Force MV bombs… not by an exocet the 4th of may.
HMS Sheffield was hit on 1 may. Not on 4 may.
HMS Sheffield was hit by MV Dagger bombs. Not by an Exocet missile.
Mrs Thatcher covered the day the Sheffield was hit… and the ship was hit on May the 1st. by bombs. Not an Exocet missile!
This is the reason for all the accusations, the board of enquiry, the blame on the ship’s operations team, etc.
My name is Elaine and Grandad died on HMS Acasta 1940 8th June
I live in Poole and found on the memorial Glorious Lieutenant Basil James Wise and Reginald Arthur Marsh Petty officer of the Ardent. I am wanting to have a proper memorial service with the GLARAC Association and want to find and family members who would like to come can anyone help me 0 7 5 8 7 8 5 3 9 8 5
also they now say that the Glorious Ardent and Acasta were sunk because of operation Paul c/o Ben Barker