10 May 2007

The Loss of HMS Sheffield, 1982

I once met a fellow in Portsmouth. We had separately intended to visit the same club meeting, only they had arranged to meet in a member's house that day. We walked together to a lovely house near the dockyard. Unfortunately for him, the club member he wanted to meet wasn't around, so while I stayed he went home. Six years later (or so), he turned up in Slough, being good friends with an acquaintance of mine. The reason he was in Portsmouth in 1976, was that he was in the Royal Navy, while I was staying with my grandparents in Fareham. The reason he was in Slough in late 1982 was that he'd left the Navy about a year earlier, having served on a ship I had visited during Navy Days in 1976 - HMS Sheffield.

Some twenty-five years later (we had met frequently over the period so by now were well acquainted) I asked him about his service in the Royal Navy. He explained to me how, as a member of the mess staff, his role in combat was to control fires and to take casualties to the sick bay. At this point, he began an unprompted reminiscence about the day HMS Sheffield was hit by the Argentinian Exocet missile. It was quite a shock for him and, characteristically for him, he didn't go to work but to the pub instead. At some later point he found a casualty list and went through checking for the names of those he had served with. Had he still been aboard, he might have been among their number. I think he was still bothered, though, that he hadn't been there to help his shipmates at their time of need.

No comments: