Tue 8:Started quiet. Supposed to be a big push tonight – cancelled. Told to do NGS job, 1630 went into Falkland Sound and got bounced by 4/5 Mirages – nearly bought it! Final number 6 Mirages.
Having returned to the relative safety of San Carlos Water before dawn, the day was quiet, it had been several days since there had been any concerted air attack on San Carlos but at around 4.30pm all that changed.
HMS Plymouth was tasked with sailing out into Falkland Sound, the stretch of water separating the two islands of East and West Falkland and directing some gunfire from our main gun, the twin 4.5” turret on the front of the ship, at an Argentinean observation post (OP) positioned on Mount Rosalie, opposite the entrance to San Carlos.
The OP had been identified as the place from which Argie air attacks were being directed against the ships in San Carlos, so an SAS team was being sent to ‘ask them to stop it’ and our job was to distract them while the SAS sneaked up the back way! As we were about to commence firing, an ‘immediate’ signal was received informing us of an imminent air attack.
Having just left the bridge, my 6 hour watch complete, I had gone below to get a coffee before going back up to the gun direction platform just behind the bridge to act as an extra lookout, the next thing I heard was main broadcast alert ‘Air raid warning RED’ repeated and I think followed by some sort of announcement like ‘incoming aircraft’ or brace brace brace!’ whatever it was it conveyed a sense of urgency and imminent danger so I raced back to the bridge.
The noise was deafening as all guns were firing and aircraft were screaming overhead at very low level.
I arrived just in time to see an orange flash outside the bridge window and ran into a sailor in his white anti-flash hood, face covered in blood, coming in off the bridge wing. He was an Able Seaman Gunner hit by shrapnel from 20mm cannon fire but at that point I didn’t know the extent of his injuries, so I started to offer first aid. To my relief the Doctor and a first aid party were the next people to arrive, so I gratefully left the chap in their care!
The bridge was in pandemonium and communication with the flight deck and the back end of the ship had become difficult so I was despatched by the Captain to get a damage report. I remember giving some words of encouragement to the lads as I went but strangely had a quote from Lord Mountbatten stuck in my mind.
Some years earlier, while I was still at school, I remember Mountbatten, then First Sea Lord and Admiral Of The Fleet, being interviewed on TV’s ‘This Is Your Life’ and he talked about his time during the Second World War and had made the comment that ‘An Officer shouldn’t be seen running, as it panicked the chaps!’ So I made a point of keeping my composure and walking.
When I reached the Flight Deck, the scene was one of confusion, the helicopter was on deck, smoke was billowing from a hole at the edge of the Flight Deck, there were holes from cannon fire peppering the superstructure and twisted metal where something, or things, had passed through the ships side wreaking havoc as it went. It was clear that things weren’t good, so I helped a couple of people, spoke to the Supply Officer who was in charge of the Flight Deck and returned to the Bridge to report back.
It wasn’t until later as we were all swapping stories of the event that the Supply Officer said ‘the flight deck was in mayhem, smoke everywhere, people dazed and confused and in strolls Ramsden as though he’s on a Sunday afternoon walk!’ It certainly was a surreal moment.
Member since: 4th July 2012
I am David Ramsden, owner of thebestof bolton.