Dragon ‘humbled’ as she pays her respects to the lost destroyers of 1982

Sailors from HMS Dragon paid homage to their forebears by laying wreaths at the isolated monuments to HMS Sheffield and Coventry

The Type 42 destroyers were lost off the Falklands in 1982 as they tried to shield the Fleet from air attack, a mission now performed by Dragon and her sister Type 45s which are today’ successors.

At the foot of First Mountain on remote Pebble Island – where penguins and sheep far outnumber human beings – sailors from HMS Dragon salute those who went before them.

This is the monument to HMS Coventry, lost off the Falklands 33 years ago as she did what Dragon is designed to do today: shielding the Fleet from air attack.

The memorial to the 20 men killed when the ship sank was one of two cleaned up by Dragon’s crew as they paid their respects to the destroyer men of 1982.

Also visited – and in an equally isolated spot – was the cross erected to Coventry’s sister ship HMS Sheffield, fatally hit by an Exocet missile on May 4 1982 some 100 miles off Sealion Island.

It was a pleasure to spend some time on Sealion island, meet the residents and carry out some husbandry to keep the HMS Sheffield memorial shipshape and Bristol fashion

Lieutenant Commander Joe Allfree, HMS Dragon’s Executive Officer

‘Shiny Sheff’ was the first Royal Navy warship lost in action since 1945. Though the warhead of the Argentine missile did not explode, the fires its impact caused killed 20 men.

Despite efforts to save the Type 42 destroyer, she subsequently sank under tow to South Georgia for temporary repairs.

As Sealion Island was the closest landfall, a monument was erected there – accessible only by Dragon’s Lynx helicopter.

Lieutenant Commander Joe Allfree, Dragon’s Executive Officer, said the Sheffield memorial was “a very humbling sight”.

He continued: “It was a pleasure to spend some time on Sealion island, meet the residents and carry out some husbandry to keep the HMS Sheffield memorial shipshape and Bristol fashion.”

The time on Sealion also allowed the party to carry out a bit of penguin spotting by getting up close with a Rockhopper colony.

“Impressively at home on the sheer rock face the penguins did not seem that bothered by us and we were able to get really close to them,” said Petty Officer Fran Boreham.

Sealion lies off the southern tip of East Falkland – the most populous of the two main islands in the archipelago.

Pebble Island is 140 miles’ sail away through Falkland Sound and off the north shore of West Falkland.

Here on May 25 1982, HMS Coventry and frigate HMS Broadsword lay in wait to take out incoming enemy jets before they could attack the bulk of the Royal Navy’s invasion force mustered around San Carlos Water.

After downing two Skyhawks with Coventry’s Sea Dart missiles, the two ships came under sustained attack from low-level Argentine bombers.

The destroyer was struck by two 1,000-pound bombs. Both detonated, wrecking the operations and engine rooms. Within 20 minutes, Coventry capsized and sank, losing 20 of her ship’s company.

This time, the wreathlaying party was led by Dragon’s Commanding Officer Captain Rex Cox – who previously was in charge of Coventry’s younger sisters HMS Manchester and York.

“It was extremely poignant to be able to pay my respects to our fellow destroyermen who made the ultimate sacrifice so that others could remain free,” he said.

As with the visit to Sealion Island, the memorial was maintained - a tradition observed by all visiting RN warships who help the family who live on the island who already proudly look after the memorial on our behalf all year round. 

Chefs from the Falklands’ Mount Pleasant complex also paid their respects at the Sheffield cross when they visited Sealion Island on a wildlife photography expedition.

Eight chefs or caterers were killed by the Exocet missile – it struck near the Type 42’s galley.

Among those paying a silent tribute was PO Rod Morton. “In front of me, from nowhere a cara cara landed on top of the cross, looking over the area of HMS Sheffield’s final resting place, as though keeping watch, which presented an unforgettable photo opportunity,” he said. 

“To have come all this way to pay my respects, on a beautiful day, was reward enough but to have a cara cara as sentry was unforgettable.”

The roll of honour for HMS Sheffield is:

LT CDR D I BALFOUR                         
LT CDR J S WOODHEAD
S/LT R C EMLY
MAA B WELSH
WEA A C EGGINGTON
WEA1 K R F SULLIVAN
WEMN2 B J WALLIS
ACWEMN M TILL
POWEM A R NORMAN
POMEM(M) D R BRIGGS

POCK R FAGAN
LCK A K WELLSTEAD
LCK A MARSHALL
LMEM(M) A J KNOWLES       
CK A C SWALLOW
CK D E OSBORNE
CK N A GOODALL
CA D COPE
CK K J WILLIAMS
L C KEUNG


Those lost in HMS Coventry were:               

LT CDR G S ROBINSON-MOLTKE      
LT R R HEATH
WEM(O)1 I P HALL
WEA/APP I R WILLIAMS
ACWEA J D L CADDY
AWEM(R)1 J K DOBSON
AWEM(N)1 D J A OZBIRN
AWEA1 D A STRICKLAND
AWEA2 P P WHITE

PO(S) M G FOWLER
APOCA S R DAWSON
LRO(W) B J STILL
MEM(M)1 F O ARMES
MEA(M)l P B CALLUS
MEA2 G L J STOCKWELL
AAB(EW) A D SUNDERLAND 
MEM(M)2 S TONKIN
ACK I E TURNBULL