Gentlemen Cordite, Lieutenant Commander Warwick
edited by Nicholas Bracegirdle
Epilogue - 22 May 1982 - Falkland Islands
22 MAY 1982
We are all in GMT UK even though 5 hours behind here so it is pitch black until 1100. We all start at 0700 or so - the middle of the night for the Argies. So when we hit them at 0500 it was still midnight to them and we had been awake all night.
The landings went perfectly. All the big amphibious ships slunk in only 600 yards from the sleepy Argies also Canberra and others. The little assault ships we had shepherded for 2 weeks in safety also crept in. As soon as we were all in position, Antrim and Ardent let 'em have it. Ardent much further down. In the last 24 hours we fired 350 rounds (normally 2 years practice worth). The hillside where 150 Argies had huge camp exploded into hell. They were pounded all night and set up a mortar. The SBS killed almost all and only 14 survivors. Not one British scratch. Other operations all over is the F.I. that night. Glamorgan bombarding 60 miles away pretending to be an invasion force of 60 ships! Complete surprise. All our charges safely in long inlet of San Carlos Water and busily unloading 1000s of men and equipment, then all hell let loose at 1.5 hours after dawn.
Attack after attack of Mirage and Skyhawk jets with rockets, bombs and canon fire. They concentrated on us and we had an attack of 4 or 5, 3 or 4 x overs. In the confined waters we could only see them some 5 miles off as they came over the hilltop. We were protecting our charges in anchorage and couldn't move away into sea where our radar could pick them up at 15 miles.
At 5 miles it was an Aunt Sally for them. We were bombed several times. I was in the Ops Room clutching hard at the incident board and trying to advise the Captain. Everyone was very frightened. We tried to shoot back but it was too difficult to acquire them in our weapon radars. Some of them were shot down by Brilliant's Seawolf missiles but none from us. Our Sea Harriers were not initially with us and that was a great mistake. All told we got 19 aircraft yesterday and perhaps a few more with bullet holes to limp home or not.
Antrim was rocketed and near missed by lots of bombs and canon; we have plenty of holes near water line and lots of minor damage. Brave chaps were firing, sadly two badly hit one possibly lost his sight but saved by wearing flying helmet. The worst one was the 1000lb bomb. It came thru' the Seaslug half inch thick armoured plate, missed a missile by a whisker then bounced upwards wrecking all my pyrotechnics locker (didn't go off). It punched another hole through two other steel bulkheads, smashed into the crew heads, lurched upwards to the flight deck and dropped by smashing all the loos and still it didn't go off! You can imagine our concern. So we got the Ordnance Disposal Fleet Clearance Diving Team down and we felt it was safe to move. In my capacity, I was sitting on top of the bomb helping with operations. We used only oxyacetylene to cut a big hole in flight deck and rigged sheerlegs over the top. Very gently we lifted it out and fuse was too damaged to remove (it was a British bomb sold to Argies by us). Once on deck we stuck it in a trolley and took it to a winch all in dead of night, v. spooky, open water dead still while Ardent was burning in background. Lowered bomb gently into water but rope got caught at last minute. Cut rope then full speed gogogo - phew, bomb disposed off. Argonaut got badly hit with two bombs that didn't go off either, all machinery out of action but can still fight. Ardent and Brilliant hit. Today we are licking our wounds and patching holes. Seaslug is dead - our major weapon.