The Commander in Chief Fleet
Middlesex                                                                                                                                           24th June 1982



1.       I have the honour to report the proceedings of Her Majesty’s Ship BROADSWORD, under my Command for the period from 20 – 26 May 1982.

2.       During the period covered by the report, HMS BROADSWORD was participating in OPERATION SUTTON, the reoccupation phase of the Falklands campaign.

3.       At 0200 on Thursday 20 May, with HMS YARMOUTH in company, I joined the Landing Force convoy, under the Command of the Commodore Amphibious Warfare. The convoy was arranged in close box formation and consisted of twelve ships, with a conventional ASW screen thrown out ahead. BROADSWORD’s task was to provide flank ASW protection to the convoy, and close AAWQ defence to the troopships NORLAND and EUROPIC FERRY.

4.       The weather on 20 May was overcast, with poor visibility and a rough sea, which was ideal for the transit to the Amphibious Objective area (AOA). Neither the anticipated air nor sub-surface threat materialised and the transit was unremarkable. At 2000 the convoy divided into four groups for the final approach, and I brought up the rear with HMS ARGONAUT, the LSL’s SIR PERCIVALE, TRISTRAM, GERAINT, GALAHAD, LANCELOT and MV EUROPIC FERRY. The LSL’s did well to maintain their formation during overnight passage under silent EMCON.

5.       At 0630 on Friday 21 May, the first gunfire was sighted ashore and at 0800 the LSL’s were detached to enter Falkland Sound. At this time, I assumed the duties of Anti-Submarine and Surface Warfare Co-ordinator, responsible for the defence of the AOA. My initial concern was for the ASW integrity of the anchorage, and the plan was that, after sweeping through, a Type 22 would be placed North and South of the AOA to plug the gaps while gun armed ships occupied fire support areas. Future intentions were to employ escorts, when released from other tasks, on ASW patrols, supplemented by RFA FORT AUSTIN’s Seakings. Lynx helicopters were to be used to conduct a thorough search of the Sound for surface contacts at first light daily.

6.       To a great extent, the requirements of ASW and AAW in the AOA were mutually exclusive. Satisfactory ASW defence required ships to be in patrol areas too far apart for effective AA defence of the beaches, or mutually to support one another against air threat. At the same time, manoeuvring in close company to achieve AAW self defence was hampered by the confined waters of the Sound. The primary daylight threat was however in the air, and at 1025 I entered the Sound at Action Stations to take up an AAW defence position, as directed by HMS ANTRIM (LAAWC). Seakings were left to cover the submarine threat.

7.       Apart from the lack of trees, the Sound strongly resembled a Western Isles Loch. It was two miles wide at the northern entrance, increasing to twelve miles south of the AOA; its shoreline was steep, in places to 200 feet, with hills rising to some 1500 feet behind. San Carlos Water, where the landings were taking place, was a narrow inlet on the North East side of the Sound. The day dawned bright and clear in surprising and not altogether welcome contrast to the previous day. These conditions were to prevail for the next five days. It was perfect weather for landing, and for flying.

8.       ANTRIM, PLYMOUTH and ARDENT were positioned for NGS and were on station off Cat Island, in San Carlos Water and in Grantham Sound respectively. ARGONAUT was patrolling off Fanning Head; BRILLIANT and YARMOUTH were stationed South of North West Islet and BROADSWORD was South of Chancho Point.

9.       I believe the landings achieved complete surprise, but once alerted, the enemy air force was swift to react. From 1247 until 1835, the ships were subjected to waves of attack from Pucara, Mirage and A4 aircraft. It is significant and indeed fortunate that these attacks were directed at the escorts rather than the Landing Forces. It was estimated that some 35 – 40 aircraft attacked during the day, of which 16 were brought down. My Seawolf system took one Mirage, but suffered from considerable clutter problems due to the proximity of land such that the visual TI/TV Mode quickly became the preferred method of engagement; but it was still only possible to fire two missiles during the course of the day. I had taken the precaution of mounting batteries of machine guns and small arms on the upper deck, so that at least a barrage could be put up against incoming targets. Irrespective of any deterrent value, it was good for morale to be able to return the fire with any available weapon.

10.   It was a battle in which the visual lookout was of vital importance if targets were to be engaged at all. A certain amount of overland radar tracking was achieved with 967/968, but the enemy flew low over the hills and chose many different approach directions. Often the cry of ‘Aircraft’ from the sight operator, was followed immediately by fire being opened by my ‘secondary battery’ while the end of a particular engagement was invariably signalled only seconds later by the release of airborne weapons. More than once I heard the attacking aircraft pass overhead from within the Operations Room.

11.   In between lulls the battle was hard fought. The fact that CAP could only be held overhead meant that the full thrust of every raid reached the Sound, and the escorts were in the front line. Each was manoeuvring as best it could to open weapon arcs as the attacks were pressed home, often with suicidal determination.

12.   ANTRIM was hit aft at 1336, by a bomb which failed to explode. She proceeded to shelter in San Carlos Water, and at 1714 passed AAW co-ordination duties to me. At 1343 BROADSWORD was narrowly missed by a bomb and was strafed. A summary of damage and casualties is given at Annex A. ARGONAUT was disabled by bombs at 1733 and had to be towed into San Carlos Water by PLYMOUTH. In the same raid BROADSWORD was again strafed as was BRILLIANT, who suffered major weapons and sensor loss due to cable damage, She had assumed CAP control duties during the afternoon and despite her damage, continued to perform her task most commendably.

13.   At 1802 ADRENT who was still to the South returning from NGS was bombed. She was struck again at 1818 and reported that she was sinking and abandoning ship. YATRMOUTH manoeuvred to take off survivors and I closed to provide AA cover, stopping to rescue her doctor, who had been blown overboard. On arrival I found her at anchor close inshore, listing slightly to starboard, trimmed by the stern and heavily on fire aft. When the survivors were recovered, I proceeded with YARMOUTH to Sam Carlos. The only sign of life in ARDENT as we left, was the still rotating1006 aerial. She burned during the night and sank some eight hours later.

14.   Overnight I detailed the remaining escorts to ASW patrols. ARGANAUT was secured under the protective cliffs of San Carlos, while ANTRIM and BRILLIANT were ordered back to the carrier group. Before they departed, I received two Fighter Controllers from ANTRIM and a Lynx from BRILLIANT to replace one of mine damaged by cannon fire.

15.   The lesson of the day was that ships’ AAW systems were not equal to the air threat in the close confines of the Sound. I therefore that the way to achieve air defence of the AOA, and to offer better chances of survival for the escorts, was to station them in San Carlos Water. This would complicate the enemy’s approach and would, in due course, bring them within the Rapier umbrella once these were brought into action ashore. I also suggested that is the CAP could not be pushed further West, some defence in depth could be gained by deploying a Type 42/22 picket combination to the West. HMS COVENTRY was accordingly detached from the Carrier Group to join me. I have amplified my thoughts on air defence in Annex D.

16.   At 0720 on Saturday 22 May I was joined by COVENTRY and a picket line was established 20 miles North West of Pebble Island. Before rendezvous, a C130 passed within 12 miles of COVENTRY, but Seadart defect prevented engagement. In the afternoon I had the frustration of seeing on radar/ESM a number of Mirage, escorting two C130’s approach and disappear behind Dunnose. CAP were brought West, but the very limited time on task at such a range from the |Carrier Group was insufficient to enable contact to be made. Forty minutes later, a number of contacts reappeared from behind Dunnose, heading West. They passed within 24 miles of COVENTRY, but were not feasible targets, and CAP, at this time was not available. The ships in the AOA had enjoyed a relatively quiet day and HMS ANTELOPE had joined to supplement the AA defence of the anchorage. At midnight COVENTRY was recalled to the Carrier Group and I returned to the Sound.

17.   On re entering the Sound on Sunday 23 May, I received a report that Land Forces had earlier sighted a submarine in Grantham Sound. I considered this doubtful but conducted a thorough search assisted by a Seaking. Nothing was found and at dawn I joined the other escorts in San Carlos Water.

18.   The day started well, with three helicopters being destroyed by CAP. ARGONAUT’s Lynx on surface search, sighted a supply vessel off Port King, but was unable to attack because of a Skua defect. On my orders, this target was subsequently attacked by ANTELOPE’s Lynx and it was left stopped and smoking; some wreckage was later sighted by CAP in the same position.

19.   The first air raid developed at 1500 and was followed by a further two during the course of the afternoon. Again, the main effort seemed to be directed against the escorts rather than the transports anchored closer in to San Carlos probably because the former blocked the approach to the latter. The anticipated protection of the Rapier batteries did not materialise, although some missiles were fired. I understand they were still being set to work. The nearness od land did, however, complicate the problem for the enemy, but once again, visual gun direction was the order of the day. I estimate that at least ten aircraft, mainly A4’s. attacked during the afternoon, of which up to seven were destroyed. One fell to my Seawolf while my small arms battery claimed another. At 1635 ANTELOPE was hit by two bombs which failed to explode and at 1708 BROADSWORD was missed by a bomb which cleared the bridge by an estimated five feet and exploded close to the port side.

20.   At 2030, I sailed with YARMOUTH to escort SIR TRISTRAM out of the AOA. At 2130 a violent flash was seen in the sky astern. This was ANTELOPE blowing up, while gallant efforts were being made to defuse an unexploded bomb.

21.   Overnight COVENTRY was again allocated to picket duty and by 1000 on Monday 24 May I was on patrol with her ten miles North of the Sound. All other units were in San Carlos Water. Air raids by an estimated twelve aircraft were directed at the anchorage between 1345 and 1445. Of these eight were believed destroyed by CAP, Rapier and Seacat systems. In return SIR LANCELOT and GALAHAD were bombed. One group of four aircraft was detected by 967/968 over the coastline approaching the AOA. A conveniently placed pair of CAP aircraft was vectored to intercept and succeeded in destroying three out of four enemy aircraft. Raids approaching from the South were not detected, but I believe our combined presence was a deterrent in some cases and I am in no doubt regarding the value of the Type 42/22 picket combination.

22.   Overnight replenished from RFA TIDEPOOL and at 0900 on Tuesday 25 May, met COVENTRY north of Pebble Island. The day started well. My 967/968 was picking out contacts over the land and CAP was available over the Sound. At 1236, by use of the X-mark facilities on a 968/967 contact, COVENTRY destroyed one Aeromacchi with Seadart and at 1533, using the same method two Mirages were similarly despatched.

23.   At 1756 a raid was detected closing from the West at 170 miles but, after 10 minutes, was lost behind land. At 1813 the raid was re-acquired (at 48m) by 967/968 and CAP was vectored by COVENTRY to intercept. Four minutes later, two A4’s approached from the direction of Pebble Island. COVENTRY acquired with Seadart and hailed the CAP off despite visual contact having being gained at three miles from intercept. At this point I sensed that COVENTRY was being frustrated by a Seadart problem because she seemed to be engaging the oncoming target with gunfire only. At this point the aircraft turned towards BROADSWORD. They were flying low and very close together, leaving a clearly visible ‘wake’ on the calm surface of the sea. They should have been committing suicide. Seawolf acquired a single target at 6.5 miles, but the system became confused by discrimation problems, when outfit DBB realised that two targets were present. The acquired track disassociated itself from the targets, taking both systems off the enemy. Despite standard drills, the system failed to re acquire the target. One bomb passed between the masts; a second bounced off the sea, struck the starboard quarter and emerged through the flight deck, before landing over the side. No casualties resulted, but considerable damage was done to services aft and my third Lynx was destroyed. There are two points of interest concerning the incident. First the bomb that struck BROADSWORD also demolished a MK 44 torpedo that was attached to the destroyed Lynx; no explosion resulted. Second, the approaching bombs were closely seen from the bridge and appeared to match the description od the US ‘Snake Eye’ weapon.

24.   BROADSWORD was hit at 1818. Within a minute a second pair of A4’s was seen closing on a similar flight pattern from the East. The forward GWS 25 acquired one target in the radar low angle mode. With an engagement only seconds away, the missile controller reported that COVENTRY had altered course to starboard ahead of me and was crossing the line of fire. On the |TV monitor in the Operations Room I watched her fire her last Seadart before GWS 25 lock was broken and the screen obscured. At least one bomb struck COVENTRY’s port side and shortly afterwards, the Olympus access route cover was blown off. Almost immediately she started to list to port and at 1829 launched life rafts. By 1859 she was on her beam ends, where she remained for some time before capsizing completely.

25.   With the withdrawal of the attacking aircraft, at least temporary, mu chief concern became the rescue of survivors. However, I considered that a further raid would develop to complete the work of the first, and called urgently for extra CAP. This was provided in welcome largesse and a strong umbrella remained overhead until dark, when I assumed further attack unlikely. At one time during this period, in response to my call for help, HMS HERMES had all but two of her harriers airborne. I ordered all boats away as soon as COVENTRY’s ships company started to abandon ship and requested helicopter assistance from the Commodore Amphibious Warfare. The subsequent build-up of ten rescue helicopters was a further source of great inspiration to us all at a difficult time, and I would like to pay tribute to their aircrew for a demonstration of skill and determination of the highest standard. My boats crew also performed sterling service. While regretting its necessity, the swift rescue was a most successful combined operation, The injured were flown ashore, or directly to the hospital ship UGANDA. By 2000, all survivors and boats were recovered; dusk was falling, and COVENTRY remained just awash as I proceeded back to San Carlos with 170 survivors onboard.

26.   The appearance of survivors highlighted three points.
a. Anti-Flash hoods provided great protection if tucked into clothing and burns were generally confined to the goggle area. The fingers of many Operations Room personnel were burnt, because the gloves had been split to facilitate easier operation of the ADAWS keyboard.
b. Cotton white shirts provided better protection from trunk burns than did synthetic No 8’s
c. Once only suits leaked badly because of the poor neck seal and air pockets formed in te hfeet. Usually, the suits had to be split to ease recovery of the wearer. Elastic bands at the neck and ankle would be an improvement, but it is presently felt that the suits offer little protection and a greater risk to the user while he is in the water.

27.   On arrival in San Carlos, the survivors were transferred to FORT AUSTIN. MY Chinese Laundry crew also left, having decided that two hits on the Laundry on the space of five days were enough. My intention had been to remain in San Carlos Water, but I was ordered to re-join the Carrier Group, with which I rendezvoused at 1400 on Wednesday 26 May.

28.   In conclusion, I am convinced that BROADSWORD and her consorts played a significant part in this phase of the campaign to liberate the Falkland Islands. Ships suffered badly, but despite this, and probably because of it, the landings were remarkably successful. Time will tell whether the sacrifices were necessary, but history shows that ship losses must be expected when operating close inshore without air superiority, and when the battle was fought on terms dictated by the enemy air force. I believe that the enemy’s teeth were drawn during these five days to the extent that he was unable subsequently to mount further air attacks on the same scale. I was proud of the spirit shown by my ships company, which was in the best traditions of the service.


W R Canning
Captain Royal Navy
Commanding officer

Original Document