trepidation, and pride in ship's crew
was Tuesday May 25, 1982, Argentina's national
day, when the enemy would want to make its
presence felt. A day heavy with trepidation .
Captain David Hart-Dyke,
commander of HMS Coventry, remembers thinking
that if they survived this day, they would
survive the war.
warning, four Argentinian Skyhawks screamed
out from behind land cover, and seconds
later at least three 1000lb bombs tore
through the decks of Coventry.
`The Argentinians were losing
the air battle and we knew that this was going to
be their last push,' he recalled.
Ironically, because of
Coventry's role of protecting the British Task
Force carriers and to draw enemy fire, he also
knew that the odds were stacked against them.
The Portsmouth-based Type 42
destroyer was specially fitted to listen to the
Argentinians and had Spanish interpreters on
From his command position in
the operations room, Captain Hart-Dyke had been
able to hear President Galtieri and Foreign
Minister Costa Mendez talking. `I could also hear
the pilots in the air talking to each other and
conversations about who they were going for.'
But nothing could have fully
prepared him for the mayhem that would ensue
later that afternoon when his ship became caught
up in the eye of the high explosive storm.
Without warning, four Argentinian
Skyhawks screamed out from behind land cover, and
seconds later at least three 1000lb bombs tore
through the decks of Coventry, destroying her
computer room and damage control nerve centres.
Fires started, she took a heavy
list to port and sank within 15 minutes with a
loss of 19 of the ships' company.
HMS Coventry sank
in 15 minutes with the loss of 19 lives
Captain Hart-Dyke said: `The
main decision makers had been taken out. The heat
and light was intense. The flash gear I wore was
burned off me. People's clothes had caught on
remember being given a brandy on RFA Fort
Austin, having just been fished out of
the water, when I heard the news that a
ship had been sunk on the BBC World
`I made my way up to the deck
and I was amazed at what I saw. There were
sailors, many young, who were just acting without
orders to organise the evacuation - just going
about their duty in a very calm and orderly
fashion. It's something I'll never forget. I felt
Captain Hart-Dyke was the last
to leave the ship. He literally walked down her
side to the water, and it is believed his life
raft was punctured by the super structure as
Coventry rolled over.
`Eventually the air battle
stopped and it was getting dark and I was picked
up by a helicopter,' he recalled. `I can remember
being given a brandy on RFA Fort Austin, having
just been fished out of the water, when I heard
the news that a ship had been sunk on the BBC
`I didn't believe it - although
I was the commanding officer of that ship which
had just been sunk.'
Captain Hart-Dyke, now aged 57,
admitted that it took him at least two years to
get over the trauma of the Falklands war. He
remained with the Royal Navy for a further eight
years and was involved in a warfare advisory
role, largely responsible for evaluating lessons
learned in the South Atlantic.
And, in an almost cathartic
sense, he lectured at university seminars and
wrote about battle stress and war and its effect
`You have to believe that out
of a disaster comes good. There are some people
who are strengthened by it and end up doing
remarkable things, but then there are others that
fall apart and cannot come to terms with their
As a navigation specialist and
veteran of previous marine conflicts, he still
maintains that no other navy in the world could
have achieved what the British did in the South
He had headed for the Falklands
convinced it was a war with no prospects of a
clear victory. Afterwards, with hindsight, he
believes it may be remembered as one of the
greatest maritime operations in our time.
Captain David Hart-Dyke left
the Royal Navy in 1990 and now works as a chief
executive of a City of London livery company. He
lives in Hambledon with his wife Diana, and the
couple have two daughters, Miranda, 24, and
who lived and died on ship
The men and women of the Royal
Navy have traditional Chinese laundry skills to
thank for keeping their white and blue uniforms
The Royal Navy recruits
civilians from Hong Kong to run laundry shops
But the reward of running a
floating business - which earns them enough to
retire after several years - means they run the
same risks as the crew.
The first grave dug in the
Falklands was a temporary resting place for Kyo
Ben Kwo - laundryman in HMS Coventry - who was
one of two Chinese laundry workers who died.