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The sinking of Falklands warship HMS Sheffield


The catalogue of errors and failings that ended in the sinking of a Royal Navy destroyer during the Falklands war has been disclosed after being covered up for 35 years. Marked “Secret – UK Eyes Bravo”, the full, uncensored report shows:

- Some members of the crew were “bored and a little frustrated by inactivity” and the ship was “not fully prepared” for an attack.
- The anti-air warfare officer had left the ship’s operations room and was having a coffee in the wardroom when the Argentinian navy launched the attack, while his assistant had left “to visit the heads” (relieve himself).
- The radar on board the ship that could have detected incoming Super Étendard fighter aircraft had been blanked out by a transmission being made to another vessel.
- When a nearby ship, HMS Glasgow, did spot the approaching aircraft, the principal warfare officer in the Sheffield’s ops room failed to react, “partly through inexperience, but more importantly from inadequacy”.
- The anti-air warfare officer was recalled to the ops room, but did not believe the Sheffield was within range of Argentina’s Super Étendard aircraft that carried the missiles.
- When the incoming missiles came into view, officers on the bridge were “mesmerised” by the sight and did not broadcast a warning to the ship’s company.

. . nobody called the captain. His ship did not go to “action stations”, did not fire off any clouds of chaff in an attempt to deflect the Exocets, and did not turn towards the incoming missiles in order to narrow the Sheffield’s profile. Moreover, some of the ship’s weapons were unloaded and unmanned, and no attempt was made to shoot down the incoming missiles . .

Clive Ponting, then a senior civil servant in the MoD, said the loss of the Sheffield was too great a catastrophe for the full facts to be made public. “Most people were clear that there wasn’t going to be public blame for mistakes that had been made,” Ponting said.

'The National Archives said the document . . was only available to view in person at its headquarters in Kew, London.’

Operation Corporate (Falkland Conflict): Board of Inquiry into the loss of HMS Sheffield; report

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