HMS Coventry Sunk
The 25th of May 1982 AD
The government of Margaret Thatcher was taken unawares by the Argentine operation which captured the Falklands . An urgent response was required, thus a task force was hastily arranged to retake the islands. Some 2000 merchant seamen were involved in the task force, on various ships requisitioned by the Ministry of Defence: among them was the roll-on-roll-off ship Atlantic Conveyor.
Such was the speed with which the task force departed that no defence systems were fitted to the Atlantic Conveyor. Cover for such ships was to be provided by vessels like HMS Coventry, a type-42 destroyer equipped to fight off aerial attack.
By May 25 1982 the Atlantic Conveyor had offloaded the Harrier aircraft it was carrying, but still held six Wessex helicopters and five Chinooks destined for the attack on Port Stanley, making her an attractive target. HMS Coventry at the same time was being used in Falkland Sound to draw fire away from vessels in San Carlos Bay. Fortune abandoned both ships that day: Atlantic Conveyor was hit by two Exocet air-to-ship missiles, with the loss of 12 of her crew. Burnt out she nevertheless remained afloat, but it was deemed expedient to scuttle her. Coventry was sunk by two bombs, losing 19 of her crew – another died a year later because of wounds sustained in the attack.
The Falklands War was brief , and demonstrated both the professionalism of Britain’s armed forces and the importance of our merchant navy in times of war. But casualties were inevitable, and on May 25 31 sailors died on ships representing those two different elements of the task force.
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