HMS Andromeda (the ship that picked us up as we parachuted into the sea earlier in the war) sits alongside the SS Canberra at the end of hostilities.
Standing on the deck of yet another Naval ship as we transfer slowly towards joining the submarine HMS Onyx for our SF mission, we’re once again attacked by Argentinian jets.
There were many attacks before this one, and there were many more after, and too many making their mark and destroying or damaging the British fleet, while at anchor sheltering in the bays of the Falkland Islands way back in 1982.
Noise and smoke, noise and smoke…black humour getting thrown about by sailors, Marines, squaddies and anyone else standing answering the call to arms during such attacks.
As devastating as the Argentinian pilots were, flying low to evade radar and missiles, they were taking small arms fire as well as larger calibre Bofors type guns too.
There’s no other word but bravery from all sides. But no doubt about it, these pilots took bravery to another level in my view.
With their low level flying and combined speed, many of the 500lb and 1000lb bombs hitting our ships were not going off, as the timers required more height and less speed. However, the ones that were doing the damage were having very telling results.
All of a sudden we watched an Argentinian pilot bang out of his jet having been hit. Under the canopy for a few seconds and into the sea. Immediately a crew from our ship being the closest, was sent to pick him up.
He was injured or wounded and stretcher borne, as he was passed along and brought up on deck. He looked shocked or scared, maybe both. He must be wondering what reception he’s about to get after his low level attack.
Well, given the devastation around the sound where ships are almost next to one another sheltering, but sadly not making a great job of it…the next few seconds would be something in war (and I’ve seen almost 40 years of war around the world) that would live with me forever.
As he was passed up on deck, I think with a broken leg, a small group of the ships senior crew were there to meet him. They stood to attention and saluted him, hats on. Lads from all arms began to walk forward and clap, the clapping gathered pace…applause from everywhere. A small group of us moved forward in the moment…and we applauded to.
A rare moment of humanity at it’s finest, as he was then moved off below deck. The British Combined Services at their very best. Even today as I reminisce, I’m proud and honoured to observe what happened in the moment.
An enemy who just tried to sink our ships and kill us only minutes before, is now being shown the ultimate respect by his enemy…because he is seen as a hero.
Now, on with the war.