Help Needed - Loss of HMS Sheffield


Lantern Swinger
Re: Help Needed - Loss of the HMS Sheffield

Its all here.

Correction to Ninja Stoker's comment about 965 radar/SCOT interference problems. It was the UAA1 ESM equipment (NOT the radar) that was blanked out in I band (9.3 GHZ) by the use of SCOT satcom. Thus there was no warning available from SHEFFIELD's own ESM of the approach of the Super Etendards or the Exocet head until the last few seconds when SCOT was "scrambled" - ie switched off.

Also the BOI found conclusively that the missile did not explode.

May I suggest that you would do well to tread cautiously in this work as there are still many survivors around who were very badly affected by the loss of SHEFFIELD.


War Hero


War Hero
Re: Help Needed - Loss of the HMS Sheffield

It 'was' the SATCOM which blanked out/interfered with the ESM kit as someone aboard the SHEFFIELD was making a DSSS (Defence Secure Speech System) call at the time.

I can remember seeing the early washup signals on my ship at the time (Penelope) but honestly cannot remember much from them other than what I have stated above and anyway, it was classified SECRET at the time.

Good luck with your quest.
Re: Help Needed - Loss of the HMS Sheffield

Ninja_Stoker said:
One of the most factually accurate books I read on the conflict, certainly with regard the course of Naval events available for release at the time is "The Royal Navy and the Falklands War" by David Brown:
Thanks. Yeah, I need to get hold of this book this week. Coincidentally, only found out about it last night and that it covered the loss.

Many years later, whilst attending RN Advanced Firefighting courses, the "lessons learned" lectures conducted by the boffins, it was always claimed the missile warhead never exploded & the blaze was caused by the propellant - a claim always strongly refuted by Sam Salt & anyone I ever spoke to who was on Sheffield at the time.
That is something I am particularly interested in. The inquiry states that the warhead did not explode, yet I have come across references (but no direct sources, for example from Captain Salt) to testify to it having exploded.

Just a brief scan of the comprehensive MoD BOI reports (a good find) suggests that anecdotal evidence on a forum 28 years later (jeez 28?!) will produce little by way of extra concrete information, nor much by way of surprises for inclusion in a Masters dissertation.
Well I was hoping to contact servicemen who were on HMS Sheffield; those who were on HMS Invincible and dealt with the radar monitoring of aircraft; anyone with expertise on the Type 42, or those who have an interest in the loss and have questions of their own, primarily. But not only. It is important and interesting to find out what the general public and other members of the RN think about the matter from discussing aspects of the loss that are potentially of a controversial nature.

2 Badge Mango
Doug Laybourne had a disscussion site back a few years ago that actually had a lengthy statement from Nick Batho, the AAWO at the time, on the background to the Exocet hit. I saved a copy somewhere and will post it when I find it.
Not been able to contact Doug Laybourne, unfortunately.
I would be very grateful if you could let me have a copy.

A small point which could possibly be construed as nitpicking, and aimed directly at the OP. In the production of your learned dissertation, could you please desist from using the definite article in front of "HMS".
Never realised. Noted, thanks.

Blue Villain
Can't realy offer much,
My ship had swapped places with the Sheff due to a defect early doors on the 4th May. We took up the N/W sector with Glasgow in the middle.
I was on watch in the ops room at the time of the attack. All I can say is confusion rained that day.
Periscopes, Torpedo tracks, you name it it was all supposedly going on.
I thought it was the esm gear that scott blocked out that day not the 965.
Hence no early warning on the Sheff.
I also advise you read Sharkey Wards book he offers some interesting thoughts on the day re Sea Harrier deployment.
Yes, it seems from the inquiry and other personal accounts that the submarine threat was considered to be greater than the air threat.

Not heard of that book. Will have to buy it. Thanks.

Admiral Sandy Woodward's "One Hundred Days" provides an interesting, balanced take on what happened.
Will pick up that too. Thanks.

I am really grateful for everyone's replies. Been really helpful.

If you have any questions or want to discuss anything with me, please feel free to e-mail on the student account: [email protected].


Book Reviewer
Re: Help Needed - Loss of the HMS Sheffield

Sea Harrier Over the Falklands is the book by Sharky Ward - it should be on my bookshelf but I can't find it at the moment (damn kids!) to give you the ISBN


War Hero
Re: Help Needed - Loss of the HMS Sheffield

Sparkers27 said:
Ninja_Stoker said:
Many years later, whilst attending RN Advanced Firefighting courses, the "lessons learned" lectures conducted by the boffins, it was always claimed the missile warhead never exploded & the blaze was caused by the propellant - a claim always strongly refuted by Sam Salt & anyone I ever spoke to who was on Sheffield at the time.
That is something I am particularly interested in. The inquiry states that the warhead did not explode, yet I have come across references (but no direct sources, for example from Captain Salt) to testify to it having exploded.

Whilst certainly not an ordnance expert, like many I've seen several videos of Exocet trial hits on decommissioned warships, particularly in the role of teaching damage control & the impact area seems to result in a gaping entry point, almost splitting the ship in two in the cases of more modern ships (WWII ships obviously had much thicker steel on the hull & in some cases armour plate), rather than a punched entry hole. As some have already stated on this thread and elsewhere, I'm inclined to think that if it did explode, it was possibly only partial as the weapon 'cooked-off' after impact in the ensuing blaze.


War Hero
being in the arse end of a 21 during the attack I can only say i was greatly Inspired by the Courage of the crew of the Sheffield in the way they performed during and after the event, as it happened so early on in the conflict is a credit to the morale fibre of all the Ships involved throughout the War


War Hero
Just anecdotal here and as mentioned in an earlier post, some 28 years have bimbled past, but I joined Illustrious at the tail end of '83. The PO(EW) there was " 'B' H" and in '82 was a killick EW on the Sheff.

He told me that before jumping off the Sheff, he wrote down the parameters of the Exocet missile head radar onto the back of his hand as they had gone Down South not knowing the radar parameters. So I can understand the entry H5 @ 1402 55 sec from here that the paramters were being looked up at the time.
God the EW documentation was shocking then. I am sure (hope) it's better now.


Although serving at the time, I did not go to the Falklands but my best oppo was a CMEA(P) on the Sheffield.

He survived the attack and spent many months on rehab in a burns unit, eventually returning to Gosport, facially disfigured, and bad burns to both hands. We hosted his return in his local in Gosport, and listened to his anecdotes. He was on watch at the time that the Exocet struck, and was 100% certain that the warhead did not explode. The damage was caused by the propellant.

I have his name and current whereabouts if you wish to pm me.


Lantern Swinger
This is Nick Batho's statement on the SHEFFIELD attack as posted on the Save Our Shipmates website around the time the BoI papers were released to the public in 2006:



Gentlemen. My name is Nick Batho and I have just become aware of this forum. In view of the considerable interest shown by many contributers in what I did or did not do, where I was at any given time and my reasons for my actions, I thought I should immediately post this message for you all to read. I have withheld nothing and what follows is the absolute truth, clouded only by the passing of time.

First some background information. Before bring sent down south, SHEFFIELD was returning home from a Gulf deployment. The Operational Effectiveness of the ship at the end of the deployment was not particularly high. This is because it was impossible to get decent AAW training on deployment due to the lack of suitable assets and skills were not well honed. It was over 6 months since the ship had been to Portland. During the passage south, some training was achieved, but once on station there was virtually no training against live targets due to the need to deploy ships and aircraft on operational missions. We were particularly forbidden to lock up on our own Sea Harriers due to the fact that the Argentines had their own Type 42's'

The Captain, Sam Salt, had joined mid-deployment and had not been onboard during the pre-deployment work-up. As a submariner he had only very limited knowledge of AAW. The XO had been present for the work-up, but he was a rotary wing aviator and so he too had little or no knowledge of how to fight a Type 42 from the Ops Room. I mention this because in Defence Watches it would have been normal to have the Co and the XO working opposite each other in the Ops room as the Command. This did not happen in SHEFFIELD, I think, but cannot be sure, this is because the background of these 2 officers would not have fitted them for this task. What it meant was that we had one less warfare officer in the chain of Command than might have been expected. As the Ops Officer, with only 1 year in as a LtCdr, I felt this lack of top cover in the Ops Room and in our planning and operational discussions very much.

The Threat. At the time of the attack the ship was in receipt of a mass of highly classified intelligence information regarding the capability of the Argentines and the weapons which they had available. It was clearly stated in one of these signals that, although they had some air launched Exocet missiles, they had NOT been able to integrate them with the Super E launch platform. Clearly we all know now that this was wrong - but at the time it was something which I noted and took seriously. The air threat against ships was stated to be iron bombs. The aiming system for these bombs was a visual sight and so for there to be a threat, the pilots had to be able to see their target.

The Attack. On the day in question the TF was at Air Threat Warning Yellow. I cannot now recall the exact definition of this state but it was one down from the top. As I recall, we had been at ATW Yellow for several days without any sign of Argentine Aircraft or any indication of an attack. SHEFFIELD had been at Defence watches for the same length of time, but without the watch and watch about routine of CO/XO in the Ops Room which was certainly the case in ships I served in later in my career. I say without any sign of an attack, but there had been numerous scares/false alarms about the AGAVE radar (codename I think was Condor). This was because the characteristics of Condor were very similar to the characteristics of the radar in the Sea Harrier. Each time Condor had been called, it subsequently transpired to be the Sea Harrier. This naturally led us all to be very circumspect when Condor was mentioned. I would like at this stage to mention something about Chaff. Part of the well practised response to an incoming missile threat was to deploy both Chaff C (for Confusion - fired by the 4.5'') and then Chaff D (for distraction fired by the 3'' rockets). A factor in the decision to fire Chaff D which has not been mentioned was that we only had (I think) about 48 rockets onboard. At 16 rockets per pattern this means we only had enough rockets for 3 full patterns of D. I know with hindsight this seem ridiculous and wrong (which it was) but I am sure there was an inbuilt reluctance to deploy Chaff D until we were sure that a missile was on its way, so as not to waste our small number of missiles.

Back to the attack. Before I went on watch (at 1200 - might have been 1230) I visited the bridge. Apart from gaining a general update from the OOW, I did this specifically to check on the cloud base. This is because, based on the intelligence, we were facing a visually aimed iron bomb threat and the cloud base is a critical factor in the vulnerability which we faced. I cannot now remember what the cloud base (NOT the cloud cover) was but I do know that estimating it is something which it is easy for the more inexperienced to get wrong. At sometime during my watch I asked the OOW on Openline to check the cloud base for me. He came back with a figure which was significantly different to the base which I had seen before going on watch. This concerned me because, if he was correct there was now a significant change in the potential threat which we faced. A high base meant we were vulnerable whereas a low base meant that we could not be attacked since the pilots could not see the target. The OOW concerned was one of the less experienced and so I decided, taking into consideration the long period without any other activity, that due to the importance in my mind of this estimate, that I would visit the bridge to see for myself. Remember that intelligence had told us to expect iron bombs and not exocet. Iron bombs can only be launched when the attack aircraft is on top of its target. This meant that we would have plenty of warning of an attack should one develop. This thinking (about warning time) also influenced my decision to visit the bridge. Once on the bridge I spent a short time looking at the cloud base and conversing with the OOW. All this time I could keep in touch with what was happening in the Ops Room since the OOW was on Open line. I should add that at Defence watches it was quite normal for the PWO and/or the AAW to leave the Ops Room to visit the MCO to read signal traffic -particularly the highly classsified signals. At the time I did not regard it as wrong to visit the bridge to check on the cloud base. Clearly now, with hindsight, I wish that I had thought differently and believed the OOW, but I cannot change what happened, however much I wish I could. I would though like to reject absolutely the suggestion by some of your correspondents that I was skiving off because the CO was in his cabin and I thought I could 'get away with it'. The truth of the matter is as I have explained. After discussing things with the bridge team for a while, I left to go back to the Ops Room. There are 2 ladders which come out on 2 deck next to the Ops Room, one on each side of the ship. One of these ladders comes down the other side of a watertight door in the Port passageway and requires you to go through it to get into the Ops Room, the other comes out in the Stbd passageway the same side of the door as the Ops Room and lets you get into the Ops Room without opening a Watertight Door. As we were at 2Y the doors were closed, normally at 3X they would have been open. I decided to go down the ladder on the Starboard side which would avoid me opening a W/T door to get to the Ops Room. Going down this way took me close to my cabin on the SAME level as the Wardroom and I did go into my cabin to look at a Top Secret Pack to check the details of the aiming system for the Iron bombs used by the Argentines. This information was not readily available in the Ops Room as it was contained in a TS Codeword signal which could not be left around for anyone to read. Having checked on the data in the pack - which required me to open my safe, I went through the wardroom and the pantry so that I could get to the ladder on the Starboard side, thus avoiding the need to open a W/T door. On going through the Wardroom, I meet a small group of stewards. They asked me how things were going and, aware of how isolated they must have felt not being privvy to any of the operational information, I took a few moments to talk to them and to try and reassure tham that they were safe and that all was well. It may well be that I was given a cup of coffee during this converstaion but the coffee was NOT my reason for being in the W/R. It was simply on my route to the Ops Room. Whilst I was having this converstaion I heard a Main Broadcast pipe (AAWO OPs Room). I immediately shot down the ladder outside the aft pantry door and into the Ops Room. The PWO met me and said 'Condor' had been reported. I think, but cannot now be sure, he meant this had been reported by another unit. I went to my seat, put on my headphones and immediately asked the Fighter Controller if he had any CAP on the reported bearing. He answered in the negative. I then turned my attention to my display and could see a mass of autotrack 'eggs' and possibly one or two close or closing confirmed tracks. I spoke to the APR(L) who said that the trackers were doing their best to establish confirmed tracks. There was a frenzy of activity on the display and I was aware of the Missile Gun Director Blind standing Seadart 'to' but he was not able to achieve a lock onto any target with the 909 radar. I did not deploy Chaff D since I could not be sure what was happening. I am sure I was influenced in this decision by the acute shortage of Chaff rockets I mention above and by the fact that I was expecting only iron bomb attacks. The next thing I was aware of was a 'thump' hitting the ship. Not a large explosion - more like a heavy bump during an alongside. After the hit, I think the EWD reported that he had picked up Exocet missile head parameters. Throughout this short period I did not hear or make any external transmissions on my headset. I cannot be sure but I would have expected to be on AAWC UHF with the other pickets although they were at extreme UHF range. I cannot comment on any exchanges on other circuits.

As you all know the SCOT was transmitting just before the attack and since it used the same part of the frequency spectrum as the Agave radar we would have been blind to Agave and exocet head during transmission. Permission to transmit on Scot would have been given taking into account the factors I have already mentioned -ie several days at ATW Yellow/Defence watches without incident. Clearly we had to use it at some stage to pick up our signal traffic and could not keep SCOT silent for ever. I do not know from my own knowledge, but I would have expected the PWO to order 'strangle SCOT' as soon as he was aware of the Condor report. The fact that we subsequently picked up the missile head would support this.

Turning to my own thoughts on all this. As one of your correspondents stated, my name has been banded about on television and in the papers (and on this site) as the man responsible for the loss of SHEFFIELD. That has been very hard for me to live with and even more hard for my family. There are few who have to carry the burden of the loss of 20 men with them for ever. Which of you reading this would like to attend a reunion feeling the way I do? I would like to emphasise that there is no question of any other members of the ships company being "asleep" or in any way being slack or lazy in the carrying out of their duties. Everyone did their absolute best in very very difficult circumstances.
As another of your correspondents said - time heals very very slowly and of course all that you are doing, with which I have no argument, only slows the process down even more - particularly for the berieved. I have never before committed my side of events to paper/e-mail. I would be the first to admit that I made a serious error of judgement and I should have stayed in the Ops Room throughout my watch. The only thing I would say is that there is no certainty that if I had, the outcome would have been different. Nevertheless, I apologise without reservation for my mistakes and hope that by reading this you can at least come to a better understanding of what I did, why I did it and sense the humility and sadness I feel about the events which happened so far away, so long ago.

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