Copyright Heroes Past and Present

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Heroes Past & Present

David was on leave from the Royal Navy and was visiting family in Manchester. He was transferring bases after his leave so all his kit had been sent to his new base.

“I remember I went out for a night out and the next morning I was awoken by a knock on the door – 2 policemen stood there – “Are you David Gemmel?” – “Yeah” – “You’re being recalled to your ship. You’ve got to go down to Portsmouth. You’re going to the Falklands.” And that was the first I had heard of the Falklands was these 2 cops knocking on my door!

“I ended up back at Portsmouth on my ship on the Hermes with no kit whatsoever – all the way with my kit in the back of my mate’s car!”

“All the way down there I don’t think anyone thought it would come to blows, as it were until we got all the way down there and Sheffield got hit by an Exocet. I think that is when we thought – a bit of reality here – type of thing. This is real.....You just wanted to get on with it then.”

“I wouldn’t say it was scary because you just didn’t think about it. You just got on with it. There were lots of hairy moments when you would go to action stations because an Exocet had been launched at you and you would be there on the deck with an aircraft next to you “burning and turning” as we called it, full of bombs and guns, waiting to take off and you’d be thinking “What happens if an Exocet hits?” You just get on with it, basically. You carry on doing your job and hope it didn’t.”

“Exocets lock onto the biggest target that they can see. The Atlantic Conveyor was a big container ship – with the big containers you put on the back of lorries. I think that had a couple of Chinooks on it and a couple of Harriers that were coming down. That was quite near to us and I think the Exocet must have seen that as a big target and locked onto that and hit that. I remember seeing that. It was just off to the side of us burning away after it was hit.”

“Our helicopters were going over to it taking the injured off and bringing them back to our ship and taking them out. I remember people really burnt and we were carrying stretchers and that sort of thing. That was quite a moment!”

“We had all the SAS lads on the ship. It was quite an interesting experience having these mystical figures queuing with us to get their breakfast!”

David Gemmel

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Andrew was in the Royal Navy.  “In April 1982 we had just left Gibraltar and we were off to North Africa. The Captain came up and said that Argentina had invaded the Falklands and that we were stripping the other ships that were going back to their home bases and we were going – that was it.

You thought you were invincible, you know.”

“It really started around the loss of the Sheffield. We were 1 of 3 – there were 3 sister ships – the Sheffield, Coventry and Glasgow – and strangely enough our main radar went down that morning so Sheffield took our position while we repaired it.”

HMS Sheffield was hit by an Exocet resulting in massive fires. 20 men lost their lives and 26 were severely injured.

Andrew Rowland