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Anniversary of Black Tuesday - loss of HMS Coventry and Atlantic Conveyor

HMS Coventry heels to port after being hit by three bombs
25 May 2021
These are the final moments of HMS Coventry, sunk this day in May 1982 – the last Royal Navy warship lost to enemy action.

Argentine forces chose their national day to make a supreme effort against the naval forces disgorging men and material at San Carlos.

To catch the incoming jets before they reached the more sheltered waters of Falkland Sound and San Carlos Water, HMS Broadsword and HMS Coventry were dispatched to waters off Pebble Island.

The tactic worked. Coventry’s Sea Dart missiles accounted for at least two attackers. But late in the afternoon, the Argentines singled out the duo for a concerted attack.

Skimming low over the South Atlantic to avoid detection, Skyhawk jets divided their attention between Broadsword and Coventry. Neither British ship could get a missile lock on the aircraft. Type 22 frigate Broadsword was hit by a thousand pounder which ricocheted off the water, bounced up through her flight deck, wrecked her Lynx and continued into the ocean.

She was still in the fight and about to take down the Skyhawks heading for Coventry with her Seawolf – only for the destroyer to cross the line of sight as she manoeuvred desperately to avoid attack. It left the Type 42 a virtual sitting duck.

One Argentine pilot hit Coventry. His bombs tore the heart out of the Type 42 destroyer which immediately began to heel over. The only surprise was not that she sank quickly, but that so many men survived.

They did more than their best continuously for at least four weeks. It was an unforgettable privilege to have led such brave men in action

Captain David Hart Dyke, HMS Coventry

Twenty Coventry sailors were lost; their surviving shipmates took to life rafts and sang Always Look on the Bright Side of Life while awaiting rescue.

The destroyer’s Commanding Officer Captain David Hart Dyke was picked up by HMS Broadsword where he mulled over the loss of his men and his ship. “You don’t get over that,” he recalled. But he took solace and pride in the achievements of his crew. “They did more than their best continuously for at least four weeks. It was an unforgettable privilege to have led such brave men in action.”

Worse was to come. Two Super Étendards armed with Exocet missiles made for the heart of the Royal Navy task force, hoping to take out a carrier.

They failed – but the weapons locked on to transporter Atlantic Conveyor.

The merchantman was turned, in the words of one survivor, into an “effing great ball of fire”.

Twelve men were killed and, crucially for the campaign to liberate the Falklands, Chinook and Wessex helicopters were incinerated. 

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