Falklands 40: Royal Navy veteran describes apocalyptic moment HMS Antelope was destroyed

A VETERAN sailor has described the apocalyptic moment ‘all hell broke loose’ as his ship was torn in two by a cataclysmic explosion.

By Tom Cotterill
Wednesday, 25th May 2022, 11:06 am

HMS Antelope was blown to pieces 40 years ago while taking part in the action to liberate the Falklands.

The Type 21 frigate was in San Carlos, supporting the beach landings of Marines and soldiers who were tasked with fighting across the invaded British colony and defeating the Argentine troops.

Read More

Read More
Royal Navy veteran recalls his ship HMS Coventry sinking, 40 years on from Argen...

Sign up to our daily newsletter

HMS Antelope pictured exploding 40 years ago in San Carlos Bay

Now, to mark the 40th anniversary of the ship’s destruction, a sailor has spoken out about the moment Antelope was blown apart.

Joe Morton, now 64, was in Antelope’s operations room when she was subjected to ferocious air attacks on May 23 in ‘Bomb Alley’ - the notorious stretch of San Carlos Bay.

‘The first waves of attacks from Argentine Skyhawks swept into Bomb Alley in the early evening, giving it all day had with 20mm cannons. In return every ship and gun returned fire.

‘Mayhem ensued for a good hour with several attacks up and down the alley as the Skyhawks picked their targets for the bomb load they carried.’

Joe Morton, was on HMS Antelope when it was destroyed

HMS Antelope - built in Southampton - was hit twice but the bombs failed to explode, being released too low. Through out the night, experts attempted to defuse one of the bombs but it detonated on May 24, fatally damaging the ship in a huge explosion.

The massive blast killed bomb disposal expert Staff Sergeant Jim Prescott and seriously injured one of his colleagues.

At the time, Joe was in the aircraft hangar, when he was suddenly flung backwards by the enormous blast.

HMS Antelope pictured sinking after a bomb detonated inside her.

‘All hell broke loose as the bomb went up, with Antelope lighting up the night sky and at the same time breaking her back,’ he said.

‘I soon discovered aluminium melts quickly and, having been thrown out of the hangar by the force of the explosion, I got rained on with molten lumps of the stuff.

‘My biggest fear was the old girl turning turtle and trapping her crew. She had started to list and there was a massive hole midship. There was a blaze and the fire-main was breached in the explosion.’

Joe helped move a badly injured sailor up to the deck when the order was shouted to abandon ship.

HMS Antelope sinks under the waves with a fire raging inside her melting superstructure

He said helicopters appeared from the surrounding ships, despite the dangers of approaching the crippled frigate, and began lifting people from the deck.

Joe added he was contemplating jumping overboard when a boat from HMS Argonaut came alongside to pick up survivors. Explosions continued throughout the night as the ship burned.

HMS Antelope now rests about 80ft below sea level in San Carlos Bay.

The ship is still commemorated by the navy, with the ship’s company of patrol vessel HMS Forth having previously laid wreaths at the vessel’s watery grave. .

Looking back now, he said: ‘Those images will stay with me forever. I remember the shipmates we lost down south. But after all that happened, it was still worth it.

‘It’s still a free country. If you need to fight for democracy, then so be it.’