Portsmouth survivors of HMS Sheffield back bid to name new Type 26 frigate after doomed Falkland ship

Picture: Malcolm Wells

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VETERANS who survived the sinking of HMS Sheffield in the Falklands War have backed calls to have a new warship named after the doomed destroyer.

The warship was sunk 36 years ago today when it was blasted by an Argentine Exocet missile.

HMS Sheffield burns shortly after being hit by an Argentine Exocet missile on May 4, 1982

HMS Sheffield burns shortly after being hit by an Argentine Exocet missile on May 4, 1982

A campaign has been ramping up in recent weeks to name one of the Royal Navy’s new City-class Type 26 frigates HMS Sheffield.

It has already been backed by businesses and civic leaders in the South Yorkshire namesake city, who are urging the government to support their plea.

Now veterans from Portsmouth, who served on board the former HMS Sheffield in the 1982 conflict, have thrown their weight behind the campaign.

Their backing comes as they prepare to come together today and on Sunday to pay their respects to those killed when the ship was attacked.

Chris Purcell who was onboard HMS Sheffield Picture: Ian Hargreaves (121851-07c)

Chris Purcell who was onboard HMS Sheffield Picture: Ian Hargreaves (121851-07c)

Chris Purcell was an Able Seaman when the Exocet missile blasted into the Type 42 destroyer, killing 20 of his colleagues and injuring 26 others.

The 58-year-old, of Adames Road, Fratton, said: ‘We would love to have one of the Type 26s named HMS Sheffield.

‘We have heard talk about it but have not seen any concepts. But I know we would all love it. It would mean a lot.’

Bob Mullen, 59, of North End was a radar operator on Sheffield when she was hit.

He said he backed the naming of a new vessel but said it had to be done ‘respectfully’.

‘It would be nice,’ he said. ‘But I know there are other people out there who would like to have their ships named.’

HMS Sheffield was attacked on May 4, 1982, with the missile hitting close to the warship’s galley.

The crew spent five hours trying to battle the flames but were eventually given the order to abandon ship.

Today sailors, friends and families will be paying their respects at 10.30am ahead of a main formal event on Sunday.

The weekend’s service will see veterans from the HMS Sheffield Association and Type 42 Association uniting together to hold a commemoration in Old Portsmouth.

Taking place every year at the memorial near the Square Tower, the retired sailors will be joined by friends, family and civic leaders from the city.

This year’s tribute will take place at 11.30am with a brief procession of sailors and standard bearers.

Mr Purcell, who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder following his experiences in the Falklands, said he would never forget his fallen comrades.

He said: ‘We go down every year. We feel so lucky to have survived.

‘But we always want to pay our respects to all the lads who didn’t survive.

‘We will do this for as long as we can.’

After the service, the survivors will be heading to the Portsmouth Railway Club where snacks and refreshment have been laid on.

This year has been one of turmoil for the ship’s company of Sheffield, who late last year were forced to defend their response to the vessel’s sinking.

A shock report by a board of inquiry claimed a number of errors had occurred in dealing with the tragedy.

The report said there were ‘critical deficiencies’ in the firefighting equipment of the Type 42 destroyer among other issues.

Its claims outraged survivors, who rallied to the defence of their crew.

Speaking to The News in October, Petty Office Guy ‘Tug’ Wilson, of Paulsgrove said: ‘The report is condemning the crew for being useless and untrained. That’s rubbish. There were heroes on that day who haven’t been mentioned.’