Portsmouth rallies to pay tribute to Falklands heroes killed during HMS Sheffield sinking
SURVIVORS of the sinking of a Portsmouth warship in the Falklands War reunited to pay tribute to comrades killed in the tragedy.
Dozens of veterans, family and friends joined a service marking the sinking of HMS Sheffield.
Twenty of the ship’s company were killed when an Argentine Exocet missile hit the 4,100-tonne destroyer, on May 4, 1982.
Portsmouth veteran Chris Purcell was a 22-year-old Able Seaman on Sheffield and narrowly avoiding being killed in the blast. He had left the galley just 10 minutes before the missile slammed into it.
‘I didn’t know it at the time but all the people I had just been talking to in the galley 10 minutes earlier had been killed,’ said the 56-year-old.
He still struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder and has flash backs of the attack.
‘There’s something that triggers it everyday. I appreciate surviving but I still feel guilty that I did,’ he added.
‘Days like today are my way of easing that guilt and trying to move on with my life.’
The service was held at the Falklands Memorial, by the Square Tower in Old Portsmouth on Sunday.
Backed by the Royal British Legion, veterans’ associations and members of Portsmouth Royal Marine Cadet Corps and Sea Cadet Corps, it saw wreaths being laid. Reverend Paul Miles-Knight led the tributes with readings being made by Brizz Miles-Knight.
Veterans and standard bearers then did a march by to pay their respects.
Chief Petty Officer Alan ‘Sharkey’ Ward was one of those to attend the day and fought in the conflict.
He was serving aboard the hospital ship HMS Herald.
Speaking of those killed in the war, the 54-year-old, of Portsmouth, said: ‘They are the heroes. We’re not the heroes – we’re just lucky, lucky to have survived and lucky to be here.’
Lord mayor Frank Jonas also attended the day and was moved by the service.
He said: ‘Portsmouth is very good at remembering those that have put themselves in danger for the country.
‘In the Falklands we lost a lot of good men from Pompey. So it’s right we come together to remember their sacrifice.’
HMS Sheffield was hit while carrying out a scouting mission off Port Stanley.
It was the first British ship to be lost in enemy action since the Second World War, and the first of four UK ships to be sunk in the Falklands.