SHIPMATES who dodged death when a 1,000lb bomb slammed into their vessel – but failed to blow up – have celebrated their lucky escape.
Dozens of sailors from HMS Glasgow joined a reunion event at the Ship Anson pub in The Hard, Portsea, to mark the 36th anniversary of their ship being bombed.
The Type 42 destroyer was the first to arrive in the exclusion zone in the Falklands when war was declared but was taken out of action by the Argentinian raid on May 12, 1982. The ship had been busy bombarding Argentine shore positions when the air attack came. She was hit by a bomb that passed straight through the engine and didn’t explode.
Warrant Officer Bill Armitage, 60, of Farlington, was in Glasgow’s operations room when the four Argentinian fighter jets came in.
He described how ship’s Sea Dart missile system failed: ‘It was almost textbook, we locked the jets up with the Sea Dart, pressed the switch – then it all went quiet, nothing happened.
‘The jets were coming towards us and that was it.’
Glasgow’s escort ship, HMS Brilliant, used its weapons to shoot down two of the jets, with a third crashing into the sea trying to dodge the fire.
The crew attempted to blast the remainder down with machine guns.
Things were so desperate they even attempted to use the vessel’s 4.5in gun to shoot the jets down – until Brilliant told them the shells were distracting their missile systems.
Graeme ‘Slinger’ Wood, 59, was manning a 20mm machine gun on Glasgow’s starboard side and watched the bomb fall.
The dad-of-two, from Stubbington, said: ‘We were there and spotted these little specks come over the horizon and realised this was it, it was real.
‘Although we did training in Portland and on the Ascension Islands it can never really prepare you for it. Just days before, on May 4, HMS Sheffield was hit. That really brought it home to everyone.
‘I saw the bomb fall and heard this big bang. I remember waiting for the second bang and the explosion. By the grace of God it never came.’
Despite the severe damage, Glasgow returned to her air defence station within three days of being hit and stayed there until a relief ship arrived. On her journey home to Portsmouth, the engines and propellers had to be controlled manually and constant repairs were carried out.
Bill added: ‘Days like today are special. It proves the bonding we went through 36 years ago is alive today. We call it “lucky to be alive day”.’