HMS ARROW IN ACTION
4.5-inch gun boomed. Smoke plumed away from the menacing barrel.
Several miles away there was a flash of an explosion on Port Stanley
It was May 1st and the Type 21 frigate had fired the first British
shell at the Falkland Islands. Soon she was to find herself under
Arrow had been on a big exercise in
the Med. when she was ordered to sail south for the Falklands. One
of her main tasks, apart from escorting the carriers HMS Hermes
and HMS Invincible, was to bombard shore targets in support
of military operations.
May 1st saw her a few miles off Port
Stanley in company with her sister-ship HMS Alacrity, and
the County-class destroyer, HMS Glamorgan.
Arrow was the first ship to fire at
the Falklands. They had fired their allocated rounds and were
withdrawing back out to sea when they saw an Argentinean aircraft
shot down by Argentinean guns over Port Stanley. They could see
tracer and other anti-aircraft fire hitting the plane and it
plummeted like a white ball into the sea. As they continued
withdrawing, three Mirages attacked the group of ships. They flew
across Glamorgan firing their guns. Arrow replied with their 20mm
Oerlikon. One of the planes hit Arrow's superstructure around the
funnel with nine cannon shells. There was no serious damage to the
ship, but an AB. was hit by shrapnel in the chest
AB Ian Britnell, the first British
casualty of the war, was treated onboard Arrow before being
airlifted to Hermes. That air attack did nothing to impair Arrow's
fighting capability, but it had a dramatic effect on the crew.
Everyone worked together before the attack, but it seemed to many
that after the attack morale went up. Arrow was battle-hardened.
Arrow went back in close to land for
another bombardment that night and after that her bombardments and
that of other Task Force ships were at night wherever possible
because of the threat of air attacks during daylight.
Three days later, on May 4th, the
world was shocked to hear that the Type 42 destroyer, HMS
Sheffield, had been hit by an Exocet missile while on radar
picket duty with the battle-group.
Arrow, only a few miles from the stricken warship, was ordered to
speed to her rescue as flames began to engulf Sheffield. For several
hours, Arrow remained secured alongside Sheffield providing fire
pumps, hoses, breathing apparatus and other equipment for what was
to be a losing battle against the flames.
Fortunately, conditions were calm
with a slight swell and little wind. Men in Arrow played hoses on to
Sheffield and Arrow's fire man was plugged into Sheffield because
the destroyer had lost all power - and thus her fire main.
Food, drink and sweets were passed to
Sheffield's men during those long hours of fire-fighting. Two badly
burned men were taken aboard the frigate for treatment until they
could be airlifted to Hermes.
Arrow took onboard 224 men from
Sheffield - her own ship's company was about 180 - and all the
survivors were given dry clothing, a hot meal and a bunk or a
mattress for the night.
Arrow sustained some structural
damage whilst alongside Sheffield when the swell thrust the two
Between May 4th and May 21st, which
was D-Day for the British landings in the Falklands, Arrow was
involved in a number of special operations and in operations to
provide gunfire support for military operations ashore. She fired
over 1,000 rounds in this important role.
There was disbelief at first aboard Arrow when it was learned that
her sister-ship HMS Ardent, had been sunk on May 21st.
After a second sister-ship, HMS Antelope, was hit on May
23rd, Arrow was herself ordered into "Bomb Alley".
As Arrow steamed towards "Bomb Alley"
the bridge watch-keepers noted a brilliant flash way ahead over the
horizon. This they later learned was the massive explosion which
spelt the end for the Antelope.
They arrived early on May 24th and
were attacked twice during the course of the day. Bombs were dropped
by one plane missing the stern by about 20 yards. The ship's company
used every available weapon onboard against the attacking aircraft.
Arrow remained in bomb alley for 14 days with her ship's company at
action stations every day before dawn to well after dusk. At night,
she slipped out to bombard shore targets or to escort ships moving
in and out of Falkland Sound.
Her shells, fired with great
accuracy, supported 2 Para's attack on Goose Green and Darwin. She
finally left bomb alley on June 7th and went back to join the
carrier group. She continued bombardments until the surrender on
Arrow sailed back into Devonport on
July 7th and the RAF's crack Red Arrow's roared overhead in tribute
to their namesake.