THE FALKLANDS CAMPAIGN
HMS BROADSWORD & THE BOUNCING BOMB
Argentinean Skyhawk jets roared low
across the water towards the frigate, HMS Broadsword, a few miles
off the Falklands.
A bomb from one of them bounced off
the waves, tore into the warship's side... ripped its way up
through the flight deck.... smashed the front of a Lynx helicopter
- then fell harmlessly over the side without exploding !
HMS Broadsword had led a
charmed life in the thick of the action after the British landings
at San Carlos and Lady Luck was still smiling on her.
Incredibly, no one was injured when
the bomb struck and the ship's engineers were able to weld patches
over the damage and keep the frigate in fighting trim for the rest
of the campaign in the South Atlantic.
It was May 25th and it was the day
luck ran out for the destroyer, HMS Coventry, with which
Broadsword had teamed up for operations just off the islands.
Only minutes after the attack on
Broadsword, the Skyhawks turned their attention on Coventry and
bombs left the destroyer crippled and sinking rapidly. Broadsword
picked up about 170 of the survivors.
Broadsword had sailed from
Devonport on March 17th for a Mediterranean exercise and was
scheduled to sail on to ports in the Persian Gulf, India and,
finally, to Singapore.
She left Gibraltar on April 5th and
was dramatically recalled and ordered to join the Falklands Task
Force. Her main role until May 21st when the British landed at San
Carlos was as "goal-keeper" for the carrier, HMS Hermes.
(Goal-Keeper = HMS Broadsword's armament, included Sea Wolf
anti-missile stayed close to Hermes to protect her from air
attack, when the threat of attack was low Broadsword was within
one mile, but when the threat was high they got as close as 200
To vary the role assigned to
Broadsword's ship's company Admiral Woodward gave the ship other
jobs. She was teamed up with Coventry to be her "goal-keeper" when
the destroyer went in close to land to bombard short targets and
the frigate was involved in some hush-hush operations.
Broadsword, Commanded during the
campaign by Capt. Bill Canning, was among the warships chosen to
provide air defence for the D-Day landings at San Carlos.
The plan was to force the
Argentinean pilots to fly through the warships' anti-aircraft fire
before they could attack the ships putting men and stores ashore.
Air-raids started about half an
hour after sunrise on May 21st and carried on until about half an
hour before sunset.
In addition to its Sea Wolf
missiles, which claimed one plane on the first day and a second in
"bomb alley", Broadsword had a "secret" weapon. This was an upper
deck small arms battery, a mixed crew of sailors and Royal
Marines, blasting away at Argentinean planes with a 40mm Bofors
gun, machine-guns and rifles. The team, led by R.M. Sergeant Bill
Leslie, shot down two planes and damaged two more.
Sgt. Leslie was awarded the DSM. Some of the upper deck
sharp-shooters received minor injuries when Broadsword was
strafed. Seaman "Oscar" Wild, who joined Broadsword for his first
experience at sea, was hit by shrapnel, but escaped with torn
clothing and a few bruises.
The day after the British landings
saw Broadsword and Coventry north-west of the Falklands working
together as a missile trap for Argentinean planes. She was back in
"bomb Alley" on May 23rd and outside with Coventry on May 24th.
May 25th saw the two warships off
Pebble Island and Coventry shot down three aircraft with her Sea
Dart missiles. Another raid was coming in, but, instead of heading
towards Falkland Sound, the planes turned towards Coventry and
The bomb that hit Broadsword struck
aft on the starboard side after bouncing off the sea. It struck
about halfway between the waterline and the flight deck and tore a
gapping hole about 14 ft. by 8 ft. in the flight deck.
It tore through a room and across a
passageway and, after blasting through the flight deck, ripped off
the front of the Lynx helicopter. Miraculously it failed to
detonate. Initial reports on board the ship was that the bomb had
gone straight through the bottom of the ship, the next report said
it was in the ship and had lodged somewhere. When it found that
the bomb had bounced over the side the crew could not believe
After thinking that they now had a
charmed life, everyone's attention was drawn to Coventry who had
been hit three times and sank within about twenty minutes.
immediately launched all boats, called for helicopters from
Falkland Sound, and started to pick up survivors. Some men were in
life rafts and some had jumped into the water. Over 170 survivors
were taken aboard Broadsword, when then steamed into San Carlos
Water to transfer them to a ship leaving for the carrier group
that night. As they left Broadsword in a landing craft, the
Coventry survivors raised three cheers in gratitude for their
Broadsword's engineers found there
was no serious damage from the bomb. The flight deck could not be
used until repaired, but a second Lynx in the hanger had escaped
damage. The after end of the damaged aircraft was later sent home
for repairs and further service.
Air attacks were not the only
problem for the Task Force. Broadsword maintained constant
vigilance for possible submarine attack and the ship's electronic
eyes and ears had to listen round the clock for any signs of