Friday, 25 May 2012

Independence Day

Thirty years ago today I was just off the Falklands Islands on a ship which was under attack from Argentine missiles. We turned into the threat as Exocet missiles were approaching, the ship’s company were ordered to ‘hit the deck’ and take cover. One of the missiles passed us and hit the Atlantic Conveyor two miles away. A few minutes later another, low, fast contact was detected and we fired three salvoes of Sea Dart missiles at it in quick succession whilst it closed.

I had just left the Main Communications Office when the order to ‘hit the deck’ was given. When you’re lying on the deck covering your head trying to protect yourself from a missile that you’re never going to see coming, a million and one thoughts are going through your head - I was still clutching the telegram that I had just picked up saying that my son was born two days ago. At the time, the thought most at the front of my mind was “will I get to get to see my new baby.”

After the attack, when the ship’s company started recovering from the recumbent positions in which they had ‘hit the deck’ it was realised that it was the speed of the attack that was so striking. Gradually life returned to normal, heart beats slowed down, voices came down an octave, and everything happened a little more slowly. Everyone felt relieved – each one of us a little older, and a little greyer.

It was several minutes before many of us were able to speak. My first words were, “I’ve got a new son,” but I don’t think anyone heard. They were all too busy trying to get their own thoughts in order.

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