Falklands 1982

HMS Sheffield survivor recalls guilt he still feels 40 years after sinking

A Royal Navy veteran has described his feeling of guilt as a survivor of the HMS Sheffield sinking during the Falklands conflict.

Sheffield was struck by an Argentine missile on 4 May 1982 before sinking on 10 May.

Many of the 368 crew were saved but 20 were killed, with the ship now a protected war grave.

In 1982, Chris Purcell, then 22, served on the ship's galley and as a gunner on watch.

Sheffield was finishing off an exercise in the Mediterranean and was about to return home, when Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands.

Mr Purcell told Forces News: "We were uttering and muttering between us, saying 'well, they won't send us, we've just been away for six months, we're due home in four days'.

"However, maybe an hour or two later, the captain came over and said, 'we're going to proceed south'."

Enemy aircraft detected the vessel while she was on patrol south of the Falklands. Two Argentinian jets, armed with Exocet anti-ship missiles, moved in to attack.

Mr Purcell explained: "We looked out and we see this fireball coming towards us and I don't know what speed it was, but it was fast.

"When I look back, everything was like a still frame, slow motion. And basically, the next thing we heard was a thud, a bang, an explosion and the missile came in.

"We heard a broadcast 'brace, brace', like you hear on civilian airliners.

"It wasn't long before the missile came in that we were getting black smoke."

The city of Sheffield recently came together to mark the 40th anniversary of the ship's sinking.

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