The Vessel And Crew That Saved 27 Lives

HMS Argyll and her crew have won the 2019 'Hero Overseas (Unit)' award at The Sun Military Awards, also known as the Millies.

The crew of HMS Argyll saved all members aboard a cargo ship after its containers and cars caught fire off the coast of France in March 2019.

Royal Navy personnel responded to a mayday from the 28,000-tonne Italian merchant ship, Grande America, in the Bay of Biscay, around 150 miles southwest of Brest.

Flames engulfed the merchant ship with her 27 crew still on board. In rough seas, in the middle of the night, the crew sent out a mayday and abandoned ship.

"A very big concern of mine was committing my sea boat into the water and my own ship's company into those sea conditions," Commander Toby Shaughnessy told Forces News in March 2019.

"It was clear it was going to be the only way we were going to recover the lifeboat and the 27 crew members."

Rescuing a member of the cargo ship (Picture: Royal Navy).

HMS Argyll launched her sea boat.

"As soon as the lifeboat got deployed you could see it was in a bit of difficulty. It lost forward propulsion," Leading Seaman David Groves told Forces News last March.

The sea boat nudged the damaged lifeboat, holding it in place against the side of HMS Argyll while sailors and Royal Marines pulled the crew to safety.

"The rope was quite thick and because it was wet and windy, the skin was burning off lads' arms," said Lance Corporal Woody Woodmass, speaking in March 2019.

Marine Finn Kenevan added: "We were lifting people out of that boat every few minutes."

The entire mission took 8 hours, completed when the 27th man from Grande America was finally rescued.

For their efforts, the crew of HMS Argyll won the 'Hero Overseas - Unit' award at The Sun Military Awards.

Cover image: HMS Argyll seaboat pushing the lifeboat (Picture: Royal Navy).

Watch extended highlights of the Millies on Wednesday 12 February at 18:30 UK time on Forces TV, and at 19:10 UK time on BFBS Extra.