Falklands 35 ~ Garry Whitford

D152859L Acting Leading Marine Engineering Mechanic (Electrical) Garry Whitford HMS Ardent 2 February 1959 ~ 21 May 1982 Age 23

The Whitford family hailed from the Blackburn area in Lancashire. Garry’s father John was the third child and eldest son of Daniel and Margaret Whitford. The couple went on to have a large family of nine children. John was born in the summer of 1926 and just a lad when World War 2 broke out.

John Whitford and Teresa Bell married in 1951, their eldest son Alan was born the following year. Garry Whitford was their youngest child and second son born 2 February 1959 just four years after his sister June.

Between his siblings Garry had five nieces, though one was born in 1983 after his death. At the time Garry died he lived at his parents’ house in Moorside Avenue in Blackburn, when on land that is.

Garry joined up at the age of 18 starting out life with the Royal Navy at HMS Devonport followed by HMS Lowestoft. He had only joined HMS Ardent Easter of 1982 and was soon on his way with his shipmates to the Falkland Islands.

HMS Ardent was a Type 21 frigate, she sailed from Devonport on 19 April 1982 and arrived at Ascension Island on 3 May 1982. On 9 May 1982 HMS Ardent was 700 miles south of Ascension where she closed to within 200 yards of the Canberra. She provided a gun power demonstration to the troops on board the SS Canberra.

21 May 1982 saw HMS Ardent take part in Operation Sutton, the British landings that day. Lying in Falkland Sound she was tasked with bombarding the airstrip at Goose Green. Ardent herself however came under attack by at least three waves of Argentine aircraft.

The Sea Cat anti-aircraft missiles failed to lock on to their attackers and she was outmanoeuvred. HMS Ardent still had control of her engines and steering and headed north but by this time the ship was virtually defenceless. As she headed to Port San Carlos she came under further attack. As she came to rest in the shallow waters of Grantham Sound the fires in the stern were out of control and the ship was listing.

Captain Alan West gave the order to abandon the ship, HMS Yarmouth ran alongside to pick up survivors. Afterwards the crew were transferred to the Canberra, though 22 men died that day, others were injured but most men survived. HMS Ardent sank at 6.30 the following day with only her foremast showing above the water. The ship’s motto was ‘Through Fire & Water’ and it certainly was.

Garry Whitford was sadly one of the young men who died that day. He is honoured in his home town by a bench at the local War Memorial, Belthorn Corner, Blackburn. The plaque reads ‘In Memory of Garry Whitford of the Royal Navy. Died 21 May 1982 Age 23 years whilst serving on HMS Ardent during the Falklands War.’ He is of course honoured on all the Falklands Memorials too.

Garry was single, he had signed up for nine years as an 18-year-old and was just five years into that service when he died. Garry’s father died ten years later in late 1992. His mother Theresa continued to lived in the family home.

We thank you for your service!

© Jay Morgan Hyrons

NB Each blog text is copyrighted. Each blog is individually researched and written by the author, unless otherwise stated as personal quotes. Every care is taken to ensure that the information in each blog is accurate though occasionally public records are incorrect. If you have any further information or would like to add to this story please contact the author…

Michael George Fellows MBE DSC BEM*

Michael George Fellows MBE DSC BEM*

Michael George Fellows was born in Littlehampton, Sussex on 12 February 1940. A man with an incredible story whom people know as Mick.

Mick was schooled in Littlehampton, his education continuing after he joined the Royal Navy a Boy Seaman 2nd class at HMS Vincent training establishment, Gosport, Hants in 1955.

Ten years after he joined the Royal Navy, Mick married Irene in 1965 and they went on to have three daughters, Susan, Debbie and Sarah.

In 1982 when the Falkland Islands were invaded Mick was the Fleet Chief Petty Officer Clearance Diver, second-in-command of the team (FCDT1). There had been a huge NATO exercise Springtrain in Gibraltar which ended 3 April 1982 but instead of heading home, the Fleet Clearance Diving Team 1 was put on immediate notice to deploy to the Falkland Islands.

Mick travelled ‘Down South’ by Hercules C140 aircraft from Brize Norton and then aboard RFA Sir Tristram. He recalls, ‘In Ascension Islands we set up firing ranges ashore and searched RFA and warships hulls for limpet mines after suspect enemy underwater operations against the fleet. We conducted underwater repairs to ships suffering damage after the long trip from Spring-train in Gibraltar without any previous maintenance period or docking.’

Mick’s thoughts about those 74 days ‘With 22 years previous bomb and mine disposal experience before the Falkland’s conflict the main operational difference was that I was on a ship and the enemy were trying to kill me and my team whilst working. I could not evacuate the ship’s non-essential personnel away ashore or to a safe distance from my bomb disposal work site as one normally did under normal operations.

It was a great concern that if I made a mistake, and took the wrong render safe action, I would not only kill myself and my assistants but three to four hundred of the ships company and embarked troops as well.

On the 21st May, “D” day, tasked to investigate an unexploded bomb onboard HMS Antrim. Helicopter from Sir Tristram to Antrim. As I was about to be lowered by wire onto the Antrim’s flight deck, she came under enemy aircraft attack. We banked hard to avoid the cannon fire and I was dragged through the freezing cold sea for what seemed like an hour but was only two minutes.

Investigate Argentinian dropped unexploded bomb in after heads. (toilets) After a ten-hour operation, fighting fire in adjacent bomb-damaged pyrotechnics magazine, whilst the ship was under almost constant air attack and manoeuvring widely, managed to stabilise the bomb, cut a hole in the deckhead (ceiling) above it, lift it on fabricated sheerlegs, transport it across the flight deck and deposit it over the ships side into deep water.

Late evening left Antrim and tasked to investigate two unexploded bombs on HMS Argonaut in San Carlos Waters. One bomb had penetrated through the ship’s hull into the forward explosive’s magazine. The second had entered the after-machinery space.

I tasked my two Chief Divers to patch the bomb entry hole in the ships side and remove the damaged munitions surrounding the unexploded bomb in the flooded magazine

On the following day the bomb in a machinery compartment was rendered safe by two Army Royal Engineer Bomb Disposal Warrant Officers.

On the 23rd HMS Antelope was hit by two unexploded bombs and the two REs tasked to investigate.

Whilst I was sat on the magazine hatch, containing the unexploded bomb, establishing a methodology for its removal, one of the bombs on Antelope exploded. One RE engineer lost his life and the other was badly wounded.

Working at anchor on a stable platform, with most of the ships company evacuated and after dark when not under possible air attack the task to remove the unexploded bomb took seven days to complete.

On the 4th June I led a combined team of Clearance Divers, SBS and REs behind enemy lines into Bluff Cove to investigate a second possible landing zone for amphibious vessels closer to Stanley.

8th June tasked to investigate bomb and fire damaged to anti-submarine Mk10 mortar bombs and Sea-cat missiles on HMS Plymouth. Two unexploding bombs had hit the port side of the ship, travelled through the mortar bomb magazine, damaging the weapons and leaving them in a very volatile safe, before transiting up to the upper-deck, hitting the mortar launching barrels and passing over the starboard ships side setting alight an N22 depth charge on the flight deck.

To reduce the number of casualties in the event of things going wrong, I mustered the whole of the ships company on the forecastle in their life jackets and survival suits then, over a six-hour period, insulated damaged fuse wires and exposed firing circuits in four bombs, collected spilled explosive filling and hoisted the damaged weapons out through the bomb entry hole by tackle. I then man-handled four cannon fire damaged Sea-cat missiles off of their launchers and lowered them gently over the ships side into deep water.

That evening the Sir Galahad and Sir Tristram, the ship that I travelled south on, were bombed by Argentinian aircraft in Fitzroy by Bluff Cove.

Last major operational task starting on the 17th was to survey the jetties, store houses and homes used by the Argentinian forces in Stanley and on Navy Point for explosive devices.

We sailed back to Ascension Islands on HMS Fearless, were lifted of by Cannock helicopter and flown back to the UK by VC10 aircraft.’

It is important to remember all of those who were on duty ‘Down South’ as part of the ‘Class of 82’. We are aware of land battles, air attacks and evacuations but there were others whose work meant keeping themselves in harm’s way such as those in the field hospitals and men such as Mick. Those who were putting their lives on the line and carried a huge responsibility to try and put right the wrongs of unexploded bombs without further endangering others.

Mick served in the Royal Navy for a total of 35 years and of those years 30 were spent as a Clearance Diver specialising in bomb and mine location and disposal. His views on the War ‘Our Prime Minister made the correct decision to re-take the Islands from the Argentinian aggressor.’

Since the Falklands War Mick has done wonderful work whilst still serving in the Royal Navy and afterward, he says ‘My last major task in the Royal Navy was, as the duty Diving Officer in HMS Vernon, to implement the rescue operation when the Herald of Free Enterprise ferry sank at Zeebrugge, Belgium in 1987 and then to lead the team that recovered the 191 victims from the black mud encased accommodation / machinery spaces.

I left the RN in 1990 and took a team to Somaliland, for almost 4 years, following their 17-year civil war to clear up the mine fields and unexploded relics of war that were killing the local population and aid workers.

This was followed by similar work in Eritrea, following their War of Independence, and other destinations throughout the World with my own company, Fellows International Limited, employing ex Royal Navy and Royal Engineer Bomb Disposal veterans.’

Mick has returned to the Falkland Islands twice since the War, once to inspect the Clearance Diving Teams facilities at navy Point and later as a civilian to offer his companies services in clearing up the Argentinian laid ground mines.

Mick would like to be remembered as ‘Someone who came from a working-class war-time background and made it to the top in the humanitarian munitions disposal discipline.’

It is interesting to me that when I ask people to contribute to the blog there is an air of humility still around a person’s achievements. Though he speaks about the tasks he performed during his career, Mick did not mention the accolades but there are a few.

Mick was the first man in naval history to defuse an unexploded bomb on board a warship at sea. Mick was also the first non-commissioned Officer in the Royal Navy to be awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. Following his return to the United Kingdom in 1982 he met Margaret Thatcher and was later invited to a victory dinner at 10 Downing Street.

His next award came when he was awarded the British Empire Medal for Gallantry for bomb and mine disposal and humanitarian work in Northern Ireland and Scotland.

When Mick mentions his last task during his Royal Naval Service career, he does not mention the MBE (Military Division) he received. Many of us remember the Zeebrugge Disaster but we must remember not just the victims but those who were involved in the aftermath. We think of ‘action men’ rescuing others from harm’s way but there are many unsavoury parts to a job such as this.

Mick also does not mention that as a civilian one goes into conflict and post warzones unarmed, nor that whilst in Somaliland he was at one time held hostage with some of his men.

Mick spent 16 years on the Parish Council in the village where he lives. He spent most of that time as Chairman effecting change for village life.

Fellows International was set up after Mick left the Royal Navy and he employs ex-military personnel. Mick gave up working full-time after his 70th birthday and you know what they say behind every great man…all credit to Irene for supporting her husband’s career. Mick finally retired at the age of 77.

At 81 years old now Mick still has a sharp mind and we wish him all the best with deepest thanks for all of his service!

© Jay Morgan Hyrons

NB Each blog text is copyrighted. Each blog is individually researched and written by the author, unless otherwise stated as personal quotes. Every care is taken to ensure that the information in each blog is accurate though occasionally public records are incorrect. If you have any further information or would like to add to this story please contact the author…

Falklands 35 ~ John F Stephens

John Frederick Stephens 63 Squadron RAF Regiment

John Frederick Stephens was born in Sheffield, the only son of Roy and Betty Stephens. His mother Betty was born in Great Ouseburn, Yorkshire, she was a typist in Sheffield by 1939 where she lived in Queen Victoria Rd with her family. Betty and Roy married in Sheffield in 1942. John was born on 2 May 1944 while World War 2 was still playing out. His father Roy was also in the Royal Air Force and retired a Squadron Leader. Roy Stephens received the MBE for his work on the Bloodhound Missiles, a British ramjet powered surface to air missile developed in the 1950’s.

John was known to his family as Phredd, a play on his middle name. To others he carries the nickname of JJ either from Jovial John which he says comes from his surly looks or Jakarta John from his time working in Indonesia. John was schooled at De La Salle College, Sheffield, he joined the Royal Air Force on 8 November 1961 as he wanted a trade. John did his ‘square bashing’ at Bridgenorth.

John travelled ‘Down South’ on the QE2 with 63 Squadron RAF Regiment and their Rapier Systems. He says ‘My basic trade in the RAF was a Radar Tech working on Airfield and Air Defence Radar Systems. Rapier came under our Trade Group, and I was detached to 63 in 1980 at Gutersloh in Germany after a 9-month Rapier Systems Course at SEE Arborfield. We were based at Port St Carlos where we took over protecting Bomb Alley from T Battery who were also stationed in Germany. When the war ended, we were moved to Stanley Airfield where we stayed until being sent back to Germany in October. We were the last of the “Fighting Troops” to be sent back home or to where we came from originally.’

His feelings during that time ‘Mixed, apprehension about what could happen, concerns about our front-line lads, happy when things went well, very upset about Bluff Cove, pleased when it was all over, but again not too happy about the casualties on both sides, just glad that the Islanders had their freedom back to live the lives they desired.’

His feelings about the War ‘Politicians failed again in their jobs in diplomacy and sent people out to do the fighting and clear their mess up for them. Although we are in the Military, we are the last that want a war to start. But we go, do our duty and the job we are paid to do without any questions.’

John served a total of 22 and a half years. Since he left the Forces, he has worked in Saudi, Indonesia and Oman. John is now retired and lives in Thailand.

He wishes to be remembered as a ‘Miserable grumpy old git with a weird sense of humour.’ I think we can do better than that…

We thank you for your service!

© Jay Morgan Hyrons

NB Each blog text is copyrighted. Each blog is individually researched and written by the author, unless otherwise stated as personal quotes. Every care is taken to ensure that the information in each blog is accurate though occasionally public records are incorrect. If you have any further information or would like to add to this story please contact the author…

Falklands 35 ~ Por Ng

Laundryman Por Ng Royal Fleet Auxiliary SS Atlantic Conveyor 11 June1926 ~ 25 May 1982 Age 55

The problem with records is that they can vary considerably and during my research I have even found a death record that was 10 years out! I know it is wrong because the Falklands War happened in 1982, of that we are sure. I think for this particular blog there is a question about whether this man was called Po or Por as I have two different names coming up for him. If you remember him leave a comment because sadly there is very little I can find about his life.

On 3April 1982 the United Nations passed Resolution 502. This demanded that Argentina withdraw their forces, ceased hostilities and sought a political solution. Apparently, Argentina was surprised at this as they had expected the UN to support them. Invasion, perhaps not…

After a meeting at the Ministry of Defence on 14 April 1982 the Atlantic Conveyor under the command of Captain Ian ‘Harry’ North was designated to carry a number of Harriers and helicopters ‘Down South’.

By 16 April 1982 the Atlantic Conveyor was in Devonport being prepared for her task. She departed for her long trip to the South Atlantic on 25 April 1982 and arrived in Sierra Leone on 2 May 1982 whereby she was refuelled and replenished. By 5 May she had arrived at Ascension Island, the Harriers de-bagged by the time she arrived in the Maritime Exclusion Zone on 19 May.

Sailor Ng was a laundryman on the SS Atlantic Conveyor when she was hit on 25 May 1982. After successful landings on 21 May 1982, the Atlantic Conveyor was instructed to move to San Carlos Water on 25 May under cover of darkness. The plan was to disembark helicopters, landing craft and stores at first light. Apparently, Captain North said to his crew ‘Well boys its May 25th, something spectacular should happen today’. Famous last words…

There is some difference of opinion as to whether one or two missies hit the ship but multiple sources confirm it was two, both hitting C deck. Three men died on board and nine in the water making a total of 12 lives lost.

Sadly, Laundryman Por Ng was one of those men. He died just 17 days short of his 56th birthday.

We thank you for your service!

© Jay Morgan Hyrons

NB Each blog text is copyrighted. Each blog is individually researched and written by the author, unless otherwise stated as personal quotes. Every care is taken to ensure that the information in each blog is accurate though occasionally public records are incorrect. If you have any further information or would like to add to this story please contact the author…

Falklands 35 ~ Shui Kam Yeung

Seaman Shui Kam Yeung Royal Fleet Auxiliary Sir Tristram 27 July 1938 ~ 8 June 1982 Age 43

Altogether there were eight Chinese crewmen killed in the Falklands War, two of them died on board the Sir Tristram.

Shui Kam Yeung was from Cheung Chan Island, New Territories, Hong Kong. During the Falklands War Shui Kam was a seaman on board the RFA Sir Tristram. As technically RFA are civilian crew they are called Seaman or Sailor.

Sir Tristram is a Landing Ship Logistics of the Round Table class; she was sister ship to the RFA Sir Galahad. At the time of the Falklands War, she was under the command of Captain Robin Green.

On 2 April 1982 Sir Tristram was diverted from Belize to Ascension Island to join the Amphibious Landing Group for Operation Corporate. She left Ascension Island on 29 April 1982 in the company of RFA ships, Sir Galahad, Sir Geraint, Sir Lancelot, Sir Percival & Plumleaf, as well as Royal Naval ships HMS Fearless, HMS Intrepid & HMS Antelope.

Sir Tristram entered the TEZ on the 8 May 1982 arriving in San Carlos Water on 21 May 1982 with the rest of the Amphibious Landing Force. Often the attack on 8 June 1982 is misquoted as happening at Bluff Cove. The ship was anchored alongside her sistership Sir Galahad at Port Pleasant, Fitzroy Creek which is just south of Bluff Cove.

During an Argentinian Sky Hawk attack, Sir Tristram was hit by three bombs. One bomb entered the 25 tank starboard and passed through without detonation. Another bomb passed across the tank deck and entered the 25 tank port. This bomb partially detonated which blew out a large plate on the port quarter and also caused damage to the forward bulkhead. A third bomb exploded under 25 and 26 tanks which ruptured the ships hull. It is thought that this third bomb exacerbated the effects of the other two bombs. With fires breaking out under pallets of ammunition the order was given to abandon ship.

Sir Tristram’s crew were evacuated to HMS Fearless and HMS Intrepid.

Everything that a Royal Naval vessel uses comes to it by special delivery from the Royal Fleet Auxiliary and Merchant Navy. Vital supplies along an 8000-mile-long supply chain throughout the War and the months afterwards. Vital help with the same threat, putting their lives on the line, in the line of duty.

What may be less known is that John Nott’s Defence White paper 1981 had ordered cuts and the Royal Fleet Auxiliary was to be hit hard from those cuts which would include 1000 redundancies. The first of those redundancies started arriving in the post from 2 April 1982. Oh, what irony…

It shows the calibre of the seamen who were part of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary because not only did each and every one of them report back to their ships, but also men who were on leave and some who were retired were soon calling RFA HQ demanding to take part in Britain’s War with Argentina. The call for the sea is strong once it is in your blood.

Amazingly on 8 June 1982 only two crew members were killed. One of them was Sailor Shui Kam Yeung who died during the attacks.

We thank you for your service!

© Jay Morgan Hyrons

NB Each blog text is copyrighted. Each blog is individually researched and written by the author, unless otherwise stated as personal quotes. Every care is taken to ensure that the information in each blog is accurate though occasionally public records are incorrect. If you have any further information or would like to add to this story please contact the author…

Falklands 35 ~ William Simpson Fraser

William Simpson Fraser Merchant Navy RFA Fort Grange 10 September 1923 ~ 30 June 1982 Age 58

Writing this blog is not an easy one but I found this man’s story whilst researching and wonder how many people know about him.

William Simpson Fraser was born in Shettleston, Glasgow on 10 September 1923. I have no details of his nickname or much about him but he certainly deserves a huge shout out.

William joined the Royal Navy during the World War Two, he was just four years older than my father who was also a matelot and his story has touched me deeply.  William earned his first medals during his time with the RN Beachhead commandos. Still during wartime, he married his sweetheart Gladys in early 1945 in Bideford, Devon. I believe they had two children a girl and a boy.

After his discharge from the Royal Navy William joined the Merchant Navy in 1947 and continued a long service with them.

During the Falklands War William was serving on the RFA Fort Grange under the command of Captain D G M Averill CBE. She departed from Devonport on 14 May 1982 after completing her refit one month early. RFA Fort Grange entered the Total Exclusion Zone on 3 June 1982 and spent eight days replenishing 25 vessels of the Task Force. Part of that included entering San Carlos water to resupply both the beachhead and ships giving 24 hours refuelling to helicopters.

It appears that William’s heart gave out and he died on 30 June 1982 just weeks short of his 59th birthday. This was William’s second war in the service of his country and yet he is not included on the roll of honour and certainly he may be classed as a ‘Forgotten Falklands Casualty’, though I am starting to wonder how many William’s there were.

The roll of honour thing is a tough one when it comes to additions as ‘terms and conditions apply’. It is forgotten that although those in the Merchant Navy were technically civilians many had served in the Royal Navy previously and had given a lot to our country.

The RFA Fort Grange remained on duty ‘Down South’ until she sailed home in September 1982 arriving back in Devonport on 3 October. William died during service as much as any other and should be remembered by us accordingly with gratitude.

We thank you for your service!

© Jay Morgan Hyrons

NB Each blog text is copyrighted. Each blog is individually researched and written by the author, unless otherwise stated as personal quotes. Every care is taken to ensure that the information in each blog is accurate though occasionally public records are incorrect. If you have any further information or would like to add to this story please contact the author…

Falklands 35 ~James Hughes

Mechanic James Hughes Merchant Navy Atlantic Conveyor 29 May 1934 ~ 25 May 1982 Age 47

James Hughes was born in Killyleagh, Co Down, Northern Ireland on 29 May 1934. He was one of three boys and one girl born to John and Ena Hughes. The children were named James, Karl, Joseph & Janet.

Meanwhile in England, Portsmouth to be exact, Valerie Evelyn Rosine Hayward was born as the eldest daughter to Leslie Hayward and Lily Palmer. Leslie and Lily had married in 1935 and had a son also called Leslie born the following year in 1936. Tragedy struck the family when Leslie fell into the fountain in Victoria Park and drowned, he was just six years old.

Valerie was then left as the oldest of three girls, with sisters Mary and Dorothy.

James Hughes grew up and was schooled in Killyleagh and though he did not particularly excel at sport he did have an ambition to join the services. James was known as Jim; he joined the Royal Navy on 12 February 1957 and served until 16 January 1969.

Two years into his service he and Val married on 4 April 1959 in Gosport. The couple went on to have five children all girls. Debbie their eldest was born on 6 January 1960 in Blakes Maternity Home. She was followed closely by Tina, Mandy, Karen and Lucene, by 1969 the Hughes family was complete. All the children were born in Hampshire apart from Mandy who was born in Gibraltar on 8 August 1962.

When Jim left the Navy, he continued his service in the Merchant Navy where he stayed until the call to go ‘Down South’. Jim was a Chief Petty Officer 2nd class, Mechanic on the Atlantic Conveyor. Tragedy had already struck twice in the family, young Leslie first and then Jim’s brother Karl also drowned. When Jim was killed aboard the Atlantic Conveyor and his body not recovered, it was something his mother Ena never recovered from.

The year before Jim died Lucene was lucky enough to spend six months with her mother and father when he was working on the container ship Act 6 travelling to America, Australia, New Zealand and many other places. Lucene and her mother got off in America before flying home and Jim joined them at Christmas time that year. Dave Hawkins who died on the Atlantic Conveyor was a steward in the Officer’s Mess at that time on the same ship and Lucene remembers him giving her left over biscuits as treats. Special memories indeed.

Jim died just 4 days short of his 48th birthday and left behind a widow and his girls the youngest Lucene was just 13 years old. During the time he was away she says she felt ‘Panic as every time a ship was hit you worried then of course after the news it was sadness.’

Afterwards she says ‘The war was needed to give the islanders their independence. I am proud my dad served for his country.’

Lucene says about Jim, ‘Dad was a kind, caring, friendly person. He lived for his job and loved being at sea. He never said a bad word about anyone. He was a loving husband and father. He always put his family first.’

Lucene received the Elizabeth Cross in 2012 in a ceremony at Pangbourne. She has twins who are now almost 23 years old and lives in Northern Ireland not far from Belfast. In the last eight years sadly, she has buried two of her sisters and her mother.

In November 2019 Lucene visited the Falkland Islands for the first time. For many it is that visit that brings us full circle.

Jim is remembered on the family grave in Killyleagh where his mother is buried and also on the Killyleagh War Memorial.

All together he spent 25 years at sea.

We thank you for your service Jim!

© Jay Morgan Hyrons

NB Each blog text is copyrighted. Each blog is individually researched and written by the author, unless otherwise stated as personal quotes. Every care is taken to ensure that the information in each blog is accurate though occasionally public records are incorrect. If you have any further information or would like to add to this story please contact the author…

Falklands 35 ~Stephen John Godfrey Sykes

Corporal 24256419 Stephen John Godfrey Sykes 22 SAS Regiment 10 April 1957~19 May 1982 Age 25

The Sykes family had a long association with Huddersfield where Steve was born. Steve’s grandfather Arthur lived in Huddersfield though it appears he travelled for work prior to World War 2 breaking out. Steve’s father John Clifford Sykes was his eldest son born in Huddersfield on 4 April 1924. Arthur had married Marie Atkinson the year before in 1923 in Thanet, Kent.

John Clifford Sykes married Brenda Marie Godfrey in St Albans in 1947 it seems two generations of Sykes men had married not long after the first two World Wars. Stephen John Godfrey Sykes was born in Huddersfield on 10 April 1957 and as far as I can ascertain he was one of three children but the couples only son.

It appears that Steve joined the British Army in the mid 70’s. Though the Royal Signals would remain Steve’s parent Unit he joined the SAS signals in February 1978. While serving with 264 Signal Squadron SAS Steve was one of the unlucky men who died when the Sea King crashed on 19 May 1982 as it was cross decking from HMS Hermes to HMS Invincible.

Steve is described as ‘A good bloke who would have gone far’ sadly a phrase we hear too often with our fallen.

Tony Shaw says ‘Steve passed the SAS Signals Probation course in 1978 after serving in 604 Signal Troop which is where I first met him. He was a qualified military parachutist and had also recently qualified as a Class 1 radio telegraphist. While with 264 (SAS) Signal Squadron Steve saw operational service in Northern Ireland attached to G Squadron, 22 SAS Regiment. I am proud to have known Steve and have him as a friend. ‘

We thank you for your service!

© Jay Morgan Hyrons

NB Each blog text is copyrighted. Each blog is individually researched and written by the author, unless otherwise stated as personal quotes. Every care is taken to ensure that the information in each blog is accurate though occasionally public records are incorrect. If you have any further information or would like to add to this story please contact the author…

Falklands 35 ~ Patrick O’Connor

Staff Sergeant 24048957 Patrick O’Connor 22 SAS Regiment 4 May 1949 ~ 19 May 1982 Age 33

Patrick O’Connor was born in Southern Ireland on 4 May 1949. Originally he joined the Irish Guards and went on to join the SAS in 1966.

Known as Paddy his service included South Arabia/Aden, Northern Ireland, Belize, Dhofar, Norway & the United States of America. Paddy was a specialist signaller, free-fall parachutist and a Norwegian linguist. When the Falklands were invaded Paddy was recalled from the United States as he was trained in the use of the Stinger surface to air missile. Paddy was 24 Troop G Squadron SAS and was Acting Warrant Officer 2.

On 19 May 1982 Paddy was one of a group of SAS men who were cross decking from HMS Hermes to HMS Invincible when tragedy struck. It was the biggest single loss for the SAS since World War 2.

Paddy is remembered on all the Falklands Memorials as well as at St Martin’s Church, Hereford alongside his SAS comrades.

We thank you for your service!

© Jay Morgan Hyrons

NB Each blog text is copyrighted. Each blog is individually researched and written by the author, unless otherwise stated as personal quotes. Every care is taken to ensure that the information in each blog is accurate though occasionally public records are incorrect. If you have any further information or would like to add to this story please contact the author…

Falklands 35 ~ Douglas Frank McCormack

Corporal 24195687 Douglas Frank McCormack Royal Signals (attached 22 SAS Regiment) 14 June 1955 ~ 19 May 1982 Age 26

Douglas Frank McCormack was born on 14 June 1955 in Leith, Midlothian, a Parish of Edinburgh, Scotland and was known as Dougie.

At this time there is very little information available for Dougie excepting that he first married in 1973 in the Worcester area and I can find no record of any children from that marriage.

Dougie married for a second time to Karin Busch in 1977 the marriage took place in Germany.

Dougie was at the time of the Falklands War Flight Lieutenant Hawkins signaller; he was attached to 22 SAS Regiment.

The Sea King helicopter was used in the Falklands as a troop carrier & to move equipment. Another significant role was deployment in an anti-submarine role and the insertion and extraction of Special Forces. Each Sea King was capable of carrying up to 27 troops over a distance of anything up to 400 miles.

On 19 May 1982 tragedy struck as the Sea King crashed into the sea whilst trying to land troops on HMS Invincible. 22 men died that day of which five were Royal Signals. Douglas was sadly one of those men. He died just one month short of his 27th Birthday which would have been coincidently the day the War ended.

Douglas is remembered on all the usual Falklands memorials but also with a plaque at St Martins Church in Hereford along with the other SAS men who died that day.

Courtesy of the Royal Signals Museum this Obituary printed in the Royal Signals magazine the Wire printed in 1982

McCormack-Cpl Douglas McCormack. It is with deep regret that 19 Inf Bde HQ & Sig Sqn announces the death of Cpl Douglas McCormack on 19 May as a result of operations in the South Atlantic. Cpl McCormack was born in Edinburgh on 14 June 1955 and enlisted in the Corps on 14 August 1970. He served with the Army Apprentices College Harrogate, 6Q2 Sig Tp, 4 Armoured Div, 22 Sig Regt and 7 Sig Regt. He was, at the time of his death, serving with 603(TACP) FAC and had been with the squadron since 4 February 1981. We extend our deepest sympathy to Karin, his widow, on her tragic loss.

We thank you for your service Dougie!

© Jay Morgan Hyrons

NB Each blog text is copyrighted. Each blog is individually researched and written by the author, unless otherwise stated as personal quotes. Every care is taken to ensure that the information in each blog is accurate though occasionally public records are incorrect. If you have any further information or would like to add to this story please contact the author…