On May 25th 1982, HMS Coventry and HMS Broadsword took up position to the north-west of Falkland Sound to act as a decoy to draw Argentinian aircraft away from the landings at San Carlos Bay. As the Argentinians attacked, Coventry knocked out two A-4 Skyhawks with her Sea Dart SAMs before she was struck by three bombs just above the water line on the port side. One of the bombs exploded beneath the computer room, destroying it and the nearby operations room and incapacitating almost all the senior officers.
Another weapon entered the Forward Engine Room, exploding beneath the Junior Ratings Dining Room. Having sustained critical damage, the vessel began listing to port. The blast from the second bomb breached the bulkhead between the forward and aft engine rooms, exposing the largest open space in the ship to uncontrollable flooding. Within 20 minutes Coventry had been abandoned and not long after she completely capsized before sinking.
Nineteen of her crew were lost and a further thirty injured while 170 crewmembers were rescued by Broadsword. With a typically British sense of humour, her crew sang “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” from Monty Python’s Life of Brian while they waited to be rescued.
On the same day the merchant ship, S.S. Atlantic Conveyor was hit by two AM39 air launched Exocet missiles fired by a pair of Armada Argentina (Argentine Navy) Dassault Super Étendard jet strike-fighters. The Argentine goal was to sink the British carrier HMS Hermes but British defences managed to decoy them away. Unfortunately, the missiles then locked on to Atlantic Conveyor striking it on the port quarter killing twelve men including the ship’s master, Captain Ian North, who was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC). The ship was the first British merchant vessel lost to enemy action since World War II.
The sinking of the Atlantic Conveyor was a major blow to the British operation to retake the islands. The vessel was carrying a number of Chinook heavylift helicopters that were a key part of the British plan to move troops across the islands. Only one aircraft survived the attack meaning that British troops had to make the now legendary “yomp”across the islands – marching with full kit – which undoubtedly increased the length of the war. It could have been a lot worse however. The vessel had unloaded a contingent of RAF Harrier GR.3s earlier in the week which were now providing close air support for British troops.
May 25th 1982 was the Royal Navy’s lowest point in the war.