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Peter Elrick: They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old: Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning We will remember them.

WO1. Piet van Zyl (TAS Ret): In 4 hours time 35 years ago we lost 16 friends, may they sleep well. For the 173 survivors we are gratefull for the grace of Almighty. I have tears in my eyes & heart. We salute all,and the ship, lest we forget. Lofty e-mail me.

DK Pillay: What a tragedy to lose shipmates and friends. What a fantastic crew. Rip

Charl Starke: 35 yrs ... seems like the other day

John Richardson: when on TFB I took 8mm cine doing RASwith PK and PS, tried to get on PK

Garth Coetzer: Was at school with Robyn Myers. A nicer guy you couldn't meet. I think he took a lot of the flack for this tragic incident at the time. Events clearer now from this report. We will indeed remember those who lost their lives in the early hours of that morning.

Cherylynn Wium: As always on Sunday 18th I will be remembering those men lost at sea and giving thanks for those brave men who made it back. Never to be forgotten!

Cherylynn Wium: 37 years. RIP never to be forgotten

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HMS Sheffield (D80) was a 4100 ton Type 42 destroyer, launched on 10th June 1971 and commissioned on 16th February 1975. She was the second Royal navy ship to bear this name.

 

An explosion during construction killed two workers, and the damaged section of hull was replaced with another section from an identical design, but in a twist of fate this ship (Hercules) was being built for the Argentine Navy.

 

HMS Sheffield was part of task Force 317 sent to the Falklands during the Falklands War. On the 4th May 1982 she was struck by an Exocet air-launched missile fired from an Argentinian Navy Super Etendard aircraft. She sank on the 10th May 1982.

 

On the morning of the 4th may HMS Sheffield was at defence readiness, and one of 3 Type 42 Destroyers operating as a Anti-Submarine Patrol for the Task Force. The other two Type 42 destroyers were Glasgow and Coventry. The Argentinian type 209 Submarine, which was the model originally slated to replace the South African Navy Daphne class submarines, was deemed to be a serious threat.

 

HMS Glasgow (D88), one of the other Type 42 destroyers, detected two Argentinian Super-Etendard aircraft over 70km away and issued the warning code word “Handbrake” to all ships in the Task Force. In another twist of fate, HMS Sheffield had previously assessed the Exocet threat as over-rated, and assessed this new threat as another false alarm.

 

As a result HMS Sheffield did not go to Action Stations, launch chaff or conduct any other readiness actions. Captain James Salt was not informed of the reported threat.

 

Communications with HMS Sheffield were suddenly interrupted. The Exocet missile fired from a ‘point-blank’ range of 6 miles by Captain Augusto Bedacarratz hit HMS Sheffield amidships, creating a 15ft by 4ft hole in the ship’s starboard side. The crew had less than 20 seconds warning. A second missile missed the target. In yet a third twist of fate, it was later concluded by a Board of Enquiry that the warhead did not detonate. This is disputed by members of the crew, and a subsequent re-evaluation in 2015 concluded that the warhead had indeed detonated by using advanced analysis tools which were not available in 1982.

HMS Sheffield was now ablaze, and certain ship systems had been knocked offline, and one of the systems affected was the ventilation. The water main was also damaged, resulting in the fire mechanisms from operating at their full capability, thus effectively sealing the fate of the ship.

 

Captain Salt ordered that the ship be abandoned due to concern over the fires reaching the Sea Dart magazine. As the crew prepared to leave the ship, they sang Life of Brian “Always look on the Bright Side.”

 

For the next six days not only were systems evaluated for salvage, but damage control attempted to shore the hull breach. HMS Yarmouth, a Rothsay Class Frigate similar in design to the SA Navy’s President Class took the ship in tow.

 

However the sea state during the tow caused further flooding and HMS Sheffield finally sank on the 10th May 1982.

 

As a result of the attack, 20 members of her complement of 281 were lost, most of them asphyxiated. A further 26 were injured.

 

Discussion points about the the superstructure and the aluminum content having a lower melting point than steel were incorrect, as her superstructure was entirely steel. There was also a shift in the Royal Navy away from nylon and synthetic fabrics that melted onto the skin, causing more severe burns.

 

SAS President Kruger survivor Cameron Kirk Kinnear with HMS Sheffield survivor Chris Purcell

 

 

Chris Purcell’s account of the incident:

Further reading:

The Narrative of the Attack

Official MOD Report

Badge of H.M.S.A.S. Southern Floe which was picked up in an Italian dugout in the Desert by a sergeant in the Royal Army Medical Corps during the North African Campaign. (SA Military History)

 

11 February 1941

 

HMSAS Southern Floe was sunk by a mine off Tobruk with the loss of 27 men, with 1 sole survivor, Stoker C J Jones


A number of whalers were converted to anti submarine roles and commissioned into the South African Navy for service, they were part of the South African Seaward Defence Force anti-submarine flotilla.

Some of them were sent to the Mediterranean and based at Alexandria, Egypt – the HMSAS Southern Floe, the HMSAS Southern Sea and their sister ship the HMSAS Southern Maid – which is seen in this rare photograph in Alexandria Harbour (In the foreground is the South African Navy’s HMSAS Protea, a Flower-class corvette).

 

In 1941 – the HMSAS Southern Floe (Lt J E Lewis) and HMSAS Southern Sea arrived at Tobruk on 31 January 1941 to take over patrol duties from two of their two sister ships.

 

Although submarines were not a threat in the first six months of the Western Desert campaign, numerous floating mines pointed to the existence of extensive moored mine fields. Except for the sweeping of the narrow coastal traffic route and harbour entrances at this stage there had not yet been time to locate these fields with any accuracy, much less to clear them. The main duty of the two Southerns was alternately to patrol the nearest section of the swept channel and to escort shipping along it. The port at that time was subject to air raids, littered with sunken wrecks and possibly active ground-mines. On patrol, the duties were complicated by sandstorms that strong off-shore winds extended for many miles out to sea, resulting in low visibility, heavy cross-seas, and much discomfort to personnel. To these conditions were added the menace of the mine fields on one side and an ill-defined and unlighted coast on the other.

 

On the morning of 11 February Southern Sea arrived at the patrol rendezvous, two miles east of Tobruk, but found no sign of Southern Floe. This was reported but caused no concern at first; it had blown hard enough all night for the ship to find herself far from her station at dawn. However that evening, a passing destroyer picked up one man clinging to some wreckage – all that remained of Southern Floe and her company.

 

This sole survivor was Stoker C J Jones, RNVR (SA), lent from HMS Gloucester to fill a vacancy just before Southern Floe sailed from Alexandria. He was almost insensible after 14 hours in the water, but afterwards stated that he had been in the stokehold when, at about 04:00 there had been a heavy explosion and the ship had filled rapidly. In the darkness, he had found his way into the flooded engine-room and struggled out through the skylight as the ship sank. He had seen a few other persons in the water at that time and later had done his best to support a wounded man. In the absence of other evidence there is little doubt that a mine, either floating or moored, was the cause.

 

The loss of the ship, although but a trivial incident in a world war, came as a sudden and grievous blow to the flotilla and to the SDF. The ships had spent a bare month on the station and at home few were aware that they had arrived and had been in action. The casualties were the first naval losses suffered by the South African Seaward Defence Force and the sense of loss in the service was profound.

 

A relic of Southern Floe was brought to South Africa long after, in the form of a small brass ship’s badge, found amidst the other debris of battle 70 miles inland from Benghazi. Supposedly it had floated ashore, attached to a wooden fragment of the ship’s bridge, and been carried thence by an Italian souvenir-hunter.

 

After the war Stoker Jones, the sole survivor placed a memorial notice in the Cape Town newspapers. He continued to do this for many years until he also passed away.

 

Information from Naval-History.net

Southern Floe (SANF), ship loss
ANDERS, John, Steward, 69637 (SANF), MPK
BOWER, Robert, Stoker 1c, 69935 (SANF), MPK
BRAND, Leslie A, Able Seaman, 69828 (SANF), MPK
CAULFIELD, Patrick, Steward, 69802 (SANF), MPK
CHANDLER, Charles R D, Cook (S), 69613 (SANF), MPK
CHENOWETH, Richard, Stoker 1c, 67420 (SANF), MPK
FAIRLEY, Alexander E, Sub Lieutenant, SANF, MPK
FARRINGTON, Charles E, Stoker Petty Officer, P/KX 81373, MPK
FRIEDLANDER, Cecil A, Able Seaman, 114703 (SANF), MPK
GARDINER, Elliott, Able Seaman, 67260 (SANF), MPK
GREENACRE, John H, Leading Seaman, 69677 (SANF), MPK
HEASMAN, Gratwicke E E, Engine Room Artificer 4c, 69784 (SANF), MPK
HOGG, Roy S, Sub Lieutenant, SANF, MPK
INNES, Ian McK, Sub Lieutenant, SANF, MPK
MARSH, Reginald H Y, Able Seaman, 69911 (SANF), MPK
MITCHELL, William N, Able Seaman, 69787 (SANF), MPK
NEL, Eloff R, Able Seaman, 69635 (SANF), MPK
NICHOLSON, Douglas O, Able Seaman, 66833 (SANF), MPK
PUGH, John R, Able Seaman, 66877 (SANF), MPK
ROBERTSON, William M, Able Seaman, C/SSX 25307, MPK
RYALL, David R, Able Seaman, 69999 (SANF), MPK
SHIMMIN, William, Leading Stoker, 69661 (SANF), MPK
SIENI, Joseph F, Able Seaman, 69788 (SANF), MPK
SNELL, Harold W, Leading Telegraphist, 69827 (SANF), MPK
STANLEY, Gordon J, Able Seaman, 66963 (SANF), MPK
WALTON, Dudley N, Sub Lieutenant, SANF, MPK
YOUNG, Reginald A J, Able Seaman, D/J 87257, MPK

 

 

 

On the 5th February, 1963, the SAS President Kruger, under the command of Captain M.R. Terry-Lloyd, was engaged in her working up, or training period while based at the Portsmouth Naval Base.

 

The SAS President Kruger went to the assistance of a disabled Norwegian freighter, SS Johan Collett. The ship’s captain refused the offer of a tow, preferring to wait for a tugboat already en route. The frigate stood by and illuminated the freighter with her searchlight as the crew was taken off by the Saint Peter Port lifeboat of the RNLI.

 

In this painting by maritime artist David Cobb, the frigate’s searchlight illuminates the St Peter Port lifeboat which rescued the freighter’s crew. The original of the painting was lost with the President Kruger in 1982.

 
Image by: Artist David Cobb, Sunday Times

 

 

PK2016-Service-cr

 

Excellent PKR Memorial Service held at MOTH Shellhole ‘Field Marshal’ at Irene, Pretoria 061000B Mar 16.

Some Type 12 faces here, from left to right: Stompie Williams (who had his 21st on 18 Feb 82), Frank van Rooyen, Alan Forrest, Adeel Carelse, Steve Artman, Lofty Henning.

3 x PKR survivors, not too shabby for a Pretoria gathering!

Thanks to ‘Field Marshal’ Shellhole for a well-arranged, well-attended service (about 30 on parade, 25 spectators, padre Mrs Calvary i/c of matters religious), wreath-laying and tea-and-stickies and exchange of salty-seadog yarns…

Thanks to Johnny Demetroudes (exTO(R)) for photo and a big hand in event management!

Image by courtesy Frank Charles van Rooyen (FB)




The Annual Three Ships Service, ie the Mendi Service, was once again held at the St Paul’s Church, Tucker Street, Parson’s Hill PE on the 22 February 2015.


The Service was conducted by the Reverend Marc Barth, the Rector of St Paul’s. The Rev Barth has graciously agreed to become the Chaplain for the Legion in Port Elizabeth, replacing the Rev Fr P F Vietri CO who has been transferred to Bloemfontein by his church.


Some 80 Legionnaires, MOTH, Sea Cadet,RAFA/SAAFA, Naval Officer Association, Royal Society, St John Ambulance members and other Friends of the Legion attended the service. A further coincidence of note was that Mrs Lesley Moore, the granddaughter of CPO MacTavish, a member of the SS Mendi crew who went down with the ship, was among us to pay her respects on the day.


After the Processional Hymn and the welcome, Lgr Brian Klopper (Chairman) read the Legion Prayer – which incidentally he composed! Thereafter followed the Lesson by Legionnaire Wolfaardt. Lgr Declan Brennan gave an excellent address, his theme embraced 3 ships which has permeated our history from the time of Jan van Riebeek who arrived with 3 ships; the battle of Muizenberg in which three Royal Navy ships took part, and so on up to the three ships involved in the SAS President Kruger tragic sinking in 1982. The address was enjoyed by the congregation and informative to them as well.


At that point our visitor from the United Kingdom, Mr Nick Ward, rose to give a 10 minute address on his archaeological work on the SS Mendi. Mr Ward has taken a keen interest in the SS Mendi tragedy for some 7 years and flew from London to attend our service. He will shortly be publishing a book titles “SS Mendi – The Long Voyage Home” wherein he recounted not only the story of the sinking but also some of the unhappy decisions by both the UK and South African Governments of that time. We were grateful to him for his flying visit and we thank him for his input.


The Three Candles of Remembrance were lit by three senior SA Sea Cadets from the Port Elizabeth Training Ship Lanherne. The Memorium was performed by Lgr Tertia Morton after which the Service ended with the Recessional Hymn.


Much good harmony and camaraderie was enjoyed in the Church Hall courtesy of the Church Ladies, who put on their usual excellent spread – Thank you ladies and to all those involved with the planning and execution of this annual event.


Article for the South African Legion of Military Veterans by Charles Ross based on the article by Waldie Bartie.


The photos used in this article were taken by Mr Mike Rands of St Paul’s Church