This day in history | 1982 Fifty die in Argentine air attack

Up to 50 British servicemen have died in an Argentine air attack on two supply ships in the Falklands.
Sir Galahad and Sir Tristram were anchored off Fitzroy in Port Pleasant, near Bluff Cove, when they were bombed in a surprise raid by five Argentine Skyhawks. Sir Galahad burst into flames instantly. The exact number of injured is still unknown.
The ships had almost completed an operation to move support troops of the Fifth infantry brigade from San Carlos to join forces advancing on the capital Port Stanley when the attack occurred.
The decision to make the dangerous journey was taken after the discovery that the settlements of Fitzroy and Bluff Cove had apparently been deserted by Argentine troops.
Moving the soldiers round by sea in landing ships was intended to save a lengthy trek across the bogs and mountains, which would have delayed support reaching other troops.
The attack came before adequate air defences could be installed, and the men on board, many from the Welsh guards, were helpless as Argentine air planes pounded them.
Helicopters which had been moving equipment rushed to rescue survivors, some of whom had jumped overboard to escape the rapidly-spreading flames.
Black smoke poured out as the guards’ ammunition started to ignite. On the cliff tops, medical staff waited for helicopters to bring the injured to shore.
Many of the injured had suffered burns, as the speed of the attack meant the crew had no time to put on protective masks.
In a week of raids at San Carlos, not a single ship has been sunk. Now, two have been lost in a single attack.

Courtesy BBC News

In context

The battle of Bluff Cove, as it came to be known, claimed 48 lives, one fifth of all British fatalities during the Falklands conflict.
A memorial service was held at the Fitzroy settlement on the Falklands for the men who died aboard the two ships, and Sir Galahad was towed out to sea and sunk as a war grave.
The captain of Sir Galahad, Phil Roberts, later gave his account of the day.
He said: “It all happened very suddenly. The planes came out of nowhere and they bombed us and the ship was set on fire very rapidly. We had to abandon ship fairly quickly. The scene was horrific”.
The Argentines surrendered on 14 June.

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