|Ardent had been supporting the Para attack on Goose Green when it was attacked by a lone A-4 Skyhawk dropping two bombs which straddled the frigate but fortunately failed to explode. 40 minutes later it was attacked by three more aircraft as it crossed the Falklands Sound. The ship's Sea Cat system failed to operate properly. Two bombs exploded in the hangar area, destroying the Westland Lynx helicopter and blowing the Sea Cat launcher 80 ft (24 m) into the air before it crashed back down onto the flight deck, and a third crashed through the aft auxiliary machinery room but failed to explode. The aft switchboard was severely damaged, with the consequent loss of power for some key assets, such as the main gun. The hangar was left in flames, and the crew suffered a number of casualties.
Still in full control of her engines and steering, but virtually defenceless, Ardent was told to head north, towards Port San Carlos. But an hour later five more Skyhawks approached the frigate and dropped a great number of free-fall and retard bombs. A pattern of two to four bombs exploded in the port quarter (aft), while an undetermined number of others which failed to explode penetrated into the ship. Some of the remaining bombs exploded in the water nearby, battering Ardent and resulting in a minor flooding in the forward auxiliary machine room. The Dining Hall was shattered, while communications between the bridge and the Ship Control Centre were cut off, and the ship lost steering. This attack caused many casualties, especially among the damage-control teams working in the hangar.
Ardent stopped in the shallow waters of Grantham Sound, the fires in her stern now out of control. With the ship listing heavily, Commander Alan West decided to abandon the ship. HMS Yarmouth then came alongside to take off survivors. The crew was transferred to SS Canberra. At that time it was known that 22 men had lost their lives. Ardent continued to burn throughout the night, accompanied by the occasional explosion, until she sank at 6:30 the following morning, with only her foremast remaining above the water. MO< Able Seaman John Dillon was able to remove debris from an injured sailor and, despite his own burns, got the man topside and into the water where they were both rescued. For his heroism he received a George Medal.
The last man to leave was her captain, Commander Alan West.
Falklands War | British Ships
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