How Argentine navy came to HMS Sheffield’s aid a few years before destroying battleship in Falklands War

The sinking of the HMS Sheffield during the Falklands War is a tragedy which will never be forgotten in the city which gave the battleship its name.

Twenty people on board the destroyer died and many more were injured when it was hit by an Argentine missile on May 4, 1982, making it one of the darkest days in Britain’s modern military history.

Smoke pours from the HMS Sheffield after the deadly missile strike during the Falklands War

Smoke pours from the HMS Sheffield after the deadly missile strike during the Falklands War

As the city welcomes the announcement a fourth HMS Sheffield will be built, a trawl through the archives reveals how quickly international relations can change.

READ MORE: New HMS Sheffield submarine hunter to continue city’s ‘noble' naval tradition

It is hard to believe that just seven years before the second HMS Sheffield’s sinking, when the doomed ship was commissioned in 1975, its builders had been hailing a collaboration with the very nation against which Britain would soon be at war.

A commemorative programme produced by the shipbuilders Vickers and Barrow describes, in a feature titled ‘A new Sheffield – a new age’, how the Argentine Navy helped ensure the British ship was completed on time.

The second HMS Sheffield before it was destroyed in the Falklands War

The second HMS Sheffield before it was destroyed in the Falklands War

“An example of the builders’ ingenuity followed a tragic accident which occurred not long before the planned launch day,” it reads.

READ MORE: Wave of jubilation as city reacts to HMS Sheffield warship news

“Two men lost their lives in an explosion and part of the ship was extensively damaged.

“Vickers had already won an order for two Type 42 Destroyers for the Argentine Navy and the first of these was already being built in the yard.

“With the ready agreement of the Argentine Navy, Vickers – rather than delay the launch – repaired the Royal Nacy vessel by direct replacement with the equivalent section from the Argentine ship.

READ MORE: HMS Sheffield flag to fly once more as city businessman gives £3,000 to association's appeal

“Valuable time was thus saved by a ‘round-the-clock’ effort, reminiscent of the 1939-45 war years.”

The D80 destroyer was eventually launched by the Queen as planned on June 10, 1971.

The commemorative programme states: “HMS Sheffield of 1975 is proud of the tradition behind her name. The Senior Service has, times without number, written glorious pages in the history of Great Britain, and the first Sheffield played her part to the full.

“The story of the new Sheffield has only just begun.”