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The Ships

At the outbreak of war, Sheffield served with the 18th Cruiser Squadron, patrolling the Denmark Straits and then, in April 1940, she was engaged in the Norwegian Campaign. After a short spell carrying out anti-invasion duties in the English Channel, she joined Force H, based in Gibraltar. During that time, she operated in the Mediterranean and the Atlantic until the year's end.

In 1941, she participated in the shelling of Genoa (9 February), operations against Vichy convoys and supporting air reinforcements to Malta. In May, Sheffield took part in the sinking of the German battleship Bismarck, narrowly escaping a friendly fire torpedo attack by HMS Ark Royal's Fairey Swordfish; 11 TSRs dropped (despite having been warned Sheffield was in the vicinity), and only defective Duplex exploders and fine ship handling saved her from disaster. (In the report of the attack, Admiral Sir John Tovey, commanding Home Fleet, was told only no hits were scored on Bismarck. The reaction of Sheffield's crew "has not made its way into the official records". On 12 June, she located and sunk one of Bismarck's tankers, the Friedrich Breme. After the destruction of another German supply ship, the Kota Penang in early October (with HMS Kenya), Sheffield returned to Britain.

She was occupied on Arctic convoys until hitting a mine off Iceland on 3 March 1942 and was under repair until July. After more Arctic convoys, Sheffield joined the forces supporting the Allied landings in North Africa (Operation Torch) in November. In December, Sheffield and Jamaica formed "Force R", under the command of Rear-Admiral Robert L. Burnett (in Sheffield), which provided cover for convoy JW51B. The convoy was attacked by a strong German surface force, but, in the ensuing action (Battle of the Barents Sea), the Germans withdrew and Sheffield sank the German destroyer Friedrich Eckholdt, while damaging the cruiser Admiral Hipper at the same time, Eckholdt mistaking Sheffield for the Hipper. During this engagement, the destroyer HMS Achates (H12) and the minesweeper HMS Bramble were sunk by gunfire of the two German vessels.

In February 1943, Sheffield moved to operate in the Bay of Biscay and, in July and August, she supported the landings at Salerno (Operation Avalanche). Returning yet again to the Arctic, she took part in the sinking of the battleship Scharnhorst off the north coast of Norway, in late December.

In 1944, Sheffield was an escort for the Royal Navy carrier force that executed a series of air attacks on the German battleship Tirpitz, between April and August. These had limited success and responsibility was passed to the Royal Air Force.

A lengthy refit in Boston and in Britain kept Sheffield out of action until after the end of the war.


The refit was completed in May 1946 and Sheffield alternated between duties in the West Indies (where in 1954 she served as flagship of the 8th Cruiser Squadron) and in home waters and the Mediterranean. From June 1952 to May 1953, her commanding officer was Capt. John Inglis, who was to become director of Naval Intelligence in July 1954.

There were further refits in 1949/50 and 1954. In 1954 she played the part of HMS Ajax in the war film The Battle of the River Plate. She went into reserve in January 1959 and became flagship of the Home Fleet until September 1964, when she was placed on the disposal list.

Her equipment was removed at Rosyth in 1967 and was then broken up at Faslane in the same year. The stainless steel ship's bell, which was made by Hadfield's of Sheffield, was preserved and today hangs in Sheffield Cathedral along with her battle ensign.

HMS Sheffield (D80) was the second Royal Navy ship to be named after the city of Sheffield in Yorkshire. She was a Type 42 Guided Missile Destroyer laid down by Vickers Shipbuilding and Engineering at Barrow-in-Furness on 15 January 1970, launched on 10 June 1971 and commissioned on 16 February 1975. An explosion during construction killed two dockyard workers and damaged a section of hull which was replaced with a section from an identical ship, ARA Hercules, being built for the Argentine Navy. The ship was part of the Task Force sent to the Falkland Islands during the Falklands War. She was struck by an Exocet air-launched anti-ship missile from a Super Etendard aircraft belonging to the Argentine Navy on 4 May 1982 and foundered on 10 May 1982.

The Sinking of HMS Sheffield

At approximately 10 a.m. on 4 May, HMS Sheffield was at defence watches, second degree readiness, as part of the British Task Force dispatched to the Falkland Islands during the Falklands War. Sheffield had relieved her sister Coventry as the latter was having technical trouble with her Type 965 radar. Sheffield and Coventry were chatting over UHF. Communications ceased until an unidentified message was heard flatly stating "Sheffield is hit". The flagship, Hermes dispatched the escorts Arrow and Yarmouth to investigate, and a helicopter was launched. Confusion reigned until Sheffield's Lynx helicopter unexpectedly landed aboard Hermes carrying the Air Operations Officer and Operations Officer, confirming the disaster.

Sheffield picked up the incoming missiles on her outmoded Type 965 radar (an interim fitting until the Type 1022 set was available) The launch aircraft had not been detected as the British had expected, and it was not until smoke was sighted that the target was confirmed as sea skimming missiles. Five seconds later, an Exocet impacted Sheffield amidships, approximately 8 feet above the waterline on Deck 2, tearing a gash in the hull. The other missile splashed into the sea half a mile off her port beam. Ironically, the Exocet missile which hit Sheffield did not detonate, but the missile severed the high-pressure fire main onboard, and the resultant fire caused by burning propellant ignited diesel oil from the ready-use tanks in the Engine Room, and other inflammable materials used in the ship's construction. These fires burned unchecked for a number of days after the ship was abandoned.

The MOD report into the sinking of the Sheffield concluded that: "Evidence indicates that the warhead did not detonate". Some of the crew and members of the Task Force believe however that the missile's 165 kilogram warhead did in fact detonate upon impact. This was not the case, as an Exocet is filled with a delay proximity fuse, and is designed not to detonate on impact. But irrespective of this the impact of the missile and the burning rocket motor set Sheffield ablaze. Some accounts suggest that the initial impact of the missile immediately crippled the ship's onboard electricity generating systems, but this only affected certain parts of the ship, which caused ventilation problems. The missile strike fractured the water main, preventing the anti-fire mechanisms from operating effectively, and thereby dooming the ship to be consumed by the raging fire.

Over the next 6 days from 4 May 1982 onwards, some 5 inspections were made to see if any equipment was worth salvaging. Orders were issued to shore up the hole in Sheffield's starboard side and tow the ship to South Georgia.

However, before these orders were effected the burnt-out hulk had already been taken in tow by the Rothesay class frigate HMS Yarmouth. The high seas that the ship was towed through caused slow flooding through the hole in the ship's side. This was the cause which eventually took her to the bottom. The ship sank at 53°04'S, 56°56' W on 10 May 1982. This made her the first Royal Navy vessel sunk in action since World War II. Twenty of her crew (mainly on duty in the galley area) died during the attack. The wreck is a war grave and designated as a protected place under the Protection of Military Remains Act 1986.

Sheffield was named and launched on 26 March 1986 by Mrs Susan Stanley, wife of the then Armed Forces Minister, and commissioned at Hull on 26 July 1988. There were several members of previous HMS Sheffields present at the launch. A specially minted Sheffield coin was placed in the keel at the keel-laying ceremony on 29 March 1984.

Late 1998 Sheffield provided assistance after Hurricane Georges, visiting the island of St Kitts and also saved a Honduran woman who had been swept out to sea from her home by the force of Hurricane Mitch.
May 2000 saw Sheffield deployed on an eight week deployment into the Baltic Sea, which included a two week BALTOPS 2000 - France, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, United States, Poland, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia and the Netherlands all contributed ships to the exercise, which involved aspects of Search and Rescue as well as military joint exercises. Sheffield later visited Kiel, then Gdynia, the Twin city of Plymouth, with the Lord Mayor of Plymouth before visiting St. Petersburg in Russia. Sheffield later visited Kotka in Finland before Klaipėda in Lithuania, as the first major British warship to visit the city. Whilst she was there she gave toys to an orphanage and redecorated a special school. Sheffield returned home on 26 July.

8 February 2001 saw HMS Sheffield, under Commander Simon Williams, deployed to the Caribbean for a six-month deployment. Sheffield was deployed to assist the United States Coast Guard, Dutch, French and Venezuelan navies in anti-drug operations and exercises. There were visits to the USA as well as Barbados, Trinidad, Antigua, St Lucia, Curaçao and the Bahamas. Sheffield took part in Exercise Tradewinds, which promoted interoperability between coastguards and law enforcement agencies in the area.

5 February 2002 saw Sheffield deployed to the Standing Naval Force Mediterranean (STANAVFORMED) to replace HMS Chatham. The mission was anti-terrorism by monitoring merchant shipping. There were also visits to Turkey, Sicily, Crete, Spain and Algiers. Sheffield was the flagship under the command of Commodore Angus Somerville. Tuesday 26 February saw HMS Sheffield assist the Spanish submarine SPS Siroco, whilst participating in the exercise DOGFISH 2002. The submarine needed medicines for a sailor whilst in the Ionian Sea.

HMS Sheffield was decommissioned on 4 November 2002. After 14 years service, which included providing humanitarian assistance to Nicaragua and Honduras after Hurricane Mitch (which earned her the Wilkinson Sword for Peace along with HMS Ocean), the Strategic Defence Review of 1998 (updated 2001) saw the end of her career.

She was sold to Chile on 4 September 2003 and renamed Almirante Williams (FF-19)

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