The news of the death of Rear Admiral Sam Salt recalls memories of one of the most dramatic weeks in recent British history. In May 1982, Salt had the misfortune to be the captain of the first British warship to be lost in action since the second world war. The loss of HMS Sheffield during the Falklands war stunned the nation, as I described in my blog post, the Falklands war 25 years on, in 2007.
Salt's distress at the loss of Sheffield - and 20 of its crew - was plain for all to see. Yet his personal history gave him the strength to recover. He was just six months old when his father died serving on a Royal Navy submarine during the 1939-45 war. His mother later married another naval officer.
Sheffield was hit by an Exocet missile fired from a Argentinian Super Etendard aircraft. It was the first time most people had heard of the Exocet, yet the expression 'faster than an Exocet' soon entered the language. Whenever I hear my wife use it, my mind goes back to the night we heard that Sam Salt's ship had been lost.
NB: I have updated this post to correct a reference to 'the 1939-56 war'. No idea where that howler came from! But my mother, who was a wartime schoolgirl, has a certificate from the Red Cross that refers to the 1939-46 war...