South Tyneside Falklands veteran who served on HMS Glasgow tells of dramatic day bomb ripped through his ship, 40 years ago today
A Falklands veteran has reflected on the day he feared his life was going to end as a bomb ripped through his ship.
Malcolm Winch was a 22-year-old marine engineer aboard HMS Glasgow when Argentinian Skyhawk A4 planes attacked the destroyer, 40 years ago today.
That fateful day was even more dramatic as he had just found out, while he was at sea, that his wife Susan was expecting their first child.
Knowing of the danger which lay ahead, he wrote a poignant letter which he gave to Susan’s sister.
"I told her to give it to my wife if the worst should happen. It said things like ‘sorry that I hadn’t been able to see my daughter being born. It also talked about all the other things you regret not doing. We had only been married a year.”
And then came the day Malcolm dreaded, on May 12, 1982.
HMS Glasgow was 15 miles south west of Port Stanley during the Falklands Conflict, and was bombarding Argentinian land positions when the planes attacked.
Three of them were shot down but a second wave of Skyhawks attacked Glasgow. One scored a direct hit.
"We could hear our guns firing and then we were told to ‘brace’. We just felt this thump.”
A bomb passed clean through the aft engine room of the ship within 30ft of Malcolm. It came even closer to other members of the 200-strong crew.
Incredibly, it did not explode but the bulkhead was split. As it exit-ed the ship, it left a 2ft long hole that was 3 inches wide just 3ft above the waterline.
Malcolm admitted: "I thought my life was in danger because fuel and oil were mixing with water. Electricity was arcing and sparking about the place.”
Malcolm and other crew members tried to patch up HMS Glasgow.
He had to stay in the aft auxiliary room and admitted: “It was quite something to be in a big space like that not knowing what could happen next. We knew more planes were on the way.”
The team shored up Glasgow’s damaged hull with mattresses and other temporary materials until a specialist repair team arrived from an aircraft carrier.
"I don’t know how long I was down there. Probably six to eight hours,” said Malcolm.
“But it affects you and it gives you an idea of how quickly life can be snuffed out.”
HMS Glasgow returned home to be repaired in Portsmouth Dockyard.She immediately returned to the South Atlantic and it was only after the war that Malcolm finally got to see his baby daughter Christine when she was one month old.
Christine, from Hebburn, is now 39 and Malcolm, 62, said: “She has given me the gift of a granddaughter, Lily May Gaffney, who is one years old.”
Malcolm later became a firefighter in Scotland for 20 years and later still a youth worker. He and his wife, also 62, decided to move in 2020 to be near their daughter and granddaughter in Hebburn.
But as he reflected on an incredible day in history, he admitted: “It tells you about living in the moment, about family and friends and about enjoying your life.”