HMS Ardent's “MAC” McAulay Remembered by Yeovilton Lynx Squadron
A much respected member of 815 Naval Air Squadron of 30 years ago, killed during the Falklands War was remembered when his son Justin was hosted by the Lynx Squadron and shown around where his father worked at the Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton. Chief Petty Officer Allan “Mac” McAulay was the Senior Maintenance rating on HMS Ardent Flight during the 1982 War.
“I was only eight at the time of Dads death during the Falkland’s war, I was told he’d died but I didn’t really understand, as I‘ve got older I’ve wanted to know more,” Justin said. “I’ve spent the last couple of years trying to find out a little more about him.” Warrant Officer Dave Harwood The Engineering Warrant Officer on the squadron took time out to show Justin around and fill in some of the gaps in “Mac’s” story. “The Aircraft would have been ranged up on deck at “Action Stations”, the crew would have been in the Lynx waiting for the air raid to pass. But the Argentinian A4 Skyhawks were upon them straight away. They didn’t stand a chance.”
On 21st May 1982, HMS Ardent had been on the Gun line providing Naval Gun Fire to harass Argentine troops and aircraft located around the Darwin and Goose Green settlements. It was hoped this would make the Argentine believe the main landings were happening there and not in San Carlos water. Having survived sixteen air raids, her luck was about to change. Air raid number seventeen was in progress; consisting of 4 Argentine Navy A4 Skyhawk, their mission was to sink the lone frigate that had caused the Argentine troops and Air Force so many problems throughout the day.
The aircraft broke through the ships defences by keeping to the Ardent’s stern profile. The order to "take cover" was given by the bridge; the attacking aircraft released their payloads and two 500 lb bombs struck home. As the stern lifted Ardent was holed, the bombs exploding in the dinning room below the flight deck, the force of the explosion ripping through the hangar blowing the Sea Cat launcher on the hanger roof 80 feet into the air. The flight deck was in flames, as was most of the back end of the ship. “Mac” McAulay along with the Flight Commander Lieutenant Commander John Sephton, DSC (posthumous) and Lt Brian Murphy the Flight Observer were all killed instantly. In all 22 members of HMS Ardent were killed, the biggest loss of life on any Royal Navy ship during the Falklands War. HMS Ardent sank the following day.
HMS Ardent’s Captain, Commander Alan West, was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and went on to become the First Sea Lord between 2002 -06.
“A lot of people have a grave to visit, Dad’s is down the Falklands so having the trees and stones as a memorial over by the sports field, where he used to play hockey and the base nearby, it’s great to be here,” said Justin.
Justin rounded off his day with a chat people who knew “Mac” and got a feel for the work going on around the busy squadron with the Lynx flights still deploying onto Royal Navy ships as in his father’s time.