Monday, December 14, 2009

Sam Salt makes the final crossing of the bar

Most of you will not know who Sam Salt was or what his significance was in the world. You will not know that he was a very quiet man but one who possessed a commanding sense of humour.

You will probably not know that he quietly, and at times not so quietly, grieved for the loss of twenty souls who had placed their trust in him.

You probably don't even remember that, at shortly after two o:clock in the afternoon, on the 4th of May, 1982, Sam Salt, in command of HMS Sheffield, felt the impact of Exocet missiles launched from two Super Entendards into the midships of his Type 42 destroyer.

They didn't explode. But they did splatter missile fuel throughout impact area resulting in a fire that became, for a variety of reasons most would never understand, impossible to control. Captain Salt eventually ordered that Sheffield be abandoned, fearing that Sheffield's own stock of missiles would explode.

It was the first British combat loss of the Falkland Islands War and it put to rest any notion that any solution short of a military action in the Falklands was possible. We were in a full on fight.

Sam went on to command another destroyer after the Falklands War and eventually retired a rear admiral in 1997. He died on the 3rd of December, 2009.

I had the pleasure of meeting Sam Salt shortly after the Falklands War. I understood why his ship's company thought so highly of him. I wish I'd known him better.

Fair winds and following seas, Sam.

With respect and condolences to the family and friends of Rear Admiral Sam Salt, RN (Ret'd), formerly Commanding Officer, HMS Sheffield.

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