HMS Argonaut (F56)

HMS Argonaut (F56) was a Leander-class frigate that served with the Royal Navy from 1967 to 1993. She took part in the Falklands War in 1982, sustaining damage and casualties in action.

HMS Argonaut in 1985
United Kingdom
Name: HMS Argonaut
Builder: Hawthorn Leslie and Company
Laid down: 27 November 1964
Launched: 8 February 1966
Commissioned: 17 August 1967
Decommissioned: 31 March 1993
Identification: Pennant number F56
Honours and
Falklands War
Fate: Scrapped in 1995
General characteristics
Class and type: Leander-class frigate
Displacement: 3,200 long tons (3,251 t) full load
Length: 113.4 m (372 ft)
Beam: 12.5 m (41 ft)
Draught: 5.8 m (19 ft)
Propulsion: 2 × Babcock & Wilcox boilers supplying steam to two sets of White-English Electric double-reduction geared turbines to two shafts
Speed: 28 knots (52 km/h)
Range: 4,600 nautical miles (8,500 km) at 15 knots (28 km/h)
Complement: 223
Aircraft carried:


The ship was built at Hebburn, in Tyneside, by the Hawthorn Leslie and Company shipyard in the mid-1960s. She was launched on 8 February 1966, and commissioned into the Royal Navy on 17 August 1967.[1]

Service history


In her first year Argonaut escorted the ocean liner RMS Queen Mary on her last voyage across the North Atlantic Ocean to a permanent berth to serve as a hotel/tourist attraction in California, United States.

In 1968 "Argonaut" joined NATO (STANAVFORLANT)

In 1969 Argonaut, with other Royal Navy vessels, sailed with the "Beira Patrol", a United Nations operation preventing the importation of oil by Rhodesia as a part of the British Government's economic sanctions against that country.

In 1969 in an eleven-month deployment "Argonaut" circumnavigated the globe, visiting multiple countries, and also conducted a famine relief operation to FIJI(SUVA)

In 1973, Argonaut was recommissioned, completed a six-week work up at Portland, visited Brest, France and then served as a guard ship for the Gibraltar station. Following Iceland's declaration of a 200-mile fishing limit, Argonaut carried out fishery protection duties for British fishing trawlers inside the zone, in what became known as the "Second Cod War".

In 1974 from mid January, Argonaut spent nine months as part of the group deployment named 'Task Group 317.1', led by Flag Officer Second Flotilla (Commander Task Group 317.1). The other ships in the task group were the County-class destroyer HMS Fife, the frigates of the 7th Frigate Squadron (of which Argonaut was one): HMS Ariadne, HMS Danae, HMS Londonderry, and HMS Scylla (Captain 7th Frigate Squadron), and two Royal Fleet Auxiliaries (one tanker and one solid stores). In November 1974 Argonaut carried out fishery protection duties in the Barents Sea. During this period she visited Hammerfest and Honningsvag in Norway to take on fuel. Before returning to Devonport she visited Newcastle upon Tyne.

In early 1975 Argonaut took part in the annual NATO 'Gate' naval exercise (called 'Locked Gate' or 'Open Gate' in alternating years), and visited Lisbon before returning to Devonport. Argonaut joined the Standing Naval Force Atlantic (Stanavforlant) by late 1975. Argonaut underwent Exocet modernisation between 1976–80, giving her a potent anti-ship capability. In 1981, Argonaut deployed as the Armilla Patrol ship in the Persian Gulf.

Falklands War

On 2 April 1982 the Falkland Islands were invaded by the armed forces of Argentina. At the direction of Her Majesty's Government an advanced group of Royal Naval vessels began to steam towards Ascension Island on 5 April 1982, a territory that would play a strategic part during Operation Corporate. On 19 April 1982 Argonaut, along with Ardent and two Royal Fleet Auxiliary ships Regent and Plumleaf headed for Ascension Island. On 29 April 1982 the group arrived at Ascension, and on 6 May 1982 the Argonaut Group departed the island heading South for the Falklands. On 16 May 1982 the Group joined the large Amphibious Group centred on Fearless and Intrepid, and on 18 May 1982 the Group met up with the Carrier Battle Group.

On 21 May 1982 Argonaut, along with other destroyers and frigates, provided close escort for amphibious vessels during the opposed arrival on East Falkland by British Forces at San Carlos, with Argonaut standing off the "Fanning Head" headland within the Falkland Sound guarding the Northern approaches to the landings area. Whilst this operation was underway she was assailed by multiple waves of Argentine warplanes throughout the day which Argonaut, along with the other vessels, engaged with her anti-aircraft weapons. Two of the air attacks succeeded in striking Argonaut.

The first at 10.15 A.M. was carried out as an improvised assault from the first lone Argentine aircraft that appeared on the scene, piloted by Lt. Guillermo Owen Crippa flying an Aermacchi MB-339 from the Argentine Navy's 1st Naval Air Attack Squadron,[2] who had been despatched by the Argentine High Command on a reconnaissance flight over Falkland Sound to ascertain the veracity of reports it had received from an Argentine Army post present at San Carlos of a British landing taking place there. Spotting the landing underway and its attendant cover-guard screen of ships, Crippa on his way out attacked Argonaut with cannon fire and rockets, causing some damage to the ship, including to her Type 965 radar.[3]

The second successful air attack upon Argonaut was made at 13.37 P.M. by five A-4 Skyhawks from the Argentinian Air Force's 5th Air Brigade,[4] piloted by Lieutenants Fillipini, Autiero, Osses, Robledo, and Ensign Vottero,[5] which hit her with two bombs. Neither exploded, although one killed two sailors, Able Seaman Iain M. Boldy and Able Seaman Matthew J. Stuart, when it entered the ship's Sea Cat missile magazine, detonating two missiles, and the other did severe damage in the boiler room, knocking out the ship's power and leaving her dead in the water. Plymouth came to the assistance of Argonaut and towed her away from immediate danger as further waves of air attacks came into Falkland Sound. Both bombs were still live, and it took some days to deactivate them. This was very risky work, as demonstrated on 24 May when Antelope sank after an unexploded bomb detonated whilst a British Army bomb-disposal team was attempting to defuse it.

On 14 June Argentine occupying forces in the Falkland Islands surrendered to the British task force. On 26 June 1982 Argonaut sailed back under her own steam to Devonport Dockyard, where she underwent refitting for battle damage. During these repairs, new sonar equipment was installed within the ship's weaponry.


In 1987 Argonaut rescued the businessman/adventurer Richard Branson from the Atlantic Ocean after he had ditched at sea whilst trying to cross it in a hot-air balloon.

In 1990 Argonaut represented the Royal Navy at commemorations at the Gallipoli peninsula on the 75th Anniversary of the Gallipoli landings.

In August 1992 Argonaut was involved in the pursuit and arrest on the high seas in the South Atlantic Ocean of Roderick Newall, a former British Army officer who had murdered his parents in Jersey.[6]


Argonaut was decommissioned from the Royal Navy on 31 March 1993, and was laid up at Fareham Creek. On 25 January 1995 she left Portsmouth Harbour under tow to a port in Spain where she was broken up.[7]

Commanding officers

19671969Commander Brian Spark RN
19691971Cdr Mike Garnett RN
19731974Commander Casper William (Bill) Carnegie Swinley RN
19741975Commander Christopher S. Seal RN
19791981Captain Charles E T Baker RN
19811982Capt C H Layman DSO MVO RN[8]
19891990Captain John P Clarke RN
19901992Captain William K Hutchison RN
19921993Captain R P Stevens RN


  1. "25 January". Gosport Heritage Open Days. 25 January 2016. Retrieved 12 November 2019.
  2. Record of the attack upon Argonaut, '' website (2018).
  3. 'La Guerra Inaudita', by Ruben Oscar Moro (Pub. Praeger, 1989).
  4. Record of the attack upon HMS Argonaut on 21 May 1982, '' website (2018).
  5. 'La Guerra Inaudita' by Ruben Oscar Moro (Pub. Praeger, 1989).
  6. Murder charge after arrest on yacht: Roderick Newall accused of killing his parents', 'The Independent', 7 August 1992.
  7. History of H.M.S. Argonaut, 'Gosport Heritage website' (2018).
  8. "British medals awarded - 1982 Falklands War".


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