People Came from the Front Line or Ships Suffering from Frostbite, Gunshot or Shrapnel Wounds, and Then Had Their Arms and Legs Amputated without Anaesthetic, for the Simple Reason the Russians Didn't Have It." . on the Eve of Armed Forces Day, Which Celebrates the Selfless Roles Played by Servicemen and Women Past and Present, Helen Turner Speaks to Two Heroes of the High Seas Who Survived Sinking Ships in Major Conflicts
* T was a major blow to the British fight to regain the Falklands and has recently inspired a film director. The loss of the warship HMS Coventry, which came under Argentine fire and resulted in the loss of 19 lives and 40 wounded, is still a lucid memory for the survivors.
Commodore Jamie Miller of the Royal Navy, who has been interviewed by Tom Shankland's film team about his incredible fight for survival on May 25, 1982, was one of the last men to jump from the sinking ship.
It had been a successful day for Coventry - three enemy aircraft had been shot down, out of a total of only seven planes downed during the entire Falklands conflict.
Commodore Miller, naval regional commander for Wales and western England, said: "It was our fourth air raid of the day - we'd shot down three aircraft.
"The fourth one came at 6.15 in the evening. We were overwhelmed.
"They fired their cannon first. They got close and dropped the bomb that blew us up and sank us."
Commodore Miller, now 58, jumped off the ship and discovered a life raft as the ship capsized.
But following a punishing succession of misfortunes, he ended up trapped under the life raft with a rescue kite coiled around his leg.
He said: "First of all, as the ship capsized, the gun barrel took off the roof of my life raft like a razor blade. Then the missile came down and pierced the life raft, turned it upside down and I was caught underneath."
While the gun barrel was around 8ft long, the missile, which had been positioned waiting to be fired, was around 16ft long and weighed over four tonnes. Commodore Miller was left in an impossible situation.
He said: "When the life raft sank I couldn't get up, the life raft went on top of me and the kite was coiled around my legs.
"Since then I have always carried a knife on me, and my ship's crew carry them too.
"I had almost given up. But I was newly married and had no insurance.
"After around 50 seconds of struggling with my left hand I broke free.
"As I broke free HMS Coventry was on its side. I held onto the windscreen wipers and managed to crawl back onto the ship for another 15 minutes."
Surrounded by smoke and explosions, he reluctantly jumped back into the 6C water before a helicopter hoisted him to safety.
He said: "There were only four of us left at the end - we were not seen because of all the smoke."
He watched his comrades hoisted to safety by a rescue helicopter. He saw one of the men's shirts tugged away to reveal scores of painful blisters. "He hadn't felt it because of the adrenalin and the cold water."
During that month, attacks on other British ships meant HMS Coventry was more vulnerable.
Commodore Miller, who was a Spanish interpreter at the time, said: "HMS Sheffield was sunk on May 4. HMS Glasgow was hit by a bomb on May 11. She had to limp home, which left HMS Coventry as a target for the Argentinians because we were doing an awful lot of damage to them. Our controllers were doing very well to intercept the air raids."
The captain of HMS Coventry, David Hart-Dyke, who wrote the memoirs Four Weeks in May, has said: "We were a thorn in the side of the Argentinian airforce and they ganged up against us to take us out.
"Nineteen of my sailors were killed, and the rest of us by some miracle swam to the life rafts to be picked out of the water by helicopters.
"At the time you can keep going, but it took me about three years to recover."
Following a speedy return visit to the UK on the QE2, Commodore Miller was back in the Falklands within five weeks.
He said: "It probably wasn't a good idea but we were short-staffed and needs must.
The Navy are always dealing with unexpected conflicts. I've been shot at five times in my career in five conflicts."
Commodore Miller also faced enemy fire in Northern Ireland, Bosnia, the Suez Canal and the Gulf War, when he commanded around 23 ships and 8,000 men and women. …