Monday, 25 March 2013
Chiu Yiu Nam, who has died aged 62, was a modest and unsung hero of the Falklands conflict
On the afternoon of June 8 1982, Chiu Yiu Nam was serving as a seaman in the Royal Fleet Auxiliary Sir Galahad, one of five Landing Ships Logistics (LSL) which ferried troops and stores around the islands, and were manned by British Merchant Navy officers and Hong Kong Chinese crewmen. Chiu, as one of the helicopter flight deck party, was also trained in firefighting.
In an attempt to outflank Argentine positions, Sir Galahad and her sister ship Sir Tristram had been sent to Port Pleasant, on the south coast of East Falkland, and elements of the Welsh Guards were waiting to disembark when the ships were attacked by five Skyhawk jets of the Argentine air force.
Three aircraft dropped bombs on Sir Galahad, one of which penetrated an open hatch, its explosion generating a fireball which swept through the tank deck, where many troops were and where ammunition and petrol were stowed. A second bomb exploded near the galley area, killing Chiu’s friend, the ship’s butcher, Sung Yuk Fai, and injuring many others.
As the stores on the tank deck began to ignite and explode, causing intense local fires, the master of Sir Galahad, Captain Philip Roberts, was reluctantly considering whether to give the order to abandon ship. Chiu, meanwhile, realised that there were soldiers trapped inside. Wearing a protective asbestos suit, he fought his way through the smoke and flames into the bowels of the ship, where he was confronted by scenes of confusion and devastation. After leading out one man, he went back for another. He continued to return, bringing men to safety until he realised that there was no one left alive. Only then did he obey the order to abandon ship. In all, 48 seamen and soldiers were killed and many more badly burned. Of those who survived, at least 10 owed their survival to Chiu.
Chiu was remarkably modest about what he had done: on the journey home in the tanker British Test, Capt Roberts quizzed his crew about their role during the bombing of Sir Galahad without discovering Chiu’s heroism. It was only later that the Commanding Officer 1st Battalion Welsh Guards, Lt-Col Johnny Rickett (who had disembarked the night before the air attack), interviewed his guardsmen and heard about an unknown rescuer whose identity had been hidden behind a protective hood. Further inquiries revealed that this had been Chiu.
He remained reluctant to be recognised officially for his bravery. In 1983, however, he agreed to fly from Hong Kong to London, where the Queen invested him with the George Medal. Read more HERE
R.I.P. Chiu Yiu Nam Unsung Hero