Even though he has chalked out.
Rear-Admiral Linley Middleton, who has died aged 83, was the last captain of the strike carrier Hermes, flagship of the Task Force which won the Falklands conflict 30 years ago.
Middleton was appointed in 1980, while she was being refitted at Portsmouth with a 12-degree ski-jump to operate Sea Harriers . But in June 1981, a few months after she had emerged from the dockyard, Middleton learned that under the 1982 Defence Review his ship was to be scrapped. It required all Middleton’s leadership skills to reconcile his crew to this development, and he had just sent the ship’s company and the aircrew on Easter leave when Argentina invaded the Falklands. Middleton returned from his holiday in the Mediterranean, and in the course of a single weekend recalled his crew and stored his ship so that she was ready to sail three days later, on April 5 1982.
Hermes’s Sea Harriers had been increased from five to 12, and they were lined up on the flightdeck as she left Portsmouth to the cheers of crowds. In mid-Atlantic Hermes was designated the Task Force’s flagship, and Middleton became senior aviation adviser to the Task Force commander.
That is a testament to his organisational skills. HMS Hermes performed well int eh Falklands War under a typical Pommy officer who was humble.
During the 10 weeks of hostilities, Hermes’s air group was further strengthened to 16 Fleet Air Arm Sea Harrier fighters, 10 ground-attack Harriers of the RAF, and 10 Sea King helicopters. With this complement of aircraft Hermes took part in every type of operation during the Falklands conflict: air defence, ground attack, anti-submarine operations, and troop-lift, including Special Forces missions and air-sea rescue.
Between the first aerial combat on May 1 and the last on June 8, Sea Harriers from Hermes shot down 13 Argentine aircraft and destroyed three more on the ground. She also bombed and strafed the spy trawler Narwal, which, after capture, sank on May 10; the carrier’s helicopters also took part in the attempted salvage and subsequent evacuation of the destroyer Sheffield.
When Hermes returned to Portsmouth after an absence of 108 days, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was flown onboard to congratulate Middleton and his ship’s company. For his part, Middleton was modest about their achievements: “It was all absolutely routine, daily attacks, nothing untoward,” adding that “The battle was won on the ground, but they couldn’t have done it without us.” He was awarded a DSO.