Whilst serving with 892 on HMS Ark Royal in November 1970 in the Mediterranean, we were tailed all day by a Soviet destroyer who was steaming round & round the Ark and getting very close to us.

One night I came off watch, looking forward to a beer and 9 o’clockers, our squadron POs mess was under the angle bow, with the bow cat running above the mess. Night flying was scheduled to start that evening, two Phantoms were launched above our mess, the next one was winding up to full after burner on the waist cat, when the ships horn gave five blasts.

Moments later we heard a loud crash, the ship shuddered and there was lots of noise in our mess. The Phantom on the cat shut down and emergency stations were piped. We had collided with the Soviet destroyer.

As the emergency was piped, all the hands down below made for the flight deck only to be sent down as we were still at flying stations. Total chaos followed for a short time before we spent all night searching for survivors.

As day break came we were surrounded by the Soviet Navy, all guided missile ships, but at least we had our Saluting Gun as we bobbed around stationary in the Med! We had a large hole in the bows.  I never had my beer or 9 o’clockers but did have three weeks in Malta for repairs.

The Soviets blamed us!


Fleet Air Arm veteran David Waller