'Sharkey' Ward

Sharkey Ward
Birth nameNigel David MacCartan-Ward
AllegianceUnited Kingdom
Service/branchRoyal Navy
Years of service1962–1989
UnitFleet Air Arm
Commands held801 Naval Air Squadron
Battles/warsFalklands War
AwardsDistinguished Service Cross
Air Force Cross

Commander Nigel David "Sharkey" Ward, DSC, AFC (born 1943), born Nigel David MacCartan-Ward, is a retired British Royal Navy officer who commanded 801 Naval Air Squadron during the Falklands War.

Early life[]

Ward was born in Canada in 1943. Educated at Reading School, where he was School Captain, he joined Britannia Royal Naval College, Dartmouth in 1962 as an officer cadet.

Military career[]

After basic flying training he completed his training with the Fleet Air Arm on the Hawker Hunter and Sea Vixen. He then joined 892 Naval Air Squadron and flew the F-4K Phantom from HMS Ark Royal, where he qualified as an Air Warfare Instructor. He then worked as a nuclear planning officer at NATO Allied Forces Northern Europe.[1] In 1979, he took command of the Sea Harrier FRS.1 Intensive Flying Trials Unit at 700 Naval Air Squadron. Ward featured in an episode of Pebble Mill at One that year when he landed a Sea Harrier in a sports field next to the Pebble Mill Studios.[2]

Falklands war[]

As commanding officer of 801 Squadron, Ward had to prepare the Sea Harrier for action in the South Atlantic. Aircraft and pilots were borrowed from the conversion unit, 899 Naval Air Squadron, and with a strength of eight aircraft they embarked in HMS Invincible on 4 April 1982.[3][4]

21 May 1982

Ward, flying Sea Harrier XZ451/006, was one of three aircraft launched to carry out a combat air patrol at the northern end of the Falkland Sound. Two Pucaras operating from Goose Green were seen by controllers on HMS Brilliant and the three Sea Harriers were vectored towards them. One of the Pucaras was attacked by the first two Sea Harriers but evaded, and Ward made a passing cannon attack on Major Carlos Tomba's aircraft and damaged the port aileron. After slowing down and turning behind the Pucara, Ward hit the starboard engine, and in a third run he hit the canopy and upper fuselage. Tomba ejected from the Pucara at low-level before the aircraft crashed north-west of Drone Hill, Tomba was unhurt and walked back to Goose Green.[4][5]

Later the same day Ward, in Sea Harrier ZA175, and another aircraft were carrying out a low-level combat air patrol. Three Argentine Air Force Mirage V "Dagger"s had attacked Brilliant and the two Sea Harriers were vectored to intercept them. In a turning fight, the three Daggers were destroyed with Ward's wingman, Lieutenant Steve Thomas, accounting for two and Ward for one, all with Sidewinder missiles.[4] The three Dagger pilots, Major Piuma, Captain Donadille and Lieutenant Senn, ejected safely.

1 June 1982

Ward, in Sea Harrier XZ451, and another aircraft were just returning to Invincible after a combat air patrol when they were sent to check a target seen on radar 20 miles north of the ship. They found a four-engined Lockheed C-130 Hercules at 200 feet above the sea. Ward's first AIM-9L Sidewinder missile fell short of the C-130, but the second started a fire between the inner and outer port engines. Ward then fired 240 rounds from his Harrier's two ADEN cannons and this action broke off the wing of the enemy aircraft, sending it crashing into the sea and killing the seven crew members.[4][6][7]

Ward flew over sixty war missions, achieved three air-to-air kills, and took part in or witnessed a total of ten kills; he was also the leading night pilot, and was decorated with the Distinguished Service Cross for gallantry.

Later life[]

After retiring from the Royal Navy in 1989 Ward wrote the book Sea Harrier Over the Falklands: A Maverick at War, first published in 1992. In 2001, he returned to the RNAS Yeovilton to fly with his son Kris, after the younger Ward qualified to fly the Sea Harrier FA2.[8][9] His son died 15 November 2018, aged 45.[10]

In 2011, while residing in Grenada, he had a friendly but emotional radio interview with Ezequiel Martel, son of the C-130 Hercules pilot shot down by Ward during the conflict.[11]

Honours and awards[]

Commander Ward distinguished himself in action, both as an inspiring and dynamic commanding officer of 801 Squadron and an outstanding successful Sea Harrier pilot. From the first day HMS Invincible entered the Total Exclusion Zone around the Falkland Islands, the fighting spirit, superb morale and operating efficiency of 801 Squadron was apparent. These standards were maintained during a sustained period of operations without respite. As a pilot Commander Ward flew more than 50 combat sorties by day and night, often in marginal weather conditions setting a splendid example to his Squadron of determination, skill and disregard for personal safety. He personally shot down three Argentine aircraft, a Mirage, a Pucara and a Hercules. The destruction of the Hercules, the only success against this most important target, was the result of an utterly determined, thoroughly professional piece of teamwork between Commander Ward and his No. 2 which left both aircraft severely extended by lack of fuel on the very long return flight.

London Gazette, 8 October 1982[13]





External links[]

Ward, Nigel (1982). "IWM interview [Audio diary recorded by Ward]". IWM Collections Search. Retrieved 27 April 2013.
IWM (30 October 1992). "IWM interview [with Ward]". IWM Collections Search. Retrieved 27 April 2013.
IWM (2002). "Transcript: Commander Nigel 'Sharkey' Ward [on shooting down an Argentine Mirage aircraft]". The Falklands Conflict (archive.iwm.org.uk). Retrieved 27 April 2013.