Sharkey Ward

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Nigel Ward
Birth name Nigel David MacCartan-Ward
Nickname(s) "Sharkey"
Born 1943 (Aged 72)
Allegiance United Kingdom United Kingdom
Service/branch Naval Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg Fleet Air Arm
Years of service 1962 – 1989
Rank Commander
Commands held 801 Naval Air Squadron
Battles/wars Falklands War
Awards Distinguished Service Cross
Air Force Cross

Commander Nigel "Sharkey" Ward DSC AFC is a former Royal Navy officer and Fleet Air Arm fighter pilot who commanded 801 Naval Air Squadron during the 1982 Falklands War.

Early career in the Royal Navy

Ward was born in Canada in 1943. In 1962 he joined Britannia Royal Naval College, Dartmouth as an officer cadet. 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 AFNORTH.[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 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.[5][4]

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 Donaldille 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.[6][7][4]

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.


After retirement 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]

On 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.[10]

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[12]


  • Commander Sharkey Ward (1992). Sea Harrier Over the Falklands: A Maverick at War. Leo Cooper. pp. 299 pages. ISBN 978-0-85052-305-8.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>


  1. "". Retrieved 9 July 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. " - Sea Harrier at Pebble Mill at One 1979". Retrieved 24 July 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Fleet Air Arm, Falklands War 1982
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Burden et al 1986, pp 208-223
  5. "Major Carlos Tomba's Pucara". BBC News. Retrieved 24 June 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. ASN Aircraft accident Lockheed C-130H Hercules TC-63 Pebble Island
  7. Britains Small
  8. Navy News - News Desk - News - Harrier pilot follows in father's footsteps
  9. "Unique double for Navy Harrier father and son". Daily Telegraph. 30 March 2001. Retrieved 31 May 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. (Spanish) Argentine radio interview
  11. The London Gazette: no. 49008. p. 26. 12 June 1982. Retrieved 2 June 2013.
  12. The London Gazette: no. 49134. p. 12825. 8 October 1982. Retrieved 2 June 2013.
  • Burden/Draper/Rough/Smith & Wilton, Falklands - The Air War. London: Arms & Armour Press. 1986. ISBN 0-85368-842-7

External links

Ward, Nigel (1982). "IWM interview [Audio diary recorded by Ward]". IWM Collections Search. Retrieved 27 April 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
IWM (30 October 1992). "IWM interview [with Ward]". IWM Collections Search. Retrieved 27 April 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
IWM (2002). "Transcript: Commander Nigel 'Sharkey' Ward [on shooting down an Argentine Mirage aircraft]". The Falklands Conflict ( Retrieved 27 April 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>