This page is dedicated to the memory of:

Lieutenant Commander

John Stuart Woodhead, DSC

HMS Sheffield

John was born in Nottingham in 1941. His father served in the Royal Navy during the war, his mother died when he was 5 years old. Whilst at school he excelled at all sports and was the Nottingham junior pole vault champion. His passion for radio and electronics led him to join St Vincent at the age of 15 and then into the Fleet Air Arm as a junior radio mechanic, serving on the carrier HMS Albion and RNAS Culdrose, where he met and married his wife Anne.

He transferred to the Royal Navy in 1961 and after Mechanicians Course at HMS Collingwood, spent two years on HMS Lowestoft from where he was selected for the Special Duties List. After training he served on HMS Antrim and joined the General List. Ironically he spent two years working closely with Aerospatiale on the Exocet project.

He joined HMS Sheffield in 1980 as Deputy WEO and became WEO in 1981 before she sailed for her deployment in the Gulf. His wife and family joined him in Mombassa for a holiday but little did they realise when waving goodbye to the ship, it would be for the last time.

John continued to study for an Open University degree whilst in the Falklands, and he died with his men in the computer room on May 4th, 1982 and was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.

His dedication to duty and thirst for knowledge inspired his two daughters to succeed and Denise gained degrees at Durham University and the School of Oriental and African Studies, and Linda trained as a nurse at the Middlesex Hospital, London.

His family are enormously proud of his achievements and bravery, but he is perhaps most fondly remembered for his love of home life and of life’s everyday small pleasures: helping his daughters with their homework, pottering in his greenhouse and sailing in the Solent. His sense of humour and zest for life is missed every day.

 

MINISTRY OF DEFENCE

HONOURS AND AWARDS

NAVY DEPARTMENT

MONDAY, 11th OCTOBER 1982

The QUEEN has been graciously pleased to approve the Posthumous award of the Distinguished Service Cross to the undermentioned in recognition of gallant and distinguished service during operations in the South Atlantic:

Lieutenant Commander John Stuart WOODHEAD, Royal Navy

On 4th May 1982, HMS SHEFFIELD was hit amidships by an Exocet missile launched from an Argentine aircraft and sustained major damage and casualties. Fire and thick acrid smoke spread throughout the centre of the ship. After 4½ hours extensive effort, with fire approaching the forward missile and gun magazines the order was given to abandon ship.

At the time of the missile impact Lieutenant Commander Woodhead directed damage control action near the Operations Room. He then went below to the Computer Room and with the Computer Room crew began to assess the damage to his weapon systems. Smoke caused the Operations Room above and then the forward sections of the ship to be evacuated but Lieutenant Commander Woodhead continued at his post and carefully and with extreme determination co-ordinated attempts to restore power to essential weapon equipment and succeeded in restoring the computer facility. By his exceptional qualities of leadership, dedication to duty and courage he inspired the Computer Room crew to follow his brilliant example. Later, overcome by smoke, Lieutenant Commander Woodhead and his team died at their posts. His praiseworthy actions were in the highest traditions of the Service.