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Sharkey Ward

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Sharkey Ward

United Kingdom

Years of service
1962 – 1989

Battles and wars

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Birth name
Nigel David MacCartan-Ward

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Commander Nigel David "Sharkey" Ward, (born 1943), born Nigel David MacCartan-Ward, is a former Royal Navy officer and Fleet Air Arm fighter pilot who commanded 801 Naval Air Squadron during the 1982 Falklands War.


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Early career in the Royal Navy

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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 Allied Forces Northern Europe. 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.

Falklands war

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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.

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21 May 1982
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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.

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. 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.

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.

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.

Honours and awards

  • 12 June 1982 – Air Force Cross in the Queen's Birthday Honours.
  • 8 October 1982 – Distinguished Service Cross for gallant and distinguished service in the South Atlantic:
  • Works

  • Ward, Commander Sharkey (1992). Sea Harrier Over the Falklands: A Maverick at War. Leo Cooper. pp. 299 pages. ISBN 978-0-85052-305-8. 
  • References

    Sharkey Ward Wikipedia

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