ROYAL Navy warship HMS Argyll made a daring rescue to save 27 crew from a raging fire on a container ship off the coast of France.
HMS Argyll spent eight hours to rescue every single person on board the Grande America in the Bay of Biscay after the ship’s cargo of containers and cars caught fire.
The Royal Navy warship was on her way home to Plymouth after spending nine months deployed around Asia and the Pacific.
She responded to a desperate mayday call from the 28,000 tonne vessel about 150 miles southwest of Brest.
The crew were fighting a losing battle against the flames had were being forced to abandon ship in a lifeboat.
All 27 crew crammed aboard the boat which was then damaged by heavy seas and left floundering near the blazing inferno.
“HMS Argyll’s swift and selfless response to very dangerous situation in difficult conditions undoubtedly saved 27 lives.”
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson
HMS Argyll – a Type 23 frigate – rushed to the scene and deployed her sea boat rib, which managed to push the lifeboat free.
It then brought the dinghy against the side of HMS Argyll and allowed them to rescue the crew ands ave their lives.
Royal Navy sailors described the lifeboat as “bobbing around like a cork in a bathtub” in “horrendous” sea conditions.
Commandos from the Royal Marines stepped in used ropes to haul the crew up onto HMS Argyll once the lifeboat was alongside.
The 27 sailors rescued have been taken to the French port of Brest – with some requiring hospital treatment.
Luckily none of them suffered life-threatening injuries, and every soul about the Grande America survived thanks to the Royal Navy.
The ship was still aflame when Argyll left the merchant ship around 5am.
The Italian-registered vessel had been bound for Casablanca from Hamburg.
HMS Argyll’s command officer Commander Toby Shaughnessy commended the work of his crew – and said conditions were “on the limit”.
Lieutenant Commander Dave Tetchner said: “The conditions were horrendous – the vessels were rolling at 30 degrees which made it extremely hairy getting the sailors safely on board.
“Royal Marines were on the ropes hauling people up, the sea boat was pushing the lifeboat against Argyll. It was pretty awful for them – they’d had to fight a fire in dreadful seas.
“Every one of them suffered smoke inhalation. Then they faced the prospect of abandoning ship and then their lifeboat failed. It was pretty awful all round and they were shocked.
“You see container ships like this every day when you’re sailing around the world. What you do not see is one in flames – it was a dreadful sight.”
HMS Argyll is one of the Royal Navy’s 13 frigates which weight in at 4,900 tons £130 and make-up the backbone of the Royal Navy.
Armed with missiles, torpedoes, miniguns and a 4.5 inch naval gun – the vessels are expected to be replaced by the upcoming Type 26s from 2023.
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “HMS Argyll’s swift and selfless response to very dangerous situation in difficult conditions undoubtedly saved 27 lives. I commend her crew.
“This rescue demonstrates that even on the final leg of a challenging nine month deployment to the Far East, the Royal Navy’s sailors remain vigilant and professional at all times.”