Captain John Phillips

Falklands veteran

Captain John Phillips, volunteers with SSAFA's Woking Division

Captain John Phillips DSC, 74, served with the Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal Regiment during the Falklands Conflict in 1982. John was defusing a 500kg bomb on-board HMS Antelope when it exploded. John's colleague was sadly killed, whilst John himself was badly injured resulting in the amputation of his left arm at the shoulder. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and continued to serve for another eight years. He became a SSAFA caseworker in Coventry when he retired in 2002 and after moving to Surrey now volunteers with SSAFA’s Woking Division.

Captain Phillips was a 39-year-old Warrant Officer during the Falklands conflict. He and fellow Royal Engineers bomb disposal expert Staff Sergeant James Prescott were tasked to HMS Antelope on May 23, 1982, to deal with two unexploded bombs on board.

The previous day the pair had defused an unexploded bomb on HMS Argonaut but the bomb they tackled on the Antelope had fully armed. They made four attempts to defuse the bomb but unknown to them it had a 28 second delay and blew up just as they were preparing to inspect it.

The blast ripped a gangway door off its hinges which hit St Sgt Prescott in the chest killing him outright. It also hit John with such force that his arm had to be amputated. The explosion tore the Antelope apart. Father-of-three John was quickly rescued and he and the crew were able to abandon ship before the second bomb on board exploded due to the heat from the burning ship.

The naval medal John was awarded is thought to be the only one issued to an Army  non-commissioned rank.