Advertiser history contributor Craig Fisher compiled the following tribute to Gordon Batt, an Andoverian who died during the Falklands war forty years ago. Gordon Walter James Batt, DSC, was a Lieutenant Commander in the 800 Squadron Fleet Air Arm, Royal Navy. He was killed in action on May 23, 1982 during the Falkland Islands Campaign, aged 37.

Gordon Walter James Batt, known as ‘Gordy’ to his family and friends, was born on February 10, 1945 in Bircotes, Yorkshire. He was the only child of James Batt and Rose Calvert who had married in 1943. His father was serving in the Royal Air Force at the time, with World War Two yet to see an end.

Basingstoke Gazette: Gordon BattGordon Batt

The family moved to Andover where Gordon was educated at the grammar school. He took a keen interest in aviation, joining 1213 (Andover) Squadron of the Air Training Corps and on leaving school decided on a career with the Royal Navy. He joined at HMS Fisgard in Cornwall in 1961, when aged just sixteen and a half, becoming an Artificer Apprentice, but in 1964 was selected for officer training.

He was posted to the Britannia Royal Naval College at Dartmouth, as an 'Upper Yardman' Cadet, where he became interested in both diving and sailing. As a midshipman Gordon saw service in the Far and Middle East, returning to Dartmouth to continue his studies in 1967.

After being commissioned as a Sub Lieutenant, he became the First Lieutenant of HMS Brave Swordsman, a fast patrol boat. He married Diana Greenslade in Croydon in 1970, and in the same year began pilot training. In July 1971 he was awarded his Fleet Air Arm 'wings' earning the Ground School Training Prize in the process. His eldest son, Christopher, was also born that year.

After completing Advanced Flying Training and Operational Training on Sea King helicopters, Gordon joined 824 Naval Air Squadron, where he served on HMS Ark Royal until Easter 1973.

Despite running down its carrier fleet, the Royal Navy decided it needed to keep a nucleus of fixed-wing pilots to fly the new British Aerospace Sea Harriers, and Gordon was among the first of a small number of helicopter pilots selected to train on fast jets.

He was attached to the Royal Air Force, initially for training on the BAC Jet Provost, before moving on to fly the Folland Gnat and Hawker Hunter, finally qualifying on the McDonnell Douglas F-4M Phantom. Gordon served with No.43 Squadron (the Fighting Cocks) at RAF Leuchars in Fife between December 1974 and August 1977. A second son, Andrew, was born in 1974 and a daughter, Joanna, followed in 1976.

After five years with the RAF, Gordon returned to the Royal Navy as a student at the Naval Staff College, Greenwich where he remained until February 1978. He spent the next two years on an exchange appointment to the United States Navy, serving with VX4 Squadron at the Pacific Missile Test Centre, California, where he flew the Grumman F14 Tomcat. Whilst there, he skilfully saved his aircraft after a low-level engine failure, an act for which he was awarded the US Secretary of State’s Commendation for Meritorious Services in the Air.

Gordon returned to the UK in 1980 and began his Sea Harrier conversion with 899 Squadron, moving to the Royal Naval Air Station at Yeovilton, in Somerset, where he set up home in the nearby village of Martock with his wife and three children.

He was due to become Senior Pilot of 800 Squadron in late 1982, however, events in the South Atlantic intervened.

When Argentine forces invaded the Falkland Islands on April 2, 1982, Gordon, now a lieutenant commander, sailed south from Portsmouth on the carrier HMS Hermes with an integrated 800/809/899 Sea Harrier Squadron. The Andover Advertiser of May 14 that year reported that Gordon and another Andoverian, Philip Currier, were both aboard Hermes, the later - from Medina Court in the town – serving as a cook.

Gordon’s mother, Rose, of Cherry Tree Road, told the newspaper “His whole life has been devoted to the Navy. I am obviously really apprehensive, but he has got a job and he is the sort of person who will want to do it to the best of his ability. Although it is of concern I don’t think he would want it any other way. He will want to feel he is doing his bit.” She went on to say “My neighbours are very concerned, and I would like to thank them. They come round all the time to inquire about Gordon.”

Gordon flew several important missions as strike leader form Hermes, including bombing attacks on Port Stanley airfield, Goose Green, and several Argentine ships. For these services and his outstanding leadership, Gordon was nominated 'in theatre' for the award of a Distinguished Service Cross.

On May 23, 1982, about an hour before midnight, he launched in aircraft ZA192 from Hermes with three other Sea Harriers, to attack Port Stanley airfield again. His aircraft was last to leave the deck, but was then seen to explode ahead of the carrier. The cause of this accident, which occurred about 90 miles north-east of Port Stanley, was never established, although some reports suggest that, as he left the deck, the bow of the ship rose in the turbulent waves and hit the tail of his aircraft, sending it crashing into the South Atlantic.

The Andover Advertiser of May 28, 1982 reported his death under the headline ‘Town Mourns Loss of Taskforce Pilot.’ His mother, Rose Batt, told the newspaper “Obviously I am very proud of my son. I do hope that what he has done for the benefit of all the nation helps to uphold what we are standing for in this dispute. I hope his life is not lost in vain. His whole life was dedicated to the Navy.”

Gordon’s father had died in January 1982, shortly after retiring from Locomotors. Rose said “It has been a terrible year for me, what with the two people I loved most going in five months.”

Gordon’s DSC was gazetted posthumously, the citation published in the London Gazette of the 8th October 1982 reads:

Lieutenant Commander Batt, HMS HERMES, played a key role in the air battle and operations over the Falklands. On 4th May 1982, he led a daring and aggressive attack on the airstrip at the Goose Green settlement during which his number two was shot down and the pilot killed. He participated in five other low level attacks against defending targets, notable, on two occasions, against Port Stanley airfield. He also flew up to four air defence sorties per day, sometimes combining further ground attacks with these sorties. He was killed on a night mission prior to another low level attack on the airfield.

Lieutenant Commander Batt faced the danger and very high stress with characteristic cheerfulness which was a fine example to the other aircrew. He knew the odds against him but his courage never failed and his aggressive flying on 29 operational missions was in the highest traditions of the Service.

Gordon is remembered on the Martock village war memorial and on a plaque inside St Bartholomew’s Church, Yeovilton, dedicated to 19 men of the Fleet Air Arm who died during the Falkland Islands Campaign. He is also commemorated on the Armed Forces Memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum at Alrewas, Staffordshire, on a memorial in Blue Beach Military Cemetery, San Carlos in the Falklands, and on the Falklands National Monument in Cardiff. There are plans to have his name added to both the Andover roll of honour, at the Cenotaph, and the grammar school war memorial plaques, which currently hang in the main hall of John Hanson Community School.