Prince Andrew revelation: How Duke will 'never forget horrific and terrifying moment'

PRINCE ANDREW was a firsthand witness to the tragic sinking of a British ship in the Falklands – and the Duke of York described the “horrific” attack as his “most frightening moment”, according to a royal biographer. 

Prince Andrew cut short his summer break on the Queen’s beloved Balmoral estate this week – just days after Sarah Ferguson also left earlier than expected. The Duchess of York – affectionately known as Fergie – was believed to have departed as Prince Philip arrived, avoiding any awkward encounter with the Duke of Edinburgh. The Duke of York has been in the spotlight recently with rumours of a rekindled royal romance with ex-wife Sarah, with whom the Duke still lives despite their 1996 divorce.

However, it was before Andrew and Fergie’s 1985 meeting that he endured what he described as his "most frightening moment”.

Biographer Andrew Morton, in his 1983 book “Andrew: The Playboy Prince” delves into the prince’s role as a helicopter pilot during the Falklands conflict of 1982.

On May 25, Argentinian forces launched an attack on Prince Andrew’s ship, HMS Invincible, believing the prince to be on board.

However, tragedy unfolded as an Argentinian Exocet missile, successfully distracted off course from the Invincible, actually hit the British transporter Atlantic Conveyor, killing 12. 

Prince Andrew

The Duke of York (Image: Getty)

Prince Andrew

Prince Andrew was a helicopter pilot in the Royal Navy (Image: Getty)

Mr Morton writes: “The giant Atlantic Conveyor was ripped apart by the Exocet.

“The 695 foot long container vessel ferried vital helicopters and supplies to the Task Force and was protected by the carrier group.

“For Prince Andrew, it was a day to dread. 

“Throughout the entire tragedy he was airborne but utterly helpless to prevent the dreadful loss of life."

READ MORE: Royal feud: Andrew's crippling fears about Eugenie and Beatrice

Prince Andrew and Queen Elizabeth II

Queen Elizabeth II welcomes Andrew home after the Falklands conflict (Image: Getty)

The prince later said: “I was airborne when the Atlantic Conveyor was hit.

“We saw the odd 4.5 inch shell come pretty close to us and I saw the Invincible fire her missiles.

“Normally, I would say it looked very spectacular but from where I was it was very frightening. 

“I think the moment really sticks in my mind.

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Atlantic Conveyor

The Atlantic Conveyor pictured in the Falklands before the attak (Image: Getty)

Atlantic Conveyor survivor

A survivor of the Atlantic Conveyor returns home (Image: Getty)

“It was horrific and terrible and something I will never forget.

“It was probably my most frightening moment of the war.”

Mr Morton continues: “But whatever his private thoughts, he still had a job to do and within minutes of the terrible attack, his Sea King was scouring the freezing seas for survivors from the Stricken Atlantic Conveyor.”

The author also describes how the prince had been airborne when the British destroyer HMS Sheffield was hit by an Exocet missile  three weeks before the devastating Atlantic Conveyor attack.

HMS Sheffield

The destroyed HMS Sheffield pictured befor eit sank in the South Atlantic (Image: Getty)

He writes: “The British destroyer HMS Sheffield, on picket duty protecting the two carrier Invincible and Hermes, had no chance of survival. 

“The crew had just 20 seconds warning of the missile attack before the Exocet plunged into the heart of the ship, turning the vessel into a white hot hell within moments.

“20 British sailors died in the ensuing inferno.

“Prince Andrew, airborne at the time of the attack, watched in horror as a thick black pall of smoke slowly rose from the burning Sheffield.”

Prince Andrew and Prince Philip

Prince Andrew celebrates the return of HMS Invincible to Portsmouth (Image: Getty)

The prince said: “For the first ten minutes after Sheffield was hit, we really didn’t know which way to turn or what to do.

“I was fairly frightened.

“It was a dreadful sight.

“It’s something I never thought I would ever see – a British warship devastated.”