Sandy Woodward

Sir John Forster Woodward

Woodward talking to journalist Elizabeth Massey in 2013
Nickname(s) Sandy
Born (1932-05-01)1 May 1932
Penzance, Cornwall
Died 4 August 2013(2013-08-04) (aged 81)
Bosham, West Sussex
Allegiance United Kingdom
Service/branch Royal Navy
Years of service 1946–1989
Rank Admiral
Commands held HMS Tireless
HMS Grampus
HMS Warspite
HMS Sheffield
South Atlantic Task Groups
Naval Home Command
Battles/wars Falklands War
Awards Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire
Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath

Admiral Sir John Forster "Sandy" Woodward GBE, KCB (1 May 1932 – 4 August 2013) was a British admiral who commanded the British Naval Task Force in the South Atlantic during the Falklands War.

Early life

Woodward was born on 1 May 1932 at Penzance, Cornwall, to a bank clerk. He was educated at Stubbington House School, preparatory school in Stubbington, Hampshire. He then continued his education at the Britannia Royal Naval College in Dartmouth, Devon.[1] Woodward married, in 1960, Charlotte McMurtrie (with whom he had a son and a daughter), but in 1993 they separated.[2]

Having graduated from the Royal Naval College Dartmouth, Woodward joined the Royal Navy in 1946.[3] He became a submariner in 1954, and was promoted to lieutenant that May.[3][4] In 1960 he passed the Royal Navy's rigorous Submarine Command Course known as The Perisher,[5] and received his first command, the T Class submarine HMS Tireless.[3] Promoted to lieutenant-commander in May 1962,[6] he then commanded HMS Grampus[3] before becoming the second in command of the nuclear fleet submarine HMS Valiant.[3] In 1967, he was promoted to Commander and became the Instructor (known as Teacher) of The Perisher Course. He took command of HMS Warspite in December 1969.[3] He was promoted to the rank of Captain in 1972.[3] In 1974, he became Captain of Submarine Training and in 1976 he took command of HMS Sheffield.[3]

He became Head of Naval Plans in the Ministry of Defence in 1978.[3] In July 1981, he was promoted to Rear Admiral and appointed as Flag Officer First Flotilla.[3]

Falklands War

In 1982, he commanded the Hermes aircraft carrier group, Task Force 317.8, in the Falklands War under the Commander-in-Chief Admiral Sir John Fieldhouse.[3] (The task force containing the amphibious ships which launched the actual invasion TF 317.0 was commanded by Commodore Michael Clapp, with Task Force 317.1 being the landing force itself.)

He worked out the timetable for the campaign, starting from the end and working to the start. Knowing that the Argentine forces had to be defeated before the (Southern Hemisphere) winter made conditions too bad, he set a latest date by which the land forces had to be ashore, that in turn set a latest date by which control of the air was achieved, and so on.[7]

Possibly the best known single incident was the sinking of the ARA General Belgrano. He knew that General Belgrano (and particularly her Exocet armed escorts) were a threat to the task force and he ordered that she be sunk.[8] Admiral Sir George Zambellas credited "Woodward's inspirational leadership and tactical acumen ... [as] a major factor in shaping the success of the British forces in the South Atlantic".[9]

For his efforts during the war Woodward was knighted.[10] He wrote a book entitled One Hundred Days, co-authored by Patrick Robinson, describing his Falklands experiences.

Later career

In 1983, Woodward was appointed Flag Officer Submarines and NATO Commander Submarines Eastern Atlantic.[3] In 1984, he was promoted to Vice Admiral, and in 1985 he was Deputy Chief of the Defence Staff (Commitments).[3] Before retirement in 1989 he also served, from 1987, as Commander-in-Chief Naval Home Command[3] and Flag Aide-de-Camp to the Queen.

Later life

"Admiral Woodward - Command Responsibilities" by Elizabeth Massey

The first edition of Woodward's memoirs were published in 1992. They were well received and were updated in 2003 and 2012 with updated recollections as well as responses to the memoirs and responses made by Commodore Michael Clapp.[11] In his later life Woodward wrote various opinion pieces for British newspapers regarding defence matters, particularly the Strategic Defence and Security Review.[12]

Woodward died of a heart attack on 4 August 2013 in Bosham, West Sussex, England.[1][13][14][15]

Honours and decorations

On 11 October 1982, Woodward was appointed Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath (KCB) 'in recognition of service within the operations in the South Atlantic'.[16] In the 1989 Queen's Birthday Honours, he was appointed Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire (GBE).[17]

Ribbon Details Year awarded
Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire 1989
Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath 1982
South Atlantic Medal 1982
Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal 1977



  1. 1 2 "Admiral Sir John ('Sandy') Woodward". The Telegraph. London. 5 August 2013. Retrieved 5 August 2013.
  2. The Scotsman, 'Obituary: Admiral Sir John “Sandy” Woodward, Naval chief', 07 August 2013
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 Debrett's People of Today 1994
  4. The London Gazette: no. 40568. p. 4819. 23 August 1955. Retrieved 20 August 2015.
  5. "Perisher Submarine Command Training in the Royal Navy". JOC David Nagle, USN. US Navy. Retrieved 5 August 2013.
  6. The London Gazette: no. 42704. p. 4778. 15 June 1962. Retrieved 20 August 2015.
  7. Woodward, Sandy; One Hundred Days
  8. Ted Jeory (5 August 2013). "'The Navy's fighting admiral' Falkland Islands commander, Sandy Woodward dies aged 81". Daily Express. Retrieved 5 August 2013. “It's very simple. There was the Belgrano and two destroyers armed with Exocet missiles milling around in the southern ocean." "I know from experience that while they were within 200 miles of our ships, they could have us overnight. So I wanted them removed, didn’t I?”
  9. "Falklands War admiral Sandy Woodward dies aged 81". BBC News. 5 August 2013.
  10. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 49134. p. 12856. 8 October 1982. Retrieved 19 June 2011.
  11. Woodward, Sandy; One Hundred Days, 2nd edition; Introduction
  12. Woodward, Sandy (15 May 2011). "The truth is we couldn't defend anything further than the other side of the Channel". Daily Mail. London. Retrieved 5 August 2013.
  13. Goldstein, Richard (7 August 2013). "John Woodward, Leader of British Navy in Falkland Islands War, Dies at 81". The New York Times.
  14. "BBC News – Falklands War admiral Sandy Woodward dies aged 81". BBC. 5 August 2013. Retrieved 5 August 2013.
  15. "Admiral Sandy Woodward". The Guardian. 5 August 2013.
  16. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 49134. p. 12856. 8 October 1982. Retrieved 5 August 2013.
  17. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 51772. p. 4. 16 June 1989. Retrieved 5 August 2013.
Military offices
Preceded by
Sir Peter Herbert
Flag Officer Submarines
Succeeded by
Richard Heaslip
Preceded by
New Post
Deputy Chief of the Defence Staff (Commitments)
Succeeded by
Sir Antony Walker
Preceded by
Sir Peter Stanford
Commander-in-Chief Naval Home Command
Succeeded by
Sir Jeremy Black
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