Royal Navy frigate HMS Argyll rescued 27 sailors from the Italian Con/Ro ship Grande America which caught fire in the Bay of Biscay on March 11.
The frigate was on her way home to Plymouth after nine months away in the Asia-Pacific region when she responded to a mayday during the night from the 28,000-tonne merchant ship about 150 miles southwest of Brest.
The ship’s cargo of containers and cars caught fire and the crew were fighting a losing battle against the flames and were abandoning ship.
All of the sailors rescued were taken to the French port of Brest. Lieutenant Commander Dave Tetchner, HMS Argyll’s Weapon Engineer Officer, said none suffered life-threatening injuries but some would require hospital treatment and all were stunned by their ordeal.
“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.”