The Museum has acquired a new aircraft, a Sea Harrier, XZ459, a Falklands War veteran which, as an FRS1, served with No 800 Naval Air Squadron aboard HMS Hermes in the South Atlantic. During the conflict, the aircraft completed 49 Combat Air Patrol (CAP) missions and 4 bombing sorties and was flown by Lieutenant Commander ‘Gordy’ Batt DSC on the first operational sortie of the war on 1 May 1982, the one where the BBC’s Brian Hanrahan, “counted them all out and counted them all back”. In addition to this operation, it is known that XZ459, took part on 16 May in a bombing attack on the Rio Carcarana, an Argentinian supply ship off Port King in Falkland Sound which caused the crew to abandon ship.
Lieutenant Commander Gordy Batt will always be associated with XZ459, flying it many times during the war in which he flew 29 operations, many as the strike leader on bombing attacks on targets such as Stanley airfield and Argentine shipping in the total exclusion zone. On 4 May he led a low-level attack on the airstrip at Goose Green during which his No 2 was shot down and the pilot killed. For these services, 37-year-old Gordy was nominated ‘in theatre’ for the award of Distinguished Service Cross. Often, he flew up to four air defence CAP sorties a day.
On 23 May Gordy launched from HMS Hermes at night with three other Sea Harriers for a bombing attack on Stanley airfield. Shortly after launching, his aircraft was seen to explode ahead of the carrier and he was killed. The cause of the accident has never been established. Gordy’s DSC was gazetted posthumously.
In 2007 Chris Wilson, MD of Jet Art Aviation, purchased the aircraft from the MoD and restored it to static display condition before selling it on to a private owner. Following its purchase by the Museum, XZ459 was transported by our haulage contractor, Springbok Engineering, on Monday 24 August and is now on static display alongside Hawker Harrier GR3 XV744. Museum engineers have now commenced work to bring it to display condition.