Acting Chief Weapons Mechanician
Michael Edward Gordon Till was a young man with a twinkle in his eye and a ready smile. Born on 4th February 1947 Mike, his parents Jack and Mary, and two younger brothers Bryan and Peter, lived in Southampton until the family emigrated to Canada in 1957. Jack died four and a half years later and Mary and her three sons returned to home to live near her mother at Houghton-le-Spring in Tyne and Wear. On leaving school Mike studied radio communications at Durham and later worked in Suffolk. At 19 he joined the Royal Navy as a Radio Mech. App. serving his apprenticeship at HMS Collingwood and on HMS Rhyll. He also married Audrey. Their three daughters, Emma (1967), Julia (1970), and Nancy (1971) arrived in due course.
1970 saw Mike in the Submarines and the family moved to Scotland. After seven years, during which time he had served twice on the Polaris Submarine Repulse, he requested a return to General Service and eventually joined HMS Sheffield. He was due to leave her in April 1982 but this was postponed because of the Falkland's War. Always a keen cross-country and middle distances runner, Mike collected an assortment of trophies from quite an early age. In March 1982 in the Red Sea, HMS Sheffield became the first ship ever to carry out a baton trophy 100x1mile relay whilst underway, and therefore claimed the waterborne record. Mike was delighted that at 34 years old he achieved the 4th fastest time in this event. Even when at sea, Mike endeavoured to keep on form by training regularly, only stopping in April 1982 when the ship had sailed so far south that conditions prevented this.
HMS Sheffield had sailed from Portsmouth on November 19th 1981 for a patrol in the Arabian Gulf. After taking part in a major Mediterranean Exercise and four days from her planned return to Portsmouth, the ship was diverted to the South Atlantic on April 2nd 1982, within hours of the Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands. While on forward radar picket duty about 70 miles south and east of Stanley, on Tuesday May 4th, the type 42 destroyer was struck amidships by an Exocet missile fired from an Argentine Naval Super Etendard aircraft. The missile's warhead failed to explode, but the resulting fires quickly spread, and the ship had to be abandoned. In all 20 lives were lost.
Mike was the senior computer chief on Sheffield and when the Exocet hit, the computer room team remained at their posts working to get the ship's computers back on line so that she could defend herself. Although they succeeded the Sheffield was herself too badly damaged to make use of this. Sadly by this time it was also too late for these men to escape the fire, smoke and fumes and they all perished. Mike was Mentioned in Dispatches and his posthumous South Atlantic Medal bears a bronze oakleaf. On May 9th HMS Sheffield finally sank whilst under tow at the position 53^(o)04'S 56^(o)56'W.
Throughout his last deployment, to the Gulf and to the South Atlantic, Mike and his family wrote to each other every day (even though letters could not be posted daily). When life on board ship ran a little dry on news he found he had a talent for setting the girls quizzes (for which there was always a prize) and tall stories which on one occasion won him a 'putty medal' lovingly made and posted to him from home. On rare occasions even a 'ticking off' would arrive on the doormat! Through this he continued a close relationship with his wife and daughters who by now were fourteen, eleven and ten. His last letter to leave the ship ended with the words 'whatever happens take care of yourselves'.
Mike will always be remembered as a kind and gentle man with a lovely sense of humour and great patience and tolerance. His family adored him. His daughters are now grown and married and he has two grandchildren, a grandson Alexander Michael who shares a name with him and a granddaughter Isabelle Alice who shares his birthday. In 1990 his widow, Audrey, married Anton Skillman. They are living happily near Southampton.
To commemorate this very special man and the pleasure and fun he had from being part of the Sheffield's record making relay team, in 1983 his family presented the Fleet with the 'Mike Till Trophy' for the '100x1 Mile Relay at Sea, Underway.' Inspired by his love of all wildlife as well as the delight with which he wrote home of his first sighting of an Albatross in the South Atlantic, this trophy is a sculpture in wood of an Albatross soaring over a breaking wave.
The Albatross sculpture by Derek George.
This has now been mounted and is the Mike Till Trophy.