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HMS Coventry's loss in Falklands to be dramatised in £10m film

IT was one of the most dramatic and tragic events of the 1982 Falklands conflict.

Now the sinking of the Royal Navy warship HMS Coventry is to be dramatised on film in a £10 million movie blockbuster being co-produced by Glasgow-based production company Crab Apple Films.

Set for release next year, Destroyer is based on the 2007 memoirs of the Coventry's Captain David Hart Dyke, who will be played in the film by Paul Bettany.

The film's Scots producer Angus Lamont, whose other credits include upcoming Northern Ireland thriller '71, said, "This is the kind of project that I got into the film industry for, and it will be a privilege to tell the story of the crew of HMS Coventry."

The 4,800-ton Coventry, a Type 42 destroyer launched in 1974, was hurriedly despatched to the South Atlantic in April 1982 to join the Royal Navy Task Force assembled to liberate the Falkland Islands following Argentina's invasion of the remote British colony.

But in the early evening of May 25, while north of West Falkland, the ship was attacked by Argentine Skyhawk fighter-bombers and hit by three 1,000lb bombs, leaving her ablaze.

Captain Hart Dyke, father of the award-winning comedy actress Miranda Hart, later described the moment the bombs struck: "There was a vicious shockwave, a blinding flash and searing heat...the force and the shock of the impact shook my whole body to the core. All power and communication were lost, the ship was stopped, burning furiously and beginning to roll."

With Coventry beyond saving, the crew was forced to abandon ship. Captain Hart Dyke, who wrote about the sinking in the book Four Weeks In May, made it to a life-raft and was picked up by the frigate HMS Broadsword, from where he witnessed his ship's final death throes.

"I looked out to see Coventry for the last time," he said. "She was upside down a short distance away, with her keel showing just a few feet above the sea."

The next morning the ship slipped beneath the waves. Nineteen of her crew were killed and 30 injured, including Captain Hart Dyke, who suffered burns to his face and hands.

The film, which has been in development for three years, has been written for the screen and will be directed by Tom Shankland - whose previous credits include the BBC's Victorian crime drama Ripper Street. It is being shot in Malta, and at Pinewood studios.

"It's been many years since the UK has produced a significant war film, so it's thrilling to be handling Destroyer, which is one of the best scripts we've read in a long time," said Natalie Brenner, spokes-woman for the film's distributor, Metro.

Besides Bettany, who was BAFTA-nominated for his role in an earlier naval epic, 2003's Master & Commander, the cast includes Luke Evans and Matthew Goode, while veterans who served on HMS Coventry are advisers.

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