Navy kid who came back a hero

STEVE McKelvie went to war a teenager and came home a hero - after saving the lives of 1,700 people during the last Gulf war.

In the early hours of a February morning in 1991 he was manning HMS Gloucester's radar screen, when he spotted an unidentifiable object.

The ship was 12 miles off Kuwait and the object was a silkworm missile. It was heading for USS Missouri and was just seconds away from hitting the ship and its complement of 1,700 marines.

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Mr McKelvie, 29, from Goring, said: "The missile was packed full of explosives. It would have killed the whole lot of them."

He explained: "Nobody else picked it up at all. It was our job to be riding shotgun. The crew of the Missouri were doing missile attacks against the land and we were there to look after them while they were concentrating on the attacks."

Guns on board HMS Gloucester shot the missile down within 90 seconds of Mr McKelvie alerting the captain, who gave the order for it to blown from the sky.

Mr McKelvie was just 17 at the time, and the youngest person serving with the Navy in the Gulf, when his actions earned him the nickname "Hawkeye".

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The crew returned home six months later to a hero's welcome. The crew of HMS Gloucester received a bravery award and letters of thanks from the families of the marines who were on board the Missouri.

"I got letters from all sorts of people - children, grown-ups, people who had children in the forces, people sent cards and expressed their thanks."

Mr McKelvie, who lived in Nottingham at the time, was given the key to the city, and his story was featured in the national press.

He actions were commended by MPs in the House of Commons, and he also received a letter from the captain of the Missouri, thanking him for saving the lives of the crew and the marines.

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But life after war proved to be an anti-climax for him, and he left the Navy at the age of 22.

Steve, who works as a transport manager, now lives with his partner, ex-Wren Sharon Tidmarsh, who he met while they were serving on the same ship.


I got to a point when I wanted to leave. I had met Sharon and I wanted to settle down a bit.

"It seemed as though nothing exciting happened after the conflict, just lots of training. I wanted more of that adrenalin rush I had when we were at war, so it was time to move on."

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The couple now live in Goring with their two children, Lewis, four, and Jade, two, and he said that he would be happy for them to follow in their parents' footsteps.

"I would like them to go into the forces, especially Lewis. It gives you a good standing in life. It teaches you discipline and self-motivation."

He added: "I can remember it like it was yesterday. If I could go back, I'd be out there on a ship tomorrow."

Mr McKelvie is backing the war in Iraq and hopes this time the troops will get Saddam out.

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He said: "I know what they are going through and what they are thinking. They will be excited and scared, but more excited because they are doing what they have been trained to do.

"You feel for them a lot. I support Tony Blair. They should be there, they should go in and do what should have been done 12 years ago."

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