[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Thursday, 17 May 2007, 12:02 GMT 13:02 UK
'I beat pirates with a hose and sonic cannon'
Michael Groves and Som Bahadur Gurung
Michael Groves and Som Bahadur Gurung received honours
Under heavy rocket and machine-gun fire from pirates attacking his cruise ship, Michael Groves had one thought - to protect the passengers.

Instead of fleeing for cover, the security officer braved the bullets and directed a high pressure hose at the two pirate boats, keeping them at bay.

Then, after dragging his injured colleague Som Bahadur Gurung to safety, he saw off the heavily armed mercenaries by hitting them with a hi-tech sonic cannon.

On Wednesday both Mr Groves, 41, and Mr Gurung, 46, were honoured for their bravery by the Queen, who told them they had been "very courageous".

'Automatic fire'

In ceremonies at Buckingham Palace Mr Groves was awarded the Queen's Gallantry Medal and Mr Gurung the Queen's Commendation for Bravery.

The men were working on board the Seabourn Spirit cruise liner, carrying 300 crew and passengers, when it was targeted 100 miles (160km) off the Somali coast in November 2005.

After accepting the honour Mr Groves, an ex-policemen, told how he was called to the deck after two speed boats were spotted approaching the liner.

Somali pirates attacking the Seabourn Spirit
Somali pirates fired rockets and machine guns at the ship

"As soon as I went on the deck I came under automatic fire straight away. A rocket grenade blew me off my feet," he said.

"The next thing I remember is rolling around and trying to check for shrapnel."

He then quickly unwound a high pressure hose and aimed the jet at the attackers, forcing them to withdraw.

They soon returned and Mr Gurung, the liner's Master of Arms, tried to activate the sonic weapon, known as a Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD).

But he fell to the floor after being hit in the upper body by a bullet.


"I saw a spray of blood and he just went straight down," Mr Groves said.

"I though he was gone but he opened one eye. He looked like half his head had been blown off."

After dragging Mr Gurung to safety Mr Groves, who has served in the Royal Navy, turned the sonic weapon on the attackers.

The Seabourn Sprit
Pirates used rocket launchers to attack the ship

The loudhailer-style device is often used by UK and US troops and is capable of causing permanent damage to hearing from a distance of more than 300 metres (984ft).

After 30 minutes the pirates, who were trying to board the ship, were forced to retreat and the ship's captain directed the liner to safer waters.

He had tried to ram the pirates as Mr Groves fought them off.

Mr Groves said after the ceremony: "The Queen asked me when it was and she recalled it.

"She said she had read the citation and was surprised we only had a hose and LRAD device on board. She said it was very courageous."

He added: "The pirates were circling around the ship.

"The guests and the crew are still recovering from the trauma. It was terrifying. There was a lot of screaming on the lower decks."

Direct hit

Both Mr Groves, of the West Midlands, and Mr Gurung - a Gurkha originally from Nepal but now living in Southend - say they are still recovering from their injuries.

Mr Groves said shock-waves from the LRAD has damaged his hearing and claims he now suffers from tinnitus.

He has launched a damages claim against Miami-based ship owner Carnival, accusing bosses of negligence.

Damage caused to the Seabourn Spirit
Passengers said a rocket was fired into the ship

After the pirate attack passengers who had been on board the liner contacted the BBC News website to describe their ordeal.

Some said a rocket propelled grenade (RPG) was fired through the ship's side and into a room.

Edith Laird, from Seattle in the US, said: "My daughter saw the pirates out of our window.

"There were at least three RPGs that hit the ship, one in a stateroom four doors down from our cabin."

Solicitor Norman Fisher, 55, from Hampstead Garden Suburb in north London, said: "I was awake doing some work when I heard what sounded like a crack from outside at 0550.


"I looked out of the window and saw a small boat with about five people in it about 20 yards (18m) away.

"One of them clearly had a rifle. Later I realised that two of them had rifles and one had some kind of rocket launcher.

"They were firing the rifle and then fired the rocket launcher twice. One of the rockets certainly hit the ship - it went through the side of the liner into a passenger's suite. The couple were in there at the time so it was a bit of an unpleasant experience."

Mr Fisher told how the ship's captain then made an announcement saying: "Stay inside, stay inside, we are under attack."

Bleary-eyed and nervous passengers were told to gather in the ship's restaurant.

They burst into a round of applause when they were told the pirates had been defeated, unaware of the heroics that had been performed on the upper deck.

Long range acoustic device
On full power, the device can emit a concentrated, 150 decibel [dB] high energy acoustic wave, which retains a level of 100dB over distances of 500 metres. Supersonic airliner Concorde emitted about 110dB, most household smoke detectors about 85dB
The wave is focused within a 15-30 degree 'beam', allowing the LRAD to be aimed at a specific target
Persons standing next to the wave will experience 40dB less noise than those directly in its path. Those behind the LRAD unit are shielded by a 60dB reduction in output

Couple speak of 'pirate attack'
14 Nov 05 |  Nottinghamshire
Liner docks after pirate attack
07 Nov 05 |  Africa

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific