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Monday, 22 February 2010

The Belgrano sinking

Letter 07:

April 7, 2007

Sir, Magnus Linklater (comment, April 4), writes of the Falklands War: “Famously, the Belgrano was attacked by the nuclear submarine Conqueror when it was heading away from the task force, a fact concealed in the House of Commons. . . ” and refers to “the subsequent decision by the war Cabinet to sink the Argentine battleship”.

First, the Belgrano was a cruiser. More importantly, the Cabinet was unaware of the Belgrano’s change of course before the cruiser was attacked. The decision to sink her was not that of the Cabinet but of the task force commander, Admiral Sandy Woodward, who subsequently wrote: “The speed and direction of an enemy ship can be irrelevant, because both can change quickly. What counts is his position, his capability and what I believe to be his intention.” The Cabinet acceded to the request of Admiral Woodward because it was well aware of the danger of playing armchair generals 8,000 miles from the conflict.

In retrospect it can be seen that the sinking was the decisive action of the war. The Argentine Navy retreated to port thereafter, for the duration of the conflict.

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