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Falklands.

I was born in 1973.

I vaguely recall the antics in the Mid-East and things like the Iranian revolution.

But the real big-hitter of my primary school days was the Falklands war. My primary school headmaster flew a union flag on the day Stanley was liberated. It was a sort of coming of age thing. A sort of baptism in fire of the fact there was a world far beyond my mates house down the road and a genuine feeling of pride (seeing the task force – a point rarely noted – certainly not by the BBC when the sailors lined the sides of their ships one of their wives, from portside, gave her hubby (and of course a hell of a lot of others) a final (at least for a bit) glegg at her breasts – perhaps it is sometimes The Sun what won it. Yes, I recall it very clearly and the pain and loss that followed. The tits, the harriers, Goose Green, Sheffield, Belgrano, the fact that like every small boy in Britain I really, really wanted an Airfix Sea Harrier FRS1 and it seemed to take an age for my dad to get one (they were sold out). Probably a couple of weeks but that is an eternity at that age.

There is much to say tactically about the conflict that I won’t bore you about. Things like the chronic unreliability of Sea Dart or the short legs of the Harrier or even that the Belgrano was hit with two torpedoes (a major issue in Argentina – “The first was war, the second was murder”) not because we were attempting to politically escalate or cause a hecatomb but the commander of HMS Conqueror had no choice and fired a spread of Mark VIII torpedoes from the 1920s and two hit. The new wire-guided Tigerfish didn’t actually work. We kept quiet about that for a bit. I mean the Sovs would have laughed their asses off.

So, other than strictly tactical stuff goes I don’t know what to say…

So I’ll leave it to Flying Tiger Comics commenting at Samizdata

It’s something that should be emphasised, not glossed over- Thatcher wasn’t a warmonger, but when confronted with a challenge for which she did not ask, she did the correct, and risky thing, not the easy and weak thing.

Yes, she did. The general narrative is too frequently that Maggie brought this on her self as a last ditch attempt to win the ’83 election (against Michael Foot’s Labour?) and not the truth that it was the last throw of the dice by a vile Junta in Buenos Aires. Maggie took a heck of a risk and we won very narrowly. Would iDave do the same? Whaddya think? We had a leader back then of courage. And it was globally noted.

10 Comments

  1. RAB says:

    On a personal note, I was thirty and still an Executive in the Crown Court in Bristol. One of my Co’s was a great Glasgow lady named Jean. She had a son who was a great lad, but perhaps not the sharpest. He used to come into the office and we liked him a lot.

    Well he was proud as punch one day, to come into the office and announced he’d joined the Royal Navy and was going to be a cook on HMS Sheffield. Well the Falklands happened and we know what happened next don’t we?

    His death almost killed his mother too. But at least she had the small comfort to know that he had died in a just war for a just cause. We had been aggressed against and we took action. We won by the skin of our teeth. Maggie did the right thing, not because she wanted war but because there was no other choice. That is what principalled leaders of a country do, and she was the last, possibly the very last leader of this country to stand up for OUR rights and people.

    As to the relatives, of those who have lost their lives in Iraq and Afganistan (who my wife used to liase with until she retired from the MOD on Friday [ nobody noticed my comment on the Dylan Thomas thread then? Shame!] ) how will they be able to say the same? Both pointless and clueless losses of good young men and women, to satisfy the political cravings of cretinous so called leaders who will never hear a shot fired in anger, or a best mate blown to bits before their very eyes.

  2. ftumch says:

    The Welcome Inn in Barrow changed its name to The Sheffield not long after the sinking. It touched a lot of people in the town at that time; it’s hardly Portsmouth, but still has a strong navy connection nonetheless. My dad had worked on it, and I worked with quite a few old geezers who’d worked on it too.

    “the chronic unreliability of Sea Dart” … never thought much about this before, so a quick google. Some interesting points here: http://warships1discussionboards.yuku.com/topic/9268/Was-Sea-Dart-ever-really-good-enough-

    The general overview seems to me that it was pretty good for the time.* One major problem was a micro switch becoming encrusted with sea salt and preventing the doors from opening, to which is the rather amusing solution:

    “The micro switch problem in the Falkklands was fixed by a quick sqirt of WD40 and then covered with a plastic bag held on with an elastic band.”

    That’s good old British ingenuity, I say!

    I do admit to a soft spot for the Sea Dart: I served the last 6 months of my apprenticeship wiring them up for testing, followed by another 3 months before I got move onto the boats as a glorified light bulb changer.

    Barrow at that time was Tory (thanks to Trident), but has since been strongly Labour, as it was before Thatcher; a typical northern working class town, in effect. I know plenty of those on the left who always regarded Thatch as a war-monger, even long before 1982; she is/was, after all, only one goose-step short of a full nazi? right?? It was even worse when Reagan got in. The two of em together were going to start WWIII, all my CND mates just knew this was our future. Most of those I knew who were opposed to Thatcher, who were opposed to Trident, the ones who sold the Socialist Worker (it might have been the Morning Star) outside the yard gates at 7am in the morning… none of them actually worked in the place. The myth that Thatch deliberately started the war (by abandoning South Georgia, etc etc) was bought hook, line and sinker by these idiots, and then regurgitated persistently and forever into the present.

    *Radar was likewise an issue, but only near land; these were intended for open water battle senarios. Further down the same post as above: “The great problem with all RN missiles was the annual firing allowance which was always too low to develop a system properly. for e.g. Kent was only allowed to fire three seaslug missiles a commission and something like three seacats a year. Contrast this with a Tiger firing hundreds of rounds of six and three inch ammo every week. You are in no doubt which system is going to keep you alive in a war.” Seems to me more beta testing required.

  3. Tim Newman says:

    The Russians still respect Maggie to this day. She was strong, principled, and took action when necessary. Plus even they realise now she was on the right side.

  4. John Galt says:

    @Tim Newman:

    The feelings of the Russians towards the Falklands conflict was a bit mixed. From a state perspective they were supportive of Argentina making a bold move against the imperialist colony of the Falkland Islands.

    However, one senior diplomat was dealing with a Russian complaint about one of their aircraft being escorted out of the range of the South Atlantic Convoy. After the attaché had made his formal complaint, he said (on a personal note) “I hope you drive those bastards into the sea”.

    Not all East / West politics of the time was about arguing the Marxist dialectic.

  5. JuliaM says:

    “…the Belgrano was hit with two torpedoes (a major issue in Argentina – “The first was war, the second was murder”)…”

    Really? Isn’t this rather like any type of self-defence, you fire until the enemy is neutralised?

  6. Sam Duncan says:

    “she was the last, possibly the very last leader of this country to stand up for OUR rights and people.”

    Exactly, RAB. And that was what lead to her downfall. I’ll never tire of pointing it out: it wasn’t the Poll Tax; it was the Bruges speech. All too late, she found out what the EU was up to, and just like the Argies interfering in the Falklanders’ lives, she wasn’t having it.

    As for ’82, I recall my teacher coming in one morning and telling us to “Remember this day, since we’re living through a historical moment”. Oddly enough, I don’t. I’m not sure whether it was the Argentine invasion, the first British landing, or the victory. Or maybe something else, like the sinking of the Sheffield. I can’t actually remember what teacher it was, now I come to think of it. Anyway, I do know that even at the age of 11, with parents who lived through WWII I was somewhat dismissive of the historical aspect of the whole thing. I can see now that I was wrong, albeit for a reason that couldn’t really have been foreseen at the time: it was the last time the British Government clearly and unambiguously defended the rights and liberties of its people when they were threatened.

  7. Tim Newman says:

    John, I wasn’t really referring to Russians’ opinion on Maggie’s reaction to the Falklands, I think it is more her standing up to them which impressed them. Strange folk, Russians.

  8. Paul Marks says:

    The military regime in Argentina was rather odd (as well as drunken and bloodsoaked).

    There was indeed a massive Communist terrorist problem in Argentina and many other nations in Latin America (the United States was NOT engaged in a “crusade against the left” in Latin America, Duarte in El Salvador and other nonCommunist leftists were ALLIES of the United States at the time) – so in their appeals to the United States the Junta were not lying about about that.

    However, they were certainly NOT free market types (indeed their henchmen even went about abducting rich businessmen, or members of their families, for ransom) . They were almost like Prince-King John from English history – in that they went about robbing rich men and raping their daughters (for some reason the Robin Hood myth is all about how Prince John robbed the poor – Prince John was not interested in robbing the poor because THEY DID NOT HAVE MUCH MONEY) and then whined about how unpopular they were, and how no one gave them any credit for fighting the …… (Communists in the case of the Junta – the French in the case of King John, although he kept losing which made him even more unpopular).

    Anyway they also played the other side of the street when it was in their interests…..

    And with some success – after all Radio Moscow was strongly pro Argentina during the Falklands War (yes I used to listen to it sometimes – just as I sometimes watch “RT” now).

    Again it was like King John – one minute proclaiming their independence from the power of the Pope, and then (when things went wrong) handing over the Realm of England as a Papal Fief (accepting themselves as a formal Papal vassal – which no other English King had done).

    So the Junta (having declared themselves the defenders of the country against the Communists – and against the Peronist Fascists, oh yes the Junta was certainly NOT Fascist, they did not have space between their ears for any ideology), then tried desperatly to make allies of the Communists.

    They also reached out to the Peronists (the people who are in power in Argentina now – by the way).

    “Yes I know we have been killing you [seemed to be the message to the Communists and the Peronists], but we have taken these islands off the Imperialist British – so you should support us really”.

    I suppose if one has had enough to drink that argument makes sense.

    Anyway it turned out badly for them.

    Oh well – at least the Junta did not lose the Crown Jewels in The Wash.

  9. john b says:

    Hang on. Yes, Maggie did the right thing in defending the Falklands, but the completely undefended state in which they were left before the invasion – despite the obvious belligerent lunacy of Argentina – was entirely on her government’s head.

    That’s why the current debate is utterly moot: even if there was no Royal Navy at all, the air defences installed since the last war are strong enough to down the entire Argentine air force *and* sink the entire Argentine navy, thereby ensuring a bloody war of recapture is never again necessary.

  10. NickM says:

    john b,
    And the four Tiffy’s have what anti-ship missiles? Admittedly having a sub on the prowl might do the trick but… We have a multi-role fighter that isn’t multi-role. Why do you think the Indians bought French for the first time ever? Because the Rafale was built from the start with attack capabilities. The Tiffy has added them on piecemeal. The systems integration must be a fucking nightmare.

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