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The Crown has responsibility for defence of the Falklands

14 May, 2020

General Belgrano warship

• LEO Garib reviewed Britain and the Dictatorships of Argentina and Chile, 1973-82 by Grace Livingstone (That sinking feeling, Review, May 7) writing “…The islands, occupied by Britain since 1833… claimed by Argentina…”.

Before Argentina’s invasion in 1982, the British “occupation” was 24 Royal Marines ashore and visits by ice patrol ship HMS Endurance, welcomed by 1,600 islanders.

The Crown has responsibility for defence and foreign relations of the Falkland Islands, a UK Overseas Territory. The invasion, contravening international law, was widely condemned around the globe.

HM Government had to act, were there prospects of oil in the islands’ territorial waters or not.

In Spirit of England (1982), Arthur Bryant writes: “…This wonderful feat of arms, never surpassed in our long sea annals… [and] …History teaches us that there are times when only brave deeds can restrain evil acts…”.

Immediately after the invasion, while the prevailing view of the Army, RAF and Pentagon, was that cuts to British forces made recovery of the islands impossible, First Sea Lord convinced the prime minister that a task force could recover the islands, some 8,000 miles away; our success impressed the Soviet Union and United States.

One gets the impression that the left would rather we failed but, happily, the Royal Navy, with which I served “Down South’, has a habit of victory.

As to “…[Margaret Thatcher] ordered the sinking of the retreating Argentinian warship… General Belgrano…”, a ship may change course at any moment.

The cruiser (pictured) remained a threat to the Task Force and, as Captain Hector Bonzo said, his ship was a legitimate target and he would have made the same decision to sink her.

The islanders were delighted by the eviction of the Argentinian occupiers, General Jeremy Moore signalling, “The Falkland Islands are once more under the government desired by their inhabitants”.

Argentina was an unexpected beneficiary too, insofar as the despicable regime of General Leopoldo Galtieri fell. The UK benefited by increased respect internationally.

Most in our armed forces would rather that diplomacy won the day, going to war a last resort. Better to act on our national responsibilities, though, to show resolve, to fight if necessary and win.

LESTER MAY
Lieutenant Commander
Royal Navy, NW1

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