MoD block Belgrano documents

From The Guardian:

Navy blocks release of documents on Belgrano sinking

Richard Norton-Taylor and Rob Evans
Monday June 27, 2005
The Guardian

Ministers have refused to release any Ministry of Defence documents relating to the sinking of the Argentine cruiser, the General Belgrano, the most controversial decision of the Falkands conflict 23 years ago.
Every line in the documents is being withheld, even though the papers were made available to the author of an official history of the Falklands campaign published tomorrow.

Sir Lawrence Freedman, professor of war studies at King's College, London university, drew on the papers to write a detailed account after he was commissioned by the government.

In response to a freedom of information request from the Guardian, the Royal Navy was less forthcoming.
It ruled that the release of information about the attack, including the rules of engagement, "could have, directly or indirectly, significantly prejudicial consequences for the UK's international relationships and interests".

It gives no further explanation.

The navy says it recognises that the "events" of the conflict "continue to be of significant interest".

However, it was decided that the public interest in withholding the information "outweighs" the public interest in its release.

The decision was taken after consulting ministers and other, unspecified, government departments.

The Belgrano was attacked on May 2 1982 by the submarine HMS Conqueror outside the exclusion zone established by the govern-ment around the Falklands, with the loss of 321 lives.

The cover-up by the Thatcher government over the circumstances surrounding the sinking of the Belgrano prompted Clive Ponting, a senior Ministry of Defence official, to send documents to the Labour MP, Tam Dalyell.

Mr Ponting was prosecuted under the Official Secrets Act and was acquitted by an Old Bailey jury in 1985.

It emerged during the trial that one of Mr Ponting's colleagues, Michael Legge, warned ministers that the "appropriate warning" about a change in the rules of engagement on May 2 1982 - to allow attacks on the Belgrano and any other Argentine warship "over a large area" - was not issued until May 7.

It was claimed that rules of engagement would have allowed attacks on Argentine destroyers picking up survivors.

Mr Ponting was also concerned about ministers refusing to reveal the time the Belgrano was first detected and the direction it was heading when it was sunk.

The Guardian is now challenging the Ministry of Defence's refusal, arguing that Argentinian sensitivities over the war have now faded.

The Argentinian government re-established diplomatic relations with Britain in 1990.

In 1998, the then Argentinian president, Carlos Menem, became the first Argentinian head of state since the war to visit Britain, laying a wreath at the Falklands war memorial at St Paul's Cathedral.

The Foreign Office says that a visit by the Prince of Wales to Argentina the following year helped to develop the "spirit of reconciliation and co-op- eration" between the two countries.
The full story is here.

People seem to forget we were at war, and mistakes happen. What good can possibly come of this? Am I being too much of a sabre-rattling Imperialist?


Book Reviewer
DD -

No, your not. With current Anglo-Argentine relations are not all that rosy (see other recent threads on the Falklands), the Gaurrdain is being its usual disingenuous self, especially towards the end of the piece. Indeed we were pally with Carlos Menem, but he's not in charge now, and we are considerably less chummy with Kirchner, his successor. And the 'spirit of reconciliation' has been notably absent recently.

This is a very good time not to pis$ off our allies in the South Atlantic (i.e. Chile) by publishing stuff which can franly wait a few years.
Darth_Doctrinus said:
People seem to forget we were at war, and mistakes happen. What good can possibly come of this? Am I being too much of a sabre-rattling Imperialist?
I can't see how it was a mistake though, tbh. We were at war and sank one of the biggest ships in the enemy's navy. Most countries in the world would say that was a good result.
Are these people forgetting - they started it. If they had left well alone, then we wouldn't have been there in the first place. If you try and smack someone when their back is turned and get caught, expect a good smacking back to ensure you don't try it again!



I am reading 100 Days by Sandy Woodward at the moment and he goes on about this at some length. Even though the vessel was outside the Total Exclusion Zone at the time it could change its course and head in at any time, straight for our carriers. The Belgrano was not the main target anyway but the 25th May, the Argentine carrier which was supposed to have launched an airstrike at the same time that the Blegrano force headed at us in a pincer movement. The Belgrano's armament could have done damage but it was the excocet bearing escorts that were the real worry. A lack of wind across the flight deck prevented the 25th May launching the airstrike (unbeknownst to Woodward) and the fact that the Brit SSNs couldn't find her lead to the decision to sink the Belgrano, outside the TEZ.
The sinking was a military necessity at that time; the ROE was changed specifically to counter the perceived threat to the carriers. Without the carriers, there would have been no air cover or command. In this case, we would have just had to go home. I don't believe there was anything sinister here and "losing" Conqueror's log book in '85 didn't help matters.
Militarily, the right thing was done, saving the fleet and winning the war.

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