02 May 1982: British sub sinks Argentine cruiser. Argentina’s only cruiser, the General Belgrano, has been sunk by a British nuclear submarine in the South Atlantic. It is the first serious attack on the Argentine navy by the British since the conflict over the disputed Falkland Islands began last month. The second largest ship in the Argentine navy was struck by two Tigerfish torpedoes from HMS Conqueror. It is thought there were about 1,000 men on board. British helicopters also sank a patrol boat and damaged another using Seaskua air-to-surface missiles. According to sources in Buenos Aires, at least five Argentine warships have been taking part in the search for survivors throughout the day. ‘I sincerely hope it will not be a long and bloody conflict,’ John Nott, Defence Secretary. Chances of anyone being found are limited with reports of 30-foot high waves and icy conditions. The Belgrano, an old World War II ship, was reported to have been severely damaged this morning. News that she had actually sunk came as the Defence Secretary, John Nott, was answering questions from journalists this afternoon. The Belgrano was outside the 200-mile total exclusion zone at the time of the attack and Mr Nott was asked whether the bombing was therefore justified. He replied: “The General Belgrano was a threat to our men and therefore it is quite correct that she was attacked by our submarines.” Mr Nott said the past week had been a successful one for British armed forces, but that the overriding aim was a peaceful and lasting settlement. “I sincerely hope it will not be a long and bloody conflict,” he added. Earlier today, the government announced the next stage in the military build-up. The QE2 has been called into service – she is due back at Southampton at midnight tonight – as well as two ferries and a container ship. They will be used to carry 3,000 infantrymen. (Source: BBC)
Comment: Sources close to BATTLESPACE suggest that the Royal Navy’s attack on the Belgrano, however damaging in loss of life, was quite clearly justified as the ship was turning into the path of the fleet. However, this was the first time that towed array sonar had been used in action and thus to reveal the detection ranges would have been to give away a key feature of the Plessey system.
01 May 1982: RAF bombs Port Stanley. British planes have carried out raids on two airstrips near Port Stanley, the capital of the Falkland Islands which are currently occupied by Argentinean forces. The attack was designed to deny the Argentines the means of landing supplies on the islands or attacking the British fleet patrolling the 200-mile exclusion zone. Admiral Sandy Woodward, the British Task Force commander, said the mission was a success. “We didn’t want this fight but we’ve shown our colours and this is our day,” he said. A Vulcan bomber with a back-up plane launched the attack before dawn from its base on Ascension Island, 3,000 miles from the Falklands. The bombing was carried out at a height of 10,000 feet under cover of darkness – out of range of Argentine anti-aircraft missiles that can only be used against visible targets. The plane dropped 21 bombs altogether and was followed by a force of Harrier jump-jets sent from aircraft carriers patrolling off shore. These took pictures of the damage done by the Vulcan and bombed the grass airstrip at Goose Green 55 miles west of Port Stanley. The Harriers also dropped 1,000lb bombs and 30mm Aden canon shells to destroy fuel and ammunition dumps. They then scattered cluster bombs over the rubble of the airstrips to prevent any attempts to repair the damage. The Argentine force retaliated with anti-aircraft guns, Tiger Cat missiles and sent out its Mirage and Canberra bombers. The Argentines said the raids failed to destroy the runways and claimed a British pilot died and two Harriers were destroyed. But the Ministry of Defence said none of its aircraft were shot down. It said only one Harrier was slightly damaged su