ON THIS DAY
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. 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)
BATTLESPACE Comment: Our late Naval Editor, Antony Preston, told the Editor at the time this story broke that the reason why the true reason for the Belgrano sinking was that the submarine was using its top secret Towed Array Sonar for the first time in action and that it had tracked the Belgrano heading back to the British Fleet. Antony was part of the Parliamentary Committee investigating the Falklands Conflict.