This Is London – 2005-06-29 22:50:43
(June 28, 2005) — Royal Navy ships sent to the Falklands in the 1982 war were carrying nuclear weapons, the official history of the conflict has revealed.
The book’s author, Professor Sir Lawrence Freedman, said there was never any intention to use the nuclear depth charges against the Argentinian navy, but it proved impossible to remove the arms from the ships before the dispatch of the Task Force to retake the islands.
Prof Freedman’s two-volume history is the result of eight years of research, including access to secret Whitehall files and military communications.
In it, he reveals the anger of then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher at the failure of her close ally, US President Ronald Reagan, to give her his full support against the military junta ruling Argentina.
He says that the British Government was taken almost completely by surprise by the Argentine invasion of the Falklands, which the South American nation has long claimed as its own.
And he rejects claims — publicised most prominently by former Labour MP Tam Dalyell — that the sinking of the Argentine warship the General Belgrano at the cost of hundreds of lives was a political move designed to scupper a possible peace deal.
Prof Freedman, the professor of war studies at King’s College, London, said he was “rather surprised” to find proof in official papers that the British fleet included nuclear-armed ships.
“A number of ships had come from exercises off Gibraltar and had the normal complement of nuclear depth charges that British ships took with them at the time, and they didn’t really have a good way of taking them off,” he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.
“The Government was desperate to get them away from the Task Force, but the delays that this would have caused at a time when they were trying to make the biggest diplomatic impact meant they decided they had better take them and get them off later.
“They put them in the safest places possible. There was no intention to use them, but they certainly went.”
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