Another war this week, fought forty years ago, not the one in Eastern Europe which dominated the world’s headlines until Will Smith punched Chris Rock at the Oscars. Aside from the 40th anniversary falling due, the messy way in which the Falklands War ended has lessons for Russia.
On April 2nd 1982 Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands, a British imperial possession in the South Atlantic. Hostilities had actually commenced two weeks earlier, when a group of ‘scrap metal dealers’, some of them Argentine Marines, had landed on South Georgia, some 800 miles away from the Falklands.
The distance between East Falkland Island and South Georgia didn’t stop the left from arguing that South Georgia somehow fell within the 200 nautical mile Total Exclusion Zone declared by Britain on 30th April. When the enemy cruiser ARA General Belgrano was very properly sunk on May 2nd it was suggested, absurdly, that hostilities were confined to the TEZ. South Georgia of course was over 500 miles away from the nearest point of the TEZ.
The islands were only thinly defended, although Blind Freddy could have predicted an Argentine invasion. I did, at any rate, in my first ever political speech, as the then Chairman of University College Cardiff Conservative Association, at a conference in Aberystwyth. (I successfully sponsored a motion calling for a telegram to be sent to Mrs Thatcher asking for the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal to be retained in commission – the telegram was blocked and my old friend Margaret Thatcher never saw it.)
The initial belligerents were the United Kingdom and the Argentine Republic. The French Republic became a covert belligerent on June 12th when the French Navy tried to sink the County class DDG HMS Glamorgan with an MM38 Exocet truck-launched missile. As that nice man Lord Moore pointed out in Tuesday’s Daily Telegraph the French had earlier lied to London about the Exocets not having a kill switch.
The target of the operation was British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, one reason why that nasty old Vichyist, no offense intended, Francois Mitterand, then the French President, sanctioned the attack on the Glamorgan. The DVD were anxious to deepen the EEC and transform it into a European Community.
Argentina is a German client state, one reason why the DVD moved Dr Mengele and other assets there after the war. The idea was for the Argies to humiliate Lady Thatcher, forcing her to resign in disgrace. The Foreign Office, which has acted as the London branch office of the German Foreign Ministry for over a century, were in the loop. They assured the Argentine dictator General Galtieri (an even nastier dictator than Joe Biden, no offense intended) that Lady Thatcher would be replaced and that the islands would be handed over.
The Foreign Office also made sure that the Argies knew that the small Royal Marine contingent was based at Moody Brook, the idea being that they would be wiped out, increasing the humiliation, although the anti-British Foreign Office never misses an opportunity to get British servicemen and women killed. Thankfully events did not go to plan.
The Marines were warned and dispersed, putting up a brave fight before their ammunition gave out. (I later met Sir Rex Hunt, a lovely man, who gave the order to disperse.)
US satellites had picked up the heat looms of the Argentine invasion force and MI6 were warned by the CIA, indeed President Reagan rang General Galtieri and asked him not to invade.
(My old friend General Dick Walters was in the Oval Office when President Reagan made the call.)
MI6 were ordered by the evil and supercilious Cabinet Secretary, if that is not a tautology with respect, Sir Robert Armstrong, to suppress the intelligence from Number 10.
However Naval Intelligence were tipped off by the ONI.
They conspired to keep the Chief of the Defence Staff, Admiral of the Fleet Sir Terence Lewin, in New Zealand. (I should explain that one of the key tasks of British Intelligence when a war is brewing is to keep the Chief of the Defence Staff out of the way, if necessary by shooting him.)
The upshot was that for almost the only time in her premiership Margaret Thatcher received serious advice. It came from Admiral, later Admiral of the Fleet, Sir Henry Leach, a fine old sea dog, whose father had gone down in HMS Prince of Wales in 1941.
Sir Henry was captain of A Turret in her sister ship HMS Duke of York when she sank the Scharnhorst, in the Royal Navy’s most recent all big gun action.
He advised the Prime Minister that the islands could be recovered and that the light carriers HMS Invincible and HMS Hermes could provide the necessary air cover with VTOL Harriers and Sea Harriers.
Within the days the first of 127 ships of the Falklands Task Force were steaming south, under the command of that nice man Admiral Sir Sandy Woodward, who proved to be the finest carrier commander since Ray Spruance.
One of those ships carried a contingent from Delta Force, although the deployment of US ground troops on the Falklands was kept secret at the time.
The US contribution was not limited to special forces. That nice man John Lehman, then Secretary of the Navy, made sure that we had the latest, all-aspect, version of the AIM-9 Sidewinder missile and all the fuel we needed.HMS Hermes
Lessons for President Putin
I hope that dear old Pooters in Moscow has made a note of the messy way in which the Falklands War ended, assuming that it has. (Yes, it was that messy!) Thanks to with respect clinically insane advice from the Foreign Office Britain never declared war on Argentina. The result was that after her military defeat, Argentina was never obliged to recognise British sovereignty over the Falklands.
Even more insanely, Britain and Argentina resumed diplomatic relations in 1989 without the Foreign Office extracting concessions from Buenos Aires.
The Argentine surrender on June 14 came from Brigadier-General Menéndez, the local garrison commander on the Falklands, not from the junta. To make things worse the Foreign Office have strangled the development of the islands ever since, making sure for example that the huge South Atlantic Oil Field has been kept for Argentina. They haven’t even built a railroad.
Although the SAS were very sensibly deployed on the Argentine mainland, absurdly we never even bombed Buenos Aires. This was even after my old friend Marshal of the Royal Air Force Sir Michael Beetham demonstrated in Operation Black Buck that the RAF’s powerful V Force could operate in the South Atlantic, with the aid of air to air refuelling, including tanking the tankers themselves! A few sticks of 1,000 pounders on Buenos Aires would have shaken up the Argies.
The upshot is that a second Falklands War will probably be necessary, the Argies having been encouraged by their light casualties in the first lot. I helped avert one myself after dear old General Pinochet, who was a great help in the Falklands, sanctioned an approach to me by the Chilean Navy, warning of a plan to retake the islands with Chilean naval support in retaliation for the General’s wrongful arrest in London.
Many lessons can be drawn from the Falklands War, and it is a subject to which I shall return after the Ukrainians have been defeated. One of them is the immense value in amphibious operations of heavy naval gunfire support. The war showed up what a huge mistake it was to have scrapped Britain’s most recent battleship, HMS Vanguard, in 1960.
With her powerful, high-pressure steam turbines, generating 130,000 shp, and soaring ‘Atlantic’ bow, Vanguard could have sustained higher speeds in the South Atlantic than any other ship then in naval service. The slow Exocet missiles, with their small warheads, would have bounced off her heavy belt armor, designed to withstand shells the size of Volkswagens striking at supersonic speeds.
Her deck armor would have been strong enough to withstand any bomb in the Argentine inventory and her strong secondary and AA armament would no doubt have brought down a few enemy planes. (None of the ships in the Task Force had an adequate close-range AA fit.) A long-range warship, designed for the Pacific, Vanguard in theory could have sailed from Portsmouth to Port Stanley without refuelling.
Her mighty 15” 42 cal. Mk 1 guns would soon have put the wind up the Argies, not least had she been refitted with triaxially stabilized directors and computerised, fully synthetic fire control. With her Battle Ensigns flying and main battery guns roaring she would have made a magnificent sight. The Argentine surrender would have come much sooner. She would have dominated the battlespace and could of course have gone on to bombard Buenos Aires.
As their current operations in the Donbas demonstrate, the Russians understand how effective heavy artillery can be. Since the ultimate outcome of Britain’s famous victory in 1982 was the West’s victory in the First Cold War, you may be sure that the war has been studied in Moscow.
Staying with naval matters for a moment, Admiral Lord West made a powerful case in the Daily Telegraph on April 16th for the identity of ‘Major Martin RM’ as being AB John Melville, who sadly drowned when HMS Dasher blew up in the Clyde on March 27th 1943. The case for Melville is much stronger than that for Glyndwr Michael, who did not die from drowning.
If so then John Melville should be honored as a naval hero. An unconventional one maybe, but then the whole operation was hardly conventional! The Dasher’s loss by the way vindicated the Admiralty’s concerns about aviation gas safety in rapidly built escort carriers.
Sadly the outcome was as I predicted. Attention is now turning to the parliamentary elections, the first round of which is on June 12th. I predict that Marine Le Pen’s party will do rather well, at least in the first round. Macron’s mob may well find themselves short of a majority.
Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organisation
I shall reserve my comments on the merits of the SCOTUS ruling in Dobbs until after it is confirmed. I respectfully associate myself with Chief Justice Roberts’s statement on the shameful leak to Politico of the draft majority opinion. I doubt that the leak was a crime, but I fail to see how it could be other than a serious contempt of court. The leaker should go to jail.
R v. Becker
Very sadly the brilliant German tennis player Boris Becker has been sent to prison for 30 months, of which he will serve 15, for a number of bankruptcy offenses. Britain’s most popular German, indeed possibly our only popular German, neither the Kaiser nor Adolf Hitler having much of a fan club here, also faces being stripped of his membership of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club.
I am not defending his actions, which were ill-advised, but for my part I would not have prosecuted. It is not as though he had been rude to an umpire. Of course all assets in a bankruptcy should be declared, but the matter could have been dealt with in the insolvency proceedings. I suspect there will be a backlash against the Crown Persecution, sorry Prosecution, Service.
One complication is that the trial was at Southwark Crown Court, where as the NSA discovered when monitoring jurors’ phones in my case in 2014, there are special jury-tampering arrangements. All contested guilty verdicts at Southwark are going to have to be reviewed, frankly.
If it turns out that the Cabinet Office, which controls the CPS, ordered Boris’s prosecution then his conviction will have to be overturned. In the meantime I hope they send him to an open prison (Hollesley Bay is nice), with a tennis court. I respectfully urge the All England Club to confine themselves to a reprimand and a request not to do it again. There is no reason at all why Boris Becker should not rejoin the BBC’s Wimbledon commentary team after his release.
This week’s movie review: Downton Abbey: A New Era (2022, dir. Simon Curtis)
No Downton Abbey fan will want to miss this, the second Downton movie, which was released to theaters in the UK on Friday. It’s bound to be a huge success. Dame Maggie Smith, who plays the Dowager Countess, ought to get an Oscar.
As all y’all may have noticed I don’t feel the need to rubbish a movie just because it’s popular, or aimed at the mass-market. I am sometimes asked why I don’t go to movies at my intellectual level, but with an IQ of 187 which movies would those be?
Downton Abbey: A New Era is beautifully filmed, with fine locations and a decent plot, written as usual by Lord Fellowes. One of the reasons why the TV series and in turn the movies have depicted the upper class so accurately is that the scripts have been written by a member of the upper class. As it happens I first watched Downton Abbey in a stately home, being served dinner by my gracious hosts’ butler in front of the TV so as not to miss the latest episode.
It must be upsetting for the left and the Germans. For well over a century they have trashed the British aristocracy, starting with death duties, then along comes Downton Abbey!
There are some genuinely funny moments, some twists and turns and a moving finale. I would have chosen slightly grander automobiles but frankly any criticism would be churlish. You’ll enjoy it!
Thanks, all y’all for chipping in to keep my work going!
Michael Shrimpton was a barrister from his call to the Bar in London in 1983 until being disbarred in 2019 over a fraudulently obtained conviction. He is a specialist in National Security and Constitutional Law, Strategic Intelligence and Counter-terrorism. He is a former Adjunct Professor of Intelligence Studies at the American Military University.