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Thatcher was warned about risks of Navy cuts a year before the Falklands conflict

Saturday, December 31st 2011 - 03:18 UTC
Full article 39 comments
First Sea Lord Admiral Henry Leach was later decisive in convincing Thatcher to send the Task Force to recover the Falklands First Sea Lord Admiral Henry Leach was later decisive in convincing Thatcher to send the Task Force to recover the Falklands

Former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was warned about the risks in slashing Britain's navy, a year before the 1982 Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands, secret files released Friday showed.

Her foreign secretary Lord Peter Carrington also warned defense secretary John Nott that axing Britain's Antarctic patrol ship would send all the wrong signals about London's willingness to defend the Falklands.

Documents released after 30 years locked away in Britain's National Archives showed that the head of the Royal Navy was fuming in 1981 about planned defense cuts.

First sea lord Admiral Henry Leach, who later told Thatcher that Britain could and should send a naval task force to retake the Falklands following the April 1982 invasion, was furious with her a year earlier over her “unbalanced devastation” of the armed forces.

“I note with regret but understanding that the tightness of your program precludes your seeing me personally as requested,” he wrote in a stinging note to the premier.

“I am confident however that you will at least spare two minutes to read this note from the professional head of the navy before you and your Cabinet colleagues consider a proposition substantially to dismantle that navy.”

Leach concluded: “We are on the brink of a historic decision. War seldom takes the expected form and a strong maritime capability provides flexibility for the unforeseen. If you erode it to the extent envisaged I believe you will foreclose your future options and prejudice our national security.”

The files also include a letter from Carrington to Nott, urging him against axing the Antarctic patrol ship HMS Endurance, warning it would send the wrong signal to Buenos Aires at a time of tension over the Falklands.

“Unless and until the dispute is settled, it will be important to maintain our normal presence in the area at the current level,” he wrote.

“Any reduction would be interpreted by both the Islanders and the Argentines as a reduction in our commitment to the Islands and in our willingness to defend them.”

His appeal was, however, rejected and HMS Endurance was less than a month from being withdrawn from service when the first Argentines landed on Britain's South Georgia overseas territory in March 1982.

Top Comments

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  • ChrisR

    Yes and regrettably it's all happening again. Do politicians never learn?

    This time if Argentina invades the Falklands (there are no Malvinas) or does something equally as stupid which requires an armed response all we will have available are Astute Class Attack Submarines.

    These will need to devastate the Argentina Mainland with conventially tipped cruise missiles to bring the Peronistas to their knees. We no longer have the armed invasion, aircraft carrier overhead aircover provision needed for a conventional rebuttal.

    More Argentinos will die than in 1982 if ever another Peronista attack is made on the Falklands.

    Dec 31st, 2011 - 11:02 am 0
  • Papamoa

    Britain has a sufficient Force on the Falklands to deter any act of aggression from a colonial wanabe like argentina!!!
    This will enable the Falklanders to live there life in peace and security for as long as they want it!!

    Long Live the Falklands.

    Dec 31st, 2011 - 12:54 pm 0
  • J.A. Roberts

    No Chris, it's not happening again. In spite of the cuts. The Falklands are very well defended. The same mistake won't be made again. Argentina does not have the wherewithal to invade anyway.

    Dec 31st, 2011 - 01:38 pm 0
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