‘Tough decisions have to be made and people die’

TARGETED The Argentinian cruiser General Belgrano sinks after being torpedoed by the Royal Navy on May 1, 1982.
TARGETED The Argentinian cruiser General Belgrano sinks after being torpedoed by the Royal Navy on May 1, 1982.
Secretary of State for Defence Gavin Williamson. Pictute: LPhot Ioan Roberts

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THE man who co-ordinated the controversial torpedo attack which sunk the General Belgrano during the Falklands conflict says he has no regrets.

In an exclusive interview with The News to mark 30 years since Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands, Vice-Admiral Sir Tim McClement, pictured on page 1, recalls his role in one of the most talked about moments of the war.

SPEAKING OUT Vice Admiral Sir Tim McClement.    Picture: Allan Hutchings (121030-338)

SPEAKING OUT Vice Admiral Sir Tim McClement. Picture: Allan Hutchings (121030-338)

The 60-year-old from Wickham recalled how, as second-in-command of the nuclear-powered hunter killer submarine HMS Conqueror, he co-ordinated the deadly attack on the Belgrano on May 2, 1982.

Sir Tim reveals how the crew tucked into to a Sunday roast ‘with all the trimmings’ before going to action stations to inflict the biggest single loss of life of the 74-day conflict.

A total of 323 Argentinian sailors died when Conqueror blasted the Belgrano with two Second World War torpedoes outside a 200-mile Total Exclusion Zone in the South Atlantic.

The action sparked a political storm in Britain and led to calls for Margaret Thatcher to resign.

But Sir Tim said the strike was necessary to stop the Argentinian navy mounting a ‘pincer movement’ against the Royal Navy’s task force.

He said: ‘There is no doubt in my mind that sinking the Belgrano was absolutely the right thing to do – firstly, for survival in case the pincer movement worked against our carriers and, secondly, it demonstrated intent to the Argentinians.’

He added: ‘The Argentinian navy never came out again.

‘They stayed inside their 12-mile limit – they did not participate. Not only was it a historical moment because it was the first torpedo attack against a warship since the Second World War, but it also deterred their navy.’

Reflecting on the Argentine loss of life, Sir Tim said: ‘They started it, so all the lives lost are the Argentinian’s government fault. In war, tough decisions have to be made and people die.’

He added: ‘The Argentinians had invaded our country aggressively and that’s war. Admiral Lord Fisher said in 1903 “the art of war is violence, moderation in war is imbecility”.

‘Once someone has started the war and once the other side has decided to go to war with them, then the best thing you can do is to do it as hard as you can.

‘The sooner they realise there’s only one option for them – and that’s surrender – the better.’