DIANA GOULD v THE IRON LADY

Sue Lawley hosted the Nationwide program (above) on 24 May 1983, in a lead-up to the general election – based largely on the ‘Falklands Factor.’ She lost her job soon after, maybe through failing to check out Diana Gould’s remarkable qualification as Geographer of the Royal Navy….

(Quotes and comments here by Tam Dalyell, in ‘Misrule’ 1987, p.20)

Gould: Mrs Thatcher, why, when the Belgrano, the Argentine battleship, was outside of the exclusion zone and was actually sailing away from the Falklands, why did you give orders to sink it?

Thatcher: It was not sailing away from the Falklands: It was in an area which was a danger to our ships, and to our people of them.’

All the arguments followed - the changing of the rules of engagement, the questions of danger and threat, the actual course and position of the cruiser. Mrs Gould knew her facts, and stubbornly stuck to them. Mrs Thatcher’s appeal, however, ignored facts in favour of patriotic duty.

‘When it was sunk, that ship was a danger to our ships. My duty was to look after our troops, our ships, our Navy. And my goodness me, I lived with many, many anxious days and nights.’

Mrs Gould was not satisfied, rightly.

Thatcher: Mrs Gould, when the orders were given to sink it, when it was sunk, it was in an area which was a danger to our ships. Now, you accept that, do you?
Gould: No, I don’t.

 She asked Mrs Thatcher to correct her first answer in which she said that the cruiser was not sailing away from the Falklands. The Prime Minister could not. She could only evade the truth by reiterating the danger to the Navy, and offering the full facts ‘in about thirty years’ time.’

Sue Lawley asked Mrs Gould: ‘What motive are you seeking to attach to Mrs Thatcher and her Government? Is it inefficiency, lack of communication? Or is it a desire for action, a desire for war?

‘It was a desire for action, a desire for war; and a lack of communication’ said Mrs Gould. Without prompting she had found the answer.

‘Because giving those orders to sink the Belgrano when it was sailing away from our fleet, and away from the Falklands, was in effect sabotaging any possibility of any peace plan succeeding.’

Exactly!

 The two women were of comparable age: Diana Gould had studied at Cambridge when Mrs Thatcher had been at Oxford. Diana was a prime mover in our Belgrano Action Group – nothing would have happened without her.

Diana wrote her application to take part in the Newsweek program, and we recommend grappling with the time-zones she describes, as a valuable, or maybe essential, mental exercise, before attempting to follow the whole saga (The four time- zones involved are described in our Intro). Here is the core of her argument:

I was astounded when Mrs Thatcher declared in Parliament on 12th May that she did not get news of the Peace Plan proposals until late on 2nd May after the Belgrano was sunk. This was repeated on May 13th by Mr Cranley Onslow.

Surely an enquiry must be made to discover how such a disastrous delay in communications at top levels, at so critical at time, could occur? 

Peru is bisected by the 75 degree West longitude which would appear to put it in the same time zone as New York. Therefore if the Peace Plan was formulated in Peru on the evening of 1st May, at midnight there, it would have been mdnight in New York and 0500 G.M.T. on May 2nd in London. There is therefore a gap of seven hours i.e. 0500 G.M.T. to 1200 G.M.T. (1300 BST) when Peru and pressumably the United States and therefore feasibly Mr Francis Pym, the Foreign Secretary, in New York should have known of the Peace Plan and could have transmitted it to London before Mrs Thatcher made her pre-lunch decision at Chequers on May 2nd.

The Belgrano was sunk at 1457 hours South Atlantic Time at longitude 61 degrees 25′ West which means that in London it was about 1900 G.M.T. (2000 B.S.T.) and 1400 hours in New York and Peru. This means that ther were a further seven hours from 1200 G.M.T. (1300 B.S.T.) – lunch time at Chequers – until 1900 G.M.T. (2000 B.S.T.) when the Belgrano was sunk, in which, in the light of the peace propsals, the order to the Conqueror could have been rescinded. This makes a grand total of 14 hours from midnight on May 1st in Peru during which the Prime minister and her cabinet were apparently kept in ignorance of the Peace Proposals. (On the Spot, The sinking of the Belgrano, 1984, Diana Gould, p.52)

The qustion is therefore why was there this fourteen hour delay, with all such a delay implies about our lack of intelligence information and communications and Mr Francis Pym’s failure to communicate with the Prime minister…. 

This is the crux of the matter. The Government brazenly claimed not to have heard about the Peruvian peace proposals until 11 pm -  three hours after the sinking - which would push up that unexplained gap to seventeen hours! (See video about this ‘missing time’ and the timezones)

We suggest listening to Diana Gould in our sound Archive (on a different topic)

A ‘Belgrano Moment’

This phrase now means – we gather - are when politicians and leaders are told, not in my name.  ’In a telephone phone-in on the Nationwide TV show, Thatcher was challenged by a teacher, Diana Gould, who pressed her to explain why the Belgrano had been attacked. Mrs Thatcher made her claim that the Belgrano was not sailing away from the exclusion zone. Mrs Gould quoted map references and co-ordinates to prove her point! Thatcher then tried to argue that “most people” would have seen the Belgrano as a threat. Mrs Gould undermined this argument, and suggested that 323 mothers and spouses were grieving needlessly. Mrs Thatcher, so it goes, never forgave the BBC for allowing the question!’

One Response to “DIANA GOULD v THE IRON LADY”

  1. FOARP says:

    Yet the fact that the Belgrano was sailing west at the time of her sinking is now universally acknowledged to be immaterial to whether or not the decision to sink her was correct or not. To over-simplify: ships on patrol sail back-and-forth. Hector Bonzo – the captain of the Belgrano – admitted that they might turn back west. The day before her sinking she had been ordered to attack the British fleet, an order that was only cancelled hours before she was sunk. Admiral Molina Pico, former head of the Argentine navy, admitted that she had been part of a co-ordinated attack on the British Fleet and was only holding off looking for a better opportunity. During the questioning Thatcher asserted that documetns due to be released in 30 years would show that she was right – and they did, since they showed that signals had been intercepted ordering the Belgrano back towards the Falklands.

    Everything that has come out since this interview shows that on this single issue, Thatcher was right, Gould was wrong.

    Now, if Thatcher’s critics had instead concentrated on her possible incompetence in running down the defences of the Falklands and failing to be assertive enough about British sovereignty over the islands, they might really have got her on the run. However, blinded by hatred of the lady, they instead decided to simply concentrate on something that was an entirely manufactured controversy.