THE SEQUENCE OF EVENTS
‘Eventually we sent a hundred ships and twenty-five thousand men’ – Margaret Thatcher
3 March: ‘We must have contingency plans’ wrote Margaret Thatcher on seeing reports of planned Argentine seizure of the Malvinas.
8 March: Thatcher asked Nott how long it would take for Navy ships to reach the Falklands.
19 March: Argentine flag hoisted on Falklands by scrap metal workers.
20 March: UK delegates to Mauritius, suddenly offering Diego Garcia ex-inhabitants compensation for UK having forcibly exiled them, having done nothinbg for 17 years.
27 March: Deal settled and signed with Diego Garcia natives, 4 million pounds, for taking away their island.
1 April: Sir Anthony Parsons, the British Ambassador at the United Nations, spoke in the Security Council and warned of the imminent danger of an invasion of the Falkland Islands.
2 April: A chaotic invasion then happened the next day, hardly planned by the Argentine government.
5 April: Fleet leaves Portsmouth.
19 April: The three nuclear submarines including Conqueror arrive in the Falkands area. Argentines make peace proposal on basis of UN Resolution 502, for mutual withdrawal of forces form the Malvinas.
23 April: HMG put out a statement that any ‘approach’ of Argentine warships which could ‘amount to a threat to interfere with our mission’ would encounter an ‘appropriate’ response.*
26 April: UN Secretary-General announced that Resolution 502 in respect of withdrawal of troops, applied from that moment to the United Kingdom as well as to the Argentine.
27 April: The Haig Memorandum using the 19 April Argentinian proposals and the British conditions.
28 April: The OAS met, backing the Argentine case strongly and passing the motion ‘The Argentine Republic has the unquestionable right of sovereignty over the Malvinas Islands.’ Voting was 17 for, and 4 abstentions, viz. the US, Chile, Colombia and Trinidad-Tobago. (G&R 88)
29 April: Evening US Senate votes for ‘tilt’ towards UK. Carrier Battle Group arrives off Falkands.
Friday 30 April: Total Exclusion Zone comes into force, with 200 mile radius around Falkland Islands; soon after which, the War Cabinet decide to sink the aircraft carrier Vincente de Mayo outside the TEZ.
- 11 am Washington: Hague announces failure and termination of his diplomatic mission, and ‘tilt’ of US towards the UK. It is no longer a neutral mediator.
- c. 2 pm Lima time: Arias Stella (Peru foreign minister) initiates Peruvian peace plan negotiations, via US ambassador in Lima.
- 4 pm SAT: the Conqueror detects the signature of the Belgrano and her escorts and advises Northwood.
- Evening: Foreign Secretary Francis Pym and the Attorney General together in Whitehall compose a Minute for the PM, on illegality of sinking the aircraft carrier outside TEZ, under the UN Article 51. It is sent the next day and ignored.
Saturday 1 May
4.23 am SAT: British Vulcan bombers commence attack upon Port Stanley, followed by Sea Harrier air raids.
8 am SAT: Nuclear sub HMS Conqueror arrives in area, locates trio of ex-US cruiser Belgrano (with no ASW capability and no sonar – a sitting duck) and two old destroyers.
8 pm SAT:
- An order goes out from the Operational Commander, Admiral Allara, on board the 25 de Mayo (the old HMS Venerable) ordering the Argentine surface Group back to Staten Island. TD. BE 30.*
- Pym arrives in Washington 18hrs and announces that the day’s military activity had been to ‘concentrate Argentine minds’ on the need for a peaceful settlement. He adds, ‘No further military action is envisaged for the moment other than making the Total Exclusion Zone secure.’
Sunday 2 May
- 1 am SAT (5 am BST): Confirmation from Beunos Aires Naval Command of return of Argentine fleet; intercepted and relayed back to GCHQ in Cheltenham.
- 1.30 am SAT, (23.30 Lima time, 5.30 am BST): Belaunde phones Galtieri, telling him he requires a decision re peace plan by 8 am (10 am Washington time). Prior to that, Belaunde had called Haig with the germ of a peace plan using Haig’s seven points slightly modified. British ambassador Wallace relays info to UK (G&R96).
- 4 am SAT (8 am BST): Sandy Woodward head of Task Force sends instruction to Conqueror to sink Belgrano.
- 4.30 am SAT (8.30 am BST): Belgrano reverses course, going home.
- 5 am SAT (9 am BST): Lewin calls at Navy Battle Headquarters Northwood and is told of Belgrano’s sighting the previous day.
- 6.15 am SAT (10.15 am BST): Northwoods instructs Conqueror not to attack Belgrano.
- ‘By dawn about all surface units of Argentina’s high seas were homeward bound, the Belgrano included, according to British as well as Argentine information.’
- 9.15 am SAT (1.15 pm BST): Permission to sink anything given by ‘War Cabinet’ at Chequers to Lord Lewin – kept a secret for two years, until MOD documents were leaked to Dalyell.
- 9.30 am SAT (1.30 pm BST): ‘Northwood signaled the whole of the Task force that they could now sink Argentine ships anywhere on the high seas.’
- 10 am SAT, (2pm BST, 8 am Lima): Belaunde rings Galtieri and is put over to Costa Mendez to discuss peace plan.
- 10am SAT (1400 GMT): Conqueror reports reversal of Belgrano’s course to Northwood.
- c.12 noon SAT: By the middle of the day Galtieri’s acceptance in principle of the Belaunde-Haig proposals was confirmed; the ratification by the junta was expected that night because a meeting had been set for 19h. FAC35.
- 11-12 am SAT (9-10 am Washington time): Pym in Washington is informed of the new carte blanche ‘sink anything’ policy, by phone from London.
12am-2pm SAT (10-12 am Washington time, 4-6 pm BST) Pym has breakfast with Haig; Peru’s Prime Minster Ulloa phones and begs Haig for a 24 hour truce.
- 1 pm SAT: Argentina Costa Mendez tells reporters, ‘We’re on the brink of an agreement. The difference is about a single word.’ (G&R 95)
- 2 pm SAT (6 pm BST): Conqueror receives orders to sink the Belgrano.
- 3.57 pm SAT (8 pm BST): BELGRANO SUNK
- 6.30 SAT (4.30 pm Lima Peru): Belaunde holds televised press conference announcing that peace was imminent and would be ratified that evening by the military committee at Buenos Aires (10.50pm BST).
- 6.30 pm Lima (12.30 pm BST): Ambassadors of UK and Argentina arrive in Lima, presumably to sign peace treaty, are told the news and go home.
- 7.15pm SAT (11.15 pm BST): Britain claims first notice of Peruvian peace plan is received, 3 hours after sinking of Belgrano.
Absent from our Timeline, is the moment when Thatcher first heard of the Peruvian peace plans. According to Tam Dalyell, ”The brutal truth is that on or near her waking hour that Sunday morning, 2 May, the Prime minister was confronted by messages of serious peace proposals emanating from the United States and Peru, based on what was happening in Argentina. Over a period of at least five hours she deliberately and knowingly elected to create an incident of predictably dreadful proportions.’ (House of Commons 21.12.82, TT p.23) Her waking up in the morning corresponds to midnight in Peru. Not until 15-16 hours after that, did the UK Government admit to its having heard of the Peruvian peace plans: three hours after the sinking. Dalyell surely has to be correct on this matter.
Monday May 3 (6 am SAT): Conqueror returns to the site, to finish off the job in case the Belgrano had not properly sunk, but can find nothing.
TimeZones: South Atlantic Time is 4 hours behind British summer time. Peruvian/Washington time is 6 hours behind.
* Diana Gould (p. 114): This (the 23 April warning) was not deposited into H of C for 11 days: ‘In actual fact it was not deposited in the library, Members of Parliament knew nothing of that warning for a further 11 days which if you add on to the 23rd April, I think you’ll find that takes you after the sinking of the Belgrano.’