Return to Bomb Alley 1982 - The Falklands Deception
#1 The 40th Anniversary of the Falklands Conflict ... (Publication date: 28th March 2022)
Return to Bomb Alley 1982 - The Falklands Deception by Paul Cardin
Forty years on from the Falklands Conflict, veteran Paul Cardin reflects on his own experiences while asking probing questions about what really went on before, during and after those 74 days of hostility.
As a 22-year-old radio operator in the Royal Navy, Paul was stationed on HMS Yarmouth when it was anchored in San Carlos Bay, known colloquially as Bomb Alley. During his time there, he saw ships being bombed and sunk and watched his friends and comrades being injured and killed.
Return to Bomb Alley 1982 is part memoir, part critical account of the way in which the Falklands Conflict was handled. Although often referred to as a war, neither Britain nor Argentina ever made a formal declaration but the days which followed the Argentinian invasion of the Falkland Islands saw more than 900 people lose their lives and many others left with lasting physical and mental injuries.
This book is a gripping read for anyone who wants to know more about the Falklands Conflict. As well as telling his own story through diary extracts and a timeline, the author takes a thorough and journalistic approach to this period of history, asking tough questions about why and how certain decisions were made, what was really going on in the background. Just what was the role played by the British Government and Margaret Thatcher? What were their main motivations and how did they use the conflict to their advantage in the years which followed?
“Return to Bomb Alley 1982 – the Falklands Deception”
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2022 is the 40th anniversary of the Falklands Conflict. Here, an Argentinian invasion of the Falkland Islands in early April 1982, was followed by 74 days of hostilities and an eventual British victory. It was also known as the Falklands War, although no war was ever declared by Britain or Argentina.
I was always politically aware, served in the Royal Navy and was a veteran of this conflict. I was aged just 22 at the time. My ship HMS Yarmouth found itself anchored in San Carlos bay (Bomb Alley) for a fortnight and here I saw ships being bombed and sunk, and my mates being injured and killed.
As a Leading Radio Operator, I saw all the messages that were being passed between ships and CincFleet HQ in Northwood, UK, and was ideally placed to know what was going on as the events unfolded around me. Although this book contains my diary - including a daily timeline of events, written on location - it’s very different from the usual military memoir. It has the feel of documentary journalism and is written from a dedicated, enquiring perspective.
The Falkland Islands are very distant, were not well known to UK citizens in 1982, and were of uncertain or even limited value. At the time, some serious questions were forming in my mind about the circumstances of the invasion, the lightning-fast creation of a huge task force, and what exactly could have been going on behind the scenes to pressurise Margaret Thatcher into organising such a powerful military response so quickly.
This book is not one of those ‘Here I am, pull up a chair, and here’s a long list of what I did during the war’ offerings. Instead, it poses a number of serious, probing questions from a neutral perspective, aimed at highlighting what may have been under discussion in Whitehall and Buenos Aires in the lead up to the invasion, in the immediate aftermath and what decisions were being made and why in the ‘action areas’ around the islands.
1. Why was it never reported by the BBC and UK media that 90 per cent of Falkland Islands land, including the vast sheep farms, was owned by absentee landlords, resident in the UK, and that Falkland Islanders were actually working tenants? So, just how ‘paramount’ were the islanders’ interests, as claimed by Margaret Thatcher?
2. On the day when ARA Belgrano was sunk, killing 368 Argentine sailors, why had it allegedly taken 14 hours for an urgent telegram, containing the full details of the Peruvian peace plan, to reach 10 Downing Street?
3. Was it right for Task Force leader Admiral Sandy Woodward to suggest that ARA Belgrano was part of a pincer movement and therefore represented an imminent threat to Britain’s aircraft carriers?
4. Why was public access to all incoming telegrams sent during the Falklands Conflict embargoed until 2052, or a further 40 years?
5. Why did Foreign Office Minister Nicholas Ridley hold clandestine meetings in secret locations with senior members of the Argentine Junta, where trade deals, Falkland Islands sovereignty and a 99-year lease back deal were all on the table?
6. Why was Britain still selling arms to the fascist Argentine junta just four days before the invasion?
7. In the face of high level protests, why were swingeing defence cuts to UK forces being made in the South Atlantic area in late 1981, and did these reductions leave the Argentine junta with the impression that an invasion of the islands would stand uncontested?
8. What was “The 1,000lb bomb” that I heard rumours of during the conflict, a bomb that was regularly being passed from ship to ship? Was it a tactical, nuclear depth charge, the possession of which breached the South American “nuclear free zone” treaty?
9. Were any ships containing “The 1,000lb bomb” sunk during the conflict, creating a ‘Broken Arrow’ situation?
10. Have Britain’s junior ranking soldiers and marines been operating under an unspoken, socialist, ‘brothers in arms’ ethos in order to better harness their bravery and loyalty?
11. How could Argentine forces’ volunteers serve a fascist military junta which had spent years kidnapping, disappearing and murdering thousands of their own citizens?
12. Has the Falkland Islands Government now lost credibility and stature by investing heavily in extremely difficult to recover gas and oil as part of a “Fortress” economy heavily reliant upon fossil fuels?
I have accessed and reproduced many of the official documents that had been hidden away at the time by the Conservative government. I have signposted and summarised these events from my own perspective, which gives readers a better insight into government evasions, the lies that were told at the time, and why.
After the conflict, no matter how hard they tried, the British public couldn’t get to see what was happening behind the scenes. They were constantly drip-fed gushing media stories about political and military courage and the glory of the Falklands victory. There was plenty of courage on display by fighters on both sides.
With all of the sensitive cabinet documents under lock and key for the next 30 years, the UK government and media had granted themselves the perfect opportunity to gaslight the electorate into voting for a Conservative government, one that went on to enjoy a landslide election victory just a year later in June 1983. This administration later brought us the Green Paper of 1986, which led to the hated Poll Tax and the ousting of Margaret Thatcher.