HE British submarine that sank the Argentine battle cruiser General Belgrano is to feature at the centre of a new Falklands Memorial Fleet to commemorate Britain’s heroic role in recapturing the invaded islands.
15 March 2015
HMS Conqueror became the first British nuclear submarine to fire with intent when it holed the Belgrano twice in May, 1982, with the cost of 323 lives.
The act, which shocked Argentina, was mired in controversy over claims that the battleship was technically outside a British maritime exclusion zone, though in 2011 documents revealed it had orders to enter the exclusion zone on the day it was sunk.
Now, a new charity spearheaded by Conservative MEP David Campbell Bannerman has revealed plans to preserve a “core” Falklands memorial fleet.
The National Maritime Trust is currently bidding to acquire the Type-42 destroyer HMS Edinburgh, sister ship to HMS Sheffield and HMS Coventry which were both lost in the conflict, with a view to establishing it as a museum in Falmouth docks, Cornwall.
Future plans aim to see HMS Bristol, the last Royal Naval vessel still in service which took place in the Falklands War, added to the memorial fleet, as well permanent loan of the aircraft carrier HMS Hermes, which is currently in service with the Indian Navy..
However HMS Conqueror, which is currently moored in Portsmouth, will be at its heart and become Britain’s first post-war submarine available for public visits.
The idea, said the trust, is to create a “historical theatrical experience.
"There are also proposals to build a Falklands War Museum.
"HMS Belfast, the Royal Navy's heaviest Second World War cruiser, currently attracts more than 300,000 visitors a year to its mooring in London.
Speaking to the Sunday Express last night, Mr. Campbell Bannerman said he was motivated to start the charity after the Ministry of Defence sold HMS Plymouth, a frigate that took art in the Falklands campaign, to Turkey for scrap.
"Here was a so-called 'preserved' ship, one run successfully as a museum for 20 years, that was shamefully lost to the cutting torches,” he said.
“No British warships have been preserved since the Second World War - nothing to commemorate the Cold War, the Falklands War or the Gulf War.
“There appears to be a serious lack of national, cultural will in Britain to conserve our 20th century naval heritage.
"Any ships under 50 years old can’t even be considered for cultural protection.
“In the United States, there is an impressive fleet of preserved battleships, aircraft carriers and major warships, larger in total than the entire Royal Navy.
“In particular, it is time we celebrated the bravery and determination of those who risked their lives in order to liberate the Falkland Islanders.”
He added: “In the Falklands War, HMS Conqueror sank the Belgrano and kept the invading Argentines in port and unable to attack our liberation forces or sink any of our British ships.
“It must be preserved to ensure that generations of Britons can learn about our country's proud and victorious naval history, and to commemorate the courage of all those who served and were lost at sea, on all sides."
Last night former Navy minister Sir Keith , who was sacked by Margaret Thatcher in 1981 after protesting steep cuts to the Royal Navy, said: “This is a very good idea, and I support the trust’s efforts to preserve these vessels for the nation.
"But it is also acts as an important reminder.
“The Falklands conflict is exactly the type of scenario that can arise outside expected problem areas, such as Russia and the Middle East.
"Now we’re seeing that Argentina is investing heavily in new fighter planes.
“When I was Navy Minister I was warned that 44 was the absolute minimum number of frigates and destroyers the Royal Navy should be operating.
"Now we’re down to 19."