EDUARDO C. GERDING
This paper depicts in a dispassionate way the courage of the cruiser´s crew and the drama related with the sinking of the warship. I underline undeniable facts for the forthcoming generations endorsed by witness of both sides. No doubt as years go by new contributions will show up.
Through personal and authorized communications I depicted the relation that surged between a conscript of the cruiser and an officer of the British submarine.Both sharing their lives, supporting each other and fighting against inner demons as sea brothers.
The Argentine Navy ARA General Belgrano (C-4) warship was originally built as the American USS Phoenix (CL-46), the fifth of the Brooklyn-class cruisers, built in the United States and launched in March of 1938. She survived the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December of 1941 and had a valiant career with nine Battle Stars to her name She was formally decommissioned from US Navy service in 1946. In 1951, the ship was sold to Argentina. In 1956, the ship was renamed ARA General Belgrano. 2
The stories of VGM Belozo Santiago and its pathology and the story of the Official Narendra Sethia were authorized by email to the author dated 27 november 2013.
ARA General Belgrano
The whole cruiser my be superbly seen at http://vimeo.com/30988195 23
In 2003 a search team aboard the Seacor Lenga, crewed by Argentine and British veterans, was sponsored by National Geographic to find the sunken cruiser but failed to locate the ship
The cruiser`s firepower
Although upgraded in some areas, was essentially the same ship as when commissioned in 1938..She retained her massive firepower with 15 x Mk 16 6-inch /47 cal (152mm) main guns able to fire a 130lb shell some 14.5 miles out. This was backed by 8 x 5-inch /54 cal (127 mm) guns and 40mm and 20mm anti-aircraft guns for close-in work. A British Sea Cat anti-aircraft missile system incorporated in 1967 4 had been upgraded . For supply and reconnaissance sorties, the Belgrano managed a pair of French Aerospatiale Alouette III helicopters. Her normal complement included 1,138 officers and sailors. 2
The main battery, with its 5 towers 3 cannons 6 ¨ characterized the cruiser´s silhouette. Tower II dominated the bow. 4
The cruiser was part of the 79.3 Task Force which involved two destroyers with Exocet missiles and 125 mm cannons. 4
The HMS Conqueror
HMS Conqueror (nickname "Conks") was a Churchill-class nuclear-powered fleet submarine that served in the Royal Navy from 1971 to 1990. She was built by Cammell Laird in Birkenhead. She had 90 meters long and 10 meters wide, 4900 tons displacement and was manned by 100 men. She had as well aboard 12/14 commando.Armed with torpedoes Mk8, Tigerfish and Harpoon. The HMS Conqueror had a 30 knots immersion speed. She departed on April 4th, 1982 from her base at Faslane, SW of Scotland. She is the only nuclear-powered submarine to have engaged an enemy ship with torpedoes.1, 4
The decision of sinking the ARA General Belgrano
On 5 may John Nott had stated: ‘The actual decision to launch a torpedo was clearly one taken by the submarine commander.’ But according to the submarine commander himself, the order had come from Britain.
It was not until 4 October that in a rather curious government statement issued to the news agencies it was ‘confirmed’ that the order to sink the Belgrano had come from the War Cabinet – Margaret Thatcher, John Nott, Deputy Prime Minister William Whitelaw and Chairman of the Conservative party Cecil Parkinson – meeting at the prime ministers’ country residence Chequers on 2 May.
Spokesman Peter Blaker replied: “When it was torpedoed, the Belgrano was sailing a course of 280 degrees.’ This meant that the cruiser was not, as John Nott had asserted in the House of Commons the previous May, ‘closing on’ the Task Force. She was sailing away from it in exactly the opposite direction.
If the ship was not ‘closing on’ the Task Force but sailing away from it, how could it have possibly posed a threat! In firing on the cruiser: ‘Concerned that HMS Conquerer might lose the General Belgrano as she ran over the shallow water of the Burdwood Bank, the Task Force commander sought and obtained a change in the rules of engagement to allow an attack outside the 200-mile exclusion zone.’ 8
The attack 13
Commander Chris Wreford-Brown Royal Navy
Mail Online-12 October 2012
THE South Devon man who sunk the Argentine navy cruiser General Belgrano with the loss of 323 lives in the 1982 Falklands War retired as Paignton Zoo's manager and administrator. 17
Some sources asserted that the information on the position of the ARA General Belgrano came from a Soviet spy satellite that had been tapped by the Norwegian intelligence service station at Fauske, Norway and then handed over to the British.
On 2 May, the HMS Conqueror fired three 21 inch Mk 8 mod 4 torpedoes (conventional, non-guided, torpedoes), each with an 805-pound (363 kg) Torpex warhead. While Conqueror was also equipped with the newer Mark 24 Tigerfish homing torpedo, there were doubts about its reliability.
Although he had more sophisticated torpedoes, only the older Mk 8s, a design which had been in use since 1927, packed the necessary punch to penetrate the thick armour plating of the Belgrano.
According to the Argentine government, General Belgrano's position was Coordinates 55º 24`S 61º32 W/ 55.400 S 61.533ºW.
After spending two hours working his way into an attack position, Wreford-Brown ordered the torpedoes to be fired at a range of 1,400 yards.The submarine’s crew could hear the whine of the torpedoes’ motors as they accelerated towards their target.For a while, there was silence, save for the chuffing sound of the Belgrano’s engines. Wreford-Brown watched calmly through his periscope. Then, 55 seconds later, just after 4pm at local time — 7pm GMT — he saw an orange fireball explode near the ship’s mainmast.‘Explosion’ reported the sonar operator of the Conqueror, impassively. A few seconds later, he said: ‘Second explosion.’
One of the torpedoes struck 10 to 15 metres (33 to 49 ft) aft of the bow, outside the area protected by either the ship's side armour or the internal anti-torpedo bulge. This blew off the ship's bow, but the internal torpedo bulkheads held and the forward powder magazine for the 40 mm gun did not detonate. It is believed that none of the ship's company were in that part of the ship at the time of the explosion.
The second torpedo struck about three-quarters of the way along the ship, just outside the rear limit of the side armour plating. The torpedo punched through the side of the ship before exploding in the aft machine room. The explosion tore upward through two messes and a relaxation area called "the Soda Fountain" before finally ripping a 20-metre-long hole in the main deck. Later reports put the number of deaths in the area around the explosion at 275 men. After the explosion, the ship rapidly filled with smoke.[The explosion also damaged General Belgrano's electrical power system, preventing her from putting out a radio distress call.19
Though the forward bulkheads held, water was rushing in through the hole created by the second torpedo and could not be pumped out because of the electrical power failure.In addition, although the ship should have been "at action stations", she was sailing with the water-tight doors open.The ship began to list to port and to sink towards the bow. Twenty minutes after the attack, at 16:24, Captain Bonzo ordered the crew to abandon ship. Inflatable life rafts were deployed, and the evacuation began without panic. The two escort ships were unaware of what was happening to General Belgrano, as they were out of touch with her in the gloom and had not seen the distress rockets or lamp signals.
Intelligence intercept later reported the destroyer ARA Bouchard had claimed to have been hit by a torpedo that failed to detonate .If true this could have accounted for the third torpedo and would correlate with sonar recordings of a third hit. 13
Random depth charging by the two destroyers caused Conqueror to withdraw at speed to the south before circling slowly to the Burdwood Bank Isla de los Estados gap to hopefully re-attack the returning destroyers . 13
By the time the ships realised that something had happened to General Belgrano, it was already dark and the weather had worsened, scattering the life rafts. Argentine and Chilean ships rescued 772 men in all from 3 to 5 May. In total, 323 were killed in the attack: 321 members of the crew and two civilians who were on board at the time.
Narendra Sethia´s description of the sinking 24
Narendra Sethia was the HMS Conqueror´s control officer . Sethia was born in Scotland, father Indian and English mother. He wrote a Malvinas War Diary which was given to the Asociación Amigos del Crucero General Belgrano. He co-authored a book called Secrets of the Conqueror : The untold story of Britain´s most famous submarine by Stuart Prebble (The Guardian, Friday 12 October 2012). On Tuesday September 19th, 2000 he met in Buenos Aires with Captain Héctor Bonzo.
By May 1 1982, Conqueror's sonar had already detected the cruiser Belgrano, and the Exocet-armed destroyers Hippolito Bouchard and Piedrabuena. The submarine shadowed the vessels and, while keeping watch on the periscope, I sighted the tops of masts on the distant horizon. Excitedly, I called out that I could see the vessels, and when I relayed the bearing, the sonar operators confirmed that the ships were indeed the Belgrano and her escorts.
When I looked again on the same bearing, they were closer and I could see their hulls and make out that there were four vessels, apparently steaming abeam of each other and engaged in a fuel replenishment operation. It was a thrilling moment.
For more than a day, unauthorised to attack the ships as they remained outside the British-enforced total exclusion zone, we shadowed the Belgrano group. The following day, May 2 1982, Conqueror received a signal authorising the submarine to attack the Argentinian ships.
At 3pm, Conqueror's crew was called to action stations and the torpedo tubes were loaded. The atmosphere in the submarine's control room was intense yet each individual went about his job professionally and calmly as various orders were given to prepare for the attack.
Around 4pm, the order was given to fire and three torpedoes sped towards the Belgrano. The seconds ticked away and my pulse raced. This was the moment for which we had all been trained, yet a moment which, I believe, few of us ever really thought we would encounter. Until the moment of firing, it was as if everything in our lives had been a dress rehearsal for a performance that would never be given. But at that moment, our lives changed and we knew that the dress rehearsal was over. The Belgrano had real people on board. And we had just fired three high-explosive torpedoes at her.
Shortly after firing, we heard and felt an enormous explosion. Conqueror's commanding officer, Commander Chris Wreford-Brown, called out from the periscope that he could see flashes of orange flame. The submarine's control room erupted in cheers as we realised that the weapons had hit.
Naendra Sethia´s opinon on the sinking (Personal communication Nov 27, 2013)
There are two points that I would make, not only as a result of my conversations with Bonzo, but also with Captain Cenci, his 3rd in Command, one survivor from the Belgrano, and one crew member from the ARA Hipólito Bouchard:
Bonzo's verbatim words to me were "The sinking of my ship was politically criminal". That is a very significant statement and is precisely how I feel about it. From a purely military point of view, yes, she could be considered a "threat" and, was, thus, a "legal" target. She was a big ship, she had two Exocet-armed escorts and air cover, and the UK and Argentina were in a state of military preparedness. So, militarily, my own feeling is that it was not "illegal".
But, the point, made by Bonzo to me, and something I've felt ever since 2nd May 1982, was that the whole thing was avoidable in the first place - and THAT is the criminality.
My view is that the British Government purposely had the Belgrano sunk in order that Margaret Thatcher could be re-elected. Prior to the Falklands, she was at the bottom of the polls and no-one believe she would get back in. After the Falklands, she was viewed as a heroine.
There is much evidence to suggest that Thatcher was well aware of a peace plan that had been negotiated by President Terry of Peru - and, as written by Arthur Gavshon, in his book The Sinking of the Belgrano, that peace plan was all in agreement the night before the Belgrano's sinking, with the exception of one single word - they had not decided whether to draft the peace plan with the phrase "the wishes of the Falkland Islanders" or "the aspirations of the Falkland Islanders". That was the only word between peace and war.
President Galtieri and President Terry went to bed on the night of 1st May, in their respective Presidential palaces, in the "secure knowledge that peace was about to be approved". When President Terry telephoned President Galtieri to tell him that the Belgrano had been attacked, to use Gavshon's words ".... there was disbelief .... consternation ..... anger...".
I put the word "legal" in inverted commas, because it is a disgusting word. In the 1940's, in Nazi Germany, it was "legal" to round up Jews and send them to a concentration camp. So, my point is that "legal" is a fashion - what was legal yesterday may not be legal today, and vice-versa.
Thus, I do not view anything about the sinking of the Belgrano as legal or illegal. I view it as either the right course of action which would have saved lives in the long run and nurtured peace, or as a wicked political act that was totally avoidable and ended up in the wholesale slaughter of human beings. It is that second view that I hold and that is what troubles both you and I.
Thus, my view of the Red Cross report is - it's correct, but it is disgusting.
According to Commander Bonzo, 85% of the crew had dry clothes during abandonment and 30% had blankets and spare clothes dry. The men who came to the liferafts wet did not exceed 30% of total. Some rafts capsized within minutes of being occupied. Some rafts had flaws. Only 20% of the rafts had less than 15 people in each, in the rest the number varied between 15 and 35 maximum. Aboard injured and burned were treated. Each 50º roll threw the men to the floor. 4,7
The cruiser was navigating at 15 knots, water temperature was 2ºC, there were 100 km/h gusts of wind and 10 meters high waves. 12
Conscript Santiago Belozo´s ordeal (Personal communication Nov.2013)
Santiago Belozo, son of Spanish parents and the youngest of three brothers.
He was in charge of Tower 3 at the cruiser ARA General Belgrano.
Belozo works at the Graphic department in the Argentine Naval Hydrographic Service.
He has four children and three grand-daughters
I was appointed to the cruiser ARA General Belgrano in November 1981 after a 76 days previous instruction at Cámpo Sarmiento training field in the Puerto Belgrano Naval Base. In the cruiser I was assigned to the 1st , 2nd and 3rd division at the ship`s bow .
In times of peace our job was maintenance; chafa as it is called in the naval jargon. My combat rol was as a gunner. In surface warfare I was in charge of the tower 3 which had 3 six-inches cannons and in anti aerial warfare I was in charge of taking out the ammo from the 57 cannon of five inches.
Since april 2nd the training was intensive (although it always was) and even more since April, Friday 16th at noon when we departed from the Puerto Belgrano Naval Base on. We had calls to action stations all day long without any previous warning thus allowing a flexible and prompt response according to the circumstances.
There were several types of call to action stations: combat, anti-aircraft, surface warfare, disaster at sea and abandonment. Each of them was announced with a different siren.
Every member of the crew knew his combat role and they quickly run to their assigned positions. This routine implied running out from the mess room where were having lunch or dinner, getting up in the middle of the night (if we were not in duty) or getting out half dressed from the shower.
When the cruiser was anchored in port there were three shifts covered by the whole crew:
- Shift 31:08.00 to 12.00 hours and 20.00 to 24.00hs
- Shift 32:12.00 to 16.00 hours and 24.00 to 04.00 hours
- Shift 33: 16.00 to 20.00 hours and 04.00 to 08.00 hours
With this system and while were not in combat each of us covered 8hs of duty the ship being in constant alert. One third of the crew was on watch, another third was resting and the last one dedicated to the ship´s maintenance.
I had the Shift 31 which I covered in tower 1 at the ship`s bow.
Two destroyers called ARA Bouchard and ARA Piedrabuena navigated with us and we formed what was called the GT 79.3, the commander being Captain Héctor Bonzo.
We sailed south, with ongoing training and when we arrived to Golfo San Jorge in the province of Santa Cruz we were told that from that moment on all the call to action stations would be real. Should any non identified aircraft appear on radar we were to to cover our combat positions. This last happened on the morning of Saturday May 1: a red alert warned us of an air attack while we were navigating and replenishing from the tanker Puerto Rosales which was about 20 meters from the cruiser.
The hoses and ropes that bound us with the tanker were cut off and both vessels steered in different directions while we covered our action stations. In few minutes 1093 men were ready for battle. Fortunately, the plane in the radar was Argentine; there was a malfunction in the identification equipment. At that precise moment our maneuvres were being watched from the south by the nuclear submarine HMS Conqueror commanded by Chrisotpher Wreford-Brown.
After the call to actions it all turned quiet and each of us returned to the assigned activity. We were told that on May 2nd at dawn we would have to fill the air combat assignements as we´d be within the scope of the British fleet´s planes. On May 1st,the British bombed Port Stanley and we assumed an immediate landing. There was going to be a pincer movement: ours from the south and our aircraft carrier from the north.That would place us at about 200 miles (370 km) from the British warships.
At 03.00 AM the entire crew was in their battle positions. As a gunner I went to the 57 five-inches cannon on main deck in starboard.
The cold soaked to the bone and, although it was a closed night in the far southern horizon we could see lights of the aurora australis something very rare in this latitude.
Only few murmurs were heard and the ship produced no lights. We spent the hours in the open receiving from times to times some hot broth which the cooks brought us to attenuate the cold weather.
At 06.00 AM we returned to our starting positions and at 10.00 PM the battle station was lifted. I left my position and went to tower 1 to cover the 08.00 to 12.00 PM shift.
That Sunday morning we had a leaden sky and when walking through the main deck we suffered a continous wind .At 12 PM I left the guard and went to the mess room for lunch. We use to gather with our trays of food sitting next to a map that covered most of the bulkhead. After lunch andsmall talk we walked along the deck looking at the increasingly rough sea. Some of us returned to the mess-deck to rest a bit as we would enter the guard up to 08.00 PM.
The 1st, 2nd and 3rd divisions´mess-deck was situated on the third deck in the bow. Once there we layed on our bunks, we talked, shared anecdotes and our impression of the situation till we fall asleep.
It was 04.00 PM and mechanisms were being checked at tower 2. Shift 32 was being substituted by shift 33 when all of a sudden the cruiser received a violent jolt. A terrible explosion explosion seemed to lift the ship and then another followed. From the bridge you could see how this second explosion raised a column of water and irons and by the time it fell 15 meters of the bow were missing.
A group of men who were waiting to enter tower 2 had to look for shelter of the falling irons. The cruiser seemed to be stuck on a sandbar and during a millisecond time seemed to stop. Many of us didn´t realized what had happened and a deadly silence invaded us along with a pungent odor from the torpedoes explosions. Darkness gripped the ship except for a few rays of light filtering through the outdoor stairs providing a drawn image of Dante´s inferno.
In the mess-deck the bunks dropped, we fell to the ground with the box-offices and some pipes broke as well releasing their steam.
In the stern mess-deck we had time for nothing, the floor of the dining room cracked and a column of fire, steam and oil came out. Most of the dead men were in that area. The explosion involved the dining room, the canteen and the stern dormitories. A fireball raced through the halls burning everything and everyone in its path. The stern became a nightmare of corpses, oil, fire, water and darkness. Once we checked that everyone in the mess-deck was OK we headed to the main deck.
In my case, in tower 3, we thought we had entered in combat. It was a midshipman and a corporal who told me we had been attacked by two torpedoes.
The cruise was listing and the destroyers that accompanied us were moving out probably searching the submarine. The damage control team acted immediately and provided assistance to everyone who was alive.
The wounded began to appear on main deck, some oil-soaked and severely burned. I headed tro the bow where we made a human chain in order that the wounded could be assisted without fear of falling to the sea due to the inclination the vessel was taking.
As a result of the wounds many of them received morphine and we wrote in their foreheads with their own blood e.g :M 16.20-. Everything was in order and we followed the protocols that we practiced. The rafts were lowered from their containers and thrown into the sea, tied to the ship and prepared to be open when ordered.
At about 04.25 PM the vessel was too listed and we received the order to abandon it. The rafts situated on port side were on the level of the rail which ws not the case in starboard. The wounded were the first to be uploaded to the rafts. We could see snoke rising from the bowels of the old ship. Around the cruiser were the orange roofs of the rafts amidst a vilent sea mixed with oil spills. On deck the men were helping the wounded, others were coming down. Closed barrels of JP1, the helicopters fuel, were thrown to the sea to prevent possible explosions durink the disembarkment.
Once given the order to leave, I went to my raft, bow , or rather what was left of it , where there were already many mates . When I was ready to jump a sound was heard and the lieutenant who was next to me grabbed me before falling.
The winch winding the anchor chains fell on a group of rafts destroying them. Immediately after the impact we fell on a raft , with such bad luck that a wave crashed against the twisted metal of the bow bursting it.
We plunged in the sea and I felt as millions of nails were nailing my body. One of my feet was stuck in the raft and as Lieutenant D' amico realized what was happening he swimmed towards me and start kicking to release me while I was trying to separate myself from the irons. Every time we dipped into the waves we could hear the sound of the ship´s twisted steel and distant explosions .
Once free,we swam to another raft, where a midshipman would not let us go up, as they said it was full , so we swam to another one. All this happened in just minutes as you can´t survive more than 5 in those icy waters. I honestly thought it was the end, until a fellow nicknamed "serrucho " (handsaw) gave us a helping hand and we could board the raft. The body did not respond to us , in the water movements were becoming slower . Once in the raft we remained in a fetal position for a few minutes.
At about 04.50 PM the heel of the cruise was already over 60 degrees the silhouette showed tower 2 pointing to starboard. Smoke rose into the sky from the bowels of the cruise .Inside the cruise there was the dreadful toll of death and destruction. Slowly some rafts tied to each other started receding and we could see our vessel gently leaned over the sea.Few minutes later the cruise sank nd from many rafts we could hear: long live Belgrano!
From that moment on we were alone at the mercy of the sea, which was showing its fierce side:a maelstorm. We had to unleash several rafts as the intense wind and waves falling on them increased the risk of breaking.
We were in three rafts tied together , one with 18 men which was half deflated, another with three other men who had died from cold exposure and ours with 32 men.
By nightfall the sea pounded furiously waves whose blows fell on the roofs, and exposed us to capsize.The ports closures at each end were broken and icy water entered through them so we took turns to kep them close . Some of us begaton to vomit as a result of the strong shaking and the smell of oil. No one was thirsty or hungry , urine was gathered in a plastic bag which was then used as hot water bottles.Those 36 degrees were a blessing in such a situation .
Flares were thrown which illuminating the saddest night we faced , in a sea that was determined to kill us . The wind chill factor at that time was 20 degrees below zero and the wind exceeded 100 Mmiles per hour , making the waves rise 10 meters . When we heard that a wave was going to hit the roof , we all sstanded putting our backs against the roof to take the hit .
At dawn light allowed us to see the faces .I could see Fernando Jaime ¨Serrucho¨, Castaldo , midshipmen Braverman and Elgorriaga and lieutenants D' amico and Stuard , Petty Officer Garay and others. Their faces reflected sadness and exhaustion. At about 13 pm. the sound of a far away airplane which was looking for us was heardand at about 16 pm the rescue vessels arrived.
The Advice vessel ARA Gurruchaga approached our raft , a tactical diver swam towards us and at 18.00hs he began to maneuver a rope trying to put us along the hull side.. We went on board as we could and when I climbed on board I collapsed, I could not feel my legs .and the same thing happened to the rest of us..
We were helped by the crew, taken inside where we were given dry clothes and something warm. Many offered us their own clothes. I was so frozen that I couldn´t even feel the hot mug with chocolate. I had no sensation of sipping and the chocolate drained out from the corner of my lips.
We navigated till Wednesday looking for more survivors till we arrived to Ushuaia. The 70 men crew of the aviso rescued about 400 men.
On Friday I arrived home I was greeted by my parents, my brothers, my girlfriend (my actual wife with whom I have four children and one granddaughter). That would be my personal story. Thirty years have elapsed since the conflict and they were not easy times for the families who lost their loved ones.It was not easy for the ones who returned either .We had planty of pain to share. Words are unnnecessary, the facts that made history are enough.
During many years people looked away from us as trying to hide something embarrasing that was better forgotten.Pain kept growing.For those who returned their heart was still in the cruiser. We were not the same and its true that we we lost our tattered sould which couldn´t be recovered.
I had the great honor of facing death in the company of my comrades. 323 men died . I didn´t meet them all but I remember Rene Muller, Ricardo Pineda , Sixto Fajardo, Claudio Giaretti, Alberto Martino, Carlos Gemma , Fabian Sosa, Carlos González , Omar Giorgi , Osvaldo Galbarne , Joules Lobos, Enrique Maciel, Juan Zangani , Marcelo Romero , Gerardo Marchisio , Enrique Gazal, Soriano Sotelo, Edgardo Pramparo , Miguel Albarracin , Claudio Tortosa , Julio Vazquez , Antonio Ojeda, José Pucheta , Carlos Motta ,Oscar Medina . I hereby through them send my eternal respect for all the crew.
Analysis of the controversial action
The sinking of the Argentinian cruiser ARA General Belgrano by the British nuclear-powered submarine HMS Conqueror has been regarded as one of the most controversial events of the 1982 conflict.
On May 3rd 1982, Argentina’s Foreign Ministry released a statement, that the sinking of the Belgrano was “at a point at the 55 º 24 ‘south latitude and 61 º 32′ west longitude. That this point is located 36 miles outside the area maritime exclusion set by the government of Great Britain. Such an attack is a treacherous act of armed aggression.’ 29
Many British critics of the action, which resulted in the deaths of 323 Argentinian sailors, see the sinking as a war crime.
These critics include the former Labour MP Sir Tam Dalyell and the former Ministry of Defence civil servant Clive Ponting, argue that the Belgrano represented no threat, and was actually sailing away from the 200-mile Total Exclusion Zone declared by the British around the Malvinas Islands.In their eyes, the action was a disgraceful act of provocation by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher designed to escalate the conflict. 30
Labour MP Sir Tam Dalyell
(www.Online Publishing Company)
Labour veteran Tam Dalyell is one of the most principled, honourable and dogged politicians of his generation. Dalyell is a serious man with an impressive scientific background who researches every cause he takes up with remorseless and minute care. He said: "I am one of comparatively few - a dwindling number of MPs - who have actually worn the Queen's uniform, done gunnery and experienced the smell of cordite. Perhaps we are a bit less relaxed about unleashing war than those who have never been in a military situation." (Mail Online- Tuesday, Nov 26 2013- http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-205828/Profile-Tam-Dalyell.html )
Captain Héctor Elías Bonzo †
Captain Bonzo said: "It was an act of war. The acts of those who are at war, like the submarine's attack, are not a crime ... The crime is the war. We were on the front line and suffered the consequences. On April 30, we were authorised to open fire, and if the submarine had surfaced in front of me I would have opened fire with all our 15 guns until it sank." 16,18,27
The Peruvian Peace initiative and the seventeen hour gap
Diana Gould, a teacher from Cirencester in Gloucestershire, challenged Mrs Thatcher nationwide in 1983 and said: 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 question 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. 8,21,29
Diana Gould was born Diana Sidney Prigg on April 18, 1926 at Clifton, Bristol and died December 3, 2011. In 1984 she published a book:On the spot ,about the Belgrano affair. (The Telegraph, 08 Dec 2011).The unsuccesful explanations of PM Margaret Thatcher may be seen at the historical first broadcast interview by Diana Gould on May 24, 1982 at
In early editions on Tuesday May 4th, 1982, Britain’s The Sun newspaper published by English media executive Kelvin Calder Mackenzie led with the infamous headline “GOTCHA”: ”Our lads sink gunboat and hole cruiser”. When news began to emerge that the Belgrano had indeed been sunk, with a large number of casualties, later editions of the Sun led with the more sombre headline “Did 1,200 Argies drown?” 29 The Sun remained loyal to Thatcher right up to her resignation in November 1990.
The international consequences 28
Margaret Thatcher in her book The Downing Street Years said: However, the shocking loss of life caused us many problems because it provided a reason - or in some cases perhaps an excuse - for breaks in the ranks among the less committed of our allies: it also increased pressure on us at the UN. The Irish Government called for an immediate meeting of the Security Council, though after intense pressure from Tony Parsons and some from Javier Perez de Cuellar ] the UN Secretary General, they were eventually persuaded to suspend their request - not, however, before the Irish Defence Minister had described us as "the aggressor" . There was some wavering from the French and rather more from the West Germans, who pressed for a ceasefire and UN negotiations. Moreover, by the time of the sinking of the Belgrano, the diplomatic scene was already becoming more difficult and complicated. (Thatcher, Margaret-The Downing Street Years(1993)pp 214-216-Falklands: Decision to sink the Belgrano [memoirs extract]
The aftermath: PTSD
In 1999, Sir Michael Cecil Boyce, First Sea Lord of the Royal Navy, visited the Puerto Belgrano naval base and paid tribute to those who died in the cruiser. (Gesto británico en el mar ". La Nación (in Spanish). Argentina. Retrieved 2 December 2011 ).
However, both countries were bound to pay a high price for such action.: PTSD
PTSD is well dscribed at the DSM-IV (Diagnostic ans Statistic Manual for Mental Disorders).
Jonathan Shay, the author of “Achilles in Vietnam: Combat Trauma and the Undoing of Character,” said “PTSD can unfortunately mimic virtually any condition in psychiatry.”
Ben Shephard, a leading British historian of military psychiatry in his provocative book, “A War of Nerves: Soldiers and Psychiatrists in the Twentieth Century,” describes a historical cycle that governs the treatment of war stress: “the problem is at first denied, then exaggerated, then understood, and finally, forgotten.” 19
We should bear in mind that in Argentina specific mental health programs started in 1999, fourteen years after the conflict. 25
At first the estmated rate of PTSD among 1982 British war veterans was estimated in 4.5% and above 25% for Argentine troops but the fact is there was never official data.
In 1993, Roderick J.Ørner et al published the first available findings on long-term traumatic stress syndromes among ex-servicemen who are veterans of the Malvinas War indicating the need for a long-term follow-up survey incorporating treatment evaluations and welfare rights. (British Journal of Clinical Psychology-Volume 32-Issue 4-November 1993, p 457-459)
In 1997, Jones et al published at the Journal of the Royal College of General Practitioners an article depicting the delayed psychiatric sequelae among Malvinas war veterans. 15
There is a concept known as “the dose-response curve.” In simple terms, the more horror and death you are exposed to, the more likely you are to experience post-traumatic stress. 20
The limbic system (or paleomammalian brain) is a complex set of brain structures that lies on both sides of the thalamus, right under the cerebrum. It appears to be primarily responsible for emotional life, and it has a great deal to do with the formation of memories. The central nucleus of the amygdala is involved in fear responses, including the paralysis, tachycardia, increased respiration and release of stress hormones. Once detected the danger, the amygdala orchestrates a rapid response of the whole body that drives us away from the threat. The amygdala is also responsible for the formation and storage of memory associated with emotional events. The amygdala works excessively when thre´s a lack of sleep and play a role in the excessive consumption of alcohol.
One of the largest studies done on combat-related PTSD, published in The Lancet at the height of the Iraq War, reported that around four per cent of British veterans had been diagnosed with the disorder. A meta-analysis of studies on American veterans deployed to Iraq found that the rate of PTSD. diagnosis ranges from 1.4 to thirty-one per cent, although the range is typically between ten to seventeen per cent. 19
In a 2010 study published in The British Journal of Psychiatry, Neil Greenberg, of the Academic Centre for Defence Mental Health, at King’s College London, found an incidence rate of 3.4 per cent. 19
“The ‘stiff upper lip’ is still alive and well in Britain, so you are likely to get people there who will say that people in the U.S. are ‘whiners,’ because they talk about stress openly,” said Gaithri Fernando, the director of the Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress at California State University, Los Angeles, who has studied PTSD across a number of cultures. The upshot for British veterans is that they are less likely to be told they have PTSD They are more likely, in turn, to end up abusing alcohol or to be given the less controversial diagnosis of clinical depression, according to William Nash, a retired U.S. Navy psychiatrist and co-editor of an influential cross-cultural anthology on PTSD “Combat Stress Injury: Theory, Research and Management.” 19
Ex-Private Michael Iddon (Iddy) was a combat medic aboard the HMS Sir Galahad when it was bombed during the Malvinas War. Forty-eight soldiers were killed in the attack, with countless others suffering horrific burns and injuries. Iddy, as a young 18-year-old medic, was one of the last to leave the ship as he treated the soldiers - and almost drowned when he did eventually make it to a life craft - before spending the rest of the war treating some of the worst injuries the military had experienced since World War Two. Today he wants his story to act as a warning to anyone suffering any of the symptoms of (PTSD) to seek help now . 21
In 2013, British MoD said 2.9% of serving soldiers developed PTSD, which is lower than the general population. The British government, unlike its American counterpart, does not record the suicide rate among ex-soldiers. However, the number of soldiers with PTSD has more than doubled in the past three years among those who served in Afghanistan, according to MoD figures. Nobody can be sure how many of the 21 soldiers and 29 veterans who took their own lives in 2012 were suffering from PTSD as the reasons for suicide are complex. The MoD said it was not prepared to talk about individual cases but has committed £7.4m to ensure there is extensive mental health support in place for everyone who needs it. 3
Leading British military charities say they're treating more veterans under-30 for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) than ever before. 20
© 2009 Royal College of Psychiatrists
According to Combat Stress The Veterans´ Mental Health Charity some people are more resilient than others, but every individual has their breaking point. Exposure to multiple and sustained trauma, and lack of supportive structures (peer group and/ or family support) increase the risk of developing PTSD. The most common presentation in Combat Stress center´s patient group is PTSD. Their clinical audits consistently show a range of around 75% suffering from PTSD as the primary diagnosis. Some 62% of these individuals also suffer from co-morbid depression and a history of current or past alcohol abuse or dependence (addiction). In most cases the PTSD present is chronic. The other 25% or so, suffer from alcohol misuse disorders, depression, anxiety disorders, and phobic disorders including agoraphobia.
In addition to this, problems with anger and problems which reflect personality change following exposure to catastrophe are also evident - such as is illicit drug abuse and, more rarely, dependence (addiction). 6
Frueh et al published a provokative article in 2009 claiming that retrospective reports of veterans reveal that delayed-onset PTSD (current, subthreshold or lifetime) is extremely rare 1 year post-trauma, and there was no evidence of PTSD symptom onset 6 or more years after trauma exposure. 11,26
In 2010 Holbrook et al published an article in The New England Journal of Medicine according to which the use of morphine during trauma care may reduce the risk of subsequent development of PTSD after serious injury. 14
In UK PTSD Resolution is a charity (No. 1133188) that offers counselling with a 78% success rate to UK armed forces’ TA and Regular Reserves and dependants, to relieve mental health problems resulting from military service, to ease reintegration into a normal work & family life. PTSD Resolution offers employers Trauma Awareness Training to support the successful integration of Veterans and Reservists in the workplace. 22
Garry Haldane, was a cook aboard HMS Conqueror but served in a torpedo loading crew during the action on May 2. Haldante keeps in touch with other veterans he added that some members of the crew were still haunted by the experience. “There’s a few boys who have got PTSD because of it,” he said. “Because of these things some people handled it differently to us and some couldn’t take it.”. Mr Haldane. said he would be willing to meet survivors of the General Belgrano if any were willing.
The 52-year-old man said the May 1982 attack was unjustified and angrily denounced the “lies” of politicians for bringing about the disaster. Mr Haldane now works as a postie in Dunfermline, Fife. (Laing,Peter-Scots postie who helped sink the Belgrano says: ¨In hindsight it was not the thing to do¨- Deadline.)
The Nottingham-Malvinas Group
During the first week of November, 2013 Santiago Belozo who is being treated by PTSD and was submitted to the Argentine MoD Medical Board came to my office at the Naval Hydrographic Service and said it would be great for him if I could put him in contact with someone of the HMS Conqueror´s crew.
I immediately got in contact with Major (Ret) Mike Seear who belongs to my Nottingham-Malvinas Group and together with Jane Adams (SAMA 82)they tracked officer Narendra Sethia of the nuclear submarine who had already been in Buenos Aires. Sethia got in contact with me and I started translating their correspondence.
On November 24th Narendra Sethia wrote:
I am sorry that I am not able to write good Spanish. I just wanted to write this first note to say this:
That it is a humbling pleasure to meet you, to say hello to you, to hold my hand out to you, and to put my hand on your shoulder with my heart. I apologise if this sounds poetic, but it is from my soul.
I hope that you will feel able to communicate with me.
With warmest regards
The following day Santiago Belozo answered:
It´s been a long time since I wanted to get in contact with you.I must confess that,ever since Dr Gerding told me I could do it,it was hard for me. It´s very much like when I step in front of a canvas for painting or when I want to write something in a white sheeth of paper.You have the idea but you don´t know where to begin.Therefore I sincerely appreciate your first words and it´s rewarming for me to know that you are my friend in spite of the distance.
A great hug,
Grief and Mourning 9
Grief is the constellation of internal thoughts and feelings we have when someone we love dies. Think of grief as the container. It holds your thoughts, feelings, and images of your experience when someone you love dies. In other words, grief is the internal meaning given to the experience of loss.
Mourning on the other hand is when you take the grief you have on the inside and express it outside of yourself. Another way of defining mourning is “grief gone public” .
Mourning is what makes it possible for us to experience, eventually, a sense of renewed meaning and purpose in our lives. Authentic mourning is anchored in making the conscious choice to allow ourselves to mourn, to recognize that darkness sometimes precedes light, and to seek healing, repair, and transformation of our very being. . (Dr. Alan Wolfelt, director of the Center for Loss & Life Transition in Fort Collins, Colorado,USA- http://www.centerforloss.com/2012/05/importance-mourning/ )
A comprehensive literature review of Virtual Reality Therapy (VRE) in the treatment of PTSD in combat soldiers from the Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan War may be found at: http://www.ukessays.com/essays/psychology/virtual-reality-exposure-therapy-in-treatment-of-ptsd-psychology-essay.php#ixzz2mXU1YoZK
Traditional exposure therapies such as imaginal or in vivo exposure introduce the possibility of avoidance, a condition inherent in PTSD, and patients may express difficulty imagining or describing their traumatic experiences in detail.
Narendra Sethia said: ¨I can only tell you that I would find it extremely hard to look at the Belgrano if she had somehow been raised and taken ashore. I'm not sure I could handle looking at the ship in the state of damage with which he went down, and I'm not sure if others from our boat would be able to either. I can't really explain why - perhaps because of the very large number of casualties, and, without belittling the experiences of anyone else, perhaps because of the enormity of the encounter. Reading Bonzo's words of what he saw immediately after the impact is still disturbing to me.¨
Brits being Brits, with a combination of stiff upper lip, swagger and bravado, one doesn't see it much on the outside. But many of the crew were, in a way, traumatised. The words that I put in that Guardian article sum it up succinctly - "until the moment of firing, it was as if everything in our lives had been a dress rehearsal for a performance that would never be given. But, at that moment, our lives changed...". I can tell you that I still hear the sound, through earphones, of the Belgrano breaking up. It sounded, as if in very slow motion, like the noise of an enormous crystal chandelier falling from a great height....¨
Narendra and Santiago kept writing to each other, supporting themselves and sharing their lives´ experiences. For me being part of a recovery and a reconciliation amidst such hard background was a privilege which gives full credit to The Nottingham-Malvinas Group.
- Allen,Emily- Revealed for the first time: How HMS Conqueror submarine which sank the Belgrano was sent on spy ship interception mission just weeks later-Mail Online-12 October 2012. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2216681/Top-secret-details-submarine-sank- Belgrano-revealed-time.html
- ARA General Belgrano (C-4) Light Cruiser (1951) http://www.militaryfactory.com/ships/detail.asp?ship_id=ARA-General-Belgrano-C4
- BBC- UK soldier and veteran suicides 'outstrip Afghan deaths'-14 July 2013
- Bonzo, Héctor-1093 tripulantes del crucero ARA General Belgrano, Testimonio y homenaje de su comandante. Editorial Asociación Amigos del Crucero ARA General Belgrano., Buenos Aires, 2004.
- Captain of Falklands’ war cruiser “General Belgrano” dies in Argentina-Merco Press-Friday, April 24th 2009
- Combat Stress-PTSD:Frequently asked questions- http://www.combatstress.org.uk/medical-professionals/what-is-ptsd/ptsd-faqs/
- Conferencia del Capitán de Navío (RE) Dn. Héctor E.Bonzo-Templanza ante situaciones de riesgo. Universidad del CEMA. http://www.ucema.edu.ar/cgc/bonzo.html
- Di Stefano,Giovanni-The sinking of the Belgrano-http://www.onlinepublishingcompany.info/content/read_more/complexInfobox/site_news/infobox/elements/template/default/active_id/3429
- Familiares y sobrevivientes homenajearon a las víctimas del ataque al crucero General Belgrano-Telam. http://www.telam.com.ar/notas/201305/16246-familiares-y-sobrevivientes-homenajearon-a-las-victimas-del-ataque-al-crucero-general-belgrano.html
- Fotos propias del Belgrano (Margaret Thatcher in youtube) http://www.taringa.net/posts/noticias/13523454/Fotos-propias-del-Belgrano-hundido-en-Malvinas.html
- Frueh, B.Christopher- Delayed-onset post-traumatic stress disorder among war veterans in primary care clinics-The British journal of Psychiatry (2009) 194:515-520
- Gerding, Eduardo-Accidental Immersion Hypothermia in the South Atlantic-International Review of the Armed Forces Medical Services-Vol LXIX, 4/5/6, June 15th, 1996p 126-139
- HMS Conqueror`s report (D/NHB/MEM/2502/16/2)-Reports of Proceedings Volume 60G-The Falklands Islands campaign 1982-Operation Corporate. http://www.rna-10-area.co.uk/files/belgrano.pdf
- Holbrook,Troy Lisa et al-Morphine Use after Combat Injury in Iraq and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder-N Engl J Med 2010; 362:110-117-January 14, 2010
- Jones,Gareth H. MRCP, Loveth JonathanWT MRCP-Delayed psychiatric sequelae among Falklands war veterans-Journal of the Royal College of General Practitioners-January 1987.
- Kasanzew, Nicolas. La última noche del Capitán Bonzo- http://www.zonamilitar.com.ar/foros/threads/la-%C3%BAltima-noche-del-capit%C3%A1n-bonzo.17349/
- Man who sunk Belgrano to retire-This is Devon- http://www.thisisdevon.co.uk/Man-sunk-Belgrano-retire/story-11720045-detail/story.html#axzz2lXAG5HJd
- More British than the British-The bppa-British press photographer´s association- http://thebppa.wordpress.com/2012/04/02/more-british-than-the-british/
- Morris,David- How Much Does Culture Matter for P.T.S.D.? –The New Yorker, July 16,2013
- Mundy,Ben- More young veterans treated for PTSD than ever before-BBC Newsbeat-13 March 2013.
- PTSD: A veteran´s warning-Army-15 june 2012. http://www.army.mod.uk/news/24198.aspx
- PTSD Resolution: Counselling Forces´Veterans registered charity . http://www.ptsdresolution.org/
- Recorrido por la cubierta del ARA General Belgrano. http://vimeo.com/30988195
- Sethia, Narendria-Hit by two torpedoes-The Guardian-Wednesday 18 October 2000
- Stein, Enrique-A 30 años de la gesta de Malvinas:Stress postraumático-Realidad o mito? Necesidades y respuestas terapeúticas y sociales-Congreso Latinoamericano de Salud Pública-28 al 30 de noviembre de 2012-Cordoba
- Stein, Enrique-Los veteranos de Malvinas fueron expuestos al lado oscuro de la vida-El Malvinense-20 de abril de 2010. http://www.malvinense.com.ar/sveteranos/10/1175.htm
- Sturcke,James-Belgrano, 25 years on-The Guardian-Wednesday 2 May 2007
- Thatcher, Margaret-The Downing Street Years(1993)pp 214-216-Falklands: Decisionnk the Belgrano [memoirs extract]
- The Belgrano Inquiry http://belgranoinquiry.com/
- Walters,Guy- Britain WAS right to sink the Belgrano: Newly released intelligence proves the Argentine ship had been ordered to attack our Task Force-Mail Online- 30 December 2011.