A history podcast that explores the narratives, turning points and characters that shape conflicts, encompassing a blend of social and military history. Following on from the series on the Falklands War, best-selling military historians Patrick Bishop, and Saul David turn their attention to the war in Ukraine.
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Mon, 18 Apr 2022 01:00
With the Task Force sailing towards the South Atlantic, how close did diplomatic efforts come to ending the war before a shot had been fired? Journalist Simon Jenkins, who was well-connected in the corridors of power at the time, explains the challenges Mrs Thatcher had to overcome, before Bob Headland, of the British Antarctic survey, gives an eye-witness account of the Argentine capture of South Georgia - another south Atlantic island some 900 miles from the Falklands. The retaking of South Georgia by British forces was the first major action of the conflict.
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And welcome back to episode three of Battleground, the four players, your knee Patrick Bishop. And me, Saul David. So last time we told the story of the sailing of the task force, which was a hugely dramatic event. For a moment Britain was plunged back into the Victorian era, a sort of time war with flag waving crowds cheering our boys on as they set off to punish and impertinent borrowers. It all looked very warlike, I seem to remember, but no one in their right mind actually wanted a war and there were high hopes that diplomacy might have hurt the need for an invasion. There had been a long and largely fruitless history of trying to settle the whole question of who the islands belonged to. For 17 years, the foreign office and the Argentinian government had been going back and forth over the same old ground trying to solve the problem. At its heart was a very naughty conundrum. Britain, or rather the foreign office, was very open to the idea of actually giving the islands over to the Argentinians under some sort of leaseback arrangement whereby they got sovereignty, but we carried on ruling the place for some in determined at time. However, there were severely hampered in this aim by the principle laid down over and over again by various British foreign secretaries that nothing was going to happen unless the Falkenters approved which despite great efforts of persuasion, they were showing no sign of doing. So of course the Argentinian invasion had brought the matter to a head in spectacular fashion. It presented a huge challenge to the Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher who had been in power since May 1979, but it still not stamped her authority on her government. Today we're going to talk about the diplomatic offensive Britain launched in parallel to the military initiative and the political atmosphere in London as the crisis progressed. We're then going on to describe the first actual military operation of the war, the recapture of South Georgia. It was as if we will discover of very perilous moments in the story. It came close to a disaster that might have stopped the whole enterprise in its tracks. But first we're going to have a look at the political and diplomatic track. We're very fortunate to have with Simon Jenkins who at the time was political editor of the economist and had terrific access to the politicians and civil servants shaping events. Together with Max Hastings he wrote the first serious book about the war which very much stands the test of time today. He went on to become editor of the Times and is now one of Britain's foremost political voices. Simon, welcome and thank you very much for coming on the podcast. Can I start off by asking you about Mrs. Thatcher's position in the spring of 1982 and what immediate challenges the fault this crisis presented to her? I think it's awfully difficult in telling the story of any war to do so with retrospect. You cannot imagine when you see the victory parade what it was like at the beginning. Because we just know what happened next. At the beginning Margaret Thatcher was in a state I think of complete shock. I know and expected the invasion. No one was ready for it. It came out of the blue. She obviously thought herself this is the end. She was deeply unpopular. She was facing great of course with her own party, all sorts of wings of the party. And now she had this catastrophe on her hands. And she was simply in a state of shock. How much is she led by her own personal instincts and beliefs and how much is she actually distinct to the advice of cabinet colleagues, military personnel and civil servants? I think it was very much herself. I really do. You have to remember that the war itself with the results was a lot of ins and e signing fighting in Whitehall. The foreign officer was desperate to get rid of the Falklands. One reasonable order, but desperate to get rid of it. The Minister of Defence was the prime cause of the war. They ended endurance. They cut back on, they refused to put the air port initially into the islands and therefore in many ways encouraged bonus areas to what it did. Very few people were fall the islanders at this stage in Whitehall. All you had was a tiny group of people in the Tory Beckbentches who were fiercely for them and fighting tooth and nail against the mass ranks of Whitehall. Margaret Thatcher was in a very weak position, any Beckbentch opposition to her, she feared. So she was inclined to go along with the Beckbentches. But at that particular moment in time she really didn't know what to do. And she was, as I said before, she was clinging to straws and the straw she clung to was the task force. The assumption was something would turn up. The Argentinians who leave or the United Nations are getting involved with the Americans would help something would happen. But the whole time the task force was sitting down to ascension island, the assumption was they wouldn't go any further. Okay, and you mentioned the Americans. This is obviously crucially important really, isn't it? Reaction of the Americans. What sort of support could Thatcher expect to get from the Americans and on the other hand? What would be the attitude of Cold War opponents and the Third World? I didn't think she thought much about the latter. As far as the Americans were concerned, at this stage, I mean, she was sort of just throwing her hands up into spare. I've got ships at sea for goodness sake, everybody, rally around. The Americans, I mean, Galtierie had been to Washington. He had support, tacit support not in invading the Falklands, but in his claim to sovereignty over the Falklands from Tom Enders and people in Washington. He genuinely thought the Americans would be at least neutral if he did invade. And he had good reason to think for thinking that. Jean Kirkpatrick at the UN was also sort of on his side. Everybody was keen to get on with Latin America. The Foreign Office were desperate to get on with Latin America. It was why they wanted to get the Falklands off their plate. I don't think at this early stage, Mrs. Thatcher had any idea that it would come to asking the Americans for missiles and that sort of thing, but she's soon, she had good relations with Reagan and so on. She assumed it all would be well. But I don't think the question of alliance was in her mind at the stage. It wasn't a bit odd to people who just assumed that America would rally round. When you've got this strange ideological cross over Jean Kirkpatrick who'd started up life as a far leftist and is now after exposure to Ronny Reagan's charm seems to become a massive sort of anti communist Cold War warry. And by extension, anti British. I don't know if that had anything to do with Irish roots, but there we are. But against slightly lukewarm American reaction, we do get this great result in the UN. Can you talk us through the role of Tony Parsons, etc. in getting the passing of security council resolution 502? Parsons was a character. He was a great success. Margaret Thatcher brought it in. And I think it was very important. The British have always been very differential to the UN. It happened again in over Iraq. They wanted UN support. And I think that's what they ended up with. I think the crucial thing about 502 is that it basically ordered the Argentinians off the islands, so they had to withdraw completely militarily and didn't say anything about the British retaking them. So therefore it was kind of opening the door to a military invasion. Should the Argentinians not comply with the terms of 502? I think there was a lot of ground to cover before we actually got to war, but it did actually give us this international legal cover, which was tremendously important. If you invade a foreign country, hunger vote, you're on weak ground, whatever the justification for it might be. It was a great help to us. You're quite right. I think the other thing about it is that the UN had for 16 years in trying to negotiate a settlement for the Falklands. British ministers have been in New York almost every year getting nowhere in these negotiations. As soon as the war was over, everyone's forgotten. The UN ordered us back into the negotiations, which we didn't do. So the British relationship with the UN was ambivalent, but always nervous. Rhodesia was going on at the time. The British were very worried to get Rhodesia in the right order to go independent. And in the last thing it wanted was trouble in the South Atlantic. Simon, while the task force is heading down to Ascension Islands and on to the Falkland Islands, there is, of course, this ongoing diplomatic effort, the shuttle diplomacy by Al Hague coming over to London and going over to Buenos Aires. And that's just going along with it to the extent that they had to. I suppose they had to see where it might lead, but pretty determined to stick to this principle of self determination by the islanders, that is. And yet on the other hand, it seems to me, Hague was quite happy with their own arrangement that would effectively produce a neutral interim administration after the Argentine withdrawal from the islands, which was something that just simply wasn't compared to put up with. So the question really is, was there any hope that that diplomacy could ever succeed? I don't think there really was. You're quite right. All sorts of different things were happening. The whole way the task force was going south. You heard the Al Hague, the Bellownditary Peruvian proposals, all of these in the final ones after the landings when Reagan came to London and pleaded with that to do a deal. The whole time and the further went on, the more Mrs. Thatcher became utterly involved in the task force. And she regarded all this sort of stuff as purely for show. Francis Pym was pleading for her. The cabinet on the whole thought rather than the UN. We must go along with peace, even as we'd prepare for war. And I mean, Al Hague was a nightmare. I mean, every time he came to London, it was chaos. And no one's going to talk to him. And he was a very oddball character. He took advice famously from Kissinger who'd recently done the Israeli Egypt deal. How do I do it? Kissinger said, Arabic is easy compared to Britain, Argentina. They're used to doing deals. These people are never used to doing deals. And totally we will never work. So I think it was show. It was genuinely show. They were going through the form, going through the actions to try and appear to be a keen on peace. But once, once you were south of the Ascension Islands, it was all on nothing. And I think from that point onwards, it was only going to be total victory. And there's a rest of business. You've got a lot of it from Parkinson's. And I remember saying, once people have started dying, you owe it to them to continue fighting. They believe in that, but that's what he said. And that was certainly what the general as you people thought, I think. We've all seen the pictures. We all remember the pictures of the cheering crowds as the force leaves. But once casualties were being taken, particularly once some of the ships were being sunk, it does political support for the war shore up. I think it does. I think most people, it's difficult to remember. We're all aware of the victory. I think at the time there was genuine nervousness. Of course, it was very easy for the government to control the flow of news. I mean, it had absolute control of the flow of news, both through its own spokesman and through having the journalists embedded in their own ships and so on. So I don't think anyone quite took a board, the disaster of the Atlantic Converse sinking, which was real. That was a single thing that might have lost us the war. They never quite took a board what Gou's cream was really about or what the Galhade operation was really about. All of this was really told after the after the occasion. But certainly, something like Coventry and Sheffield, I remember that being devastating. You could know these are real ships being sunk. And I think everybody was really holding their breath at that stage. They couldn't quite believe we'd lose. But we couldn't quite see how we were going to win. Do you think Simon, the initial operation on South Georgia, which we're going to go on to discuss, and comes reasonably close to disaster itself? Do you think that was a key moment because it was the first proper military engagement of the war, at least in an aggressive sense, as far as the Brits were concerned? And if that had gone wrong, and it almost does, and that's just pretty shaken to see here's the news that two helicopters have gone down and there could be a lot of casualties. I mean, might that have made a difference, do you think? I think to the war, it was right here and all there. It's probably a pity that it was very important. Of course, we weren't told that two helicopters had gone down. We just told it, we got it back. And that enabled us to just rejoice moment, which was very important. It sort of felt as if that was inevitably going to be the case. So the foreclans are going to be as easy as that we hope. I think it was significant in those in those of presentational terms. Well, I was fascinating real insight there. I was particularly struck by the way that Simon, who really did know the corridors of Power very well at that stage, amazing contacts, et cetera. His judgment on just how lonely a place it was with that time there. There she was, pretty much untried at a great crisis. You had the ongoing crisis, but not anything like this that she could possibly have prepared for. And how precarious her position was. There were a couple of things that stood out for me. First of all, his portrait of thatcher as someone really separate from her cabinet. But a person who fitted very neatly in with the military, and this is of course his crucial. We know many instances in history where politicians like Hitler interfere. They have a rare bad relationship with their soldiers. They don't really trust them. But that just seemed to, she seemed to understand the moment instinctively without any kind of personal knowledge herself of the military. But the other really striking thing I think is that this diplomacy that, of course, many people in the country hopes would prevent a war was never likely to work. I mean, Simon makes it pretty clear, I think, that there was a lot of talk. But unless the Argentinians were prepared to withdraw and concede the principle that the islanders would determine their future, there was going to be a shooting war. So now we come on to the first military clash of the campaign, when British forces meet the enemy on the frozen glaciers and mountains of South Georgia. And very dramatic, it was to join us after break. Welcome back to part two. We've had a bit of diplomacy. Now we're moving on to the shooting war, as it occurred in South Georgia. Now the island of South Georgia is quite a long way from the foreklens, nearly 900 miles to the east, in fact. The decision to recapture it was, as we will discover, both a political and a military one. It showed the Argentinians we meant business. It would provide a secure anchorage for the task force ships out of range of Argentine aircraft. And perhaps most importantly, it would provide the government at home with a quick and easy victory to satisfy public opinion. We're now going to talk to Bob Headland, who as a member of the British Antarctic Survey team on the island, was actually present when the Argentinians first arrived. Both that scrap merchant ruse they tried in the middle of March, and later on, of course, when they actually take the island by force on the 3rd of April. I was on South Georgia with the British Antarctic Survey, employed as a biologist, arrived there in 1977, did a couple of winters, so we got to know the island well. OK, it's interesting I was looking at your book, and I noticed that there were indications that the Argentinians were, how can I put it, interested in South Georgia, a little bit earlier than a lot of people might imagine. And we're really going back to Christmas 1981 now, Bob. So can you tell me a little bit about the first sightings of Argentinian ships around that time? Argentine interests in South Georgia apart from the geographical ones and involvement with the railing industry, which goes back to 1904. But more recently than when the old railing stations were closed, there was a vast amount of once useful stuff, time went on, then it became scrap metal, and a fellow who dealt in that in Argentina, Constantino Davido thought it could make a profit from it. I think it started as a straightforward commercial operation, but at that time with the military government, it was a useful excuse, if you follow, and it was not a good thing to disagree with the government of Argentina in the late 70s and early 80s. So Davidov was inquiring about transport, he wanted to see what he had an option to buy, he was even inquiring with private yachts with the British Antarctic Survey with charters, but the Argentine Navy decided it could help. That was a bit of a poison chance. Okay, and do you remember the first sightings of the Argentinian ships coming into South Georgia? The first we knew by a Boeing successors arriving was a bit more Spanish on the HF signals. That was first said, I understand the Spanish no problem, so something was happening. We had a field party in the vicinity which reported the ship there, and that was the 18th of March. Once this was established, myself and a colleague took a launch across Arbe where you could climb the reasonable ridge and get a view of the area of Leith Harbor and Stronnes Bay. So there were fellow powerful binoculars, we were seeing what was going on from a reasonable distance, and I was listening to the HF and reporting back. So we had a good report of the beginning of what was alleged to be, and to some extent was the salvage operation. So what could you actually see that day? I mean, because if it had just been the commercial operation, it might not have been such a problem, but first of all, they hadn't asked any commission to land and you had to go through the due process to do that. And secondly, and I think most importantly, they'd raised the flag, how they know it. Quite a few of the things happened. For a start, the ship which should regularly visit the Auckland, you should have known the procedure that couldn't get away with things then, but she was an Argentine naval vessel. The flag raising that the field party had detected was an irregularity, it was protected species on the island, in the case of the reindeer, they were getting some of those ready for the barbecue. But the basic operation was landing equipment and personnel to begin a salvage job. The views of the ship we had to some extent reassuring, there were no satellite domes or dishes or all sorts of communications that in 1982 would indicate naval logistics of substantial nature, but there were all the equipment for transmitting information and she was in regular contact with BA. Okay, and this information was passed, of course, on to the Auckland Islands. And what kind of information did you get back from them as to what was likely to happen next? We weren't really well equipped for espionage on a detailed way, so we did it in another way. That is using low power VHF and doing from the past where I was observing a short walk behind another mountain, we could transmit to the launch we had. They had another frequency which was transmitting to base. And the reports were transmitted to the governor internally. Originally that was in plain, but then there were different methods of encryption used. But it was not a quick process. Okay, and what information did you get back from Stanley as to what might happen next? What we could see of unloading and operations, wasn't the best view because it was on one side of the ship and we were on the other, but the radio was the best traffic we could get, but number of persons who could be seen and basics of what from about a dozen kilometers away, one can see the beginnings of the unloading and preparing for salvage. The flagpole and the racing of the flag, two sources for that, one hour in field party. And secondly, a French yacht had gone over. There's a long story about that too. And they described somewhat of a military parade for the occasion. The flagpole wasn't actually a flagpole, it was a reasonable tower, it held electrical cables around the old quating station, but it was reasonably high and prominent. And we got some good photographs. Okay, and the instructions came back from Stanley, presumably initiated from London that you would send a pretty strong message to the Argentineans, to what they needed to do next, including the luring of the flag and an attempt to go through the normal procedure, which is of course to not just land at least, but to go to the correct port of entry and get their papers in order. Did they follow those instructions? The instructions came from Rex Hunt in Stanley, whereas he was informing the foreign office, he was acting rather quickly himself. And they're roughly what you outlined. The question of protected species to report to the port of entry to the lower the flag. And a brief series of straightforward instructions, none of which they obeyed. Is it, there is some indication that they lowered the flag for a brief time, is there any truth in that? Yes, so we've got photographs of it coming down. There was a situation of the small military contingent, or rather keen on the flag, and the scrap workers couldn't give a damn. Now, of course, you then have the changing of the guard, so to speak, as far as the Argentinean ships are concerned. One leaves in another rives, and I suppose, far more sinister in terms of the arrival of the second ship, it's got an Argentine military force on it. Yes, Bia Buen successo left after several days, and we could see activity on shore. The report was at least 10 men were seen. Later on, by the time that had come back through the BBC only 10 men were seen. Well, we couldn't see the lot. It's a rather large, wailing station. But Bia Pariso was a major Argentine Navy ship equipped with weapons. Very well built ship, she'd been recently constructed in Finland as an icebreaker for their Antarctic program. So if she was the next on scene. OK, and also at the same time, and I think, having arrived just before the second Argentine ship, the endurance had arrived at Gritvik, and originally with instructions to turf the Argentinians out, and then presumably with second thoughts in London, given that talks were going on with Argentina, that actually just a whole fire and weight off Gritvik. Is that correct? Yes, after Bia Buen successo had gone, HMS endurance arrived. At that time also we had a couple of Russian visitors to use the phrase, I think, from one of the multi python things, bristling with aerials. They were doing a fair amount of observation. Then in came by Bia Pariso. Captains has asked for a better and captain Nick Barker, the two masters, you each other, they'd informally met. But the circumstances were very different. OK, so at this stage, Barker has instructions not to do anything. I mean, certainly to take no military action. So we then get a bit of a standoff, don't we? Until the actual invasion of the Forklorn Islands on the second of April, which is the point at which the Argentinian military force on Sir Georgia begins to take aggressive action itself. So can you describe where you were and what happened next in that situation, Bob? The original plan that we had from Stanley was that the base commander has the post of magistrate. There was to be a police operation assisted by the Navy. That was quite practicable at the time, but then quite all became involved and that was countermanded, they knew the position of Bia Pariso and the power she had was far more than anything we could deploy at that time. Then Whitehall was issuing more to Stanley than Stanley was doing directly. That was the time when the threat to the Forklorns became more apparent and endurance started heading in that direction. She could make, I think, about 12 knots on full whack. She's built for the ice, not for speed. But was unable to get there in time. By then, Bia Pariso was established in Leith Harbor. Goreko, a quite effective little call that was in the vicinity. That was the time when it was realised that endurance would not be able to assist with Stanley. There was far too much against her. So she was returning to South Georgia. She arrived just as things were finishing and good observations were made. But with the Goreko and Bia Pariso, it wasn't appropriate to or endurance to interfere. That was on the 3rd of April, the Battle of Gritvikunas. I'd like to call it. So from your perspective, can you give us an indication of what happened that day? There was a lot of things happening. Signal's going backwards and forwards on the second, then Rex Hunter surrendered and Stanley was taken by the Argentines. At a time when one did what had to be done with code books and prepared for problems the next day. That day, 2nd of April, we had a semi blizzard gusting at times through about 80 knots, so there was no way again to all cellocopters or anything else. 3rd of April, we heard the news. It's the state of emergency on the night of 1st of April. The news from Forklens as Patrick Watt was relaying news as to what was happening in Stanley. And our communications, not that there were not all of them from elsewhere. There was a brilliant day on the 3rd. A baye pariso came into the harbor. The situation at King Eber Point with Keith Mills and the Royal Marines putting up as much defenses they could. Circumstances of Goriko placing herself in a dangerous position. And Carl Gustav, anti tank rock, it's being useful on a ship that comes far too close to you. And the eventual remedy that the Argentines had was bobbing 100 mil shells on from a distance and there was no remedy for those. Keith Mills surrendered the Royal Marines before too much damage was done to the base. About two hours later, I did the same thing for civilians. And you and most of the other civilians were where during the hearth of the battle, or at least the... How can itself was the name for the whole bay and the main part of the base, King Eber Point was the scientific station. And there was the abandoned railing station. About a bit less than a kilometer away. The various buildings there, the most intact, was the own railers church, it seemed an appropriate place. So that's where the civilians were. Two reasons, of course, it's a shelter. And secondly, the RMs didn't want civils when they were going to have a fight. They'd only get in the way. Yeah. And so when you were finally taken into custody, shall we say, because I don't think really you can be described as prisoners of war, but you are obviously... You are occupied by some kind of middle ground. So the term war wasn't used, it's a little bit like we're not supposed to say the Russians aren't saying they're having a war somewhere more recent. So would you say you were prisoners of war? Is there a question about that? No question about that. So, the first few civilians and military were together, ourselves on the road, Marine, Marines first aboard by Upper ISIL and second and a rather hastily constructed prison camp in Pato Bagnarno. Yeah, before you were taken off the island, you're first meeting with the Argentines. I mean, how did they treat you? I mean, what was your impression of them? The fellow in charge of the station remained on King of Duboisnt, but the fellow of the name Asteese were the rather dubious reputation, who I didn't have a clue who he was at the time, which is probably rather good. Accompanied by Keith Mills, and quite a lot of Argentine armed forces, they both are tactical, fairly efficient, some of the others didn't look so. And I approached them from the church, informed the military result, and the civilians are under, was handled after that, the British Antarctic Survey personnel, one by one, were called out and paraded. Some of them were better at parading than others. And we went back to the base, sitting around the empty flagpole, there's various stories about that. Would you like to elaborate at all on that? My Spanish is fairly respectable. Asteese was basically, he spoke good English, he'd learnt it in South Africa very much from the accent, and some of the military situations he'd learnt were not inappropriate for his reputation. I answered in Spanish, because I rather thought the chap's pointing quite a lot of weapons, roughly at my heart, should hear that I was giving in. We carried on a bit of a mixture of languages, but around the flagpole was interesting, the Argentines had suffered a bit, and there was a fair amount of military comrades, that were driven, some of the Royal Marines were also the little things like a fair lighting up a cigarette, and failing to realise he was sitting on a drum of petrol that was leaking. And complications of this nature, the requests to gather some property, a civilian or military, were given, we were given civilians, we were given about 20 minutes to go to the cabins and main part of the base and try to pack a few things. Some of us, myself included, listened to the radio and seen what was happening and done packing some days before. But then most persons were taken aborged by a parisode directly, there's a couple of other things that needed to be done, that the Argentines requested were done before I was one of the last to be aborged. We did have things like radioactive chemicals and one or two other things on base that it was appropriate to let the Argentines know some of the things they had just come to acquire for several reasons. General safety was one. And the fact that I was rather thinking that they might not be there all that long, so we didn't want too much of a mess to clear up. It's interesting you say that, because talking to people in the task force who were heading down around about this time, obviously a few days later, we're very much of the opinion that they felt, it's probably not going to come to a shooting war. But it might, you know, presumably there'll be a diplomatic settlement. But it did seem at that stage that it was a bit far fetched in a military sense that the British forces would be able to retake the islands, including South Georgia. Were you really confident that would take place, or at least some settlement would come about that would allow you to return? There was much news going around and things we heard and we were in commuter cardio for a lot of it. But the idea that the Argentines would be long term that King Edward Point seemed unlikely. Especially the way they were kidded and things like that to start a war just at the beginning of an Antarctic winter is all that good. And knowing the instability and problems of the government, then a long term occupation seemed unlikely. The aspect of Forkland seemed to me to be a much stronger one for any action than South Georgia. But after all, South Georgia was the back door for Forkland Islands. Yes, and it's interesting, isn't it? The claim, as far as the Argentines are concerned, for South Georgia is really only directly connected to the Forkland Islands. It's almost a historical accident, really. Is that not the case? I mean, in the sense that if South Georgia had never become the Forkland Islands one of the Forkland Islands dependencies, it's unlikely that the Argentines would have made a claim for it. That is a difficult one. And if you specialize in it, you'll get a good job in the Ministerial of the Sondas sector of Health in Buenos Aires. But with some of the early claims where you can construct a claim for the Forklands, for instance, the Treaty of Torres Strasseus, when that place the Spanish and Portuguese limits, if you take that one's a basis, as the arch do for the Forklands, you draw your line, you suddenly find that South Georgia's Portugues, which makes it Brazilian and the Treaty of London would have handed that to Britain. So you can get all sorts of convolutions with ancient international law. The fact that UK's had a magistrate on it, administered it and made formal claims from 1900 and eight, and the Argentine Antarctic claims in 1943, and the fact that with Antarctica, including South Georgia and South Sanwich Islands, Britain had put a case before the International Court of Justice in 1954 to try the case between Britain and Argentina and for the Antarctic Peninsula, Chile, and was bound in advance to accept the decision of the court, and Argentina wouldn't contest it, does indicate that their claim might not be all that sound. Yes. Okay. So the garrison and the civilians on the island of South Georgia are now being, as you say, taken into custody there now, prisoners of war, and you're heading for Argentina. I imagine to begin with, what happens next? How long does it take you to get back to the UK? From Gryfftican, we were accommodated in Cabin's beneath the helicopter deck of Bayeparisol, sail to Lithuorba, sailed on far southernly course to Rio Grande of Teordal Fuego, where the wounded were landed, then coasted between Forklands and Argentina when there was a lot of helicopter operations. Our ship was being used for landing aircraft on their way to the Forklands, which seems to be the Geneva Convention requiring prisoners to be out of the war zones, seems to be a little different. Then onto Porto Vagraná, where we ended up in a, basically, a ranged, interesting prison camp. It was part of the area with the conscript swimming pool and all the changing rooms and areas behind that. There we were being told we were getting out Manjana, we had quite a lot of Manjana's. Eventually, a Manjana came true and there were night flights, a couple of Foggriff 27's towards Gaeng North. We could see quite a bit of Argentina and eventually recognize the Montevideo, the old Spanish fortress floodlet in Montevideo. So there we were released, the aircraft surrounded by Uruguayan police and when we walked through them, the weapons were still pointing at the Argentine aircraft. Onto coaches, into the centre of Monti, and at the very early hours of the morning, in the hotel Casino Carrasco, to be very well looked after in strange circumstances. The Uruguayans were making a comment in this that you can rely on them to be strictly neutral and prisoners of both sides pass through Uruguay. They have no greater alliance with Argentina. From there, a couple of days flew to Ascension and the Brise Norton. Was there any welcome for you at Brise Norton? Rex Hunt, for example, was welcomed by very senior members of the British Cabinet, but what about you and the other prisoners from South Georgia? Sure, Pregnall OCRMs was there, foreign office was represented and if I'd have known better, I'd have come off that aircraft wearing dark glasses because of the flash bulbs. Were you able to talk to the press or did you talk to the press? Were there instructions really, can you hold fire for the moment on anything to do with what happened on South Georgia? We were into customs and immigration and looked after fairly well from then, transport arranged. Many of us weren't very keen on talking to anybody, but my count, it was about 30 hours since I'd been reasonably sleeping. The press then got names and details of all the Antarctic survey personnel and there was a little bit of what you could call, well if you're being critical, it would be press handing. The ORIMS had a lot of other things to do, but we had many inquiries as to people, MOD and others wanting details about the structure of buildings in various parts of South Georgia and with a combination of the British Antarctic survey and Scott Polar Research Institute, we could provide a lot of useful detail quickly. So that was Bob Hellen, the member of the British Antarctic survey who was actually on the island of South Georgia when it was captured and as we just heard, dramatic stuff really, the so called battle for Gripfagan in which he took the civilians to the church and the Royal Marines under Keith Mills battled it out, I particularly loved the detail about the use of the coal, gas staff, anti tank grenades that actually used against one of those two Argentinian ships and clearly did us a substantial amount of damage. There's also some interesting stuff about him in captivity and his relationship with the Argentinians. But we now move on because of course South Georgia is in Argentine hands as indeed is the rest of the Faulkner Islands. And the decision is taken to recapture the island first. Which all starts off quite rapidly. It's only 10 days after the invasion that British ships now kind of around the Ascension Island, really the halfway point between Britain and Falkland start assembling for an operation to retake South Georgia. At its heart there are a couple of British warships, the Plymouth and the Antrim. They've got a resupply ship with them and they'll be joined by HMS endurance. On board are a mixed force of Marines and special boat service troops. They're going to be joined unbeknownst to them by de Squadron of the SAS who suddenly turn up. They've more or less gone on their own initiative as one person puts it in a command position. They've ganked crashed the operation. So they then head south with the intention of first of all getting into position and then launching the operation. The diplomacy is going on the whole time so the trigger actually hasn't been pulled on the operation yet. But they steam south at a rate of knots and buy around the 2021st of April there there. Conditions are pretty, they're a long way south. Conditions are pretty appalling, very high winds. The actual islands themselves are very much Antarctic sort of landscape of mountains and glaciers etc. So they got their work cut out. Yeah and I've got an absolutely fascinating document here Patrick written by an SPS operator who has written the count of this early stage of the campaign. He was in this operation. It was called Operation Paracquata, interesting enough to recapture South Georgia. And he writes, during the period 1421st April on board Antrim, brainstorming sessions were carried out utilizing all the commanders and special forces teams knowledge on what were the best options to retake South Georgia. The biggest factor that was underestimated by all concern was the climactic and sea conditions especially on the glaciers. The catabatic winds on or around the glaciers range from 70 to 100 miles per hour combined with a cold and wind chill. Any team deployment at that time of year would turn quickly into a survival exercise. D Squadron SAS although advised did not heed the advice of Guy Sheridan, the mountain leader or the wealth of experience from the skipper of HMS endurance and other suitably qualified individuals on their options for survival in certain by sea or landing on the glaciers. And Patrick, it's a dramatic story isn't it? What happens on a fortuna glacier? Do you want to tell us what happens next? Yeah, well before that, I just want to say something about the kind of military ethos at large here. This is something that's a fillions don't really think about very much but it's a huge amount of rivalry between units, between regiments and often even in a quite extreme circumstances. They seem to spend a lot of time squabbling in turf wars rather than getting a bit fighting the enemy. A bit of that here because the initial plan is in that should be in the hands of Guy Sheridan, the marine commander. This is someone who knows a hell of a lot about Arctic conditions. He's a great mountain near. He's been on endless exercises in Norway as have all the Marines. How to cope in these conditions. They've got the right kit, they've got the right attitude, they've got all the know how. However, the plan is sort of hijacked by the SAS commander of one Cedric Delves who decides that they're going to go ashore land on this glacier, the fortuna glacier, in order to carry out an initial wreck of the Argentinian positions on that part of the island. Now, Sheridan is basically opposed to this but he's overruled and off the SAS go in these west exp helicopters which then have to fly in practically white out conditions, dump them on the glacier and then return. Now, after about 12 hours ashore, these plaintive messages start coming through from the SAS saying, it's hell out here, please can you get us off? Not really what one associates with the SAS or with a proper gander anyway. So west exp helicopters have to return to try and pick them up which they successfully additionally, it seems they do, but then flying off two of them crash and they're lost forever, they lost to the task force which is a huge gap in the logistics because there's very little helicopter lift. Anyway, ultimately a third west exp goes back, manages to pick up, no one's hurt, thank God. Pick up the survivors and the crews of the crashed west exp and massively overloaded take off, it requires a huge gust of 80 mile an hour wind to actually get them airborne and they stagger back to the ships at a huge potential disaster is averted. Yeah, I mean, and interesting enough, thatcher in her memoirs notes that she receives information that those first two helicopters have gone down and this is a real key moment in the campaign because they're expecting disaster, they're anticipating not only the loss of those helicopters but also all the men that were on board them. So when they hear shortly after that actually a third helicopter has managed to get everybody off and the operation to recover South Georgia is still on, they breathe a sigh of relief and this could have been a real hinge moment in the campaign. Yeah, I mean, it's not the assayers who's fine to start and there are more blunders lying ahead, we'll just tell you the next one. Briefly, which is well, after this they decided to go short by Richard Raider by these kind of landing crop without all motors attached to three of the boats, the engines fail and they sort of find themselves drifting out to sea. One of them gets a sure but another is sort of just carried off into the next stop South Australia. Well, it doesn't quite get there as we will relate in a moment but they're definitely missing for a few days and of course there's concern that everyone on board that inflatable three operators are going to lose their lives. But the turning point effectively is a bit of luck really because on the morning of the 25th they pick up Raider signals that a submarine is in the vicinity, an Argentine submarine, an Argentine submarine, it turns out to be the Santa Fe and they launch attack helicopters to take it out and that attack is very successful. It doesn't sink it but it forces it back into the harbor of Gryphegan where it's effectively scuttled by its crew. And it should also be mentioned that Santa Fe has literally dropped off more men for the Argentine garrison so there are now more people on shore to defend the island. But it's also in the wake of the success against Santa Fe that the decision is taken that the Royal Navy vessels can now move closer in and not worry about any counter strike, bombard the shore while at the same time they're going to insert a team of soldiers, in fact it's a mixture of soldiers from the SPS, the SAS but most importantly led by that, the hero, frankly of the guy Sheridan, to try and force the Gryphegan Argentine garrison to surrender. Yeah, so it's really the kind of demonstration of naval gunfire I think that changes the psychological equation and the Argentinians among them, one Arturo Astiz who is actually already notorious to the world as being a torturer, a murderer, a commander of the death once waging the dirty war. He's actually in a command position there and he's told his troops that this is a test of Argentinian honor, they're going to fight to the last drop of blood. When it comes to it though, he comes out with his hands up, the white flag is run up literally and he's off signing a total surrender document. So great game set match really to the Brit's there but not without a lot of potential moments for disaster. Fortunately everyone came home alive including the errant boat team, as you say they were in Flatelay, Jagebinai not a rigid region as I said earlier. So this is the moment when for a bit of political triumphalism. Yeah, back in London we've recaptured South Georgia and we haven't lost a single man and it's a tremendous political pick me up for that she says famously to a team of reporters who are asking her rejoice, rejoice when she announces or she and John not announce the recapture of South Georgia. But interestingly there's a tiny bit of hubris I think from the commander of the task force the naval commander that is Sandy Woodwood who gives a very rare interview after hearing the news to a reporter on his flagship HMS Hermes and he says South Georgia was the appetizer. Now this is the heavy punch coming up behind. My battle group is properly formed and ready to strike. This is the run up to the big match which in my view should be a walk over. Well there were words that I think you may have come to regrets likely because on the horizon are looming to huge events which completely change the atmospheric of the war. Triumphantism gives way to trepidation. We'll hear all about those in the next episode. Please join us.