IMAGE ID BN3NJ1 Shores of the Falklands Falkland Islands 080108 CREDIT Scubazoo, Alamy Stock Photo
The Falkland Islands (Picture: Scubazoo/Alamy Stock Photo).
Falklands

Falklands conflict: When the Navy sank Argentina's General Belgrano

The Argentinian cruiser was torpedoed by the UK during the 1982 conflict.

IMAGE ID BN3NJ1 Shores of the Falklands Falkland Islands 080108 CREDIT Scubazoo, Alamy Stock Photo
The Falkland Islands (Picture: Scubazoo/Alamy Stock Photo).

It is four decades on from the Falklands conflict – and 40 years to the day since the sinking of Argentinian cruiser, General Belgrano.

On 2 May 1982, the vessel was torpedoed by Royal Navy submarine HMS Conqueror.

More than 300 Argentinian sailors died in the incident.

During the Falklands conflict, a temporary 200-mile exclusion zone was set up.

Any entry into this area would have meant you were at risk of being attacked, according to the National Museum of the Royal Navy.

The decision to fire on General Belgrano came despite the ship's location outside of the exclusion zone.

Margaret Thatcher, the Prime Minister from 1979 until 1990, maintained that the vessel was in an area that posed a danger to British ships.

Watch: Veterans remember the quick-notice 1982 deployment of the Falklands task force.

Vice Admiral (Retired) Sir Tim McClement was second-in-command on board HMS Conqueror in May 1982.

In a 2012 interview with Forces News, he recalled his memories of the General Belgrano sinking: "There was belief that there was a pincer movement from three different forces: to the south-west of the islands, the Belgrano group; to the west, some destroyers and frigates; and to the north-west, their aircraft carrier – all aiming at our carriers.

"If either of our carriers had been damaged or sunk, that would have been the end of the UK's ability to regain the islands.

"Militarily, it was exactly the right thing to do."

He added: "Having sunk it, that group was, therefore, no longer a threat to the UK task force.

"It had a strategic effect because it drove the Argentinian navy back inside their 12-mile limit, and they never took any further part in the war."

The Falklands conflict lasted for a total of 74 days, with those who died including 255 British military personnel, 649 Argentinian personnel, and three Falkland Islanders.

Head to our Falklands 40 page, where you can find our memorial wall, as well as more Falklands stories, videos and podcasts.