A Falklands colonel has claimed the Royal Navy has a “tradition of cover-up” after a vessel was destroyed in the war.
Retired General Michael Rose, who took over command of the SAS during the 1982 bid to recapture the Falkland Islands, said the Ministry of Defence (MoD) was “withholding” information about an attack on a British naval vessel. A total of 38 lives were lost in the South Atlantic when the RFA Sir Galahad was bombed.
The support ship was hit by Argentinian aircraft on June 8, 198, resulting in the biggest one-day loss of life for the British forces since World War II, reports The Telegraph. Gen Rose says there has never been a release of all documents relating to the day.
He saus the MoD files have not yet been declassified. He said: “It has taken over 40 years of heartache and an enormous amount of research by the survivors … for many disturbing facts to emerge.
“The present refusal of the Ministry of Defence to release documents relating to the bombing of the RFA Sir Galahad by Argentinian aircraft on 8 June 1982, during the Falklands conflict, reflects a tradition of cover-up in the Royal Navy.”
The retired army commander has now been reviewing a new book, Too Thin for a Shroud, by fellow Falklands veteran Crispin Black. In response to the book, Gen Rose says the “blame game” started as soon as the vessel was hit.
He says senior officers in the Royal Navy and Marines sought to blame the Welsh Guards and Arm for what Black says was a “cascade of crass blunders”.
Black says it was claimed the Welsh Guards were a London “public duties” battalion, who were “unfit and unable” to march with the heavy equipment. However, he says they had just completed a tour of duty as the UK’s top battalion.
Gen Rose, 83, was a key member of the delegation negotiating Argentina’s surrender. He says Black’s book revealed facts that have been “concealed by a smokescreen of accusation”.
The veteran also says the Royal Navy in 1982 “acted identically” to another controversial wartime incident. The 1940 sinking of HMS Glorious resulted in the single-largest loss of life in the Second World War among British naval forces. But Gen Rose says it was not until 40 years later that the full story of “poor command and mismanagement” emerged.
The RFA Sir Galahad was located near Port Pleasant, 12 miles west of Port Stanley, the island’s capital on June 8, 1982. The Welsh Guards were told to wait until ammunition and a field ambulance had been move ashore before following.
But the ship was attacked by Argentine aircraft with the troops still on board. Gen Rose says the disaster was the result of failures by Admiral Fieldhouse, the overall commander in the war.
He says he failed to adhere to amphibious warfare doctrive. He also denied suggestions the tragedy of Sir Galahad was somehow the fault of Welsh Guard commanders who should have issued orders to disembark troops before the daylight attack occurred.
“The Welsh Guards and all those who died that fateful day were the hapless victims of muddle,” Gen Rose said, “not the perpetrators of the disaster.”
An MoD spokesman said: “A board of inquiry was convened in 1982 to investigate the losses and we remain confident in the board’s findings and recommendations. However, in response to enquiries from veterans and their families the files are being reviewed.”