Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Britain was no longer a country for and says "Farewell" to an old Admiral and Falkland's War veteran called Sandy Woodward

Admiral John Woodward, known as 'Sandy', has died aged 81. Best remembered as the tactical leader of the naval expeditionary force which, against all the military odds, recaptured the Falkland Islands from the Argentinian invaders back in 1982, he was very much a man from the last century and a Britain with a long military reach which no longer exists.

What you possibly didn't know about Sandy was that he :

* was born in Penzance, Cornwall, where his father worked in a bank and entered the Navy on a scholarship to the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, in Devon, at the age of 13 as an 'officer cadet' in 1946 and after leaving and uncertain which career path to follow, found himself at HMS Dolphin, the submarine training establishment.
* as Lieutenant Commander, passed the notorious 'Perisher test' for would-be submarine captains and when asked : "which boat he would now like to command ?", named, in a story which went around the fleet, named "HMS Dreadnought", Britain's first nuclear submarine.

* commanded two diesel-electric submarines and became teacher of the Perisher course before taking command of the nuclear 'HMS Warspite' then after command of the 'Sheffield' and in 1981, was appointed 'Rear Admiral and Flag Officer of the First Flotilla'.

* was at sea in the North Atlantic in 1982, exercising his Flotilla of destroyers and frigates, when the Argentinian military junta invaded the British Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic and after catching Margaret Thatcher's Government, unawares provoked her to announce that an amphibious operation to recapture the Islands would be mounted.

* had 'tactical frontline command' of the naval Task Force led by Admiral Sir John Fieldhouse and consisting of his flagship, the old carrier 'HMS Hermes', supported by another carrier, 'Invincible' and destroyers and frigates – a total of 27 warships plus transports.

* once in the Falklands, had the role to provide air, surface and anti-submarine support for the landing of a counter-invasion force of 6,000 soldiers and marines but felt that he should have had control of the three British nuclear boats sent to shadow the Argentinian Navy and signalled his frustration by ordering, 'without authority', HMS Conqueror to attack the Argentinian cruiser, General Belgrano and was 'countermanded' by British Military Headquarters.

* gained his wish after members of the High Command sought and gained the Prime Minister's permission for a submarine attack on the cruiser with the attendant loss of 300 lives, controversially just as the USA, Peru and other parties were trying to mediate and the ship had been outside the Maritime Exclusion Zone and sailing away from the Falklands.

* during the War, kept as far east as possible, to give him essential local air superiority while the soldiers and marines defeated the Argentinian forces on land and reoccupied the Islands.

* was 'knighted'after the Falklands War, became Nato Commander of Submarines in the Eastern Atlantic and a full admiral in 1989 but despite his unique status as leader of the most successful British naval expedition since the Second World War, never reached the topmost posts of C-in-C fleet, First Sea Lord or Chief of Defence Staff.

* in 2012 deplored the reduction of investment in the Navy that had left it without an aircraft carrier, believing that he and his colleagues should have made more of how the Falklands were recovered. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oPieBCyFJWI

*  in his book 'One Hundred Days', described his Falklands experiences in a candid account of the pressures of high command in wartime and the impact on the individual commander.

* on Aug 5, 2013 was paid this tribute on BBC tv by Robert Fox, Defence Editor of the London Evening Standard : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g43U2ar4Qrw

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