2 May 1982 – At 15.57 a British nuclear powered submarine, HMS Conqueror, torpedoed and sank the Argentine cruiser General Belgrano, even though the ship was thirty six nautical miles outside Britain’s declared two hundred nautical mile military exclusion zone around the Falkland Islands and was sailing away from the area and back towards the Argentine mainland at the time. The zone was declared as a warning to the Argentine navy that any ships within that area might be attacked, even though legally such a unilateral declaration had little or no basis in international law.

Not only was the General Belgrano, an antiquated battleship dating from 1938, clearly outside the zone, but it was also sailing away from the British naval task force, dispatched a month earlier to retake the islands. The British strike force was at the moment of sinking, located some three hundred nautical miles to the North East.

It is also noteworthy that the sinking took place fourteen hours after the President of Peru, Fernando Belaunde, proposed a detailed plan to resolve the Falkland Islands dispute. However, the predictable consequence of the attack which killed 323 Argentine sailors, was that it became politically impossible for the Argentine government to accept any such peace terms, enabling Britain to use full military force to retake the islands.




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