Monday, October 29, 2012

Perisher (Part IV)

In Perisher Parts I to III, I refer often to “Teacher”, the instructor, examiner, and sometime executioner on whether a given officer is up to commanding a British (and in former times Canadian) submarine. I have no reason to think Teacher who put his charges through their paces in HMS Alderney while I was a member of her wardroom was any different than his predecessors or successors.
He was, though, a formidable naval officer. Sandy Woodward, more formally Admiral Sir John Forster (Sandy) Woodward, GBE, KCB, most notably commanded the British naval forces in the Falklands War of 1982. In that role, he ordered the sinking of the Belgrano by HMS Conqueror.
In his subsequent writing Admiral Woodward made it clear he would have given the order with or without Whitehall’s blessing. His request for approval was routed through Whitehall, and made it to Margaret Thatcher’s desk—and she didn’t hesitate to authorize the sinking.
At the time many in Britain and abroad felt the torpedoing of the Belgrano was almost a war crime—now refuted by the facts and confirmed as a legitimate act by the Belgrano's Argentinian captain.
 I recall then-Commander Sandy Woodward as a plain-spoken, direct, demanding and very proficient submariner. He continues to serve his country, even though his submarine days are well past.
He continues to play the hawk, writing for the “Mail Online” on defence matters. (For a sample, see below.) Among other positions, he has stated that Britain would not be able to defend the Falklands given recent naval and military cutbacks.

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