i Editor's Letter: The Falklands and patriotism


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The Independent Online

Can it really have been 30 years ago?

For the only time in my life, I was on a lads' trip – a barge on the Norfolk Broads with nine mates (oh, the horror!). On we chugged, oblivious to the outside world, with which we came into contact as we moored at pubs. No wi-fi, mobiles, laptops or Twitter, we found out what was going on from the pubs' televisions. They had no Sky Sports to show!

It was on one such stop that we sat open-mouthed as we watched, on a grainy black-and-white TV set, a naval task force sail out of Portsmouth. What on earth had happened? The answer left us bemused because, like much of the country, none of us had heard of the Falklands – let alone South Georgia. Granted, we were 17 and a lot more interested in The Old Grey Whistle Test than the news, but we were grammar school boys who all did history or geography or both. Our ignorance was typical.

It is easy to forget how unpopular Mrs Thatcher was at the time of the invasion. It was widely assumed that she would not win re-election. The conflict changed that. We were too young to understand the politics of war. We had not really known one – "only" Northern Ireland.

I do, of course, remember the late Brian Hanrahan's thrilling reports for the BBC: "I counted them all out and I counted them all back" was actually a phrase designed to get around MoD reporting restrictions.

Today, Dominic Lawson is on the Falklands and patriotism. We also recall the decision to sink the General Belgrano. I know this subject polarises readers. Many marvel at our military's skill and bravery, but others still question what we are doing there. If one thing is certain, it's that if we were to lose the islands again, we would not be militarily capable of retaking them. But that's another column!