‘Taranto, Italy’ by Robert Taylor

‘Taranto, Italy’ by Robert Taylor. Painting in collection at Fleet Air Arm Museum.

‘The Raid on Taranto, Italy, 11–12 November 1940’ by Ralph Gillies-Cole


‘The Raid on Taranto, Italy, 11–12 November 1940’ by Ralph Gillies-Cole. Painting in collection of Fleet Air Arm Museum.

Clear evidence of French culpability in Argentine Exocet attacks on HMS Sheffield and Atlantic Conveyor

A “must listen” BBC documentary uncovering clear culpability of the French government and (state-owned) defence contractor Dassault in Argentine Exocet attacks on HMS Sheffield and Atlantic Conveyor.

Document – French Involvement in the Falklands War

Mike Thomson returns with Radio 4’s investigative history series, examining documents which shed new light on past events.

In the first programme of the new series, Mike investigates the role played by the French Government and defence industry during the Falklands War.

30 years on, it’s well documented that French President Francois Mitterrand was supportive of the British war effort – not least in the memoirs of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Yet Mike discovers papers which suggest there was a deep split within the French government.

BBC Radio 4
Producer: Laurence Grissell
Original broadcast date: 05/03/2012


Blue Peter sends John Noakes up the mast at HMS Ganges, 1967

Admittedly, you have to put up with 1980s bell-end Mark Curry waffling for 70-seconds at the beginning of the video. Worth waiting for Noakes from 1967.

BBC Radio 2 – The People’s Songs, Shipbuilding

BBC Radio 2 – The People’s Songs, Shipbuilding
Original broadcast date: 4 September 2013

When Argentina invaded and occupied the Falkland Islands on the 2nd April 1982, few could have foreseen quite how this event would play out. Certainly not the Argentineans, who gambled on the fact that the Brits wouldn’t respond militarily. For them, a successful and swift campaign would be a welcome distraction from the country’s dire economic situation and would rally the nation’s flagging spirits. Unfortunately for the South Americans, Margaret Thatcher felt much the same way; a war could be a quick and simple way of uniting the country and boosting the industrial manufacturing base at a time of recession.

Though it occurred only 30 years ago, the conflict seems to have happened in an altogether different age. The BBC only found out about the invasion from some islanders, via amateur radio. But this conflict would last for 74 days, 649 Argentineans would die, as would 255 Brits. A British ship, HMS Sheffield was sunk, as was an Argentinean ship, The Belgrano, which was responsible for half of the total number of Argentinean casualties and which was sunk in debatable circumstances.

But beyond these sad and stark statistics, more existential matters arose. Firstly, as a nation how could we lay claim to islands that were thousands of miles from us? It also inspired some soul-searching as to what an empire meant and if it was worth the blood, sweat and tears to maintain it. It certainly provoked a reaction from some of the nation’s songwriters. You had The Pretenders’ “2000 miles”, New Model Army’s “Spirit Of The Falklands”, Billy Bragg’s “Island Of No Return” and probably the most famous example: a song written by Elvis Costello, but made famous by Robert Wyatt.

This is an interesting programme that will have you alternately nodding in agreement or gnashing your teeth in anger. There are some cracking insights from Roger Lane-Nott, commanding officer of HMS Splendid during the Falklands War.

Admiral Roger Lane-Nott.

Listen to the programme on your computer.

Sound An Alarm (1962)

Nuclear war? Better put the kettle on.

“Impossibly Bleak” The plight of Somalia pirate hostages

Great article by Andrew Harding, the BCC Africa correspondent. There is nothing romantic about piracy. It’s not a Disney movie. Happy endings are hard to come by.

The plight of forgotten Somali pirate hostages

Picture the scene. You are being held hostage by pirates on a ship just off the coast of one of the most lawless corners of Somalia. You have been there for more than two years in the grimmest conditions.

Now your ship has sunk in stormy seas, and some of your colleagues are missing.

You have been transferred to a smaller fishing boat tethered, precariously, to the wreckage.

The owner of your ship has shown no interest in paying a ransom or negotiating your release. You and your crewmates come from impoverished families with no hope of raising any cash to buy your freedom.

Welcome to the impossibly bleak situation in which 11 members of the Abedo container ship now find themselves.

“Enough is enough. These guys have suffered terribly. It’s time to let them go on humanitarian grounds,” said John Steed, a British man who now appears to be the only point of contact between the pirates and the outside world.

Col Steed, formerly head of the UN’s counter-piracy unit, runs a small organisation called the Secretariat for Regional Maritime Security.

It is partly funded by the UN and other non-governmental organisations and tries to link all the main regional administrations inside Somalia and other outside interest in their anti-piracy efforts.

“It’s nothing grand,” he told me by phone from his office in Nairobi, Kenya. “Just me and one other guy.”

Four missing

The long ordeal for Abedo hostages took a turn for the worse nine days ago when the ship sank in shallow waters of the notorious pirate town of Haradheere.

Eleven hostages were transferred to a fishing boat, the Nahem 3, which was also seized by pirates and has 29 hostages on board.

Three of the Abedo’s crew have since managed to call their relatives, but four of their colleagues are missing.

“There are rumours the four might be alive,” said Mr Steed. “Their families are pretty traumatised.”

Pirate attacks off Somalia have decreased in the last few years thanks to navy patrols

The Abedo’s crew come from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Iran. The ship is Iranian-owned and registered in Malaysia.

The smaller Nahem 3 is crewed by men from China, Vietnam and range of other Asian nations. It is Taiwan-owned and registered in Oman.

Normally, the owners of captured ships, or their insurers, hire a consultant to negotiate a ransom.

But that has not happened in this case. “I’m having to do it – we’re left to hold the baby,” said Mr Steed.

“We’ve managed previous releases with a bit of pressure from clan elders on shore. A translator for the pirates says ‘we’ve spoken to the elders’. But it hasn’t produced any results yet.

“He’s not talking money, but he’s not talking release either. The pirates and hostages are in danger [because of the high seas].”

Relative of the Albedo crew members have written an open letter to the pirates in which they speak of the emotional trauma they have suffered over the past 31 months.

“We appealed to everyone in this world to pay money towards the release of our people. But no-one listened to us.

“We have tried our best but we are very poor people. We even do not have any money to pay for medicines, school fees, buy food for our children,” they wrote, urging the pirates “to please release our men”.

Mr Steed said warships from the European Union’s anti-piracy taskforce Operation Atalanta, were poised “just over the horizon”, and could be in position to rescue the crew within the hour.

However they would “not intervene in an armed hostage situation” which could put the men’s lives in danger.

“It’s 40 hostages in total. Anywhere else in the world 40 hostages would be pretty big news,” said Mr Steed in obvious frustration.