A former paratrooper who helped liberate the Falklands insisted yesterday that the controversial sinking of the Argentinian cruiser General Belgrano had potentially saved the lives of scores of British soldiers.
Jack Livesey, who fought his way across the islands with the 2nd Battalion Parachute Regiment, mounted a fierce defence of the Royal Navy’s decision to attack the ship as a new exhibition marking the 20th anniversary of the conflict opened at the Imperial War Museum’s aviation section in Duxford near Cambridge.
The sinking of the Belgrano and consequent killing of nearly 400 Argentine crewmen aroused long debate because the ship was outside the war zone and sailing away from the islands.
But Mr Livesey, a former staff sergeant awarded the Military Medal for bravery during the Northern Ireland conflict, said the ship had to be sunk.
“It had to be sunk. It was war,” said Mr Livesey, 47, of Sawston, near Cambridge.
“All the ground troops were delighted. If it had got in amongst the shore-based troops it would have done a lot of damage. A lot of people could have lost their lives.”
Mr Livesey, now a collections assistant at the museum, said the Falklands War had restored British pride and respect.
“The British armed forces gained respect throughout the world,” he said.
“Britain was declining as a First World country and the Falklands made people sit up and suddenly take notice of us again.”