Falklands naval commander Sandy Woodward dies

Woodward, who was head of naval forces during 1982 conflict and later attacked cuts in warship numbers, dies aged 81

Admiral Sir Sandy Woodward, the commander of naval forces during the 1982 Falkands conflict who subsequently attacked cuts in the number of British warships, has died at the age of 81.

The defence secretary, Philip Hammond, commended Woodward on his “magnificent achievement” and said he would be remembered by many as the navy’s “fighting admiral”. He reportedly died after a long illness.

Woodward described the decision in the 2010 strategic defence review to ditch the Ark Royal and the Harriers which flew from it – and which played a major role in the Falklands 31 years ago – as appalling.

He said last year: “We could not retake the Falklands. We could not send a taskforce or even an aircraft carrier. If we had been in this state in 1982, the Falklands would be the Malvinas.”

He never spoke directly to Margaret Thatcher during the Falklands conflict but later said of the then prime minister. “My opinion of her skills became one of respect, if of no great liking. A truly good leader should seek respect and regard any liking simply as profit.”

He told the Daily Telegraph last year that the only time he observed Thatcher going into military detail was when she gave “a silly answer to an equally silly question” by the Labour MP Tam Dalyell. “He asked what course the Belgrano was steering when torpedoed. Mrs Thatcher replied, using common sense rather than factual briefing, ‘Towards the taskforce’, when actually the Belgrano’s course was away from the taskforce at the time.”

The Argentinian cruiser and its two Exocet-armed escorts were “close enough to constitute a very real and serious threat”, he said.

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