In 1982, during the Falklands Conflict a plan was hatched in Argentina to destroy British ships in Gibraltar harbour. This plan was approved by Admiral Jorge Anaya, who kept it secret from the Junta.

In 1982, during the Falklands Conflict a plan was hatched in Argentina to destroy British ships in Gibraltar harbour. This plan was approved by Admiral Jorge Anaya, who kept it secret from the Junta.

Jorge_Anaya

Admiral Jorge Anaya

The plan was to send a team of frogmen into the harbour at Gibraltar and plant limpet mines on a British warship; the plan was probably inspired by the 1958 film “The Silent Enemy”, starring Laurence Harvey as Lieutenant ‘Buster’ Crabb and Sid James as Chief Petty Officer Thorpe, who waged war on the Italian frogmen sent from Algeciras, Spain from the interred Italian ship Olterra.

 

The_Silent_Enemy

The film Silent Enemy

The Argentinean plan followed similar lines. Two members of the ‘Montoneros’ guerrilla group, who were well versed in the art of sabotage, as they had already blown up vessels belonging to the ruling Junta back in Argentinean, along with an Argentinean Naval liaison officer were despatched to Spain, travelling on false passports, with orders to monitor British Naval traffic in and out of the harbour at Gibraltar. They made three separate requests for permission to attack British ships including RFA Fort Austin and a Royal Naval frigate with Italian limpet mines but were refused permission so as not to scupper talks being lead by the then US Secretary of State, Alexander Haig. Eventually Admiral Anaya gave consent when the opportunity presented itself again; fortunately the plan was scuppered before the team could do anything.

 

Gibraltar_Harbour

Gibraltar Harbour

British Intelligence at the time intercepted and managed to decrypt coded messages between the group and Buenos Aires. British Intelligence immediately passed on the report to the Spanish Government, and shortly afterwards men from the Spanish Ministry of the Interior arrested the group at their hotel. Though it was not just the British Government who were suspicious of the would be saboteurs, they had already attracted the attentions of the Spanish Police by their suspicious behaviour.

The group had hired cars and they renewed the agreement every week, though always turning up for the appointment with the travel agent, either two hours early, or two hours late, they rented three different cars from three different travel agents, always paid in cash which caused one travel agent to become suspicious and he alerted the Spanish authorities who then monitored the group.

When questioned, the Argentineans admitted that they were in Spain with the intention of spying on and hopefully destroying a Royal Navy ship in the harbour at nearby Gibraltar, the Spanish Prime Minister Leopoldo Calvo Sotelo ordered the police to fly the Argentineans to Madrid, and from there the Argentineans were flown back to their own country.

leopoldo-calvo-sotelo1

Señor Leopoldo Calvo Sotelo

Prime Minister of Spain

The trouble with old films is that they employ a lot of artistic licence, something that the would be saboteurs should have made a note of and for those of us who took part in the Falklands Conflict, just be glad that this plan never got a chance to be put into practice.

Copyright © 2008 – 2017 Christopher J White

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