A SCOTS postie has revealed his part in the controversial sinking of an Argentinian cruiser during the Falklands War – and said it was wrong to attack the ship.
Garry Haldane was part of a torpedo loading crew aboard the submarine HMS Conqueror which sank the General Belgrano with the loss of 323 lives.
The 52-year-old from Dunfermline, Fife, said the May 1982 attack was unjustified and angrily denounced the “lies” of politicians for bringing about the disaster.
Mr Haldane has never previously spoken publicly about his role in the notorious engagement and it is thought to be the first time a member of HMS Conqueror’s crew has openly criticised the decision to fire.
The General Belgrano was steaming away from the islands and outside the exclusion zone at the time she was torpedoed.
Critics claim the sinking was a political decision by Margaret Thatcher’s war cabinet that was cynically calculated to make war inevitable.
Mr Haldane was a cook aboard HMS Conqueror but served in a torpedo loading crew during the action on May 2.
He said: “I have regrets that people lost their lives because of the actions of politicians.
“In hindsight it wasn’t the thing to do.
“We could have held off, she was an old ship and couldn’t fire from a distance.”
The postman added: “When it first happened there was a roar of jubilation.
“After that it was quite a sombre mood. It’s natural.
“Before we got back we started to get signals and mail and all that. We knew what the front pages were saying.
“Once we found out the truth – the government lied to us.
“It certainly opens your eyes up to what the government can do.”
Mr Haldane stressed that he still took pride in the professionalism of the crew aboard HMS Conqueror.
He said: “We all regret that lives have been lost but we had the satisfaction of doing our job properly.
“You go to war and realise you have to fire.”
“There was still a sense of pride, but lying in the back of that pride we knew people have died.
But Mr Haldane, who keeps in touch with other veterans, added some members of the crew were still haunted by the experience.
“There’s a few boys who have got PTSD because of it,” he said.
“Because of these things some people handled it differently to us us and some couldn’t take it.”
Mr Haldane was recently invited to a reunion at the Caribbean home of his immediate boss aboard HMS Conqueror Lieutenant Narendra Sethia, originally from Edinburgh.
“We clicked back into our old team once more,” he said. “It was a fantastic re-union and one we will never forget.
“It was great seeing the Boss again and the rest of the chefs.”
Mr Haldane. said he would be willing to meet survivors of the General Belgrano if any were willing.
He said: “I would do that, I’m not averse to that. I daresay some of them wouldn’t welcome it.
“‘We pulled the trigger and you guys went down. It’s professional.”
In 2007 HMS Conqueror crew member Steve McIntosh, who was in the control room of the vessel, gave his account of the sinking.
Mr McIntosh, who later joined Strathclyde Police, said the Argentine warship was a legitimate target.
He said at the time: “On the sub, it was very clear. I thought it was a shame that people lost their lives but I still thought it was either them or us.
“I felt sorry for their sailors because they were conscripts and there was no way they were as good as we were.”
An MOD spokesman said: “The MoD regrets all loss of life and injury which occurs during an armed conflict, including that involved in sinking the Belgrano.
“However, the action which caused that loss of life was justified, proportionate and necessary once the Argentine government of the time invaded the Falkland Islands.”