Thatcher tearful at HMS Sheffield loss

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FORMER Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher broke her Iron Lady reputation by shedding tears when told of the sinking of HMS Sheffield during the Falklands War, newly-released archives have revealed.

The 87-year-old, Tory Prime Minister from 1979 to 1990, showed an emotional side while given the news in private before a function on May 4, 1982, according to her private papers which are being made public by Cambridge University.

HMS Sheffield after being hit by an Exocet missile during the 1982 Falklands War

HMS Sheffield after being hit by an Exocet missile during the 1982 Falklands War

The attack on HMS Sheffield, a 4,100 ton destroyer with a crew of 268, killed 20 men and wounded 26.

Details of behind-the-scenes letters and discussions about the conflict have remained largely private until now.

But the notes, which also show deep divisions in the Tory Party about whether to go to war, have just been revealed to the public by the Thatcher Archive Trust and the university’s Churchill Archive Centre.

Chris Collins, from the trust, said: “These papers reveal how stressful this situation was, it was a massive undertaking which tested her to the full.

“In the early days of the conflict there was great confusion and doubt on behalf of the party and more widely.

“People were feeling down about the whole process and what was going to happen next. There was tremendous chaos, but, of course, a party has to show a united face.”

Justice Secretary Ken Clarke, then a junior minister, wanted to ‘blow up a few ships but nothing more’, but the late Sir Peter Mills, then West Devon MP, said ‘constituents want blood’.

Lady Thatcher was urged to ‘keep calm’ by five Conservative MPs, who said ‘we can get away without a fight’, but others were ‘taking a hard line’.

Charles Moore, her authorised biographer, said: “The Thatcher archive is a marvellous resource for all those interested in her career as Prime Minister and in this country’s recent history.

“This release will provide the raw material to help researchers study and understand the changing political landscape of her first year as Prime Minister.”

HMS Sheffield, the second Royal Navy warship named after the city, was struck by an Exocet missile while carrying out a scouting mission off the Falklands.

It was struck a day after the sinking of the Argentine cruiser General Belgrano by British forces.