1982 NEWS FLASH
'Dozens of men are feared dead in the seas around the Falkland Islands after the container ship, Atlantic Conveyor, and the destroyer HMS Coventry were hit by Argentine missiles1'
A Secret Shared
We were back in the car, heading down toward the docks. Fifteen minutes later, we stepped into the lounge bar of the Brown Bear. It was well after closing and I suppose the pub must have had a late licence. Just inside the door, the 'press officer' took me aside.
'I am not who I seem.'
'I am an intelligence officer... and, before you ask, no the name is not Bond. You see that man at the bar, the one by himself?'
'We are going over to talk to him.'
'Why?' I enquired.
'He is a investigative journalist and I want you to tell him about the capabilities of your ship, the Conveyor.'
'But, I can't', I blurted out, 'it's bloody classified.'
'Calm down young fella, we need to announce the ship is ready so she gets world media coverage tomorrow when she sails. This is very important! Just go on about how she can launch Harriers and will double our air strength. That should do the trick.'
I must have looked as I felt, baffled. He continued.
'Look, we can't issue a press release because, it won't be believed. It will be discounted as propaganda. The press have to find out about Conveyor for themselves and now is the moment. You are young, inexperienced and you have had a few drinks. He will think you are an easy target. Just act naturally.'
We walked over. I didn't have time to be nervous. In fact, I was beginning to enjoy the situation immensely. My minder started chatting to the journalist casually, then introduced himself as a senior press officer working for the Port Admiral.
But there was a problem. From the first words, it was clear the journalist was very drunk indeed. He kept mumbling about the rumour of a dockyard fire that had destroyed vital munitions.
'Its all being covered up', he said. 'It's a ruddy cover up. Tell me about the fire, go on... You know don't you?...'
My companion introduced me into the conversation.
'This is a lieutenant from the Conveyor. He's had his head down with all the conversion work. Its been a massive job. Just taking him out as a sort of thank you before they sail.'
There wasn't the faintest glimmer of interest from the journalist and he
continued his tirade about the fire. Presumably he suspected the Conveyor story was a diversion. After 20 minutes of increasingly confused banter and the journalist knocking back further glasses of neat whisky, I abandoned all attempts of discretion and just told him what he was supposed to have wormed out of me.
Then it happened.
The journalist slurred slowly to silence, his eyes flickered and he
slumped back on his barstool into the corner... dead to the world. My spook minder was not looking at all pleased at this turn of events. We bandied around a few suggestions. Then I held the intoxicated journalist whilst the spook slowly reached into his pockets to extract pen and notebook. We set the notebook down on the bar and read through the recent entries. The spook carefully wrote new lines at the end copying the handwriting and style as best he could. In the note, I was recorded as having given away how the secret ship's aircraft would alter the course of the war. More importantly, he wrote the time of the Conveyor’s departure. The spook had a quick word with the barman, ordered the journalist a taxi and then we left quickly.
The Beginning of the End
Next morning, I kissed my beautiful wife and baby daughter farewell and joined the ship for the voyage to the war zone. At lunchtime, I was
sitting in front of the television in the wardroom of the Conveyor as her engines rumbled into life. The cameras on the jetty rolled as the old ship slipped her moorings and slowly trundled out to sea for the last time. I watched as the newsmen trained their lenses on our decks and ecstatically spilled the beans about Conveyor's secret purpose. The first part of the plan had worked all too well.
The irony was that as news of Conveyor's departure winged its way to the corners of the earth, the ship and all who sailed on her were promoted from the realms of secret forgotten plans to top of the list of targets.
Written in memory of the Captain and other 11 men who died on the Conveyor, 25th May 1982