In his memoirs, former UK Defence Secretary Sir John Nott describes France as Britain’s “greatest ally” during the Falklands War. But formerly secret papers and other evidence seen by the BBC show that was not the full story.
Before the war, France sold Argentina’s military junta five Exocet missiles.
At the time, few suspected that the regime’s longstanding claim on the Falklands would lead to war, and the sale went largely unnoticed. But when in May 1982 these Exocet missiles were used to strike Britain’s HMS Sheffield and Atlantic Conveyor, with the loss of 32 British lives, near panic ensued in London.
At the start of the conflict, France’s left-leaning president, Francois Mitterrand, had come to Britain’s aid by declaring an embargo on French arms sales and assistance to Argentina.