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Evidence has been released the shows that Margaret Thatcher was right in ordering the sinking of the General Belgrano. At the end of hostilities the HMS Conqueror returned to base flying the Jolly Roger.
When the HMS Conqueror sunk the General Belgrano the ship earned a rite of passage. The ship could return to it’s home port flying the Jolly Roger and a Broom (signifying a clean sweep).
The tradition comes from an interesting historical incident:
Following the introduction of submarines in several navies, Admiral Sir Arthur Wilson, the First Sea Lord of the British Royal Navy, stated that submarines were “underhand, unfair, and damned un-English”, and that he would convince the British Admiralty to have the crews of enemy submarines captured during wartime behanged as pirates.
In September 1914, the British submarine HMS E9 successfully torpedoed the German criuser SMS Hela. Remembering Wilson’s statements, commanding officer Max Horton instructed his sailors to manufacture a Jolly Roger, which was flown from the submarine as she entered port. Each successful patrol saw Horton’s submarine fly an additional Jolly Roger until there was no more room for flags, at which point Horton then had a large Jolly Roger manufactured, onto which symbols indicating E9‘s achievements were sewn. A small number of other submarines adopted the practice: HMS E12 flew a red flag with the skull and crossbones on return from a foray into the Dardanelles in June 1915, and the first known photograph of the practice was taken in July 1916 aboard HMS H5.
The tradition was restarted in World War 2:
During the war, British submarines were entitled to fly the Jolly Roger on the day of their return from a successful patrol: it would be hoisted as the boat passed the boom net, and remain raised until sunset.
The Captain did just that upon the return of HMS Conqueror to Faslane Naval Base. Various pinkos got upset at the time, of course. The Captain though provided a typically British response to questions about the jolly roger:
When asked about the incident later, Commander Wreford-Brown responded, “The Royal Navy spent thirteen years preparing me for such an occasion. It would have been regarded as extremely dreary if I had fouled it up”.