Charge against the French over Falklands Exocets part of a pattern of Anglo-French myths

A rewriting of history over the role of the French in the Falklands conflict has gone unchallenged in the coverage of the Anglo-French treaty signed in London yesterday. I’ll come to that in a moment. That episode was part of the  tissue of stereotyping, misunderstanding and rivalry that still lingers in the prickly relationship between Britain and France that was given full vent in the pop press.  Newtownards’ favourite son Col Tim Collins led the charge in the Daily Mail, as noted in a comprehensive wrap by the French TV news channel.

An opinion piece in the Daily Mail by retired Royal Irish Regiment Colonel Tim Collins – titled “Will we ever trust the French?” – opens with a reminder that “Horatio Nelson famously instructed his officers that, ‘you must hate a Frenchman as you hate the devil’ and that the Duke of Wellington proclaimed: ‘We always have been, we are, and I hope that we always shall be detested in France.’”

By and large this stuff has been relegated to the level of football rivalry after hundreds of years when war was a normal instrument of policy in Europe. World War One changed all that. World War Two left the French with a embarrassing legacy of defeat in six weeks they’d prefer to forget and a chip on their shoulder amounting to a reluctance to forgive the British for helping them out ( or is this just a British distortion?)

What is easier to refute is the claim repeated in the press yesterday that the perfidious French went on selling their Exocet missiles to the Argentines as the Falklands conflict loomed, so exposing the British taskforce to disaster. In fact  the French gave invaluable help to a sting operation that halted the supply of Exocets from a third source, as no less a person than the Defence Secretary at the time Sir John Nott pointed out. Why was the misleading version given such free rein?

This not to deny that the modern relationship is not a tangled one, born of the fact, as I see it, that the UK and France are two countries who often reach the same destinations by different routes.

“The French have become pragmatic, less history-obsessed,” explains the affable Dominique Moïsi, France’s leading geostrategy expert, chief adviser of the IFRI think tank, and a member of the Bilderberg Conference.

“We realise that David Cameron is completely committed to deficit reduction, so that it is not unthinkable that France would find herself the single nuclear power in Europe. That would make for a very uncomfortable position, under pressure from Germany, for instance, to give up on our nuclear deterrent.

“But if France and Britain share the costs of nuclear defence, then the whole concept is preserved. This is well worth an amount of compromise.”

And there you have it. If you’ve  ever wondered why the British cling to their bomb,  it’s not because the Russians, the Indians and the Pakistanis have it and the Iranians may want it. It’s because the French have it. The British can’t afford surrender the nuclear option becasue they’d lose face. Yesterday showed the feeling is mutual.

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  • Alan Maskey

    I fail to see what was wrong with the French selling weaponry to Argentina and her allies. Reagan broke the Monroe treaty in helping Britain invade the Malvinas.
    This Prestestant war lord with the dodgy Catholic name (Tim Collins) made a speech the tabloids and Pentagon w–kers loved. A real once more into the breach type of bs speech.

    Everything else he has done has been sabre rattling, muck raking, right wing, mercenary minded.

    The Brits are broke. To stay at the top military table, they need economies of scale. This union with France will lead to a European army with Germans and Italians as well and, most probably Irish too.
    The Americans continue to develop weapons of mass destruction and to test drive them on Muslims. The Russians cannot keep up with the R&D costs, The only way for our island nation to do it is to be part of a bigger alliance. Then they can continue to sell them to Indonesia and otehr “emerging democracies”. LOL.

    You will have noticed the USA recently got the biggest arms contract ever wth Saudi Arabia (who will they fight?) Prior to that the Brits had the biggest with the same Saudi mugs and the Yanks were not happy with it.
    The Brits have a special and unique military accord with the Yanks as they are the only foreign power the Pentagon buys from. They also got a special lift up from the Yanks with Trident. But to be EPL standard, they need European help, finance and muscle.

    Tim Collins should stick to killing Muslims and leave politics to those with brains.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    With the Tories in power there must be a continuing risk of the British going off on another illegal war – with Cameron now the only Western leader still defending the invasion of Iraq and with the French unlikely to follow more of such reckless warmongering – surely the idea of pooled resources is a bit of a risk?

    re. “football rivalry” debate

    “World War Two left the French with a embarrassing legacy of defeat in six weeks they’d prefer to forget.”

    Didnt the fecking Englezes do a runner at the same time? The French also won the 2 really big ones 1066 and the hundred years war.

  • pippakin

    And was your ‘catholic’ wife marching on anti war protests while you looked after the children. Liar.

  • John K Lund

    So far this is a typical Northern Ireland Republican rant, I first went to stay in the Midi in 1966 and susequently studied textiles in Mazamet, Castres, Lyon and Lille over the next few years. In my early life Winston Spencer Churchill offered the French joint citizenship when the Hitlerite boot fell upon them.Sammy McNally it is a fecking good thing that WE did possibly the greatest evacuation in world history, when I lost my uncle LtCol Dennis Nuttall commanding officer of the 5th Battalion The Loyal Regiment as a result of the Dunkirk withdrawal, he was at that time the youngest half colonel ever.
    Otherwise possibly Sammy might well have been a liittle Hun. Notwithstanding a good looking fraulein is pretty on the eyes.
    If we follow history the French and we are so intertwined that people should rejoice at this imaginative treaty and sleep well in our beds” preferment avec une tres belle fille de L’Entente Cordiale”.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Its sad to see Tim Collins joining the rent a quote roster of experts readily available to editors in the print and broadcasting circles.
    Am tempted to say that the RAF guy shot down and taken prisoner in Gulf War 1…….had the best career boost ever.

    Collins going the same way as Stewart who is now a MP.

    And I dont suppose a quote “The French are really quite nice people” was what the Editor wanted so Collins obliges with Nelson and Wellington. The French did indeed take a lot of flak over the Falklands/Malvinas War but quite a lot of the weaponry the Argentinians used was British made.

  • Blair

    “Its sad to see Tim Collins joining the rent a quote roster of experts readily available to editors in the print and broadcasting circles.”


    Collins is a legend in his own lunchtime.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    John K Lund,

    Military withdrawl/running away/defeat is often a good tactic but we cant have the British jabbering on hypocritically about French cowardice when they took to the hills(boats) themselves I’m afraid.

    The amount of anti-French prejudice in Britain always seem strange to us Irish who normally reserve our prejudices for our warlike neighbour.

    and talking of Winston Spencer Churchill offers…

    The boy Winnie also offered Ulster to the South in return for joining the war which the Dev declined – a truly remarkably bad decision as you (if you are a resident in Ulster) would now be sitting in a 32 county republic.

  • joeCanuck

    leave politics to those with brains

    Oh, the irony.

  • joeCanuck

    And you would trust the man who ratted and re-ratted?
    As it was to be kept quiet until after the war, Churchill (whom I admire for his courage) could have soon said “Talk to Attlee” who, if asked, would have said “Know nothing about it”.

  • qwerty12345

    I remember watching some culture programme not so long ago about Anglo French relations in which the presenter cited a not so ancient poll of ten year old children in Portsmouth which had “The French” in their top three things to be afraid of.

    I literally laughed out loud. I do so hope said poll wasn’t apocryphal.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Winnie, as his attitude to India showed, was an apalling not for turning imperialist, but when it came to Ulster it seems he was somewhat more pragmatic and Dev should have taken a chance to unite the country and fight against Hitler (He should have done that irrespective of Winnie’s offer.)

    Quite how Unionists reconcile their atitude to Churchill the great war leader to the fact that he was trying to do a majpr Lundy on them has always been somewhat of a puzzle.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    What is interesting about prejudice is how it carries on through generations even when there is no obvious rationale for it in the immediate environment e.g. Portsmouth.

    I presume as an important naval port the history thing is very much to the fore – perhaps they run a neighbourhood watch scheme to keep a look out every night to see if the frogs are coming. I think Napoleon did get as far as the Channel islands once and of course there was 1066 and all that. There are many specially built spot-the-frog-lookouts on the British coast – with one as far North as New Brighton beside Liverpool and of course the disloyal Scots and the Irish were always inviting them in to make mischief.

  • Johnkingii

    But the Brits are not as skint as the pedophile free state Preidents McAleese’s next visit North will Probobly get as far as Dundalk before her black taxi runs out of red diesel

  • Alan Maskey

    At times like this, we always ask: Who hung the monkey?

    By the way, Churchill wanted total war on the Micks at the time of the Treaty. Had Dev entered the war, he would have gotten a lot of dead Micks and no united Ireland. Chutrchill, most likely, was a Yankee plant.
    The French have a first rate fighting tradition. Their crime is not to follow the Yankee murderers on their missions of death and to keep the Krauts and others from doing the same.
    Yankee, Yankee, go home!

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    “the way, Churchill wanted total war on the Micks at the time of the Treaty”

    Yes, that is a well established fact – unlike his offer on Ulster which was kept secret. Ireland(Dev and Aiken*) made a really bad decision not to enter the war – not only becuase it was the ‘right’ thing to do but had the extra benefit of possibly getting the missing quarter of our country back – certainly would have put the ‘Ulster’ issue back on the agenda.

    *Aiken may have been in favour.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit


    “pedophile free state ” Your worries should be little closer to home as the Catholic church is now much stronger in the North than it is in the South and will probably make up a majority of the population in Ulster in 30 years.

    By the way how do you as a Unionist reconcile Churchill trying to do a lundy during WW2?

  • HeinzGuderian

    Quite……………Maybe Sammy could tell us what the brave Eire were doing at the time of Dunkirk ?? Neutral,you say ? Neutral,in a World War,against the most heinous dictator in history ? Surely not ??

    The Duke of Wellington,now Prime Minister,attending a banquet in Paris………….walked into the room,whereupon,the French Officers present,turned their backs on him. Undeterred,the Iron Duke,strode over to the punch bowl,and nonchalantly,poured himself a drink.
    A young French woman,appalled by her Countryman’s behaviour,rushed over and offered a profound apology…………….

    ‘ No need to apologies Madam’,the Duke said,in a voice loud enough,so the entire room could hear,’ I’ve seen their backs before.’ !!

    To sum up……dear old Oirland kept backing France…………….and their thanks ? The hand of Gaul !!! hehehe 🙂

  • Michael

    ” tell us what the brave Eire were doing at the time of Dunkirk ?? ”

    Laughing at the Worlds greatest empire™ getting their arses handed to them when faced by something other than ‘darkies with spears’?
    Just a guess.

    “Neutral,in a World War,against the most heinous dictator in history ? ”

    Hitler was the most heinous dictator in history in 1940?
    Do tell dear boy.

  • HeinzGuderian

    ‘darkies with spears’,dear boy ?? Did Napoleon know that ??

    Oh dear 1940,Adolf was in power 7 long years…………..had already started his programme of annihilation against the Jews,and was about to plunge the world,into the most bloodiest war of all time………………….ho,hum………..:-)

  • HeinzGuderian

    Laughing at the Worlds greatest empire™ getting their arses handed to them when faced by something other than ‘darkies with spears’?
    Just a guess.

    3 Billion people,across the planet,are proud to remain part of the Commonwealth………………..part of the Greatest Empire this world has ever known………..or will ever know !!

    Don’t it make ya proud to be Oirish ??? hehehe 🙂

  • Alan Maskey

    Does this 3 billion include Indian Nationalists, Pakistanii Islamists, Jamaican dopeheads? Grow up. The Commonwealth is a meaningless lot of bs, used by Britian to prop up the sinking ship Britania.
    When you compare Britain (the occupied zone does not count) to Ireland, you are not comparing like to like. On the one side, you have a former imperial power, with its Germanic god woman Elizabrit. On the other hand you have a small nation of retards, who don’t riot or attack French poodles after the hand of Gaul (hand of Frog as the Sun called it).
    The French saved the Brits at Dunkirk and the French fought on, unlike the Brits. The Soviets beat the Germans; the Brits were bankrupt bit players.
    Poppy Day has been resurrected to keep the cult of the god woman Elizabrit going and to further the ambitions of killer cult leaders like Ian Paisley who made sure to avoid the action and, of course, to feed the circulation figures of rags like the Dail Mail, which feeds on simple minds like your own.

  • Sean Og

    Greatest Empire this world has ever known? What about the Romans?

  • Michael

    Wow, you can see the future 70 years after the event, and ‘speak’ for 3 billion people based on your own little flag saluting ways, you should get yourself on one of those televised ‘talent’ shows.

    Thats a no from me Heinz, making it three.

  • Johnny Boy

    What did they ever do for us?

  • Alan Maskey

    The Romans never won a World Cup (Two world wars..)
    And the Romnans were total and utter savages. Even if other savages admire them (as they always do: yhink Robespierre and the Yanks)

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit


    re. “Maybe Sammy could tell us what the brave Eire were doing at the time of Dunkirk ?? Neutral,you say ? Neutral,in a World War,against the most heinous dictator in history*? Surely not ??

    I had earlier indicated I though Ireland was wrong not to have joined the war against HItler (many Iirsh people joined anyway).

    You have to wonder what Ulster Unionists must have thought who were fighting for King and country whilst Churchill was offering Ulster to the South. Any Unionist takers on that one?

    *Stalin was a greater mass murderer than Hitler and on the Allied side.

  • Johnny Boy

    The tabloids love their stereotypes, and seemingly, so do their readers. Make of that what you will.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Romans and French.

    The Frogs and the Ities are often the butt of Engleze military jokes – is it perhaps because they were conquered by both of them?

  • Big Bad Bob

    Great debate lads, full of compelling analysis. Good to see old prejudices being put aside for a bit of rational discussion.

  • barnshee

    “Quite how Unionists reconcile their atitude to Churchill the great war leader ”

    Unionists appear to have made up their mind aboutChurchill long before 1939

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit


    …and in the ligt of his pop’s proUlster and treasonous attitude to the British state Winnie must have been a bit of a disappointment.

    But if you were fighting in France in an Ulster regiment and word came though you were being sold down the Tiber to Rome presumably even some diehard Unionists might have questioned their loyalty?

  • Nearly 800 volunteers descended from English Argentina-enlisted as pilots of the Royal Air Force (RAF), Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) or the Royal Navy (RN), Of these, nearly 140 died in the line of duty nine were taken prisoner and 56 were awarded our shipments are feeding them meat and grain in 2 wars and this is how the British pay
    defeated them in 1806 and 1807 and have their flags, 71 highlander is no flag) and trophies when they wanted to invade Buenos Aires, and they will get their turn again. I hope my country nationalizes all businesses in the UK and do not buy more products of the past colonial British
    Now I understand the IRA’s armed of IRA

  • HeinzGuderian

    Oh dear……………have I stepped into an anti British Whinge Fest,and touched a few raw nerves ?? 🙂

  • HeinzGuderian

    oggy………….Australia was bigger than the Roman Empire !!! 🙂

  • HeinzGuderian

    You seem stuck on the Churchillian offer,Sam ??
    Pray tell,do you think the Ulster Unionist people would have accepted a forced UI ??

    Indeed,Stalin was a bigger mass murderer……..on Hitlers side,up until Barbarossa………….and still,dear old Oirland stayed *neutral* ?? 🙁

    * you thinking that was wrong,hardly changes the fact,dear boy….:-)

  • JJ Malloy

    Castro killed more people in his first 6 years than Hitler did in his first 6.

    It was not until the War (and the conquests) that Hitler was able to start his wholesale policies of liquidation.

  • HeinzGuderian

    What is the Oirish fascination with revisionist history ??

    Ifs and buts and whatifs………..To Oirlands eternal shame,they were neutral !!! The brave men who decided to tell dev where to go,and who fought in the British Army,were treated like lepers on their return home !!

    No ifs,no buts………..just dear old Oirland,doing what it does best………………….NOTHING !!!