Conqueror vs. Belgrano
Looks like the beginning of a fascinating series of extracts from the upcoming book "The Official History of the Falklands Campaign, Volumes I and II" being printed in the Times Online. Here's a description of the sinking of the Argentine light cruiser General Belgrano (ex-USS Phoenix) by HMS Conqueror:
"Captain Chris Wreford-Brown on Conqueror had begun May 2 expecting to be following the Belgrano into the exclusion zone. He had been surprised by its change in course and remained uncertain as to which direction his quarry was intending to move for some time as it skirted the exclusion zone, perhaps aware of its vulnerability should it stray inside, and stayed some 18 miles to the south but still moving east. When Conqueror returned to periscope depth at 1400 GMT to receive and transmit signals, it reported on the change of direction to the west. Conqueror, however, had been suffering for some time with communication problems as a result of a damaged wireless mast (the crew had thought it might be necessary to withdraw to get the mast changed). Initially all Wreford-Brown understood was that the rules of engagement had changed: exactly how was unclear. He was aware of an order cancelling a previous order to attack (the original from Woodward — which he had not received) and that there appeared to be a new order to attack. Conqueror remained at depth until his instructions were clear. Now he was “absolutely certain”.
"By the next transmission, at 1710, they were understood and this was reported back along with an intention to attack. Wreford-Brown chose the old Mk8 torpedo, in service since 1932, because as an impact weapon it had a better chance of penetrating the cruiser’s armour and anti-torpedo bilges. At 18.57 Conqueror attacked at a range of 1,400 yards. Two hits were observed, although three explosions were heard. By 19.30 the initial report of the attack had been transmitted. This gave the cruiser's position, course and speed when attacked, adding “successfully attacked Belgrano. Two hits with Mark Eights. Evaded to east”. The evasion was necessary because within a few minutes they were being attacked in turn with depth charges. From 20.52 to 21.03 more depth charges were heard.
"On board the Belgrano some 200 men had been killed by the initial explosion, with fire spreading because doors and hatches had been left open. Another 850 took to life rafts as the cruiser began to sink. It sent out no signal of its own asking for help. The harsh weather and heavy sea conditions battered the crippled vessel and reduced the chances for survival of the crew as they abandoned ship. It took a day before the first survivors were picked up. In all 321 men of the Belgrano lost their lives.
"Militarily this had exactly the effect required: the Argentine Navy did not venture out again. Politically it caused Britain damage, for the scale of the attack appeared disproportionate and the circumstances suggested that Britain was not following its own rules. After the war this led to claims that the attack had been ordered by the Prime Minister to make sure that there was no peace settlement. In fact the diplomatic fallout from the attack led the British to take peace initiatives much more seriously than before. The conspiracy theories were always wide of the mark. The Belgrano was sunk not because the British Government was confident in an inevitable military victory but because there was a serious risk of defeat."
As I've mentioned before, this is the only known case of a nuclear submarine sinking an opposing vessel during wartime.