Here is the news: from Falklands to Plymouth
IT IS not for me as an old-time BBC man to contradict a serving BBC sound engineer, but I believe it wasn't the BBC engineer in London who was the first to report the Falklands had been invaded when listening on radio ham equipment in broadcasting house, in London of all places, and as shown on BBC TV in the last few days.
I believe that distinction goes to the late Peter Cox, who had been an English teacher at Tamar Secondary Modern School, in Plymouth.
As a somewhat crusty 'Mr Chalky' bachelor, he possessed some large-scale listening equipment, served by an extensive aerial system to which he listened, no matter what the hour of day, when important world events were taking place. I of course had no part in any of what follows, but this is as told to me.
In the afternoon of the invasion, but not yet confirmed, Mrs Thatcher was explaining to the House that communication with the Falklands was down and everything was uncertain, even 'piccolo', the Foreign Office special means of communication, had gone down to the islands.
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Peter though, had picked up a message from a BBC engineer in the Falklands with the classic headline 'we are under new management down here' fed to ITN, the commercial network in London, a newscast that then went out at 4pm, was seen by MPs taking tea in their members' tea room, who rushed back to tell Mrs Thatcher the news.
Again as told to me, Peter further listened in and recorded Bernard Ingham, Mrs Thatcher's press secretary, phoning directly into 10 Downing Street from the Falklands, where he was arranging Mrs Thatcher's unannounced arrival in the Falklands, following their reclaiming by British Forces.
With only the one TV camera crew left on the Falklands – the ITV crew had already flown out – Ingham had to threaten to pull the plug on transmission altogether on the BBC if they persisted in refusing to share their coverage with ITV. It was only by making the BBC 'an offer they couldn't refuse' that Ingham got his way.
I am told that Ingham's exultant call of victory into number 10, and his account of his argument with the then deputy director-general of the BBC back in London, was something else.