John Nott was Britain’s Defence Minister when the Falklands War broke out in April 1982. Nott, along with Foreign Secretary Lord Carrington, was criticised for the invasion but kept his position despite hostility shown towards him the media. This hostility towards John Nott was based around the belief that it was Nott himself with his proposed naval cuts that had seemingly encouraged Argentina to think that Britain was no longer concerned about her overseas possessions. This primarily involved the planned scrapping of the ‘Endurance’, a ship that was a play a vital role in the re-taking of South Georgia.
John Nott was born on February 1st, 1932, in Bideford, Devon. After secondary education but before going to university, Nott served as a lieutenant in the 2nd Gurkha Rifles during the Malayan Emergency.
Following this, Nott attended Trinity College, Cambridge University where he read Law and Economics. In 1959, he was called to the Bar in the Inner Temple. In 1960, Nott became a general manager at S G Warburg’s – a merchant banking company.
In 1966, Nott became Member of Parliament for St. Ives in Cornwall. He held this seat until 1983, when he retired from politics. In 1979, Margaret Thatcher appointed Nott Secretary of State for Trade. In the same year he was made a Privy Councillor. In 1981, Nott was made Defence Minister.
While in this position, Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands. Nott, like Lord Carrington, offered to resign in the face of public anger at this international humiliation. Thatcher did not accept Nott’s resignation and he remained Defence Minister until he resigned from politics.
The title of his autobiography – “Here Today, Gone Tomorrow” – was a reference to a very public spat he had with Sir Robin Day in October 1982 who accused Nott of being a ‘Here Today, Gone Tomorrow’ politician during a television programme. This question caused Nott to walk out of the studio.
However, the book throws up some interesting facts about the conflict. Nott claims that:
“I must confess that I wasn’t much aware of the Falkland Islands before the invasion. I had a huge globe in my room in the Ministry of Defence and I went over to it to rediscover the geographical position of the Falklands. I was a bit horrified to see how far away they were.”
Of the Saturday debate in the House of Commons, Nott recalled:
“The whole House of Commons was baying for the blood of the government for allowing this to happen and I was the fall guy really. They all set about me with screams of ‘resign, resign’.
Of the victory, Nott wrote:
“This was a tremendous achievement and it definitely revived the self confidence of the nation. It was an amazing episode in our history.”
After he resignation from the House of Commons in 1983, John Nott returned to working in the business world. In 1983, he was made a Knight Commander, Order of Bath. Nott finally retired to a farm in Cornwall.