Archive (Reagan Library)

Cold War: Reagan call to Thatcher (ferry disaster & Iran-Contra) [declassified 2000]

Document type: Declassified documents
Venue: Camp David - Chequers
Source: Reagan Library: Presidential Handwriting File: Records Presidential Telephone Calls (Folder 177)
Editorial comments: MT took the call at Chequers having just returned from the scene of the disaster at Ostend. The UK time was 1950. A cover note in the file shows that they spoke on an open line.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 416 words
Themes: Foreign policy (Middle East), Foreign policy (USA), Transport, MT contacts with Ronald Reagan

Declassified F98-016#2
By dIb, NARA, Date 6/29/00


The White House


SUBJECT: Telephone Conversation with British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
PARTICIPANTS: The President, Fritz W. Ermarth (Notetaker)
Prime Minister Thatcher
DATE, TIME: March 7, 1987, 2:53 – 2:57 p.m.
AND PLACE: Camp David

The President called to express his and the First Lady’s deep sadness and condolences over the tragedy of the capsizing of the ferry Herald of Free Enterprise in a Begian harbor. He noted that many of the victims were British soldiers from the Army of the Rhine and their families. The Prime Minister expressed deep gratitude for the call. She said that, despite the heroism of rescuers – which luckily included minesweepers from a nearby NATO exercise – some 150-160 people had been lost. Some 370 had been rescued. Mrs. Thatcher expressed particular grief at the heartending loss of children by surviving parents and parents by surviving children. She said she and all involved took comfort from the outpouring of help and expressions of sympathy, observing that such events seem to pull mankind together.

The Prime Minister changed the subject of the conversation to the President’s television speech in response to the Tower Commission report. She said she was thrilled by the speech and the positive way it was being received on both sides of the Atlantic. It represented the beginning of a new chapter for the President. The President responded by noting that morale within the White House was at a new height, that more calls had come in than for any event since the resignation of President Nixon, and that 90 some percent [sic] were positive call. Mrs. Thatcher observed that the positive effect was very much a result of the fact that people in Europe as well as the United States wanted it to be positive. Politics, she said, are chemistry between the politician and the feelings of the people. In any case, she expressed the feeling that things were well “back on track” for the President and the Administration.

The President agreed with this. He closed by noting, nevertheless, that his good cheer was marred by the tragedy in Belgium. Mrs. Thatcher thanked the President once again for his call and asked that her appreciation and greetings be conveyed to Mrs. Reagan.