Despite Britain's apparent advances in its battle to regain the Falkland Islands, the reactions in this northern port city on the banks of the Mersey River are unusually somber.
Gone is the strident jingoism of recent weeks. Instead, Liverpool is quietly mourning the loss in the South Atlantic of the Liverpool-based container ship Atlantic Conveyor and the destroyer HMS Coventry, built in a shipyard on the Mersey. Twenty-four crewmen lost their lives, and flags have been flying at half-staff.
"The shock of the loss of those two ships has brought home to Liverpool what modern war is all about," said student Kevin Moore, 22. "The people now know that an enormous ship can be sunk by a single missile, and that it is not like the Second World War."
At the Philharmonic, an ornate Victorian pub near the Roman Catholic and Anglican cathedrals that Pope John Paul II will visit Sunday, regulars voiced misgivings that so many lives have been lost and wondered what the final outcome would be.
"Britain will win. She's got much more firepower," said Anthony Moorecroft, a garbage collector, as he sipped a pint of beer. "But how many more are going to die, and what is going to happen later? We are in so deep now that we have got to push on, because if we pull out it would mean that those boys died for nothing."
Moorecroft added: "I've got a wife and three kids and it hasn't sunk in to them yet that this is war, and I might have to go; all of us workers might have to go."
Moorecroft's friend Jim Lund commented that "it's the politicians" who started it, "but it's the workers like us who have got to sort it out, on both sides."
To shop assistant Francis Bailey, 22, the whole idea of the war is inconceivable. "To my generation it's incredible that this war is actually happening," he said. "I don't think the British want to kill the Argentines at all. I was in this pub the night we sank the General Belgrano, and I can tell you there was no cheering then."
Another customer of the Philharmonic, Richard Pattie, commented: "At this stage, you've got to back the country, but it seems a pity--a war in this day and age with a country like Argentina. I thought we were all supposed to be so civilized."
Pattie also complained that "the government has got enough money to back up a war, but it never has enough money to fight unemployment, does it?"
Liverpool has one of the highest unemployment rates in recession-hit Britain, with 18.7 percent of the work force jobless. Unemployment is uppermost in many minds and has caused a great deal of bitterness here. Other developments are often seen in terms of what impact they will have on jobs.
Sailors from the Mersey area have been volunteering for service in the South Atlantic since the crisis began, but mostly because they cannot find jobs elsewhere.
"I haven't had a ship since October, and I'm desperate for work," said Paul Shannon, 20. "I recognize the dangers involved, but you just have to put it to the back of your mind."
Shannon was joining the Rangitira, a requisitioned merchant ship recently assigned to the task force in the South Atlantic.
Some sailors are signing up for patriotic motives. "I'm proud to go," said one 18-year-old. "I've always wanted to do something I could believe in."
A recruiting officer commented that "the boys want to get out there and serve their country. They are young, they are looking for a bit of adventure, but most of all they want a job. There are 900 seamen without a ship in Liverpool today."
The impending visit of the pope, with a message of peace for the Falklands, seems to have complicated the attitudes of some Liverpudlians. On a predominantly Catholic street of row houses where most front windows are decorated with pictures of the pontiff, one family surrounded its papal photograph with flags at half-staff for the two lost ships and, underneath, the words: "Good luck to our boys in the Falklands."
At the start of the Falklands crisis, Liverpudlians, like most Britons, welcomed the chance for Britain to show some muscle to the world and imagined a quick and bloodless recapture of the islands. Now that it has turned into a prolonged and bloody battle, they still support it--but with growing reservations.
"In a way, the British government is behaving a bit like the Argentine junta," said Joe Parker at the bar of the Philharmonic. "They are trying to whip up our patriotism while the economy is in a mess. But even so, if it comes to the crunch, most of us will still fight for Britain."