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Falklands War

The Falklands War (Guerra de las Malvinas/Guerra del Atlántico Sur), also called the Falklands Conflict/Crisis, was fought in 1982 between Argentina and the United Kingdom (UK) over the disputed Falkland Islands, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands. The Falkland Islands consist of two large and many small islands in the South Atlantic Ocean east of Argentina; their name and sovereignty over them have long been disputed.

The Falklands War started on 2 April 1982 with the Argentine invasion and occupation of the Falkland Islands and South Georgia, and ended with the Argentine surrender on 14 June 1982. The conflict was the result of a protracted diplomatic confrontation regarding the sovereignty of the islands. Neither state officially declared war and the fighting was largely limited to the territories under dispute and the South Atlantic. The initial invasion was considered by Argentina as the re-occupation of its own territory, and by the UK as an invasion of a British overseas territory.

Britain launched a naval task force to engage the Argentine Navy and Argentine Air Force, and retake the islands by amphibious assault. After combat resulting in 258 British and 649 Argentine deaths, the British eventually prevailed and the islands remained under British control. However, as of 2008 and as it has since the 19th century, Argentina shows no sign of relinquishing its claim. Indeed, the claim remains in the Argentine constitution after its reformation in 1994.

The political effects of the war were strong in both countries. A wave of patriotic sentiment swept through both: the Argentine loss prompted even larger protests against the military government, which hastened its downfall; in the United Kingdom, the government of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was bolstered. It helped Thatcher's government to victory in the 1983 general election, which prior to the war was seen as by no means certain. The war has played an important role in the culture of both countries, and has been the subject of several books, films, and songs. The cultural and political weight of the conflict has had less effect on the British public than on that of Argentina, where the war is still a topic of discussion.

Lead-up to the conflict

In the period leading up to the war, Argentina was in the midst of a devastating economic crisis and large-scale civil unrest against the military junta that had been governing the country since 1976, especially following the resignation of its most prominent member, Jorge Videla in late-March 1981. The Argentine military government, headed by General Leopoldo Galtieri, sought to maintain power by diverting public attention playing off long-standing feelings of the Argentines towards the islands, although they never thought that the United Kingdom would respond militarily. The ongoing tension between the two countries over the islands increased on 19 March when a group of hired Argentinian scrap metal merchants raised the Argentine flag at South Georgia, an act that would later be seen as the first offensive action in the war. The Argentine military junta, suspecting that the UK would reinforce its South Atlantic Forces, ordered the invasion of the Falkland Islands to be brought forward to 2 April.

Britain was initially taken by surprise by the Argentine attack on the South Atlantic islands, despite repeated warnings by Royal Navy captain Nicholas Barker and others. Barker believed that the intention expressed in Defence Secretary John Nott's 1981 review to withdraw the Royal Navy ship HMS Endurance, Britain's only naval presence in the South Atlantic, sent a signal to the Argentinians that Britain was unwilling, and would soon be unable, to defend her territories and subjects in the Falklands.


Word of the invasion first reached Britain via amateur radio. The retaking of the Falkland Islands was considered extremely difficult: the main constraint was the disparity in air cover (the British having 34 Harrier aircraft against Argentina's 220 jet fighters). The U.S. Navy considered a successful invasion to be 'a military impossibility.'

By mid-April, the Royal Air Force had set up an airbase at Wideawake on the mid-Atlantic island of Ascension, including a sizable force of Avro Vulcan B Mk 2 bombers, Handley Page Victor K Mk 2 refuelling aircraft, and McDonnell Douglas Phantom FGR Mk 2 fighters to protect them. Meanwhile the main British naval task force arrived at Ascension to prepare for war. A small force had already been sent south to re-capture South Georgia.

Encounters began in April; the British Task Force was shadowed by Boeing 707 aircraft of the Argentine Air Force during their travel to the south. One of these flights was intercepted outside the British-imposed exclusion zone, by a Sea Harrier; the unarmed 707 was not attacked because diplomatic moves were still in progress and the UK had not yet decided to commit itself to war.

Recapture of South Georgia and the attack on the Santa Fe

The South Georgia force, Operation Paraquet, under the command of Major Guy Sheridan RM, consisted of Marines from 42 Commando, a troop of the Special Air Service (SAS) and Special Boat Squadron (SBS) troops who were intended to land as reconnaissance forces for an invasion by the Royal Marines. All were embarked on RFA Tidespring. First to arrive was the Churchill-class submarine HMS Conqueror on 19 April, and the island was over-flown by a radar-mapping Handley Page Victor on 20 April. The first landings of SAS troops took place on 21 April, but — with the southern hemisphere autumn setting in — the weather was so bad that their landings and others made the next day were all withdrawn after two helicopters crashed in fog on Fortuna Glacier. The first Royal Navy ship to arrive was the type 42 destroyer HMS Glasgow.

On 23 April, a submarine alert was sounded and operations were halted, with the Tidespring being withdrawn to deeper water to avoid interception. On 24 April, the British forces regrouped and headed in to attack the submarine. On 25 April the ARA Santa Fe was spotted by a Westland Wessex HAS Mk 3 helicopter from HMS Antrim, which attacked the Argentine submarine with depth charges. HMS Plymouth launched a Westland Wasp HAS.Mk.1 helicopter, and HMS Brilliant launched a Westland Lynx HAS Mk 2. The Lynx launched a torpedo, and strafed the submarine with its pintle-mounted General Purpose Machine Gun; the Wessex also fired on the Santa Fe with its GPMG. The Wasp from HMS Plymouth as well as two other Wasps launched from HMS Endurance fired AS-12 ASM antiship missiles at the submarine, scoring hits. Santa Fe was damaged badly enough to prevent her from submerging. The crew abandoned the submarine at the jetty at King Edward Point on South Georgia.

With the Tidespring now far out to sea and the Argentine forces augmented by the submarine's crew, Major Sheridan decided to gather the 76 men he had and make a direct assault that day. After a short forced march by the British troops, the Argentine forces surrendered without resistance. The message sent from the naval force at South Georgia to London was, "Be pleased to inform Her Majesty that the White Ensign flies alongside the Union Jack in South Georgia. God Save the Queen." Prime Minister Thatcher broke the news to the media, telling them to "Just rejoice at that news!"

Black Buck raids

The Operation Black Buck raids comprised a series of five attacks on the Islands by RAF Avro Vulcan bombers of 44 Squadron, staged from Wideawake airbase on Ascension Island, close to the equator. The aircraft carried either 21 1,000 lb bombs internally or four Shrike anti-radar missiles externally. The overall effect of the raids on the war is difficult to determine, as the raids consumed precious tanker resources. The raids did minimal damage to the runway and damage to radars was quickly repaired. Commonly dismissed as post-war propaganda, Argentine sources were originally the source of claims that the Vulcan raids influenced Argentina to withdraw Mirage IIIs from the Southern Argentina to the Buenos Aires Defence Zone. This dissuasive effect was however watered down when British officials made clear that there wouldn't be strikes on air bases in Argentina. It has been suggested that the Black Buck raids were pressed home by the Royal Air Force as British armed forces had been cut in the late seventies, and the RAF may have desired a greater role in the conflict to prevent further cuts. A single crater was produced on the runway, rendering it impossible for the airfield to be used by fast jets. Argentine ground crew repaired the runway within twenty-four hours, but only to a level of quality suitable for the C-130 Hercules and Aermacchi MB-339 jets. Many sources claim that fake craters confounded British damage assessment, however, the British were well aware that the runway remained in use by C-130 and Pucara. The runway was also available for MB-339 Aermacchi jets.

On 1 May operations against the Falklands opened with the "Black Buck 1" attack on the airfield at Stanley. The Vulcan had originally been designed for medium-range stand-off nuclear missions in Europe and did not have the range to fly to the Falklands, requiring several in-flight refuellings. The RAF's tanker planes were mostly converted Handley Page Victor bombers with similar range, so they too had to be refuelled in the air. Thus, a total of 11 tankers were required for only two Vulcans, a huge logistical effort, given that both the tankers and bombers had to use the same strip. The attack yielded only a single hit on the runway.

The raids, at almost 8,000 nautical miles (13 000 km) and 16 hours for the return journey, were the longest-ranged bombing raids in history at that time (surpassed in the Gulf War of 1991 by USAF Boeing B-52G Stratofortresses flying from the continental United States but using forward-positioned tankers).

Only minutes after the RAF's Black Buck 1, nine Fleet Air Arm BAE Sea Harrier FRS Mk 1s from HMS Hermes followed up the raid by dropping BL755 cluster bombs on Stanley and the smaller grass airstrip at Goose Green. The Harriers destroyed one FMA IA 58 Pucará at Goose Green and caused minor damage to Stanley airfield infrastructure. The remaining runways were fully operational throughout the rest of the conflict. Other Sea Harriers had taken off from the deck of HMS Invincible for combat air patrols, and although Brian Hanrahan, a BBC reporter attached to the task force, was forbidden to divulge the number of planes involved, he came up with the memorable phrase "I counted them all out and I counted them all back.

The Argentines nevertheless claimed that two Sea Harriers were downed that morning in the general area of Stanley: the Commander of the 10th Mechanized Infantry Brigade, Brigadier-General Oscar Jofre, gave the serial numbers of the two Sea Harriers as XZ 458 and XZ 491, claiming that the first fell to a 35 mm gun and the second to a Roland missile. This claim has been dismissed by a number of English language sources, XZ 458 and XZ 491 both survived the Falklands war to be written off in accidents in 1984 and 1986 respectively.

Of the five Black Buck raids, three were against Stanley Airfield, with the other two anti-radar missions using Shrike anti-radiation missiles.

Escalation of the air war

The Falklands had only three airfields. The longest and only paved runway was at the capital, Stanley, and even it was too short to support fast jets. Therefore, the Argentines were forced to launch their major strikes from the mainland, severely hampering its efforts at forward staging, combat air patrols and close air support over the islands. The effective loiter time of incoming Argentine aircraft was low, and they were later compelled to overfly British forces in any attempt to attack the islands.

The first major Argentine strike force comprised 36 aircraft (McDonnell Douglas A-4 Skyhawks, Israel Aircraft Industries Daggers, English Electric B Mk 62 Canberras and Dassault Mirage III escorts), and was sent on 1 May, in the belief that the British invasion was imminent or landings had already taken place. Only a section of Grupo 6 (flying IAI Dagger aircraft) found ships, which were firing at Argentine defences near the islands. The Daggers managed to attack the ships and return safely. This greatly boosted morale of the Argentine pilots, who now knew they could survive an attack against modern warships, protected by radar ground clutter from the Islands and by using a late pop-up profile.

Meanwhile, other Argentine aircraft were intercepted by Sea Harriers operating from HMS Invincible. A Dagger and a Canberra were shot down.

Combat broke out between Sea Harrier FRS Mk 1 fighters of No. 801 Naval Air Squadron and Mirage III fighters of Grupo 8. Both sides refused to fight at the other's best altitude, until two Mirages finally descended to engage. One was shot down by an AIM-9L Sidewinder air-to-air missile (AAM), while the other escaped but damaged and without enough fuel to return to its mainland air base. The plane made for Stanley, where it fell victim to friendly fire from the Argentine defenders.

As a result of this experience, Argentine Air Force staff decided to employ A-4 Skyhawks and Daggers only as strike units, the Canberras only during the night, and Mirage IIIs (without air refuelling capability or any capable AAM) as decoys to lure away the British Sea Harriers. The decoying would be later extended with the formation of the Escuadron Fenix, a squadron of civilian jets flying 24 hours-a-day simulating strike aircraft preparing to attack the fleet. On one of these flights, an Air Force Learjet was shot down, killing the squadron commander, Vice Commodore Rodolfo De La Colina, who was the highest-ranking Argentine officer to die in the War.

Stanley was used as an Argentine strongpoint throughout the conflict. Despite the Black Buck and Harrier raids on Stanley airfield (no fast jets were stationed there for air defence) and overnight shelling by detached ships, it was never out of action entirely. Stanley was defended by a mixture of Surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems (Franco-German Roland and British Tigercat) and Swiss-built Oerlikon 35 mm twin anti-aircraft cannons. Lockheed Hercules transport night flights brought supplies, weapons, vehicles, and fuel, and airlifted out the wounded up until the end of the conflict. The few RN Sea Harriers were considered too valuable by day to risk in night-time blockade operations, and their Blue Fox radar was not an effective look-down over land radar.

The only Argentine Hercules shot down by the British was lost on 1 June when TC-63 was intercepted by a Sea Harrier in daylight when it was searching for the British fleet north-east of the islands after the Argentine Navy retired its last SP-2H Neptune due to airframe attrition.

Sinking of Belgrano

Two separate British naval task forces (surface vessels and submarines) and the Argentine fleet were operating in the neighbourhood of the Falklands, and soon came into conflict. The first naval loss was the World War II vintage Argentine light cruiser ARA General Belgrano — formerly the USS Phoenix, a survivor of the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. The nuclear-powered submarine HMS Conqueror, captained by Commander Christopher Wreford-Brown, sank Belgrano on 2 May with two (of three fired) Mk 8 Mod 4 torpedoes of interwar-vintage design; these were chosen as they carried a larger warhead and contact fuses and there were worries surrounding the reliability of the newer Tigerfish torpedoes. Three hundred and twenty-three members of Belgrano's crew died in the incident. Over 700 men were rescued from the open ocean despite cold seas and stormy weather. Losses from Belgrano totalled just over half of Argentine deaths in the Falklands conflict, and the Belgrano remains the only ship ever sunk by a nuclear submarine in combat, and only the second warship sunk by a submarine since the end of the Second World War (the first being the Khukri, an Indian frigate sunk during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971).

In a separate incident later that night, British forces engaged an Argentine patrol gunboat, the ARA Alferez Sobral. At the time, the Alferez Sobral was searching for the crew of the Argentine Air Force English Electric Canberra light bomber shot down on 1 May. Two Royal Navy Lynxes fired four Sea Skua missiles against her. Badly damaged and with eight crew dead, the Sobral managed to return to Puerto Deseado two days later, but the Canberra's crew were never found.

Initial reports conflated the two incidents, contributing to confusion about the number of casualties and the identity of the vessel that sank. The Rupert Murdoch–owned British tabloid newspaper The Sun greeted the initial reports of the attack with the headline "GOTCHA". This first edition was published before news was known that the Belgrano had actually sunk (reporting instead, erroneously, that the gunboat had sunk) and carried no reports of actual Argentine deaths. The headline was replaced in later editions by the slightly more tempered "Did 1,200 Argies drown?".

The loss of ARA General Belgrano hardened the stance of the Argentine government and also became a cause célèbre for anti-war campaigners (such as Labour MP Tam Dalyell), who declared that the ship had been sailing away from the Falklands at the time, and was outside the exclusion zone, while sailing away from the area of conflict. The Total Exclusion Zone (TEZ) was an area declared by the United Kingdom on 30 April 1982 covering a circle of 200 nautical miles (370 km) from the centre of the Falkland Islands. During the Falklands War any sea vessel or aircraft from any country entering the zone may be fired upon without further warning. However, during war, under international law, the heading of a belligerent naval vessel has no bearing on its status. In addition, the captain of the Belgrano, Hector Bonzo, has testified that the attack was legitimate. In later years it has been claimed that the information on the position of the ARA General Belgrano came from a Soviet spy satellite which was tapped by the Norwegian intelligence service station at Fauske, Norway, and then handed over to the British. However, Conqueror had been shadowing the Belgrano for some days, so this extra information would have been unnecessary.

The sinking occurred 14 hours after President of Peru Belaúnde proposed a comprehensive peace plan and called for regional unity, although Mrs Thatcher and diplomats in London did not see this document until after the sinking of the Belgrano. Diplomatic efforts to that point had failed completely. There was no hope that additional diplomacy would lead anywhere. After the sinking Argentina rejected the plan but the UK indicated its acceptance on 5 May. The news was subsequently dominated by military action and it is not well known that the British continued to offer ceasefire terms until 1 June.

Regardless of controversies over the sinking, it had a crucial strategic effect: the elimination of the Argentine naval threat. After her loss, the entire Argentine fleet returned to port and did not leave again for the duration of hostilities. The two escorting destroyers and the battle group centred on the aircraft carrier ARA Veinticinco de Mayo both withdrew from the area, ending the direct threat to the British fleet that their pincer movement had represented.

British historian Sir Lawrence Freedman stated in the second volume of his Official History of the Falklands that intelligence about the Belgrano did not reach senior British commanders and politicians until the order to sink her was passed. Commander Christopher Wreford-Brown, commanding officer of HMS Conqueror, informed the Admiralty four hours before his attack that the Argentine cruiser had changed course, but this information was not passed to the Ministry of Defence or Rear-Admiral John “Sandy” Woodward (commander of the RN task force). However, as Admiral Woodward later stated, the Belgrano's course and speed at the time she was sunk were irrelevant, because they can change within seconds—from a strategic point of view, only her position and capabilities mattered.

Sinking of HMS Sheffield

On 4 May, two days after the sinking of Belgrano, the British lost the Type 42 destroyer HMS Sheffield to fire following an Exocet missile strike. The Argentine Navy had only 5 of these air-launched AM.39 Exocet anti-ship missiles when the war began. They had plenty of surface-launched MM.38 Exocets but they were unsuited for aircraft operation. Sheffield had been ordered forward with two other Type 42s in order to provide a long-range radar and medium-high altitude missile picket far from the British carriers. After the ships were detected by an Argentine Navy P-2 Neptune patrol aircraft, two Dassault Super Étendards (serial no. 202 and 203) were launched from their base at Río Grande, each armed with a single Exocet AM.39 missile. Refuelled by an KC-130H Hercules after launch, they went in at low altitude, popped up for a radar check at 50 miles (80 km) and released the missiles from a distance of 20 to 30 miles (30 to 50 km).

Glasgow, Sheffield’s sister ship and the northernmost of the three-destroyer picket, detected the two Étendards on their first pop-up, and warned the fleet-wide anti-air warfare coordinator in Hermes. Hermes dismissed the report as one of the many false alarms already that morning. Glasgow continued to monitor that bearing and detected the second pop-up, and this time the tell-tale Exocet seeker radar via the ship's electronic warfare support measures (ESM) equipment. Again Hermes ruled the detection as spurious, but Glasgow continued to broadcast handbrake, the codeword for Exocet radar detected.

The first missile missed HMS Yarmouth, due to the deployment of chaff in response to the warning, whilst Glasgow repeatedly tried, without success, to engage the other with Sea Dart missiles. Still Hermes ruled that this was a false alarm.

Sheffield was unable to detect directly the seeker radar as, in a case of bad timing, the SCOT satellite communications terminal was in use which deafened the onboard ESM equipment and was incompatible with the radar fitted to the Type 42. It is not known why she did not respond to Glasgow's warnings, but no chaff was fired and a shipwide warning of attack went out only seconds before impact when a watchkeeper (Lieutenant Commander Peter Walpole) identified rocket trails visually.

Sheffield was struck amidships, with devastating effect. Whether the warhead actually exploded is disputed, but raging fires started to spread, ultimately killing 20 crew members and severely injuring 24 others. The other missile (after missing HMS Yarmouth) splashed into the sea half a mile off her port beam. Whilst alongside rendering assistance, Yarmouth repeatedly broke off to fire anti-submarine weaponry in response to Sonar reports of torpedoes in the water (later believed to have been a misdiagnosis of the outboard motor of the small inflatables helping with firefighting), as well as visual reports of torpedoes (the Sheffield was ridding herself of torpedoes to prevent explosion).

Sheffield was abandoned several hours later, gutted and deformed by the fires that continued to burn for six more days. She finally sank outside the Maritime Exclusion Zone on 10 May, whilst under tow from Yarmouth, becoming an official war grave. In one sense Sheffield served her purpose as a part of the missile picket line — she took the missile instead of the aircraft carriers.

The tempo of operations increased throughout the second half of May as United Nations attempts to mediate a peace were rejected by the British, who felt that any delay would make a campaign impractical in the South Atlantic storms. The destruction of Sheffield had a profound impact on the British public, bringing home the fact that the "Falklands Crisis", as the BBC News put it, was now an actual 'shooting war'.

SAS operations

Given the threat to the British fleet posed by the Etendard / Exocet combination, plans were made to use Special Air Service troops to attack the home base of the five Etendards at Río Grande, Tierra del Fuego. The operation was code named "Mikado". The aim was to destroy the missiles and the aircraft that carried them, and to kill the pilots in their quarters. Two plans were drafted and underwent preliminary rehearsal: a landing by approximately fifty-five SAS in two C-130 Hercules aircraft directly on the runway at Rio Grande; and infiltration of twenty-four SAS by inflatable boats brought within a few miles of the coast by submarine. Neither plan was implemented; the earlier airborne assault plan attracted considerable hostility from some members of the SAS, who considered the proposed raid a suicide mission. Ironically, the Rio Grande area would be defended by four full-strength battalions of Marine Infantry of the Argentine Marine Corps of the Argentine Navy, some of whose officers were trained in the UK by the SBS years earlier.

After the war, Argentine marine commanders admitted that they were waiting for some kind of landing by SAS forces but never expected a Hercules to land directly on their runways, although they would have pursued British forces even into Chilean territory if they were attacked.

An SAS reconnaissance team was dispatched to carry out preparations for a seaborne infiltration. A Westland Sea King helicopter carrying the assigned team took off from HMS Invincible on the night of 17 May, but bad weather forced it to land 50 miles (80 km) from its target, and the mission was aborted. The pilot flew to Chile and dropped off the SAS team, before setting fire to his helicopter and surrendering to the Chilean authorities. The discovery of the burnt-out helicopter attracted considerable international attention at the time.

On 14 May the SAS carried out the raid on Pebble Island at the Falklands, where the Argentine Navy had taken over a grass airfield for FMA IA 58 Pucará light ground attack aircraft and T-34 Mentors. The raid destroyed the aircraft there.

Landing at San Carlos — Bomb Alley

During the night on 21 May the British Amphibious Task Group under the command of Commodore Michael Clapp (Commodore, Amphibious Warfare - COMAW), landed on beaches around San Carlos Water, on the northwestern coast of East Falkland facing onto Falkland Sound. The bay, known as Bomb Alley by British forces, was the scene of repeated air attacks by low-flying Argentine jets.

The 4,000 men of 3 Commando Brigade were put ashore as follows: 2nd battalion of the Parachute Regiment (2 Para) from the RORO ferry Norland and 40 Commando (Royal Marines) from the amphibious ship HMS Fearless were landed at San Carlos (Blue Beach), 3 Para from the amphibious ship HMS Intrepid were landed at Port San Carlos (Green Beach) and 45 Commando from RFA Stromness were landed at Ajax Bay (Red Beach). Notably the waves of 8 LCUs and 8 LCVPs were led by Major Ewen Southby-Tailyour who had commanded the Falklands detachment only a year previously. 42 Commando on the liner SS Canberra was a tactical reserve. Units from the Royal Artillery, Royal Engineers etc. and tanks were also put ashore with the landing craft, the Round table class LSL and mexeflote barges. Rapier missile launchers were carried as underslung loads of Sea Kings for rapid deployment.

By dawn the next day they had established a secure beachhead from which to conduct offensive operations. From there Brigadier Thompson's plan was to capture Darwin and Goose Green before turning towards Port Stanley. Now, with the British troops on the ground, the Argentine Air Force began the night bombing campaign against them using Canberra bomber planes until the last day of the war (14 June).

At sea, the paucity of the British ships' anti-aircraft defences was demonstrated in the sinking of HMS Ardent on 21 May, HMS Antelope on 21 May, and MV Atlantic Conveyor (struck by two AM39 Exocets) on 25 May along with a vital cargo of helicopters, runway-building equipment and tents. The loss of all but one of the Chinook helicopters being carried by the Atlantic Conveyor was a severe blow from a logistics perspective. Also lost on this day was HMS Coventry, a sister to HMS Sheffield, whilst in company with HMS Broadsword after being ordered to act as decoy to draw away Argentinian aircraft from other ships at San Carlos Bay. HMS Argonaut and HMS Brilliant were badly damaged. However, many British ships escaped terminal damage because of the Argentine pilots' bombing tactics.

In order to avoid the highest concentration of British air defences, Argentine pilots released ordnance from very low altitude so that their bomb fuzes did not have sufficient time to arm before impact. The low release of the retarded bombs (some of which had been sold to the Argentines by the British years earlier) meant that many never exploded, as there was insufficient time in the air for them to arm themselves. A simple free-fall bomb will, during a low altitude release, impact almost directly below the aircraft which is then within the lethal fragmentation zone of the resulting explosion. A retarded bomb has a small parachute or air brake that opens to reduce the speed of the bomb to produce a safe separation between the two. The fuze for a retarded bomb requires a minimum time over which the retarder is open to ensure safe separation. The pilots would have been aware of this, but due to the high concentration levels required in order to avoid the anti-aircraft defences of SAMs and AAA, as well as any British Sea Harriers, many failed to climb to the necessary release point. The problem was solved by the improvised fitting of retarding devices, allowing low-level bombing attacks as employed on 8 June.

In his autobiographical account of the Falklands War, Admiral Woodward blames the BBC World Service for these changes to the bombs. The World Service reported the lack of detonations after receiving a briefing on the matter from a Ministry of Defence official. He describes the BBC as being more concerned with being "fearless seekers after truth" than with the lives of British servicemen. Colonel H. Jones levelled similar accusations against the BBC after they disclosed the impending British attack on Goose Green by 2 Para. Jones had threatened to lead the prosecution of senior BBC officials for treason but was unable to do so since he was himself killed in action around Goose Green. Thirteen bombs hit British ships without detonating. Lord Craig, the former Marshal of the Royal Air Force, is said to have remarked: "Six better fuses and we would have lost although Ardent and Antelope were both lost despite the failure of bombs to explode. The fuses were functioning correctly, and the bombs were simply released from too low an altitude. The Argentines lost nearly twenty aircraft in the attacks.

Battle of Goose Green

From early on 27 May until 28 May, 2 Para, (approximately 500 men) with Artillery support from 8 (Alma) Cdo Bty RA, approached and attacked Darwin and Goose Green, which was held by the Argentine 12th Inf Regt. After a tough struggle which lasted all night and into the next day, 17 British and 55 Argentine soldiers had been killed, and 1,050 Argentine troops (including around 350 Argentine Air Force non-combatant personnel of the Condor airfield ) taken prisoner. The BBC announced the taking of Goose Green on the BBC World Service before it had actually happened. It was during this attack that Lieutenant Colonel H. Jones, the commanding officer of 2 Para was killed while breaking into the well-prepared Argentine positions at the head of his battalion. He was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.

With the sizeable Argentine force at Goose Green out of the way, British forces were now able to break out of the San Carlos bridgehead. On 27 May, men of 45 Cdo and 3 Para started walking across East Falkland towards the coastal settlement of Teal Inlet.

Special forces on Mount Kent

Meanwhile, 42 Commando prepared to move by helicopter to Mount Kent. Unknown to senior British officers, the Argentine generals were determined to tie down the British troops in the Mount Kent area, and on 27 May and 28 May they sent transport aircraft loaded with Blowpipe surface-to-air missiles and commandos (602nd Commando Company and 601st National Gendarmerie Special Forces Squadron) to Stanley. This operation was known as Operation AUTOIMPUESTA (Self-Determination-Initiative). For the next week, the Special Air Service (SAS) and Mountain and Arctic Warfare Cadre of 3 Commando Brigade waged intense patrol battles with patrols of the volunteers' 602nd Commando Company under Major Aldo Rico, normally 2IC of the 22nd Mountain Infantry Regiment. Throughout 30 May, Royal Air Force Harriers were active over Mount Kent. One of them — Harrier XZ 963 flown by Squadron-Leader Jerry Pook — in responding to a call for help from D Squadron, attacked Mount Kent's eastern lower slopes, and that led to its loss through small-arms fire.

The Argentine Navy used their last AM39 Exocet missile attempting to attack HMS Invincible on the 30th of May. There are claims the missile struck, however the British have denied this, some citing that HMS Avenger shot it down.

On the 31 May, the Royal Marines Mountain and Arctic Warfare Cadre (M&AWC) defeated Argentine Special Forces at the Battle of Top Malo House. A 13-strong Argentine Army Commando detachment (Captain Jose Vercesi's 1st Assault Section, 602nd Commando Company) found itself trapped in a small shepherd's house at Top Malo. The Argentine commandos fired from windows and doorways and then took refuge in a stream bed from the burning house. Completely surrounded, they fought 19 M&AWC marines under Captain Rod Boswell for forty-five minutes until, with their ammunition almost exhausted, they elected to surrender. Three Cadre members were badly wounded. On the Argentine side there were two dead including Lieutenant Ernesto Espinoza and Sergeant Mateo Sbert (who were decorated for their bravery). Only five Argentines were left unscathed. As the British mopped up Top Malo House, down from Malo Hill came Lieutenant Fraser Haddow's M&AWC patrol, brandishing a large Union Flag. One wounded Argentine soldier, Lieutenant Horacio Losito, commented that their escape route would have taken them through Haddow's position.

Major Mario Castagneto's 601st Commandos tried to move forward on Kawasaki motorbikes and commandeered Land Rovers to rescue 602nd Commando Company on Estancia Mountain. Spotted by 42 Commando of the Royal Marines, they were engaged with 81mm mortars and forced to withdraw to Two Sisters mountain. Captain Eduardo Villarruel on Estancia Mountain realised his position had become untenable and after conferring with fellow officers ordered a withdrawal.

The Argentine operation also saw the extensive use of helicopter support to position and extract patrols; the Argentine Army 601st Combat Aviation Battalion also suffered casualties. At about 11.00 a.m. on 30 May, an Aerospatiale SA-330 Puma helicopter was brought down by a shoulder-launched Stinger surface-to-air missile (SAM) fired by the SAS in the vicinity of Mount Kent in which six National Gendarmerie Special Forces were killed and eight more wounded in the crash.

As Brigadier Julian Thompson commented, "It was fortunate that I had ignored the views expressed by Northwood that reconnaissance of Mount Kent before insertion of 42 Commando was superfluous. Had D Squadron not been there, the Argentine Special Forces would have caught the Commando before deplaning and, in the darkness and confusion on a strange landing zone, inflicted heavy casualties on men and helicopters."

Bluff Cove and Fitzroy

By 1 June, with the arrival of a further 5,000 British troops of the 5th Infantry Brigade, the new British divisional commander, Major General Jeremy Moore RM, had sufficient force to start planning an offensive against Stanley.

During this build-up, the Argentine air assaults on the British naval forces continued, killing 56. 32 of the dead were from the Welsh Guards on RFA Sir Galahad and RFA Sir Tristram on 8 June. According to Surgeon-Commander Rick Jolly of the Falklands Field Hospital, more than 150 men suffered burns and injuries of some kind in the attack, including, famously, Simon Weston.

The Guards were sent to support a dashing advance along the southern approach to Stanley. On 2 June a small advance party of 2 Para moved to Swan Inlet house in a number of Army Westland Scout helicopters. Telephoning ahead to Fitzroy, they discovered the area clear of Argentines and (exceeding their authority) commandeered the one remaining RAF Chinook helicopter to frantically ferry another contingent of 2 Para ahead to Fitzroy (a settlement on Port Pleasant) and Bluff Cove (a settlement confusingly, and perhaps ultimately fatally, on Port Fitzroy).

This un-coordinated advance caused planning nightmares for the commanders of the combined operation, as they now found themselves with a 30 mile (48 km) string of indefensible positions on their southern flank. Support could not be sent by air as the single remaining Chinook was already heavily oversubscribed. The soldiers could march, but their equipment and heavy supplies would need to be ferried by sea. Plans were drawn up for half the Welsh Guards to march light on the night of 2 June, whilst the Scots Guards and the second half of the Welsh Guards were to be ferried from San Carlos Water in the Landing Ship Logistics (LSL) Sir Tristram and the landing platform dock (LPD) Intrepid on the night of 5 June. Intrepid was planned to stay one day and unload itself and as much of Sir Tristram as possible, leaving the next evening for the relative safety of San Carlos. Escorts would be provided for this day, after which Sir Tristram would be left to unload using an inflatable platform known as a Mexeflote for as long as it took to finish.

Political pressure from above to not risk the LPD forced Commodore Clapp to alter this plan. Two lower-value LSLs would be sent, but without suitable beaches on which to land, Intrepid's landing craft would need to accompany them to unload. A complicated operation across several nights with Intrepid and her sister ship Fearless sailing half-way to dispatch their craft was devised. The attempted overland march by half the Welsh Guards failed, possibly as they refused to march light and attempted to carry their equipment. They returned to San Carlos and were landed directly at Bluff Cove when Fearless dispatched her landing craft. Sir Tristram sailed on the night of 6 June and was joined by Sir Galahad at dawn on 7 June. Anchored 1,200 feet (370 m) apart in Port Pleasant, the landing ships were near Fitzroy, the designated landing point. The landing craft should have been able to unload the ships to that point relatively quickly, but confusion over the ordered disembarcation point (the first half of the Guards going direct to Bluff Cove) resulted in the senior Welsh Guards infantry officer aboard insisting his troops be ferried the far longer distance directly to Port Fitzroy/Bluff Cove. The intention was for the infantrymen to march via the recently repaired Bluff Cove bridge (destroyed by retreating Argentine combat engineers) to their destination, a journey of around seven miles (11 km).

The longer journey time of the landing craft taking the troops directly to Bluff Cove and the squabbling over how the landing was to be performed caused enormous delay in unloading. This had disastrous consequences. Without escorts, having not yet established their air defence, and still almost fully laden, the two LSLs in Port Pleasant were sitting targets for two waves of Argentine A-4 Skyhawks.

The disaster at Port Pleasant (although often known as Bluff Cove) would provide the world with some of the most sobering images of the war as TV news video footage showed Navy helicopters hovering in thick smoke to winch survivors from the burning landing ships.

The Fall of Stanley

Notable battles:

  • Battle of Wireless Ridge
  • Battle of Mount Tumbledown
  • Battle of Two Sisters
  • On the night of 11 June after several days of painstaking reconnaissance and logistic build-up, British forces launched a brigade-sized night attack against the heavily defended ring of high ground surrounding Stanley. Units of 3 Commando Brigade, supported by naval gunfire from several Royal Navy ships, simultaneously assaulted in the Battle of Mount Harriet, Battle of Two Sisters, and Battle of Mount Longdon.

    During this battle, 13 were killed when HMS Glamorgan, straying too close to shore while returning from the gun line, was struck by an improvised trailer-based Exocet MM38 launcher taken from ARA Seguí destroyer by Argentine Navy technicians. On this day, Sgt Ian McKay of 4 Platoon, B Company, 3 Para died in a grenade attack on an Argentine bunker which was to earn him a posthumous Victoria Cross. After a night of fierce fighting, all objectives were secured.

    The night of 13 June saw the start of the second phase of attacks, in which the momentum of the initial assault was maintained. 2 Para captured Wireless Ridge at the Battle of Wireless Ridge, and the 2nd battalion, Scots Guards captured Mount Tumbledown at the Battle of Mount Tumbledown.

    With the last natural defence line at Mount Tumbledown breached, the Argentine town defences of Stanley began to falter. In the morning gloom, one company commander got lost and his junior officers became despondent. Private Santiago Carrizo of the 3rd Regiment described how a platoon commander ordered them to take up positions in the houses and "if a Kelper resists, shoot him", but the entire company did nothing of the kind.

    The commander of the Argentine garrison in Stanley, Brigade General Mario Menéndez, surrendered to Major General Jeremy Moore. 9,800 Argentine troops were made prisoners of war and some 4,167 were repatriated to Argentina on the ocean liner Canberra alone.

    On 20 June the British retook the South Sandwich Islands, (which involved accepting the surrender of the Southern Thule Garrison at the Corbeta Uruguay base) and declared hostilities to be over. Corbeta Uruguay was established in 1976, but the Argentine base was contested only through diplomatic channels by the UK until 1982.

    The war lasted 74 days, with 255 British and 649 Argentine soldiers, sailors, and airmen, and three civilian Falklanders killed.



    In total 907 were killed during the 74 days of the conflict:

    Of the 86 Royal Navy personnel, 22 were lost in HMS Ardent, 19 + 1 lost in HMS Sheffield, 18 + 1 lost in HMS Coventry and 13 lost in HMS Glamorgan. 14 naval cooks were among the dead, the largest number from any one branch in the Royal Navy.

    33 of the British Army's dead came from the Welsh Guards, 21 from the 3rd Battalion, the Parachute Regiment, 18 from the 2nd Battalion, the Parachute Regiment, 19 from the Special Air Service (SAS), 3 from Royal Signals and 8 from each of the Scots Guards and Royal Engineers.

    As well as memorials on the islands, there is a memorial to the British war dead in the crypt of St Paul's Cathedral, London. There is a memorial at Plaza San Martín in Buenos Aires for the Argentine war dead, Malvinas, por siempre argentinas 1.jpg in Rosario, and UshuaiaFalklandsWarVictimsMonument.jpg in Ushuaia.

    There were 1,188 Argentine and 777 British non-fatal casualties, some of whom died of their injuries after the war. Further information about the field hospitals and hospital ships is at Ajax Bay, List of hospitals and hospital ships of the Royal Navy, HMS Hydra and Argentine Navy's ARA Almirante Irizar.

    There are still 125 uncleared minefields on the Falkland Islands and UXOs are scattered all over the battle fields due to the soft peat ground. According to via Falklands 25's "Official Commemorative Publication" 30 British servicemen have died on the islands since the end of the hostilities.

    See also Argentine and British ground forces in the Falklands War


    The Argentine loss of the war led to ever-larger protests against the military regime and is credited with giving the final push to drive out the military government that had overthrown Isabel Perón in 1976 and participated in the crimes of the Dirty War. Galtieri was forced to resign and elections were held on 30 October 1983 and a new president, Raúl Alfonsín, the Radical Civic Union (UCR) party candidate, took office on 10 December 1983, defeating Italo Luder, the candidate for the Justicialist Party (Peronist movement).

    For the UK, the war cost 255 men, six ships (ten others suffered varying degrees of battle damage), 34 aircraft and £2.778 billion, but the campaign was considered a great victory for the United Kingdom. The war provided a substantial boost to the popularity of Margaret Thatcher and undoubtedly played a role in ensuring her re-election in 1983. Several members of her government resigned however, including the Foreign Secretary Lord Carrington, the last time that a UK government minister resigned openly in response to a failure of his department (in not anticipating the war).

    Criticism was leveled at Ted Rowlands, a former junior foreign minister in the preceding government, who disclosed in Parliament in April 1982 that the British had broken the Argentine diplomatic codes. Because the same code machines were used by the Argentine military, this disclosure immediately served to deny British access to valuable intelligence. This, and other responses to parliamentary questions, and leaks of information to the BBC has been alleged by historian Hugh Bicheno to be a deliberate attempt to undermine the Thatcher government on the part of a variety of individuals who had a vested interest in its fall.

    The United States' international image was damaged because of the perception in Latin America that it had broken the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (TIAR) by providing the UK with military supplies.

    Some Latin Americans also perceived Chile to have broken the TIAR because it provided some support for UK troops. But, from Chile's point of view, the situation was seen differently. In 1978 Argentine forces had started (and few hours later aborted) the Operation Soberanía involving invasion of the islands south of the Beagle Channel and the possible invasion of continental Chile. Chile was officially considered an enemy by Argentina and "…anti-Chilean demonstrations in Buenos Aires during euphoric celebrations of the successful Falklands islands occupation…" were cause for concern in Santiago de Chile. The Beagle conflict was still smouldering, Argentina had refused to accept the Pope's arbitration proposal of 1980, and 6 weeks before the Falklands War Argentina provoked the (ARA Gurruchaga) incident with Chile at Deceit Island. Moreover, one of the reasons given for the absence of the Argentine Navy and higher numbers of professional soldiers during the Falklands War was to keep them in reserve in case they were needed against Chile and in his speech of 2 April, Galtieri called Operation Rosario the beginning of the recovery of Argentine sovereignty over the southern territories in general.

    Hence the argument given by Chile for its abstention in the TIAR was the refusal of Argentina to follow resolution 502 of the United Nations. The real cause may be that the erratic Argentine foreign policy (support for USA policy in Central America and looking for support in the Non-Aligned Movement, the planning and starting of a war of aggression against Chile while looking for Chilean support at the TIAR, desire to become a first world country and breaking the cereals embargo against the Soviet Union after the Afghanistan occupation, etc) could bring this new impulse of Argentine nationalism again (as in 1978) to the frontiers of Chile, recognized by the arbitration award in 1977 (both countries submitted this question to binding arbitration under the auspices of the British Crown, but this was then unilaterally repudiated by Argentina). Such issues may also lie behind the improvement of the relations between Chile and UK, which had been seriously damaged by the Sheila Cassidy affair, the use of British made planes during the coup d'état in 1973, and the violations of human rights by the Agusto Pinochet regime. In September 2001 the President of Mexico Vicente Fox cited the Falklands War as proof of the failure of the TIAR.

    Ultimately, the successful conclusion of the war gave a noticeable fillip to British patriotic feeling, with the mobilisation of national identity encapsulated in the so-called "Falklands Factor." Since the failure of the 1956 Suez campaign, the end of Empire and the economic decline of the 1970s which culminated in the Winter of Discontent, Britain had been beset by uncertainty and anxiety about its international role, status and capability. With the war successfully concluded, Thatcher was returned to power with an increased Parliamentary majority and felt empowered to press ahead with the painful economic readjustments of Thatcherism. A second major effect was a reaffirmation of the special relationship between the US and UK. Both Reagan and Weinberger (his Secretary of Defence) received honorary knighthoods for their help in the campaign, but the more obvious result was the common alignment of Britain and the USA in a more confrontational foreign policy against the Soviet bloc, sometimes known as the Second Cold War.

    For the part of the Soviet/Warsaw Pact militaries, the Falklands War forced a re-examination of their estimates of the quality of Western troops, particularly from all-volunteer forces, vis-à-vis conscript-based militaries. The Soviets were under no illusions about how the British relied on the quality of its personnel to compensate for the extreme logistical difficulties the campaign presented, and observed how both sides were using many of the same weapons systems.

    Mobilisation of national identity in Argentina, called the "Malvinas Spirit," has now developed in a constant recovery of the relevant aspects of the Falklands-Malvinas War that boost national self-image.

    In 2007 the British government expressed regrets over the deaths on both sides in the war. Margaret Thatcher was quoted as saying "in the struggle against evil... we can all today draw hope and strength" from the Falklands victory, while former Argentinian President Nestor Kirchner claimed while in office that the UK won a colonial victory and vowed that the islands would one day return to Argentine sovereignty. He augmented this however, with an affirmation that the use of force could never again be used in an attempt to bring this about.


    Militarily, the Falklands conflict remains the largest air-naval combat operation between modern forces since the end of the Second World War. In his Price of Admiralty, military historian Sir John Keegan noted that the brief conflict showed the irremediable vulnerability of surface ships to anti-ship missiles, and, most importantly, to submarines: despite the seemingly limited consequences of the war, it confirmed the dominance of the submarine in naval warfare. This is especially so, Keegan argues, because submarines are far less vulnerable than aircraft to counterattack, being able to approach and destroy their targets with almost complete impunity. However, Keegan's conclusions must remain conjectural since no other naval conflict of consequence has occurred since 1982.

    Neither side achieved total air supremacy; nonetheless, air power proved to be of critical importance during the conflict, due to the isolated, rough landscape of the Falklands in which the mobility of land forces was restricted. Air strikes were staged against ground, sea and air targets on both sides, and often with clear results. All of the UK losses at sea were caused by aircraft or missile strikes (by both the Argentine Air Force and Naval Aviation). The French Exocet missile proved its lethality in air-to-surface operations, leading to retrofitting of most major ships with Close-in weapon systems (CIWS).

    The air war in the Falklands vindicated the UK decision to maintain at least the STOVL aircraft carriers after the retirement of HMS Ark Royal. The domination of air power in major naval engagements was demonstrated, along with the usefulness of carriers and it proved the small but manoeuvrable Sea Harrier as a true fighter. Sea Harriers shot down 21 aircraft with no air-to-air losses themselves, although six Sea Harriers were lost to ground fire and accidents.

    It should be noted that the disparity in figures, with the Argentine fighters failing to shoot down a single Sea Harrier, can be explained by several factors. The air combat training of the British pilots was indisputably superior; limited fighter control was provided by British warships in San Carlos Water, the then almost unparalleled Blue Fox radar, and the extreme manoeuvrability of the Sea Harrier. Additionally the British had the latest AIM-9L Sidewinder missiles, while the only Argentine planes with air-to-air missiles for self defence were the Mirages. The AIM-9Ls had a much wider angle of engagement than the earlier versions employed by the Argentines, which could only effectively engage the rear quarter of an enemy aircraft. The only advantage of the Argentine jets was their higher maximum speed, but Argentine pilots could not benefit from this unless they risked running out of fuel, as was seen in the first air combat of the war when a Mirage IIIEA was forced to attempt a landing at Stanley.

    The logistical capability of the UK armed forces was stretched to the absolute limit in order to mount an amphibious operation so far from a land base, in mountainous islands with few roads. After the war much work was done to improve both the logistical and amphibious capability of the Royal Navy. Task force commander Rear Admiral Sir Sandy Woodward refers to the conflict as "a lot closer run than many would care to believe", reflecting the naval and military belief that few people understood — or understand — the extent to which the logistical dimension made the war a difficult operation for the UK. The ships of the task force could only remain on station for a limited time in the worsening southern hemisphere winter. With such a high proportion of the Royal Navy's surface fleet actively engaged, or lost in combat, there were few units available for northbound traffic. At the core of the fleet, Invincible could possibly have been replaced by the hastily-prepared Illustrious, but there was no replacement available for Hermes, the larger of the two British carriers. Woodward's strategy, therefore, required the land war to be won before Hermes, in particular, succumbed to the harsh environment. Woodward called the operation "a damned close-run thing", quoting the Duke of Wellington after the battle of Waterloo.

    The usefulness of special forces units was reaffirmed. British special forces destroyed many Argentine aircraft (notably in the SAS raid on Pebble Island) and carried out highly informative intelligence-gathering operations. Contrary to popular understanding, the Argentine special forces also patrolled hard, in appalling climatic conditions, against a professional enemy and showed that they could sometimes get the upper hand.

    The usefulness of helicopters in combat, logistic, and casevac operations was confirmed.

    Nylon was shown to be a poor choice for fabric in uniforms, as it is more flammable than cotton and also melts with heat. Burning nylon adheres to the skin, causing avoidable casualties.

    The importance of Airborne Early Warning (AEW) was shown. The Royal Navy had effectively no over-the-horizon radar capability. This was hastily rectified after the war, with Sea King helicopters fitted with retractable radomes containing a variant of the Nimrod ASW aircraft's Searchwater radar. These first travelled south after the war on the brand new HMS Illustrious, sister ship to Invincible.

    Impact on the Royal Navy

    Strained by two oil crises, the United Kingdom's government desired to cut defence spending in line with the rest of Europe. Many former British possessions in Africa and Asia had gained independence from the UK by the 1980s. Due to this decolonisation, successive British governments investigated closing British overseas bases and reducing the UK's armed forces in the belief that capabilities such as a blue water navy were no longer required. The Conservative government's Defence Secretary John Nott produced a white paper in 1981 proposing major cuts for the navy in the next ten years (the army and the RAF had already been tailored for NATO.)

    Denis Healey, the Defence Secretary in 1966, once said that aircraft carriers were required only for operations regarding 'landing or withdrawal of troops against sophisticated opposition outside range of land-based air cover'. When the last conventional carrier in the Royal Navy, HMS Ark Royal, was decommissioned in 1978, the pro-carrier lobby succeeded in acquiring light carriers (euphemistically christened 'through deck cruisers') equipped with VTOL Sea Harriers as well as helicopters, justified by the fact that one of their primary roles was anti-submarine warfare.. John Nott's defence review concluded that anti-submarine defence would be performed more cheaply by a smaller number of destroyers and frigates. The carrier HMS Hermes was therefore to be scrapped and HMS Invincible sold to Australia. Under the review, the Royal Navy was focussed primarily on anti-submarine warfare under the auspices of NATO. Any out-of-area amphibious operations were considered unlikely. The entire Royal Marines was in jeopardy of being disbanded and the sale of HMS Intrepid and HMS Fearless was mooted.

    In 1980 low funding caused many ships to be in harbour for months due to lack of spare parts and fuel. The largest cut in Royal Navy's conventional forces led to the resignation of the Navy Minister Keith Speed in 1981. Sea battles, mass convoys, amphibious landings and coastal bombardments were considered obsolete in the second half of the 20th century. The head of the admiralty, First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Henry Leach was still fighting the cuts in the Ministry of Defence together with the Chief of Defence Staff, who by chance, was also a naval officer — Admiral of the Fleet Sir Terence Lewin.

    At the onset of the crisis, First Sea Lord Sir Henry Leach was summoned to brief the Prime Minister. He claimed that Britain was able to recapture the islands, and that it should be done. "Since here was a clear, imminent threat to British overseas territory that could only be reached by sea, what the hell was the point in having a Navy if it was not used for this sort of thing?. Aware of the necessity for speed, Leach had already given orders for the ships of a potential task force to be prepared for deployment. On 2 April, at a briefing at the House of Commons, Leach advised the Prime Minister that a task force was necessary and could sail within 48 hours. Lewin, who was forced to return from a scheduled visit to New Zealand also impressed on the War Cabinet that the primary objective for the United Kingdom should be: "to bring about the withdrawal of Argentine forces from the Falkland Islands, and the re-establishment of British administration there, as quickly as possible". Inspired, Thatcher ordered the despatch of the Task Force for the South Atlantic.

    After the war, the sale of HMS Invincible to Australia was cancelled, with Hermes offered instead (eventually being sold to India as INS Viraat in 1986), and the operational status of all three support carriers was maintained. The proposed cutback in the surface fleet was abandoned and replacements for many of the lost ships and helicopters plus more Sea Harriers were ordered. The amphibious assault ships HMS Intrepid and HMS Fearless were not decommissioned until 1999 and 2002 respectively, being replaced by HMS Albion and HMS Bulwark. The Royal Navy confirmed its commitment to a carrier force with the order of two Queen Elizabeth class carriers in 2007.

    Weapon export controls

    The Coordinating Committee for Multilateral Export Controls (COCOM) failed to anticipate a conflict between Argentina and the UK when approving weapon exports to Argentina.


    During the operations, several wounded British soldiers had to spend hours in the cold before receiving medical aid—yet no British soldier died who was evacuated to a medical aid station, a fact confirmed by Surgeon Commander Rick Jolly, the Medical Officer In Charge of the refrigeration plant at Ajax Bay (nicknamed "The Red and Green Life machine" by the medics). Many recovered better than medical opinion of the time considered possible, and subsequent theories have suggested that this was due to the extreme cold. Britain also had medical staff familiar with high velocity gunshot wounds, due to their experiences in the Northern Ireland conflict with the IRA.

    The trials of one British patient, Robert Lawrence, MC, were chronicled in a book co-authored by him entitled When The Fighting is Over which was later adapted into a television film. Lawrence was shot at close range by an FN rifle and lost a large percentage of brain matter, but recovered to a degree not thought possible. After the war he became an outspoken critic of the British Army's treatment of Falklands veterans. He remains partially paralysed in the left side of his body.

    Public relations



    La Prensa speculated in a step-by-step plan beginning with cutting off supplies to the Islands, ending in direct actions late 1982, if the UN talks were fruitless.


    Selected war correspondents were regularly flown to Port Stanley in military aircraft to report on the war. Back in Buenos Aires newspapers and magazines faithfully reported on "the heroic actions of the largely conscript army and its successes".

    Officers from the intelligence services were attached to the newspapers and 'leaked' information confirming the official communiqués from the government. The glossy magazines Gente and Siete Días swelled to sixty pages with colour photographs of British warships in flames - many of them faked - and bogus eyewitness reports of the Argentine commandos' guerrilla war on South Georgia 6 May and an already dead Pucará pilot's attack on HMS Hermes (Lt. Daniel Antonio Jukic had been killed at Goose Green during a British air strike on May 1st). Most of the faked photos actually came from the tabloid press.

    The Argentine troops on the Falkland Islands could read Gaceta Argentina—a newspaper intended to boost the morale among the servicemen. Some of its untruths could easily be unveiled by the soldiers who recovered corpses.

    The Malvinas course united the Argentines in a patriotic atmosphere which protected the junta from critics—even the Madres de Plaza de Mayo were exposed to death threats from ordinary people.

    HMS Invincible was repeatedly sunk in the Argentine press, and on 30 April 1982 the Argentine magazine Tal Cual showed UK's PM Thatcher with an eyepatch and the text: Pirate, witch and assassin. Guilty!

    Three British reporters sent to Argentina to cover the war from the 'other side' were jailed until the end of the war.

    United Kingdom

    17 newspaper reporters, two photographers, two radio reporters and three television reporters with five technicians sailed with the Task Force to the war. The Newspaper Publishers' Association selected them from among 160 applicants, excluding foreign media. Due to the hasty departure, not all of them were "the right stuff": two journalists on HMS Invincible were interested in nothing but Queen Elizabeth's son The Prince Andrew. Merchant vessels had the civilian INMARSAT uplink, which enabled written telex as well as voice report transmissions via satellite. On Canberra there was a facsimile machine which was used to upload 202 pictures from the South Atlantic over the course of the war. The Royal Navy leased bandwidth on the US Defense Satellite Communications System for worldwide communications. Television demands a bandwidth 1,000 times greater than telephone, but the MoD was unsuccessful in convincing the US to allocate more bandwidth. Perhaps the enquiry was half-hearted; since the Vietnam War television pictures of casualties and traumatised soldiers were recognised as having negative propaganda value. Videotapes were shipped to Ascension Island, where a broadband satellite uplink was available, resulting in TV coverage being delayed by three weeks.

    The press was very dependent on the Royal Navy, and was censored on site. Many reporters in the UK knew more about the war than those with the Task Force.

    The Royal Navy expected Fleet Street to conduct a World War Two style positive news campaign but the majority of the British media, especially the BBC, reported the war in a neutral fashion. Reporters referred to "the British troops" and "the Argentinian troops" instead of "our lads" and the dehumanised "Argies". The two main tabloid papers presented opposing viewpoints: The Daily Mirror was decidedly anti-war, whilst The Sun became notorious for its jingoistic and xenophobic headlines, including the 20 April headline "Stick It Up Your Junta!", and was condemned for the "Gotcha" headline following the sinking of the ARA General Belgrano.

    The visit of Pope John Paul II

    In May 1982, Pope John Paul II carried out a long-scheduled visit to the United Kingdom. In view of the crisis it was decided that this should be balanced with an unscheduled trip to Argentina in June. It is contended that his presence and words spiritually prepared Argentines for a possible defeat, contrary to the propaganda issued by the Junta. He returned to Argentina in 1987 after the return of democratic government.

    Allegations of nuclear deployment

    It has been reported that two years after the war, Labour MPs demanded an inquiry into reports that a Resolution class submarine armed with the Polaris SLBMs had deployed to Ascension Island during the operation, ostensibly to prepare for a nuclear strike. The Ministry of Defence is reported to have denied the allegations, and Freedman's Official History does the same.

    In 1982, British warships were routinely armed with the WE.177, a tactical nuclear weapon with a variable yield of either 10 kilotons or 0.5 kiloton, which could be used to attack land targets, or as a Nuclear Depth Bomb in an antisubmarine role. The Official History describes the contorted logistical arrangements that led to the removal of the nuclear depth bombs from the frigates, following political alarm in Whitehall. Eventually at least some of the depth bombs were brought back to the UK by an RFA vessel. In December 2003, Argentine President Néstor Kirchner demanded an apology from the British Government for this "regrettable and monstrous" act.

    MI6 activity

    In his 2002 memoirs Sir John Nott, Britain's Secretary of State for Defence during the conflict, made the following disclosure regarding the activities of the UK's Secret Intelligence Service (MI6):

    Norwegian intelligence

    According to a Norwegian TV documentary, during the war the Norwegian signals intelligence facility situated at Fauske in the northern province of Nordland regularly intercepted Soviet satellite intelligence data, which was forwarded to the Northwood Headquarters. Said “a high ranking British military source”:

    When the war broke out, we ourselves almost didn’t have any intelligence information from this area. It was here we got help from the Norwegians, who gave us a stream of information about the Argentine warships’ positions. The information came to us all the time and straight to our war headquarters at Northwood. The information was continuously updated and told us exactly where the Argentine ships were.

    Falklands veterans' afflictions

    The British Ministry of Defence was accused several times of a systematic failure to prepare service personnel for the horrors of war and to provide adequate care for them afterwards.

    There are allegations that the Ministry of Defence has tried to ignore the issue of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which left many sufferers emotionally scarred and unable to work, immersed in social dislocation, alcoholism, and depression. Veterans have suffered prolonged personality disorders, flashbacks, and anxiety sometimes reaching pathological levels.

    It was revealed that more veterans have committed suicide since the Falklands War ended than the number of servicemen killed in action The South Atlantic Medal Association (SAMA82), which represents and helps Falklands veterans, believes that some 264 veterans had taken their own lives by 2002, a number exceeding the 255 who died in active service, although no estimate is available for the expected number of suicides that would have occurred anyway.

    A similar situation afflicts the veterans on the Argentine side, many of whom have similarly suffered from psychiatric disorders, drug and alcohol abuse, and social turmoil. The current Argentine suicide toll is 454, according to an Argentine film about the suicide of a Falklands veteran.

    Cultural impact

    There were wide-ranging influences on popular culture in both the UK and Argentina, from the immediate postwar period to the present. The words yomp and Exocet entered the British vernacular as a result of the war. The Falklands War also provided material for theatre, film and TV drama and influenced the output of musicians including (among others) New Order, Gang of Four, Joe Jackson, Crass, Dire Straits (the song Brothers in arms was played in memory of the dead soldiers) , New Model Army, The Levellers, Steve Dahl, Latin Quarter, the Super Furry Animals, and Elvis Costello, whose song "Shipbuilding", sung by Robert Wyatt, reached the British top 40.

    Pink Floyd's 1983 album, The Final Cut, deals with Roger Waters' feelings regarding the Falklands War, among other war-related topics.

    The 2006 movie This Is England deals with the effects of the war on the Skinhead culture in England.

    In 2006, the power metal band Sabaton released Attero Dominatus. On the album is the song "Back In Control", which is about the Falklands War.


    This war is also occasionally written as The Falklands/Malvinas War, recognising the international split over the Islands' name. Other constructs such as Falklands Conflict and Falklands Crisis have also been used. The term Guerra de las Malvinas or Malvinas War is the one normally used in Spanish-speaking countries and has also been used by some socialist groups in English-speaking countries.

    The name "Guerra del Atlántico Sur", meaning "War of the South Atlantic" is also used in Spanish. Unlike the term "Falklands/Malvinas War", this reflects the fact that some of the conflict occurred in South Georgia, and the deep ocean.



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    • Tinker, Lieut. David, R.N. A Message from the Falklands, The Life and Gallant Death of David Tinker, Lieut. R.N. from his Letters and Poems. Penguin, 1982. ISBN 0-14-006778-7.
    • Thornton, Richard C. 'The Falklands Sting''. Brassey's, 1998. ISBN 1-57488-155-8.
    • Underwood, Geoffrey. Our Falklands War, The Men of the Task Force Tell Their Story. Maritime Books, 1983. ISBN 0-907771-08-4.

    See also

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