Tuesday, 3 April 2012

"It was 30 years ago today..."

"It was 30 years ago today,
Sgt Pepper taught the band to play..."

Who would have thought it?  30 years after a war had ended, feelings and rhetoric would still be running so high?

Liberation Monument, 1/4/2012

I can remember conflicts erupting in the Balkans that seemed to have origins 3 centuries ago.  But I have also seen several countries, like France and Germany, who might be expected to harbour emnity, co-operating and collaborating to make their countries and continent stable and peaceful.  Neighbours need to rub along.

Leaving aside the politics, I, along with many residents and journalists, attended a low-key commemoration service on Sunday, to mark 30 years since the Falklands Islands Defence Force (FIDF) - a largely ceremonial group of local volunteers - were called up to defend the islands against imminent Argentine invasion.

HE The Governor, and the Commander of British Forces, South Atlantic Islands

As many of you were reminded by TV and press reports this week, the invasion did take place, and the small force of 50 Royal Marines stationed in Stanley soon surrendered to the 1,000 Argentine troops, after a short, intense skirmish.  The Marines, and the Governor, Rex Hunt, were deported via Uruguay.  Some of the Marines returned with the British Task Force and re-hoisted the Union Jack over Government House on Liberation Day, 14th June.

The FIDF had been stationed in various parts of Stanley, but had no real experience of soldiery, and were shortly stood down on that first morning, and told to return to their civilian roles.

However, the current FIDF is fully-equipped to work alongside the regular garrison of troops at Mount Pleasant Complex.  They train with live ammunition and take their responsibilities seriously.
Guard of honour leading FIDF volunteers
The Argentine invasion lasted 74 days, and there are several excellent accounts of it from the Falklanders' perspective.  People got on with life as best they could - they were told to drive on the right;  the peso replaced the pound;  a curfew was imposed; colour TV was introduced!** - and many of them were needed to keep essential services like water and power continuing.  All this with 10,000 unwanted guests digging in around them.

For further reading, you could do worse than try some of these books -

There is also a great Twitter feed, Falklands82 @wardiaryF82, which provides daily snippets of the war for each day, 30 years ago.

I expect the Falklands will soon be moved off the front pages by "shock-snow-in-London-at-Easter" headlines.    In the meantime, I hope everyone in the UK has enough petrol and pasties for their needs.   Next week, I'll explain how Stanley is the only place in the world where you can see the all the planets of the Solar System....


And finally....

**  Colour TVs were a rarity in 1982, but few islanders could resist the 2-year hire purchase deal to obtain a television from Argentine suppliers.  Needless to say, no-one made more than one monthly payment, and no-one got in touch to reclaim the sets!  Despite the lack of a local TV service, most people used them to watch videos sent from the UK....


  1. I heard a war veteran (Tony Banks) telling his war experiences today and was horrified by his accounts. The British behaved appallingly (he too) stealing clothing and belongings from their victims - the war dead - the SAS being short of equipment and even boots. They killed even the retreating on land and sea and tried not to take prisoners. I remember it being gross but had not heard the whole horror recounted from someone (British) who was there. It made me very sympathetic to the Argentinians (mostly young 20 year old conscipts). Being a Mother of boys I grieved for the dead on all sides and had an even greater loathing of the warmongerers (- Thatcher especially - and latterly Blair).
    I do hope this escalating situation can be resolved without further blood loss of any of our precious youth.
    The photos are brilliant and your blog so informative. Thanks.

  2. If that guy was there and said these things happened, then I don't doubt it. I've read reports that British troops looted homes in Stanley. But I can't pass judgement on situations that I've no experience of. There's a well-documented incident at Goose Green when 2 British Officers, trying to negotiate a ceasefire, were killed while walking forward, unarmed, under a white flag. A tragic waste of life, and one which no doubt coloured "white flag" situations.

    I watched a Max Hastings' documentary the other night which showed a young Tony Blair fighting the Beaconsfield seat in 1982 - the only election he lost.

    Blair reportedly learned then that short wars are invariably good for Prime Ministers...

    I think the situation will not worsen, because Argentina is progressively becoming more isolated - annoying South American trading partners with ever more stringent import controls to protect its economy. Book imports are now banned. Bananas from Brazil are in short supply, and Argentines cross the River Plate to shop in Montevideo in order to get supplies. The World Trade Organisation will take action over its ignoring of the rules. The USA will cease aid and loans. Christina will find her followers drift away. The government will fall and a more sensible one will replace it. That's my view for the next 5 years.

  3. I am not political so won't argue with Annabelle other than to say what's done is done. the Falklands are free.
    I actually tuned in to share my mirth about the Colour TVs on HP not being paid for.
    Stick it to em boys and girls.