2 April 1982: Argentina invades the Falkland Islands

The  Falkland Islands were first settled by the French – in 1764 Louis Antoine de Bougainville established a settlement there. The British turned up some time later, but left in 1774. They did leave a note saying not to touch them, however, because they belonged to King George.

By the time the British did return in 1833, Argentina had claimed the islands, and had stationed a garrison there to back this up. But they were booted out, and the islands have been in British hands ever since.

Well, apart from 74 days in 1982.

In the 1980s, Argentina was having a few political and economic problems. The 1976 coup had left a military junta in charge. But by the early ’80s, it was becoming increasingly unpopular, with a collapsing economy, rampant inflation, and government death squads ‘disappearing’ thousands of political opponents.

To divert the public’s attention from all the unpleasantness, General Leopoldo Galtieri decided to whip up a bit of nationalistic fervour by reclaiming the ‘Malvinas’ for the motherland.

And so, on 2 April 1982, 3,000 Argentinian troops landed, quickly put an end to the resistance of the 80 or so Royal Marines, and raised the Argentinian flag over Government House.

But if Argentina thought Britain would just give up their remote windswept possession 8,000 miles away, they were wrong. Mrs Thatcher, her own popularity waning, decided to fight back.

A naval task force was dispatched within days. Vulcan bombers flew raids from Ascension Island, 4,000 miles away, in an attempt to put the Port Stanley airport out of action. Harrier jump jets played a starring role. Foreign correspondents made their names.

The bitter war lasted just ten weeks. By 14 June, it was all over. Britain had retaken the islands. Over 900 people were dead.

Today, Argentina is in dire economic straits. The government’s popularity is fading. Populists are whipping up a nationalist frenzy over the Malvinas…

  • rufus_t

    I think “booted out” is somewhat harsh, the captain of the ship sent to the Falkland Islands, to check up on them (HMS Clio) read as follows:

    “I have to acquaint you, I have received directions from his excellency the commander-in-chief of his Britannic Majesty’s ships and vessels of war, South American station, in the name of his Britannic majesty, to exercise the “rights of sovereignty over these islands.” It is my intention to hoist, tomorrow morning, the national flag of Great Britain on shore, when I request you will be pleased to haul down your flag on shore, and withdraw your forces, taking with you all stores, etc. belonging to your government. I am, Sir, your most obedient humble servant.”
    This was addressed to the second in command of the garrison (which had been in place for less than six months, had already mutinied once, killing the commanding officer). The civilian settlers, who had asked for and received British permission to settle there, were actively encouraged to stay, and all but four (two Uruguayans and two Brazilians) did.

  • Cuco Qqo

    8,000 miles away, the difference between colonialism and national sovereignty. Las malvinas son argentinas.

    • Barry Scarfe

      Irrelevant ‘argument’. The Channel Islands are extremely close to France (one of them called Alderney is just 8 MILES AWAY from the French coastline) yet the Republic of France doesn’t claim sovereignty over them. Las Malvinas son Britannicos!