2 April 1982: Argentina invades the Falkland Islands
On this day in 1982 Argentinian forces landed on the Falkland Islands, sparking a bitter, ten week war with Britain.
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 stationed there, and raised the Argentinian flag over Government House.
But if Argentina thought Britain would just give up its 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.