Honestly, a few Exocets going the wrong way and it could have been an utter catastrophe. I do remember as a kid at the time having much the sense of the war as described in the article; and always a feeling that inevitably we were going to win because who were the bloody Argies anyway? However, reading about it later and having got older, bloody hell, Margaret Thatcher fairly rolled the dice on that one. They broke the mold with her.
She fairly rolled the dice with the miners too. It was really silly that she was defenestrated by a stupid poll tax – though that was just an useful excuse to be exploited by her jealous Tory colleagues.
A bit like all those tories submitting confidence letters because Johnson attended some parties. They hate Johnson, like the old tories hated Thatcher – but both of them connect with voters.
Perhaps. A Prime Minister never really has full control of course.
But what she did was give a massive vote of confidence to the armed forces. And they responded in kind – achieving the improbable.
More exocets may have got through yes – but to suggest it was only luck is a disservice to the professionalism of the task force – who performed every manoeuvre and took every measure possible in order to protect themselves and their assets. And it didn’t always work – but worked enough to get the job done.
Edit: another accusation of “luck” that was and is thrown about is how some bombs struck ships but didn’t explode. It wasn’t luck – the Argentine pilots were flying too low for the bombs to fuse in time. That took immense skill and bravery – but was a direct result of the Argentine pilots having to take extreme measures to avoid detection and interception. If they flew higher they’d have been caught and shot down (more than already happened).
(I know you weren’t explicitly or mindlessly criticising with no purpose – but feel this needed saying)
Didn’t the BBC inadvertently tell the Argentinians they were dropping their bombs too low?
Yes! Alongside the other more famous blunders such as revealing San Carlos as the landing location and live broadcasting 2 Para forming up to attack Goose Green.
It’s a good case study in there being some limits to the freedom of the press
I believe that was The Sun. I believe their correspondent was not treated well on the ship on which he was embedded after that.
Thank you. I stand corrected.
Thanks – likewise
For anyone doubting just why the Falklands War had to be fought and whether it was “worth it”, just read Admiral Sir Henry Leach’s words to Margaret Thatcher below.
What price freedom and self-respect ?
Powell was correct here – for a moment, we rediscovered who we are. Decades of efforts by the elites in this country still haven’t erased our identity and out reaction to Ukraine suggests we still know who we are and that some things matter more than short term economics.
On 31 March 1982, soon after the Argentine invasion of the Falklands, Leach brushed aside serious doubts from the Secretary of State for Defence Sir John Nott and addressed the Prime Minister on the appropriate course of action. The Chief of the Defence Staff at the time was on his way back from a foreign visit, and in addressing the Prime Minister, Leach effectively bypassed the Acting Chief of the Defence Staff. When he was asked if retaking the islands was possible, he replied “Yes we can recover the islands.” He then added “and we must!” Thatcher replied “Why?” Leach exclaimed “Because if we do not, or if we pussyfoot in our actions and do not achieve complete success, in another few months we shall be living in a different country whose word counts for little.“
Unfortunately Leach and Thatcher‘s magnificent legacy was totally destroyed by Messrs Blair, Brown, Campbell & Co.
In fact we are now “living in a different country “, where HMG is still pursuing vexatious prosecutions against former Northern Ireland Veterans, despite ‘promises’ not to do so.
I wonder what Leach, Thatcher and Powell would have to say about that?
I’m sorry to disagree with you vehemently, Sir, but members of the British Parachute Regiment were found guilty by courts in their own jurisdiction of unlawfully killing innocent bystanders who were availing of their democratic right to peacefully protest against a bigoted, gerrymandered, sectarian Statelet ‘underwritten’ by a parliament in London at that time simply because it suited their needs and agenda. A couple of generations later and it’s so ironic how the same British Establishment and Elite are now so unwilling to ‘underwrite’ the very same Statelet and categorically guaratee its staus within the United Kingdom.
Whilst I agree with much of what you say here, I don’t think calling N. Ireland a “statelet” is fair, in fact it is perjorative. The people there consider it to be a self-governing county within the United Kingdom much like Wales or Scotland (but, frustratingly, not England), and none of those would appreciate being refered to in those terms.
The concept of a “self-governing country within the United Kingdom “ is a dangerous delusion that may lead to a Civil War in the not too distant future.
The rhetoric coming from North Britain* is just one example of how nationalistic passions, long thought dormant, have been reignited by this nonsense. We have only Blair to blame.
(* Sometimes referred to as Scotland .)
What precisely are you referring to Sir?
Not the Ballymurphy incident by any chance?
I’m not sure the Northern Ireland prosecutions are vexatious. We should cut soldiers a lot of slack when they are under huge stress for example, by Afghan insurgents using ambushes, IEDs etc. But there is little doubt now surely that at Bloody Sunday the Paras were out to ‘teach the mick’s a lesson’, or something like that and ended up shooting many unarmed civilians in the back. Apart from anything else it was a complete political disaster and greatly strengthened support for the Provisional IRA.
There was never any question that the 1982 invasion by Argentina of The Falklands was a fait accompli, moreover. People back then spun their globes and surmised the direction to travel more than the distance. In fact, such was the go-it-alone response that I cannot recall any calling upon Britain’s European neighbours for help. And I wonder to this day what the Continental papers said about it all. A good piece, the above, and a reminder that many First World War veterans were alive and kicking in 1982.
Interesting, is it not, that the reaction of the WWI veteran seems to indicate that the war poets of that conflict did not speak for their generation? It’s kind of Orwellian in a “he who controls the past controls the present” kind of way.
The later popularity of poets like Owen, Sassoon and Graves obscures the fact that far more popular with the troops were the patriotic poems about fighting for king and country, sticking it to the hun, and so on.
In fact most of the modern understanding of the war came from theatre and literature and would have been baffling to the majority of the soldiers who didn’t see it as the pointless sacrifice which characterises popular understanding of the trenches.
… if it was not for the endless poetry.
Ernst Junger certainly “wanted to be there”, and was very disappointed when it was all over, as I recall. Good man!
I was about to mention this myself before I saw your post. Such a great book.
I gather the original version is rather more forthright than later editions
You might find the book “Mud, Blood and Poppycock” by Gordon Corrigan interesting. I thought this was a wonderful examination of WW1, and it takes apart many of the myths that have become the accepted narrative.
Just as an aside I remember being at a musem in Ypres in c2006, whle visiting the grave of a family member, I was with my brother and we were parroting the view of WW1 taught to us at school, we were obviously overheard by a local man (he looked in his forties) who took us vehemently to task for denigrating our own country and what it did for Belgium. I was suitably chastened and started to research the war myself. By the way, war poetry was used for a lot of our teaching at school.
Not the same Gordon Corrigan who was Clerk of the Course at the Happy Valley Racecourse in Hong Kong by any chance?
I knew that he was an ex-officer in the Royal Gurkha Rifles and a military historian, but you’re right, he also seems to have joined the Hong Kong Jockey Club.and served as Clerk of the Course.
Yes, an extaordinary chap, an Ulsterman who became a Gurkha.
I haven’t read any of his work but thanks for the recommendation for ‘Mud, Blood and Poppycock, what a splendid title!
A brief call to HQ Old Farts has also given the book a ringing endorsement.
Just ordered it, thank you.
Thank you for the recommendation. I just ordered it.
“ Storm of Steel” by the German Ernst Junger is a far better read than most of ‘our’ stuff, and certainly far more exhilarating than say Remarque.
One First World War veteran was still alive and kicking in 2009.
Good grief? Did I really say that? That “there was never any question that the 1982 invasion by Argentina of The Falklands was a fait accompli”?
On the contrary, what I meant was that there was never any question (from the British perspective) that it was NOT a fait accompli. Maybe you guys thought I meant that anyway. (Without cool heads, some in the Establishment might have been prone to thinking that the game was up: that Argentina had the islands and that was it).
The admirable Admiral who spoke with the PM as much as told her that the invasion was NOT a fait accompli and that the country ought to act and retake the islands.
So, sorry for my faux pas.
Then, and for so long, a country “always staunch in the defence of freedom”. Now, a country whose next Prime Minister is very likely to be Sir Keir Starmer, a man who never saw a freedom he didn’t want to ban, curb, lockdown or regulate.
I’d be surprised…
It’s not going to be Keir Starmer. England is not voting for Labour/SNP rule. Or the gender nonsense.
No, ‘Fat Man’ should pull it off again, with any luck.
Surely the greatest significance of the Falklands war was that it won Margaret Thatcher her second term in office. Before Argentina invaded the Falklands it was looking like the Tories were going to lose the 1983/4 election.
Thanks to victory in the Falklands, Thatcher won a second and a third term in office which gave rise to the transformative legislation on markets and nationalised industries which laid the foundations for increasing national prosperity in the 1990’s.
It also ended the Argentine military junta and brought them democracy. No small benefit.
An excellent evocation of those stirring events forty years ago that absolutely ‘made’ Margaret Thatcher. It was almost like a ‘gift from heaven’ for her, and she certainly rose to the occasion.
However let us not forget, that just as twenty six years previously at Suez, one word from US President Ronald Reagan would have stopped the whole thing dead in its tracks. Thank you Ronald!
The reference to the slimy Edward du Cann was well chosen. No other contemporary Tory epitomised the greasy, corrupt, smug side of the Tory Party as Mr du Cann. Fortunately men of his ilk were very much in the minority, and readers will rejoice to hear he died in well deserved exile and ignominy in Cyprus.
For the rest of today perhaps we should discuss the effectiveness or otherwise of, and in no particular order, the SAS, Sea Harrier, 5 Brigade, Bluff Cove/Fitzroy, the Belgrano, and the presence or otherwise of US mercenaries fighting for the Argies, for starters.
After the Belgrano and Sheffield were sunk, Reagan called Maggie and said she should accept the Peruvian Peace Plan (which did not give the Islanders a veto…) She was minded to accept, but Galtieri and company rejected the Plan out of hand.
Thanks, after all these years I am a bit hazy on the chronology!
I seem to recall that US General Haig was also being a bit of a pest?
My source was Mr Sandbrook’s “Who Dares Wins” 🙂
How come you reference 5 Bde specifically?
All that stuff about I WG failing to cross the Sussex Mts, the c*ck up over Bluff Cove & Fitzroy, and off course the sudden departure of the Brigade Commander at the conclusion of the campaign.
I assume he meant some of the islanders are descended from people who were there in the 1830s.
The fact that it is 40 years ago is telling. I doubt the UK would be able to mount such an operation again. With scepticism over foreign adventures after the Iraq war (Blair’s deceptions over WMD and the disastrous outcome), and the huge cuts in the defence budget (from 4% of GDP in 1980, to 2% now), it is inconceivable to me that a similar operation acting alone on the other side of the world would be sanctioned. ‘Global Britain’ ruling the waves is a fiction of the imagination.
We wouldn’t need to mount such an operation today, because while HM Armed Forces are far too small they do have capabilities that weren’t there in 1982. There are only four or five countries that could stop us parking a carrier group off their coast and simply destroying whatever we felt like until they backed down. Argentina isn’t one of them.
“…perfectly calculated to stir the hearts of a seafaring people who had grown up with tales of Drake and Nelson.”
Alas, no longer I think.
A Tory minister goes to the Falklands to tell the locals to make an accommodation with a dictatorship. The dictatorship then takes a gamble that Britain will not be interested in reclaiming the islands if they invade. Doing so will restore said dictatorship’s popularity.
The invasion having taken place, the Tory government must retake the islands or most likely fall. They reverse what must have been their original policy, otherwise why was the Tory minister sent there in the first place? Surely a failure of that policy. But it can be made out to be a success when told from another angle, just like the development of the Boeing 747 can be made out to a be success when the story is not told from the angle of Boeing’s attempted development of their SST.
Was it Georgian to tell British colonials to make an arrangement to be ruled by foreign potentates? Thatcher is held in derision because of the Falklands Effect on her popularity. Whereas the derision should stem from how underserved it was, given the job she gave her minister to attempt to persuade the Islands away. There’s nothing in that policy of Davison’s bold quote from Exodus on the medal he had produced for the ratings of HMS Victory who took part in the battle of Trafalgar – The Lord is a man of war.
The expedition was entirely justified and the Argentine invasion was itself a colonial land grab. No Falkland islanders wanted to live under Argentine rule.
I seem to recall Michael Foot of all people supporting the Falklands Task Force. Would the modern Labour Party or indeed much of our woke and naïve younger population do the same? Foreigners are usually in the right! I also believe the whole thing would not now be militarily possible, as the Task Force so nearly was 40 years ago – I’m happy to be corrected on that.
Of course we now know that there were also some almost criminal military blunders, which led to the unnecessary deaths of hundreds of British soldiers and sailors. These included sailing largely unarmed cargo vessels during daylight, the completely unnecessary assault on Goose Green and the sea expedition round the south coast of Falkland, dispersing rather than concentrating British forces.
There were far more important benefits, which benefitted our military: the exposure ( excuse the pun) of wholly inadequate boots, lack of waterproof clothing and other infantry kit was one, and the baring of The Royal Navy’s inability to run the ” command and control” of any war, and the low quality of many of its Officers was another. Thatcher’s cynical use of the campaign as a personal PR exercise had been highlighted in the recent TV documentary, and its interference, as witnesses by the two General Michaels ( please note, both ex Foot Guards) was positively frightening, as were the closeness to defeat that it caused.
Yes, I’ve just watched the documentary. Fascinating and a tad frightening….
As a former recruit of the Guards Depot I am surprised that you believe everything you see on television.
Nothing is ever perfect in war, neither kit, nor command, you just have to ‘muddle’ through and trust that the enemy is in an even more chaotic state than yourself*.
Incidentally what ever the claims of the two (Guards) “General Michaels”, the Household Division (HD) did not exactly cover itself in glory in the Falklands. Frankly they should never have been sent in the first place, as there were other fitter, better trained, Infantry
Battalions available elsewhere.
The is no doubt that the HD lobbied hard to be included in this, the ‘last British Hurrah’, but to use that terrible contemporary expression, they were found to be “not fit for purpose”.
Finally, and without wishing to be cruel, your syntax needs to improve.
(* Which is normally the case.)
My cousin was posted to the Falklands shortly after the war and brought back some anecdotes which the Sun and the official handouts omitted. Like the battle where the Argies allegedly outnumbered our lads 1,400 to 400 and were still defeated. The problem was that a lot of the Argies were 14 year old raw recruits, some with their school crayons still on them. They had been told that they were in Tierra del Fuego and, no surprise, were not going to fight to the last boy against a tightly disciplined team of highly trained killers.
My cousin got a ride out by Hercules in what was probably the most expensive airlift since the Luftwaffe’s attempt to supply Stalingrad. The one problem with this wonderful workhorse (apart from the chemical toilet in the corner) was its limited range. The runway at Stanley had not yet been extended to take big jets. So you needed a relay of five tankers to get the Hercules down to Stanley. The RAF tankers themselves had a limited range and had to refuel each other.
The Hercules pilot had to be prepared to fly 24 hours non stop. After flying down from Ascension, Stanley might be fog bound and you had to be ready to fly all the way back to Ascension with tanker support. And each refuelling up and down involved a terrifying dive from 25,000 to 10,000 feet with tanker and Herc coupled. The maximum speed of the prop driven Herc was close to the stalling speed of the old jet bombers converted to tankers.
Each trip thus cost £250,000. Including the one where they flew Maggie out. As it would not be fitting to get a female PM to use the chemical bucket, they put a small caravan inside for her comfort needs.
I’m a Yank, but I have a particular affection for England at the moment of the Falklands War. My wife and I were on a belated honeymoon in the UK during the war and remember watching Thatcher whisking out of Downing Street in a black limousine heading to some crisis meeting elsewhere and reading the headlines referred to in the article as the came out as we traveled north — didn’t get as far north as we’d planned because we stopped in York for three days instead of the originally planned one. Yes, it does seem to have done Britain good.
We are in desperate need of another hinge moment now.
The Falklands, is 12,200 km from Great Britain and 430 km from Argentina. US$600,000 was spent per inhabitant in retaking the islands US$2.4m per family, a fortune then. In a census in 2012 only 31% of Falkland inhabitants associated themselves with Britain. 900 people died in the Falklands war, 1 for every 2 inhabitants.
What a bargain then!
Is any of this relevant?
And your point is ?
I think his point is obvious: cost-benefit ratio. By that metric, it was a stupid war. The principle of territorial defence as a thing in itself is somewhat harder to quantify.
I believe what was said was that they considered themself Falkland Islanders first and British second, not that unreasonable, many people consider themselves English first and British second, and they live in Britain. Perhaps it would be better to take the 2013 referendum when, with a >90% turnout, 98% wanted to remain British with only 3 voting against. The Argentine President said that the Falkland islanders’ wishes were not relevant in a territorial dispute; maybe she’ll ask for a recount or a “people’s” referendum.
I think that’s call principle. I do not think it translate into US
Only three islanders died, but all were freed, have been free ever since, and will be free always, God willing.
255 British service men died (and of course there were terrible wounds), but they died doing the duty for which they enlisted, as have many in Iraq and Afghanistan, for less clear reasons.
649 Argentinian servicemen died. I’m sorry for them, because they were sent to an unprovoked war by a military dictatorship. Thank goodness we won, because rather than strengthen that junta as intended, it caused its downfall.
If you still doubt that Britain did the right thing, then you are in a small minority, even if that minority is over-represented in broadcasting.
As has been noted in other comments, the medium and long term economic benefits to Britain were enormous.
It restored Britain’s self respect and purpose.
And the Argentine defeat finished off the military junta and brought them democracy.
Finally, where would Britain’s reputation in the world have stood without taking a stand ?
Fortunately we were not governed by accountants at that particular moment in 1982.
So it’s all about an economic calculation is it? Maybe Britain might not have been capable of doing anything about the Argentine invasion, but in the event it could, and it was right to do so.
It is absurd to imply as you do that the Falkland islanders might have been just as accepting of Argentinian rule as of British. Of course they have a somewhat different identity to the mainland British, but exactly the same can be said of the Gibraltarians who are similarly determined they do not want to come under Spanish rule. Oh, but it would look neater on a map if they did!
The problem with your kind of analysis is that the Argentine junta, or the current Russian dictatorship will never make it!