Falkland’s War 1982
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 and 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 Friday, 2 April 1982, with the Argentine invasion and occupation of the Falkland Islands and South Georgia. Britain launched a naval task force to engage the Argentine Navy and Argentine Air Force, and retake the islands by amphibious assault. The conflict ended with the Argentine surrender on 14 June 1982, and the islands remained under British control.
The war lasted 74 days. It resulted in the deaths of 257 British and 649 Argentine soldiers, sailors, and airmen, and the deaths of 3 civilian Falklanders. It is the most recent external conflict to be fought by the UK without any allied states and the only external Argentine war since the 1880s.
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 characterised by Argentina as the re-occupation of its own territory, and by the UK as an invasion of a British dependent territory.
As of 2010 and as it has since the 19th century, Argentina shows no sign of relinquishing its claim. The claim remained 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 ruling 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. Over time, 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.
Relations between Argentina and UK were restored in 1989 under the umbrella formula which states that the islands’ sovereignty dispute would remain aside.
Events leading to the Falklands War
In the period leading up to the war, and especially following the transfer of power between military dictators General Jorge Rafael Videla and General Roberto Eduardo Viola in late-March 1981, Argentina had been 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. In December 1981 there was a further change in the Argentine military regime bringing to office a new junta headed by General Leopoldo Galtieri (acting president), Brigadier Basilio Lami Dozo and Admiral Jorge Anaya. Anaya was the main architect and supporter of a military solution for the long standing claim over the islands, calculating that the United Kingdom would never respond militarily.
In doing so the Galtieri government hoped to mobilise Argentines’ long-standing patriotic feelings towards the islands and thus divert public attention from the country’s chronic economic problems and the regime’s ongoing human rights violations.
Such action would also bolster its dwindling legitimacy. The newspaper 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.
The ongoing tension between the two countries over the islands increased on 19 March when a group of hired Argentine 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.
Admiral Jorge Anaya ardent malvinist and anglophobe, was the driving force in the Junta’s decision to invade.
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 Argentines that Britain was unwilling, and would soon be unable, to defend its territories and subjects in the Falklands.
The Governor is informed
Governor Rex Hunt was informed by the British Government of a possible Argentine invasion on 1 April 1982. At 3:30 pm that day he received a telegram from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office stating:
We have apparently reliable evidence that an Argentine task force could be assembling off Stanley at dawn tomorrow. You will wish to make your dispositions accordingly.
The Governor summoned the two senior Royal Marines officers of Naval Party 8901 to Government House in Stanley to discuss the options for defending the Falklands. He said during the meeting: “Sounds like the buggers mean it”.
Major Mike Norman was given overall command of the Marines due to his seniority, while Major Gary Noott became the military advisor to Governor Hunt. The total strength was 68 Marines and 11 sailors, which was greater than would normally have been available because the garrison was in the process of changing over – both the replacements and the troops preparing to leave were in the Falklands at the time of the invasion.
This was decreased to 57 when 22 Royal Marines embarked aboard the Antarctic patrol ship HMS Endurance to observe Argentine soldiers based at South Georgia. The Royal Navy, on the other hand, states that a total of 85 marines were present at Stanley.
Their numbers were reinforced by at least 25 Falkland Islands Defence Force (FIDF) members.
Graham Bound, an islander who lived through the Argentine occupation, reports in his book Falkland Islanders At War that the higher figure of approximately 40 (both serving and past) members of the FIDF reported for duty at their Drill Hall.
Their commanding officer, Major Phil Summers, tasked the volunteer militiamen with guarding such key points as the telephone exchange, the radio station and the power station.
Skipper Jack Sollis, on board the civilian coastal ship Forrest, operated his boat as an improvised radar screen station off Stanley. Two other civilians, former Royal Marine Jim Alister and a Canadian citizen, Bill Curtiss, also offered their services to the Governor.
The Argentine amphibious operation began in the late evening of Thursday 1 April, when the destroyer ARA Santisima Trinidad disembarked special naval forces south of Stanley. The bulk of the Argentine force was to land some hours later from the amphibious warfare ship ARA Cabo San Antonio near the airport, on a beach previously marked by frogmen from the submarine ARA Santa Fe. The operation had been called Azul (Blue) during the planning stage, but it was finally renamed Rosario (Rosary).
ARA Santa Fe
The very first move of Operation Rosario was the reconnaissance of Port William by the submarine ARA Santa Fe and the landing of 14 members of the tactical divers group near Cape Pembroke, including the commander of this elite unit, Captain Cufré. The reconnaissance mission began as early as 31 March, when the trawler Forrest was spotted through the periscope at 10:00 PM off Port Stanley.
The next day, the Santa Fe learned that the authorities in Stanley were aware of the Argentine plans, so a change was necessary. Instead of landing right on Pembroke, the commandos would initially take a beach near Menguera Point, south of Kidney Island.
They left the Santa Fe at 1:40 PM. From the beach, the special troops headed towards Pembroke peninsula in Zodiac boats. They reached Yorke Bay at 4:30 AM of 2 April. After planting beacons for the main landing, they took over the airstrip and the lighthouse without resistance. Argentine sources claim that they captured a few prisoners. This team was later given the task of gathering and taking in custody the Royal Marines after the British surrender.
Attack on Moody Brook Barracks
On the night of 1/2 April 1982, the destroyer ARA Santísima Trinidad halted 500 metres off Mullet Creek and lowered 21 Gemini assault craft into the water.
They contained 84 special forces troopers of Lieutenant-Commander Guillermo Sánchez-Sabarots’ 1st Amphibious Commandos Group and a small party under Lieutenant-Commander Pedro Giachino, who was normally 2IC of the 1st Marine Infantry Battalion, that was to capture Government House.
The Argentine Rear Admiral Jorge Allara, through a message radioed from Santisima Trinidad, had requested to Rex Hunt a peaceful surrender, but the proposal was rejected.
Amphibious landing at Yorke Bay
There was a more pressing action on the eastern edge of Stanley. Twenty US-built LVTP-7A1 Argentine tracked amphibious armoured personnel carriers from Lieutenant-Commander Guillermo Cazzaniga’s 1st Amphibious Vehicles Battalion, carrying D and E Companies of the 2nd Marine Infantry Battalion (BIM-2) from Puerto Belgrano, had been landed from the tank landing ship ARA Cabo San Antonio at Yorke Bay, and were being watched by a section of Royal Marines under the command of Lieutenant Bill Trollope.
The armoured column trundled along the Airport Road into Stanley, with three Amtracs (Numbers 05, 07 and 19) in the vanguard, and, near the Ionospheric Research Station, at exactly 7:15 am, was engaged by a section of Royal Marines with anti-tank rockets and machine guns.
Battle for Government House
Lying on a small hillock south of Government House, Lieutenant-Commander Pedro Giachino faced the difficulty of capturing this important objective with no radio and with a force of only sixteen men. He split his force into small groups, placing one on either side of the house and one at the rear. Unknown to them, the Governor’s residence was the main concentration point of the Royal Marines, who outnumbered the Commandos by two to one.
The first attack against this building came at 6.30 a.m., barely an hour before the Yorke Bay amphibious landing, when one of Giachino’s platoons, led by Lieutenant Gustavo Lugo, started to exchange fire with the British troops inside the house.
At the same time, Giachino himself, with four of his subordinates, entered the servants’ annexe, believing it to be the rear entrance to the residence. Three Royal Marines, Corporals Mick Sellen and Fleet and Marine Harry Dorey, who were placed to cover the annexe, beat off the first attack. Giachino was hit instantly as he burst through the door, while Lieutenant Diego Garcia Quiroga was shot in the arm. The remaining three retreated to the maid’s quarters.
Giachino was not dead, but very badly wounded. An Argentine paramedic, Corporal Ernesto Urbina, attempted to get to Giachino but was wounded by a grenade. Giachino, seeing what had happened, pulled the pin from a hand grenade and threatened to use it. The Royal Marines then attempted to persuade the officer to get rid of the grenade so that they could give him medical treatment, but he refused, preventing them from reaching his position. After the surrender of the British forces at Government House, some three hours later, Giachino was taken to Stanley Hospital but died from loss of blood.
At the Governor’s office, Major Norman received a radio report from Corporal York’s section, which was positioned at Camber peninsula, observing any possible Argentine ship entering Stanley Harbour. The Corporal proceeded to report on three potential targets in sight and which should he engage first. What are the targets? the Major enquired. Target number one is an aircraft carrier, target number two is a cruiser, at which point the line went dead.
Corporal York decided to withdraw his section and proceeded to booby trap their Carl Gustav recoilless rifle, before paddling their Gemini assault boat north across Port William.
As he did so, York claimed an Argentine destroyer began pursuing them (the corvette ARA Granville according to Argentine sources). His initiative led to the Gemini reaching an anchored Polish fishing vessel, hiding the small assault boat under her shadow. They patiently waited for a chance, before moving to the shore and landing on a small beach.
Back at Government House, the Argentine commandos’ pressure continued unabated. There is some evidence that their use of stun grenades and their continuous shift of firing positions during the battle led the Royal Marines inside to believe they were facing a company of marines and were hopelessly outnumbered.
Actually, after the failure of Giachino’s platoon to break into the residence, the British were surrounded by only a dozen elite troops. These men were under Lieutenant Lugo, Giachino’s Second-in-Command. The Land Rovers used by the Royal Marines were disabled by automatic gunfire from the commandos.
Governor Hunt called Patrick Watts (at the radio station, Radio Stanley), by telephone and said he believed the assaulting force to be the equivalent of a reinforced company:
We’re staying put here, but we are pinned down. We can’t move.(…) They must have 200 around us now. They’ve been throwing rifle grenades at us; I think there may be mortars, I don’t know. They came along very quickly and very close, and then they retreated. Maybe they are waiting until the APCs come along and they think they’ll lose less casualties that way.
Corporal Geordie Gill along with Corporal Terry Pares, both snipers, also claimed to have shot several Argentines through the chest and head as they attempted to scatter along the hillside overlooking Government House:
We dropped a number of Argentinians as they approached and I had a couple in my sights and made sure they were taken out of the game. It was initially estimated that we had killed five and injured seventeen, but we only counted the bodies that we saw drop in front of us.
Major Norman’s estimate is that corporals Pares and Gills killed or wounded some five Argentine special forces:
Corporals Pares and Gill, were doing an excellent job. Gill would look through his sniper scope and tell Pares where the enemy were and Pares would fire ten rounds rapid, and as soon as that got them on the move, Gill would take them out with the sniper rifle. They took out four or five this way and all the time they were giving the rest of us a running commentary.
Eventually, Hunt decided to enter talks with Argentine commanders around 8 o’clock. The liaison was Vice-Commodore Hector Gilobert, the head in the islands of LADE, the Argentine government’s airline company. Gilobert and a Governor’s deputy went to the Argentine headquarters displaying a white flag. A de facto ceasefire was put in place at that time which was occasionally breached by small arms fire.
The Governor’s envoys found the Argentine commanding post at Stanley’s Town Hall. The Argentine chief accepted the British offer of a face to face meeting with Hunt at his battered office.
While the negotiations were still going on, another incident occurred inside the residence. Three Argentine tactical divers who survived the first skirmish along the compound inadvertently alerted Major Noott to their presence, while they had been preparing to leave their hiding place.
The Major fired his Sterling submachine gun into the ceiling of the maid’s room. According to British reports, the stunned commandos tumbled down the stairs, laying their weapons on the ground.
They became the first Argentine prisoners of war of the Falklands War, although by then Governor Hunt had already been in contact with Argentine officials negotiating the terms of surrender.
The version of the commander of the tactical frogmen, Lieutenant Commander Alfredo Raúl Cufré, who was then at Stanley airport, is that the three divers kept their fighting position right to the end of the hostilities.
Admiral Carlos Büsser, commander in chief of the operation, states that a cease fire was already in place when the three commandos, after realising that the battle was coming to a close and that any loss of life at the time would be futile, laid down their arms to the marines in order to assist the wounded. Just a few minutes after this event, Government house capitulated.
Meanwhile, the Royal Marines in the House saw the approaching Amtracs that had been engaged earlier by Lieutenant Trollope and his section. The vehicles pushed on toward Moody Brook to link up with Sánchez-Sabarots forces.
His amphibious commandos were plodding slowly along the road to reinforce their colleagues besieging Government House after taking some prisoners near the racecourse.
Major Norman had earlier advised Governor Hunt that the Royal Marines and the Governor could break out to the countryside and set up a ‘seat of government’ elsewhere, but when he finally met the commander-in-chief of the Argentine operations, Admiral Büsser, he agreed to surrender his troops to the now overwhelming Argentine forces at 9:30 AM.
Hunt would later reveal in London that the defenders fired 6,000 rounds in the fighting at Government House and elsewhere.
After the surrender, the Royal Marines and the members of the FIDF were then herded onto the playing fields. Pictures and film were taken of the British prisoners arranged face-down on the ground. This was probably an attempt to demonstrate the lack of British casualties, but it backfired: The images galvanised the British public when they were broadcast on television and increased public opposition to the invasion.
Soon afterward, the Royal Marines were moved to a C-130 Hercules transport aircraft, which would take them to Comodoro Rivadavia, where they were to be picked up by another airliner to Uruguay and on to the United Kingdom.
Members of FIDF were not taken to Argentina along with members of NP 8901; instead they were disarmed and returned to their homes.
As the Marines were being taken to Montevideo, one of them said to an Argentine guard “don’t make yourself too comfy here mate, we’ll be back”.
Corporal York’s section remained at large. On 4 April, they reached a secluded shepherd’s hut owned by a Mrs Watson. York had no radio, and due to worries about possible civilian deaths, chose to surrender to Argentine forces. They gave their position to the Argentine Army using a local islander’s radio, and York subsequently ordered his men to destroy and then bury their weapons.
In Buenos Aires, huge flag-waving crowds flooded the Plaza de Mayo upon hearing the news. Argentina’s losses in the operation were one dead and three wounded. In London, where the bad news was fully known from Argentine sources, the government was in a state of shock. The crisis prompted the resignation of the British Foreign Secretary, Lord Carrington.
Invasion of South Georgia
The invasion of South Georgia, also known as the Battle of Grytviken, took place on 3 April 1982, when Argentine naval forces seized control of the east coast of South Georgia after overpowering a small group of Royal Marines at Grytviken.
The Argentine intervention had begun on 19 March, when a group of civilian scrap metal workers illegally arrived at Leith Harbour on board the transport ship ARA Bahía Buen Suceso and raised the Argentine flag. The scrap workers had been infiltrated by Argentine marines posing as civilian scientists.
Initial British response to the invasion
Word of the invasion apparently first reached Britain via amateur radio.
The retaking of the Falkland Islands was considered extremely difficult: the main constraint was the disparity in deployable air cover (the British having 34 Harrier aircraft against Argentina’s 220 jet fighters).
The U.S. Navy considered a successful counter-invasion by the British to be ‘a military impossibility’. The United States initially tried to mediate an end to the conflict.
However, when Argentina refused the U.S. peace overtures, U.S. Secretary of State Alexander Haig announced that the United States would prohibit arms sales to Argentina and provide material support for British operations.
Both Houses of the U.S. Congress passed resolutions supporting the U.S. action siding with the United Kingdom.
By mid-April, the Royal Air Force had set up an airbase at Wideawake on the mid-Atlantic British overseas territory of Ascension Island, including a sizeable 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 active service. A small force had already been sent south to recapture 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 Atlantic.Several of these flights were intercepted by BAE Sea Harriers outside the British-imposed exclusion zone; the unarmed 707s were not attacked because diplomatic moves were still in progress and the UK had not yet decided to commit itself to armed force.
On 23 April a Brazilian commercial Douglas DC-10 from VARIG Airlines en route to South Africa was intercepted by British Harriers who visually identified the civilian plane.
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 Service (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, however, 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. 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.
On 25 April, after resupplying the Argentine garrison in South Georgia, the submarine ARA Santa Fe was spotted on the surface 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
On 1 May British operations on the Falklands opened with the “Black Buck 1” attack (of a series of five) on the airfield at Stanley.
A Vulcan bomber from Ascension flew on a 8,000-nautical-mile (15,000 km; 9,200 mi) round trip dropping conventional bombs across the runway at Stanley and back to Ascension.
The flights required several Victor tanker aircraft operating in concert including tanker to tanker refuelling. The overall effect of the raids on the war is difficult to determine, and the raids consumed precious tanker resources from Ascension.
The raids did minimal damage to the runway and damage to radar installations 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 some of its Mirage IIIs from Southern Argentina to the Buenos Aires Defence Zone.
This dissuasive effect was however watered down when British officials made clear that there would be no strikes on air bases in Argentina.
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 that was too short to support fast jets. Therefore, the Argentines were forced to launch their major strikes from the mainland, severely hampering their 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 BAE Sea Harriers operating from HMS Invincible. A Dagger (piloted by Osvaldo Ardiles’ cousin Jose), 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 was 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, 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.
Various options to attack the home base of the five Argentine Etendards at Río Grande were examined and discounted (Operation Mikado), subsequently five Royal Navy submarines lined up, submerged, on the edge of Argentina’s 12-nautical-mile (22 km; 14 mi) territorial limit to provide early warning of bombing raids on the British task force.
Sinking of ARA General 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.
The nuclear-powered submarine HMS Conqueror sank the Belgrano on 2 May.
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. The losses from Belgrano totalled just over half of the Argentine deaths in the Falklands conflict and the loss of the ARA General Belgrano hardened the stance of the Argentine government.
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, with the exception of the conventional submarine ARA San Luis, 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.
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 Lynx helicopters 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.
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 from 2nd Naval Air Fighter/Attack Squadron.
Sheffield had been ordered forward with two other Type 42s to provide a long-range radar and medium-high altitude missile picket far from the British carriers.
She was struck amidships, with devastating effect, ultimately killing 20 crew members and severely injuring 24 others. The ship 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.
The incident is described in detail by Admiral Sandy Woodward in his book One Hundred Days, Chapter One. Woodward was a former commanding officer of Sheffield.
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”.
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. However 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, though 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 airstrip map for FMA IA 58 Pucará light ground attack aircraft and T-34 Mentors. The raid destroyed the aircraft there.
Landing at San Carlos
During the night on 21 May the British Amphibious Task Group under the command of Commodore Michael Clapp (Commodore, Amphibious Warfare – COMAW) mounted Operation Sutton, the amphibious landing 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 ocean 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 Argentine 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.
To avoid the highest concentration of British air defences, Argentine pilots released ordnance from very low altitude, and hence 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 to avoid 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 retired 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 fuzes were functioning correctly, and the bombs were simply released from too low an altitude. The Argentines lost 22 aircraft in the attacks.
Battle of Goose Green
The Battle of Goose Green (28–29 May 1982) was an engagement of the Falklands War between British and Argentine forces. Goose Green and its neighbour Darwin are settlements on East Falkland in the Falkland Islands. They lie on Choiseul Sound on the east side of the island’s central isthmus. They are about 13 miles south of the site of the major British amphibious landings in San Carlos Water (Operation Sutton).
The bulk of the Argentine forces were in positions around Port Stanley about 50 miles (80 km) to the east of San Carlos. The position at Goose Green and Darwin was well defended by a force of combined units totalling about 1,200 (at the start of the battle the number was thought by the British to be less than half this), well equipped with artillery, mortars, 30 mm cannon and machine guns. However the force was fairly static and judged to present little threat to the bridgehead. Consequently it had no strategic military value for the British in their campaign to recapture the islands, so early plans for land operations had called for Goose Green to be isolated and bypassed.
Things changed in the days following the landings on 21 May. While the bridgehead was being consolidated no offensive ground operations of any size were feasible and yet Argentine air attacks caused significant loss of and damage to British ships in the sea area around the landing grounds. This led to a feeling among senior commanders and politicians in the UK that the momentum of the campaign was being lost.
As a result British Joint Headquarters in the UK came under increasing pressure from the British government for an early ground offensive.
And so, on the 25th May Brigadier Julian Thompson, ground forces commander, commanding 3 Commando Brigade was ordered to mount an attack on Argentine positions around Goose Green and Darwin.
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. Pook was subsequently awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.
The Argentine Navy used their last AM39 Exocet missile attempting to attack HMS Invincible on 30 May.
There are claims the missile struck, however the British have denied this, some citing that HMS Avenger shot it down.
On 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 200 metres (700 ft) 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 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. 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 & 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. Of the dead, 32 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 uncoordinated advance caused planning nightmares for the commanders of the combined operation, as they now found themselves with a 30 miles (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 a Mexeflote (a powered raft) 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 alternative 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).
On Sir Galahad’s stern ramp there was an argument about what to do. The officers on board were told they could not sail to Bluff Cove that day.
They were told they had to get their men off ship and onto the beach as soon as possible as the ships were vulnerable to enemy aircraft. It would take 20 minutes to transport the men to shore using the LCU and Mexeflote. They would then have the choice to walk the 7 miles to Bluff Cove or wait until dark to sail there. The officers on board said they would remain on board until dark and then sail. They refused to take their men off the ship.
They possibly doubted that the bridge had been repaired due to the presence on board Sir Galahad of the Royal Engineer Troop whose job it was to repair the bridge. The Welsh Guards were keen to rejoin the rest of their Battalion who were potentially facing the enemy without their support. They had also not seen any enemy aircraft since landing at San Carlos and may have been over confident in the air defences. Ewen Southby-Tailyour gave a direct order for the men to leave the ship and go to the beach. The order was ignored.
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.
British casualties were 48 killed and 115 wounded. 3 Argentine pilots were also killed.
However, Argentine General Mario Menendez, commander of Argentine forces in the Falklands, was told that 900 British soldiers had died. He expected that the losses would cause enemy morale to drop and the British assault to stall.
The Fall of Stanley
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.
After 3 Para took Port 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. Mount Harriet was taken at a cost of 2 British and 18 Argentine soldiers. At Two Sisters, the British faced both enemy resistance and friendly fire, but managed to capture their objectives. The toughest battle was at Mount Longdon.
British forces were bogged down by assault rifle, mortar, machine gun, artillery fire, sniper fire, and ambushes. Despite this, the British continued their advance.
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 earned him a posthumous Victoria Cross.
After a night of fierce fighting, all objectives were secured. Both sides suffered heavy losses.
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 with CVRT support from The Blues and Royals, captured Wireless Ridge at the Battle of Wireless Ridge, at a loss of 3 British and 25 Argentine dead, and the 2nd battalion, Scots Guards captured Mount Tumbledown at the Battle of Mount Tumbledown, which cost 10 British and 30 Argentines dead.
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.
A cease fire was declared on 14 June and the commander of the Argentine garrison in Stanley, Brigade General Mario Menéndez surrendered to Major General Jeremy Moore the same day.
The Argentine Surrender
Headquarters, Land Forces
INSTRUMENT OF SURRENDER
I, the undersigned, Commander of all the Argentine land, sea and air forces in the Falkland Islands [Menndez’s signature, scribbled over the crossed-out word of “unconditional”] surrender to Major General J.J. MOORE CB OBE MC* as representative of Her Britannic Majesty’s Government.
Under the terms of this surrender all Argentine personnel in the Falkland Islands are to muster at assembly points which will be nominated by General Moore and hand over their arms, ammunition, and all other weapons and warlike equipment as directed by General Moore or appropriate British officers acting on his behalf.
Following the surrender all personnel of the Argentinian Forces will be treated with honour in accordance with the conditions set out in the Geneva Convention of 1949. They will obey any directions concerning movement and in connection with accommodation.
This surrender is to be effective from 2359 hours ZULU on 14 June (2059 hours local) and includes those Argentine Forces presently deployed in and around Port Stanley, those others on East Falkland, (Menendez’s signature) West Falkland and all outlying islands.
Surrender of Corbeta Uruguay
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.
Argentina had established Corbeta Uruguay in 1976, but prior to 1982 the United Kingdom had contested the existence of the Argentine base only through diplomatic channels.
In total 907 were killed during the 74 days of the conflict:
Argentina – 649
Ejército Argentino (Army) – 194 (16 officers, 35 NCOs and 143 conscript privates)
Armada de la República Argentina (Navy) – 341 (including 321 in Belgrano and 4 naval aviators)
IMARA ( Marines ) – 34
Fuerza Aérea Argentina (Air Force) – 55 (including 31 pilots and 14 ground crew)
Gendarmería Nacional Argentina (Border Guard) – 7
Prefectura Naval Argentina (Coast Guard) – 2
Civilian sailors – 16
United Kingdom – A total of 255 British servicemen and 3 female Falklands Island civilians were killed during the Falklands War.
Royal Navy – 86 + 2 Hong Kong laundrymen (see below)
Royal Marines – 27 (2 officers, 14 NCOs and 11 marines)
Royal Fleet Auxiliary – 4 + 4 Hong Kong laundrymen
Merchant Navy – 6 + 2 Hong Kong sailors
British Army – 123 (7 officers, 40 NCOs and 76 privates)
Royal Air Force – 1 (1 officer)
Falklands Islands civilians – 3 women killed by friendly fire
Of the 86 Royal Navy personnel, 22 were lost in HMS Ardent, 19 + 1 lost in HMS Sheffield, 19 + 1 lost in HMS Coventry and 13 lost in HMS Glamorgan. Fourteen naval cooks were among the dead, the largest number from any one branch in the Royal Navy.
Thirty-three 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 Only one dead was from the 1st battalion/7th Duke of Edinburgh’s Own Gurkha Rifles.
Two more British deaths may be attributed to Operation Corporate, bringing the total to 260:
Captain Brian Biddick from HMHS Uganda underwent an emergency operation on the voyage to the Falklands, was repatriated by an RAF medical flight to the hospital at Wroughton where he died on 12 May.
Paul Mills from HMS Coventry suffered from complications from a skull fracture sustained in the sinking of his ship and died on 29 March 1983; he is buried in his home town of Swavesey.
Aftermath of the Falklands War
This brief war brought many consequences for all the parties involved, besides the great loss of human life and materiel.
In the United Kingdom, Margaret Thatcher won the time and support she required for her economic measures (which tackled inflation but sent unemployment to its highest postwar levels) to take effect, national pride received a big boost of confidence and assurance, the Royal Navy proved its value once more.
The success of the Falklands campaign was widely regarded as the factor in the turnaround in fortunes for the Conservative government, who had been trailing behind the SDP-Liberal Alliance in the opinion polls for months before the conflict began, but after the success in the Falklands the Conservatives returned to the top of the opinion polls by a wide margin and went on to win the following year’s general election by a landslide. Subsequently, John Nott’s proposed cuts to the Royal Navy were abandoned.
The islanders lifestyle was improved by investments Britain made after the war and the liberalisation of economic measures that had been stalled through fear of angering Argentina. In 1985, a new constitution was enacted promoting self-government, which has continued to devolve power to the islanders.
The war for Argentina also had an effect in the form of avoiding a possible war with Chile and, more importantly, the return of democracy with the 1983 first free general elections since 1973.
It had a major social impact, destroying the military’s image as the moral reserve of the nation that they had maintained through most of the 20th century.
There are still uncleared minefields on the Falkland Islands and UXOs are scattered all over the battle fields due to the soft peat ground.
British Cemeteries & Memorials
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, another one in Rosario, and a third one in Ushuaia.
During the war, British dead were put into plastic body bags and buried in mass graves. After the war, the bodies were removed with 14 reburied at Blue Beach Military Cemetery and 64 returned to Britain.
Argentine dead were reburied at the Argentine Military Cemetery west of the Darwin Settlement.
The United Kingdom offered to send the bodies back to Argentina, but Argentina refused, knowing that the remains would ensure a continuing Argentine presence on the islands.
There were 1,188 Argentine and 777 British non-fatal casualties. 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. On the Argentine side beside the Military Hospital at Port Stanley, the Argentine Air Force Mobile Field Hospital was deployed at Comodoro Rivadavia and the Argentine Navy ships ARA Almirante Irizar and ARA Bahia Paraiso were converted to Hospital ships.
Blue Beach Military Cemetery at San Carlos
Blue Beach Military Cemetery at San Carlos is a British war cemetery in the Falkland Islands holding the remains of 14 of the 255 British casualties killed during the Falklands War in 1982. It is situated close to where 3 Commando Brigade had its initial headquarters after landing on 21 May 1982.
Up until 1982 all British serviceman killed in action were buried and commemorated as close to the place of death as possible and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission managed these graves.
After the Falklands War, one family requested the repatriation of their fallen son’s body and, following this, other families requested the same; as a result, this offer was extended to all relatives. On 16 November 1982 64 of the dead, (52 soldiers, 11 Royal Marines, and one laundryman from Hong Kong) were returned to Britain aboard the landing ship Sir Bedivere.
The families of 16 of the dead kept with tradition and preferred their sons’ remains should stay in the islands. Fourteen are buried at Port San Carlos with two more at isolated single grave sites at Goose Green and Port Howard.
In 1982, at the request of the Ministry of Defence, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission undertook the design and construction of a cemetery and memorial. The plans were approved by the MOD on 12 November 1982 at a total cost of £50,000. The work was completed with the assistance of 8 Field Squadron Royal Engineers and the Brigade of Gurkhas and dedicated on 10 April 1983. The headstones are of Orton Scar limestone and the memorial panels are of light sea green slate from Cumbria.
The cemetery is surrounded by a 1 metre high wall with a small entrance open to the beach in the style of a stone sheep corral. Opposite the entrance, the wall is tapered higher with seven slate panels, six with the Regiment, Name, Rank and Service of the fallen and one with the three Forces’ Emblems and the following inscription:
IN HONOUR OF
THE SOUTH ATLANTIC TASK FORCE
AND TO THE ABIDING MEMORY OF
THE SAILORS, SOLDIERS AND AIRMEN
WHO GAVE THEIR LIVES AND WHO
HAVE NO GRAVE BUT THE SEA
HERE BESIDE THE
GRAVES OF THEIR COMRADES THIS
MEMORIAL RECORDS THEIR NAMES
GIVE GLORY TO THE LORD AND
DECLARE HIS PRAISE IN THE ISLANDS
The site is divided into two sections each with seven graves. The section on the right is known as the Airborne Cemetery as it contains the remains of four Paratroopers including that of Lieutenant-Colonel “H” Jones two Royal Signallers from 16 Air Assault Brigade and Sergeant Griffin from 656 Squadron Army Air Corps. Directly opposite are another seven headstones laid out in the same pattern with the remains of six Royal Marines and Captain Bell from the Army Air Corps. Nearby is the San Carlos museum, with photographs and relics from the conflict.
On 21 May 2002, the 20th anniversary of the landings, a service of remembrance was held at the cemetery. Over 300 islanders and personnel from the garrison joined the Falklands Governor, in remembering those who lost their lives in the campaign.
1982 Liberation Memorial in Stanley
The 1982 Liberation Memorial, situated in central Stanley, was designed by a Falkland Islander and built as a tribute to the British Forces and civilians who lost their lives during the conflict. Each year a ceremony is held on June 14th, Liberation Day.
The Royal Marine Monument was unveiled in January 2008 and is a tribute to the long-standing relationship the Royal Marines have with the Falkland Islands. It is located just to the east of Government House. Hilltop memorials are placed on the hills surrounding Stanley where battles were fought during the 1982 occupation.
A parade is also held at Victory Green to celebrate the Queen’s birthday on April 21st.
National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire
On 20 May 2012, a duplicate of the San Carlos Memorial was dedicated at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire England. The official dedication, which was attended by The Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines also marked the 30th anniversary of the landings.
Speaking at the ceremony, the widow of Lieutenant-Colonel H Jones’, Sara, described the memorial as a “Fitting tribute to the members of the Task Force who gave their lives”.
Argentine Military Cemetery
The Argentine Military Cemetery (Cementerio de Darwin), is a military cemetery on East Falkland that holds the remains of 237 Argentine combatants killed during the 1982 Falklands War.
It is located west of the Darwin Settlement close to the location of the Battle of Goose Green.
In December 1982 the British government commissioned a firm of civilian undertakers to consolidate all of the temporary Argentine graves on the Islands to a single location. Assisted by the armed forces, they identified each Argentine grave site and brought the bodies to Port Darwin. At the time this was the largest single Argentine grave site, with the bodies of the 47 Argentine soldiers, killed at the Battle of Goose Green and buried there soon after the battle.
Many of the bodies collected were without dog-tags, so best efforts were made to identify each soldier from personal effects found on the body. Single items were not considered conclusive, but collections were. All were given a Christian burial with full military honours. Each grave is marked by a white wooden cross with the name of the soldier on it if known, but 123 of the crosses simply state Soldado Argentino Solo Conocido Por Dios (“An Argentine Soldier Known Unto God”).
After the conflict the United Kingdom offered to send the bodies back to Argentina, but the Argentine government refused on the grounds that it viewed the islands as part of Argentina.
Up until 2004 the cemetery was surrounded by a small white picket fence. The plot is now protected by a walled enclosure with a cenotaph including an image of Argentina’s patron saint, the Virgen del Lujan. Surrounding the graves, the names of the 649 Argentine soldiers, sailors and airmen who lost their lives in the conflict, are inscribed on glass plaques, with no indication of military rank or service, as requested by their families.
Since the end of the conflict the bodies of three more Argentine pilots have been interred:
Capitán Jorge Osvaldo García successfully ejected from his Argentine Skyhawk after being shot down by a Sea Dart surface-to-air missile on 25 May 1982 but was not recovered from the water. His body was washed ashore in a dinghy at Golding Island in 1983.
Lt. Giménez, a Pucará pilot, whose body was not found until 1986. His burial was attended by his family, the first Argentine relatives to visit the Falklands since the end of the war.
Lt Jorge Casco video, another Skyhawk pilot, who crashed in bad weather on South Jason Island and was buried on 7 March 2009. In the case of Lt. Casco, his family requested that his remains be buried on the Falklands even after they were returned to Argentina in July 2008 for DNA testing in order to confirm his identity.
On 9 November 2002 Prince Andrew, himself a Falklands War Veteran, visited the Argentine cemetery and laid a wreath.
During the visit the Prince said, “I lost friends and colleagues and I know what it must be like for the great many Argentines who have shared the same experience.”
Since the UK-Argentine joint statement on 14 July 1999 Argentine families are responsible for the cemetery’s upkeep and in 2007, Sebastián Socodo, an Argentine married to a Falkland Islander, was employed to do the job of cemetery maintenance.
There is a replica of the cemetery at Berazategui
In July 2012 the glass casing protecting a figure of Argentina’s patron saint, the Virgin of Luján, at the head of the cemetery was smashed with what appeared to be an axe.
Argentina presented a formal protest to the British government and informed the United Nations and the International Red Cross. Sebastián Socodo, responsible for the cemetery’s upkeep, said families were notified and that it was not clear when it occurred or who the perpetrators were. Police in the Falklands held an investigation and the case was repaired.
Monument to the fallen in the Malvinas (Monumento a los caídos en Malvinas)
The Monument to the fallen in the Malvinas is located in the General San Martín Square (la Plaza General San Martín), in Buenos Aires, it is a cenotaph erected in honour of those who fell in the Falklands War (la Guerra de las Malvinas).
Located in the area of the square that faces the Avenida del Libertador, it consists of 25 black marble plates with the names of the 649 soldiers killed in the in the 1982 conflict.
Every morning at 8:00, the flag of Argentina is raised.
The changing of the guard takes place throughout the day, every two hours, until 18:00 when the flag is lowered. The Guards (La Guardia) is composed of members of the Army, Navy and Air Force, dressed in their historical uniforms.
An eternal flame is also part of the monument, it is above the map representing the geography of the Falklands Islands (Las Malvinas).
President Carlos Saul Menem decided by decree no. 1405 of 5 May 1989, to erect a cenotaph to honour the fallen of the Falklands War (la Guerra de las Malvinas) in the San Martin Square in the Retiro district.
The chosen site called forth controversy: Some felt that the place should serve only the memory of General San Martin and others felt that the place unsuitable because of the loud traffic, and there were also protests against the destruction of greenery on the court. Resistance was futile and the monument was officially opened on 24 June 1990.