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13 November 2014

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Falklands 25

You are in: Hampshire > History > Local History > Falklands 25 > Falklands 25 - The Home Front

The QE2 on Southampton Water in 1982

The QE2 on Southampton Water in 1982

Falklands 25 - The Home Front

A quarter of a century ago, British forces re-claimed the Falkland Islands following the invasion by Argentina. Although the fighting took place 8,000 miles away, here in Hampshire, the war felt very close to home.

In April 1982 when Argentina invaded the Falklands - the tiny South Atlantic islands which she had long claimed juristiction over, it sent shockwaves around the world.

Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's government ordered a Task Force be hastily assembled to sail for the South Atlantic to liberate the Falklands. 

The South Coast went onto a war footing, the scale of which had not been seen since the build up to the D-Day landings in 1944.

Troops leave bound for the South Atlantic

Troops leave for the South Atlantic

As the home of the Royal Navy, Portsmouth was obviously the centre of the nation's attention as two aircraft carriers - HMS Hermes and Invincible sailed on 5 April 1982.

They were accompanied by assault ship HMS Fearless, plus other landing ships and their accompanying escorts.

But it wasn't just Portsmouth which was a hive of activity - the navy also needed to commandeer more than 50 ships from the civilian fleet to act as troop carriers, technical support vessels and hospital ships.

The Southampton-based cruise ships SS Canberra and QE2 were hastily converted and sailed for the South Atlantic on April 9 and May 12.

Emotional farewells

Emotional farewells

Much of the work to re-enforce and add helicopter decks to the cruise ships was done in Vospers shipyard on the River Itchen.

There were emotional scenes as troops sailed - uncertain of what lay ahead.  It wasn't inevitable that a 'shooting war' would break out but it was clear that international tension between Britain and Argentina was increasing by the day.

It was an anxious time for thousand of families as they watched the conflict unfold on the daily TV and radio news programmes.

There were losses - Portsmouth-based HMS Sheffield was hit by an Exocet missile and sank, with the loss of 20 lives.  HMS Ardent, HMS Coventry, RFA Sir Galahad, MV Atlantic Conveyor were also lost.

The loss of helicopters being transported on the Atlantic Conveyor also meant soldiers had to cover more ground on foot.

Troops landed at San Carlos Water before trekking across country to Port Stanley. Heavy fighting ensued at sites including Goose Green, Mount Tumbledown, Mount Longdon and Mount Harriet before the capital was eventually liberated.

HMS Hermes returns to Portsmouth

HMS Hermes returns to Portsmouth

 By June 14, the Argentines had surrendered. 

The conflict lasted 74 days and claimed the lives of 255 British and 649 Argentine servicemen as well as three Falkland Island civilians.

Portsmouth and Southampton were once again in the national spotlight as the ships of the Task Force began to return home.  Thousands lined the shoreline and flotillas of hundreds of boats accompanied the ships back to port.

last updated: 05/11/2008 at 12:39
created: 27/03/2007

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