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18 September 2014
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Recent History - The Falklands

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Falklands Conflict Gallery

By Major General Julian Thompson
British soldiers prepare to leave for the Falkland Islands
British soldiers prepare to leave for the Falkland Islands ©
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Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands on 2 April 1982, after a period of rising tension sparked by the landing of Argentinean marines and scrap metal workers a fortnight earlier at an old whaling station on the British dependency of South Georgia.

Argentina had long disputed sovereignty of the islands. When Argentinean dictator Leopoldi Galtieri ordered the invasion, it was with a view to restoring a perceived slight to national pride and in the process provoking a valuable distraction from his mounting domestic difficulties.

The key issue for Britain was that the islanders, almost all of British descent, did not want to be ruled by Argentina where the governing fascist 'junta' was known to have killed thousands of its own citizens during the 'dirty war' of the 1970s and early 1980s.

Britain’s reaction to the invasion was to send a task force to repossess the Falklands - a decision supported by both major political parties. The aircraft carriers HMS 'Hermes' and HMS 'Invincible' were the first to set sail on 5 April, heading a task force that would ultimately consist of 115 ships (38 warships and 77 merchant and auxiliary vessels), 11,000 soldiers and marines, and 261 aircraft (178 helicopters, and 83 fixed wing, including 50 strike aircraft).

The Argentinean armed forces were already numerically superior on the islands and could potentially call upon a large army on the mainland, just 350 miles away. The United States believed that the British were attempting 'mission impossible', a degree of pessimism shared by many in the British Ministry of Defence.

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