Last updated at 14:31 GMT, Friday, 28 December 2012

Falklands invasion 'surprised' Thatcher

Summary

28 December 2012

Newly-released government papers show that the Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands in 1982 took the then British prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, by surprise.

Reporter:
Peter Biles

Margaret Thatcher

Margaret Thatcher

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Margaret Thatcher's private reflections about the Falklands War are contained in evidence she gave to a committee of inquiry after the conflict.

"I never never expected the Argentines to invade the Falklands head-on," she said. "It was such a stupid thing to do ... I did not think it would happen."

But two days before Argentine forces went ashore Mrs Thatcher was told an invasion was imminent. She thought this was the worst moment of her life. And she said at the time no-one could tell her whether British forces could retake the Falklands.

The government records also describe her determined efforts to prevent France from selling Exocet missiles to Peru because of fears they would be passed on to Argentina.

In a confidential telegram to President Mitterrand in May 1982 Mrs Thatcher warned him that if it became known that France was releasing the weapons, it would have a devastating effect on the relationship between Britain and France.

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Vocabulary

reflections

thoughts and memories

evidence

information given to a court as part of a process of discovering what happened in a particular situation

committee of inquiry

group of selected people that hears testimonies in order to establish the facts

to invade head-on

to use military forces directly to occupy another territory

went ashore

landed on the island

records

official documents with details of meetings and so on

efforts

attempts

fears

worries

warned

advised of danger

devastating

damaging

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