Today marks 40 years since the Argentine invasion and occupation of the Falkland Islands and South Georgia. Three days later, on April 5th 1982, Margaret Thatcher gave the order to dispatch a Naval task force to engage the Argentine Navy and Air Force before mounting an amphibious assault to retake the Islands. The courage, skill, heroism, ingenuity and grit demonstrated by the UK’s Armed Forces during the conflict enabled them to take the fight to the Argentine forces on land, in the air and on the sea in what is widely regarded as the UK’s first joint operation. The results of the lessons learned during this conflict eventually resulted in the formation of Permanent Joint Headquarters at MOD Northwood; which now has command responsibility for British personnel involved in operations across the globe.
There are many names of places, ships or aircraft and operations from the conflict which continue to inspire and stand out to the public thanks largely to the media coverage they received at the time. These include the battle at Goose Green, 42 Commandos’ 50 mile march to retake Port Stanley, the incredibly complex Black-Buck missions launched by the RAF’s Victors and Vulcans from the Ascension Islands, the sinking of the Belgrano by HMS Conqueror, the Exocet missile attacks against many UK Navy and auxiliary ships including HMS Sheffield and the Seaking helicopters blowing the life rafts towards the shores using the downwash from their rotors. It is also the Falklands conflict where the Harrier sealed its place as a combat proven aircraft and a sole surviving Chinook from the MV Atlantic Conveyor – Bravo November – would start its first operational tour in what would be 4 decades of operational service in the RAF. Such is the significance of this particular aircraft, it has finally been retired and delivered to RAF Cosford to be preserved this week.
The Falklands conflict lasted 74 days and saw fierce fighting on both sides which claimed the lives of 649 Argentine and 255 British Military Personnel. Three Falkland Islanders also perished during the conflict in the crossfire. Since the conflict, the UK has maintained a military presence on the Islands which has resulted in what has almost become a right of passage for RAF Firefighters who have provided fire cover for the aircraft at Port Stanley and later Mount Pleasant Airfield. Having recently received the latest batch of deployment boards from the fire section listing the names of all the firefighters who have served there, we look forward to displaying them all in memory of all personnel who served, and those who didn’t return home.
If you or a family member served in the Falklands and want to share your story, photos or other memories please get in contact with us – we would love to hear from you.