Falklands War

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on June 4, 2020 at 12:49:03 pm



Imperial War Museums writeup

Argentina had claimed sovereignty over the islands for many years and their ruling military junta did not believe that Britain would attempt to regain the islands by force.

The Royal Navy undertook the extraordinary feat of assembling and sending a task force to the Falklands, 8,000 miles away in the South Atlantic.

It wasn't only Royal Navy warships that made the journey across the Atlantic. A huge number of supplies and troops were required to travel to the Falklands – and the Royal Navy warships didn’t have the capacity. 

The troops were actually transported on cruise and passenger ships, like the QE2 and the Canberra. Along with a number of requisitioned cargo ships, they sat at the heart of a convoy that travelled across the Atlantic, protected by the Royal Navy’s warships.  

The task force reached the Falklands in early May. On 2 May, the Royal Navy submarine HMS Conqueror sank the cruiser General Belgrano, killing over 300 Argentinian crew members serving on board. After this incident, Argentinian ships remained in port, unable to threaten the task force. However, the Argentinian air force still posed a significant threat. The Royal Navy lost several warships to attacks from Argentinian aircraft. 

HMS Sheffield was struck by an AM39 Exocet missile fired from an Argentine aircraft six miles away. The destroyer was the first British warship to be lost in action since the Second World War. Twenty members of the crew were killed. On top of this, Royal Fleet Auxiliary ships were attacked at Fitzroy, and the supply ship Atlantic Conveyor was also sunk.

British forces landed on the islands on 21 May. After a series of engagements against the well dug-in but ill-trained conscripted Argentinian Army, they began the battle for Stanley, the islands’ capital, on 11 June. Forces had no choice but to march on foot, a massive feat of endurance. Conditions were awful. The islands were cold and wet, and trench foot became a very real problem among troops.

They were also fighting far from their own supply lines. Soldiers were well aware of how fragile their foothold was - if there had been a naval disaster, especially if their carriers had sunk, the war might have panned out very differently indeed.

Around 600 men of 2nd Battalion, the Parachute Regiment, took part in the fighting at Goose Green and Darwin on 28 May.

Over 900 Argentine prisoners were captured and around 200 Argentine soldiers lost their lives at Goose Green. Photos from our collections show how some captured prisoners were detained in sheep sheds on the island. 

Mount Harriet, Mount Longdon and Two Sisters were all captured from Argentine forces by the morning of 12 June. Sergeant Ian McKay of 3rd Battalion, the Parachute Regiment, earned a posthumous Victoria Cross for his bravery during the Battle of Mount Longdon, one of two awarded to the Parachute Regiment during the campaign.

With Stanley surrounded, the Argentine commander, General Mario Menendez, surrendered to Major General Jeremy Moore, Commander of the British Land Forces, on the Falkland Islands - on the evening of 14 June 1982. 

Nearly a thousand men were killed in the campaign. Argentina’s brutal military dictatorship, the ‘junta’ led by General Leopoldo Galtieri that had ordered the invasion, fell soon afterwards.



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