Some twenty-five years ago this week, British troops completed the task of defeating the Argentine invaders of the British Falkland Islands set some three hundred east of Argentina. The British Prime Minister of the time, Baroness Margaret Thatcher, had sent a naval, aerial and military task-force some eight thousand miles because of one overwhelming consideration; the Islanders wanted to be British! The Falklanders wanted nothing to do with the claims of the corrupt Argentinian dictatorship “ regarding the sovereignty of the Islands, which they had named ‘Las Malvinas’.
The history of those few dangerous weeks, commencing with the sudden and unexpected invasion of the Falkland Islands by a massive Argentinian military and naval armada has been retold in books, in newspapers and on television. There were many attempts to impose diplomatic settlements upon Great Britain, in which the Falkland Islands would be ceded to Argentina in one form or another, but the sticking point, upon which the British strongly objected, was that the Falkland population’s desires and wishes would be disregarded. Mrs. Thatcher, as she then was, determined that the invaders should be kicked off British soil, and demanded of her military advisers a plan for doing just that. The objections, especially from the weaklings of the Foreign Office, poured in, as the liberal left-wing intelligentsia who only preached surrender attempted to change the mind of the finest mind seen in British political life; but fortunately for both Britain and the Falklands, Thatcher was forged from stainless steel, never mind iron.
One of the more amazing actions undertaken by the Royal Air Force” was the attack by bombs on the main airfield just outside the capital, Port Stanley. Operating from Ascension, a British island base 4,000 miles to the North, a single Vulcan bomber, supported by no less than fourteen Valiant jet bombers acting as mobile re-fueling bases, dropped a single row of bombs across the runway, one of which impacted in the center of the runway, thus removing all fast-jet capability from the Argentine Air Force in their efforts to provide a defensive arm on the islands. This attack was the single longest operating bomber sortie in the history of the Royal Air Force.
The Royal Navy was tasked with the transportation and protection of the largest armada to set sail “in harms way” since the Korean War, and although the British Admirals had to pull naval ships out of either overhaul or mothball status, they managed to set sail with a convoy which, as it later transpired, ” was just enough to ensure victory. “ The two available British carriers were deployed south, along with helicopter carriers, five nuclear Fleet submarines, eight destroyers and fifteen frigates. They convoyed two large passenger liners crammed with troops, the Atlantic Conveyor which carried extra helicopters and Harrier jets, along with some three ferries, transport, ammunition and oil tankers, together with minesweepers, tugs, more smaller ferries and a hospital ship.
One of the two “aces in the pack” was the presence of the nuclear submarines, which became the driving force in the Argentinian’s naval presence, as they were extremely reluctant to allow their precious surface ships to penetrate the British-imposed exclusion zone, inside which the British had declared that unrestricted warfare rules would apply. That the Argentinian heavy cruiser ‘General Belgrano’, armed with fifteen six-inch guns had penetrated that same exclusion zone and then turned away, was sufficient cause for the British to give the all-clear to a lurking submarine, HMS Conqueror, and “the Belgrano was sunk with heavy loss of life. “ The Argentine Navy ships never left port again!
However, the lack of naval power on the Argentinian side was more than balanced “by their brave and well-trained Air Force jet pilots ” , as they flew and fought their Skyhawks and Super-Etendard bombers against the British fleet. The Argentinian bomb and missile attack sank two frigates, two destroyers and damaged some five other naval vessels, as well as the Atlantic Conveyor merchant vessel. More ships would have been either lost or badly damaged, but the fact that the bomb fuses were incorrectly set saved over four Navy ships from destruction. The Task force’s mission was in peril, but they were rescued by the actions of the Harrier GR-3 vertical take-off jet fighter fleet, operating from the two carriers. Armed with the superb American-made Sidewinder missile and operating within their own protective envelope, the Harriers slashed the Skyhawks and the slower Mirages and propeller aircraft from the Falklands’ skies.
The military landings at San Carlos Sound on West Falkland were carried out under attack from the Argentinians, but in the main were completed without serious loss. The destroyer Coventry and the massive container ship Atlantic Conveyor were both sunk by Exocet missiles carried by the French Super-Etendard bombers, with the nearly crippling loss of all the remaining helicopters, thousands of tonnes of ammunition, tents, spares etc.
Despite the loss of the big container ship, the British land forces pressed ahead with the military build-up, and broke out of the defensive perimeter, fighting and capturing ground as they advanced. In the actions around Goose Green, the famed British Paratroopers fought and some died during this fierce battle, with a Victoria Cross, the supreme award for gallantry in action, being awarded posthumously to the paratroop colonel, H. Jones.
More and more reinforcements, plus artillery and mobile battle groups were continuously advancing and contacting the Argentine enemy, and, in the end, there was almost an undignified scramble to be the first into the Falklands capital, Port Stanley. The Argentine Army, which consisted mainly of badly-trained conscripts, were no match for the professional British soldiers who performed with their expected enthusiasm.
The Argentine forces “surrendered on the fourteenth of June, 1982, “ after a conflict which cost the lives of 258 British and 649 Argentine dead. Prime Minister Thatcher, who had sent out her soldiers, sailors and airmen to fight against a dictatorship’s dreams of glory, said very recently “In the struggle against evil… we can all today draw hope and strength from the Falklands victory. Fortune does, in the end, favor the brave… and none are braver than our armed forces,” she added.
Originally submitted to OHMyNews.