2nd April 1982. Remnant of Empire.
Today in 1982 Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands, capturing the Governor and overwhelming a single Company of Royal Marines guarding Port Stanley.
Back In March ‘scrap merchants’ had landed on the island of South Georgia an island 800 miles east, where they had planted the Argentine flag. The only ship in the area was the ice patrol vessel HMS Endurance which was about to be recalled.
The invaders claimed the return of what they call the Malvinas named after the original fishery settlers from St. Malo, Les Malouines.
On Sunday 4th April Prime Minister, Thatcher asked Sir Frank Cooper, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry Of Defence and ex-Spitfire pilot, who had joined the Air Ministry in 1948: ‘How do you actually run a war?’
The previous Wednesday she had been briefed about a British Argentinean invasion force and by the Sunday the Cabinet had agreed a Task Force (agreed on the Friday, with parliament being told on the Saturday.
The First Sea Lord had told Thatcher he could get a Fleet assembled quickly (it was a time when naval cuts were being considered and he wanted to show the Navy’s importance).
A Task Force of warships was assembled and dispatched on April 5th after commandeering liners such as the Canberra, led by aircraft carriers Hermes and Invincible on the 8,000 miles journey.
On arrival the naval force was especially vulnerable to the Exocet missile resulting in the loss of the Sheffield, (the first since WWII), Ardent, Antelope, Coventry the freighter Atlantic Conveyor whilst the bombing of the landing craft Sir Galahad and Sir Tristram at Bluff Cove, with the resultant loss of life, were all serious setbacks.
The sinking by the submarine HMS Conqueror, of the cruiser General Belgrano, built for the Americans in 1939, came from a torpedo, the first fired in anger post war.
Thatcher always insisted that the ship had constituted a threat, being inside the Exclusion Zone.
It was later revealed by Defence Secretary Heseltine that the cruiser had turned away from the Exclusion Zone 11 hours before she was torpedoed, which didn’t do much for our reputation.
After the war VC.s were awarded to Colonel H Jones and Sgt Mackay.
In 2000 HMS Plymouth was established as a floating memorial at Birkenhead Docks to those who fought in the campaign.
According to the 2007 obituary of Major General Sir Jeremy Moore he awoke to hear news of the invasion of the Falklands and was briefing Lt. General Sir Steuart Pringle of the Royal Marines in the MOD, whilst below the Navy were preparing to sail, but had omitted to tell the RM they might be required!
Daily Mail. 19.2.2010. Capt M. Clapp. We couldn’t send a fleet today/Diagram.
YouTube/Pic of Sheffield.