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Falklands War - Overview


The Falklands War was a remarkable episode in the history of three countries: Great Britain, Argentina and the Falkland Islands. It brought about fundamental changes in each case. It was a dazzling military accomplishment too, and because of the intense worldwide media interest at the time the detailed record now available provides a unique case study for historians to examine a small war from every conceivable angle; militarily, politically, and sociologically.

In Britain at that time, the Thatcher government was falling rapidly in public opinion polls and was facing the prospect of losing the next election after just one very difficult term in office. Margaret Thatcher was propelled into two further terms in office by the decisive leadership she had shown and by the sense of national regeneration and optimism following victory in the South Atlantic.

Argentina had been ruled by a brutal and bloody military dictatorship which had launched the invasion in a desperate attempt to shore up popular support. It worked; the nation rallied behind the Junta in an outpouring of nationalistic pride. Their defeat led directly to the end of military rule and the establishment of democracy in that country. However, it did not mean the end of Argentine aspirations over the Falkland Islands.

The Falkland Islands was seemingly forgotten and unwanted, and starved of investment by absentee landlords. Very few people in Britain even knew where the Falklands were. The invasion and subsequent liberation changed everything. The Islanders found a new sense of vitality, made economic and political reforms, and over the following twenty years turned their country into a prosperous place to be, with a bright future.

As a military venture, Argentina made a number of catastrophic errors. Errors of judgement, errors of timing, errors of tactics, and errors of leadership. Despite all that they still had all the advantages, and once in possession of the Islands they should have been unmovable. Britain had to send a hastily assembled fleet half way round the globe, with minimal support at such extreme range, make a hazardous amphibious landing, and assault well-established defences to recapture the Islands.

In accomplishing that objective, Britain showed the value of a well-trained, well-led professional force. The task force, as it was called, comprised around 100 ships of all shapes and sizes, many requisitioned and still crewed by civilians, and altogether almost 30,000 men and women. They were awarded the South Atlantic Medal for their part in the war. The South Atlantic Medal Association (1982) and this website are theirs, and this is their story.