Camping in the Forest of Dean during a chilly April in 1982 was not my idea of fun. Some people like to be at one with nature. I’m not one of them. I like my accommodation to have stars (the more the merrier), central heating and a bed. Preferably with some soft down pillows that you can just sink into.
When we arrived, there was a list of jobs waiting for us. The first thing to do was to put up the tent. It was massive. We were not. It was a struggle. Then we had to make a drying rack out of whatever we could find. If you know we’re going to need a drying rack, why not pack one.
Then one night, everything changed. The word went out. Something big was about to happen. We crowded into the only tent with a radio. The Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, made a live broadcast. Her tone was sombre. Her words were deadly serious. The Argentinians had invaded the Falkland Islands. Britain would put together a task force to retake them. “Where are the Falkland Islands?” someone asked. “Just off Scotland.” someone replied sagely. It felt like the most momentous event ever.
After the radio broadcast, some gurus came on and discussed what that meant. We then learned that the Falkland Islands were not just off Scotland. They were a very long way away indeed. Our task force had a very long journey ahead. It would be weeks before they arrived. America tried to broker a peaceful deal between the two countries in the intervening time, but to no avail.
War should always be a last resort, but there was a certain purity of purpose about the conflict that has sometimes been missing from later engagements. Argentina invaded because they though they owned the islands. We retook the islands because we disagreed. You could argue about who’s right and who’s wrong, but there is no doubt about why each country behaved the way it did.
Apart from the abortive diplomacy efforts by the Americans, there were only two parties involved. There was a definite trigger and the conflict came to a definitive end with nearly a thousand people dying in the process. The argument still rumbles on because both sides feel they are right. Funnily enough, a state of war was never officially declared.
A small garrison remains there to this day. The cost of this presence equates to over $30K per year per islander. If we spent as much for everyone in the UK, our defence budget would rocket by nearly $2 trillion!
I wonder if we had this clarity of purpose about the Iraq and the Afghanistan conflicts, would they have taken so long and cost so much? Would they have achieved more?
Would they have even started?
- ‘Highly unlikely’ Argentina will invade Falkland Islands (itv.com)
- Japanese PM prepares for war: Links Falklands conflict with Senkaku (stratrisks.com)
- Japanese PM Links Falklands War with Senkaku Dispute (world.time.com)
- Falkland Islands: U.S. Should Support Right To Self-Determination – OpEd (albanytribune.com)
- Argentina vows to fight on for Falklands despite ‘illegal’ referendum (telegraph.co.uk)
- ‘Falklands ours in 20 years’: Argentina (bigpondnews.com)
- The Falklanders will speak clearly (en.mercopress.com)