The Falklands' War Victory
30 years ago today a war came to an end. It is Liberation Day in the Falkland Islands. By most standard it was a small war and with the exception of the Falkland Islanders, Britain and Argentina few in the world remember it as anything of great significance.
It was a small war but it contained all the aspects of a large war. There were the invaders and occupiers, the Argentines who thought they could painlessly take over the Falkland Islands from the fading British Empire.It was fueled by nationalistic fervour generated by the Argentinian Junta, which used it to turn public opinion on the home front in it's favour. In response, the British, rallied behind the nationalism of Margaret Thatcher, who ignited the Britain's feelings of Empire pride which should not be challenge and must be defended. The victims in all this were the Falkland Islanders, a small British ( 2000 to 2500 souls) outpost 8,000 miles away from the UK, who lived a modest live of hard work and struggle mostly in the raising of sheep for their wool. They were a remote corner of the fading empire that most Britain's knew little about or cared about until the Argentinians threw down the gauntlet. Ironically, Britain, until then, had been exploring ways of transferring the Falklands to Argentina, perhaps with a Hong Kong style of transfer after 99 years.
Britain rose to the challenge with what might be her last great expeditionary force in defense of the Empire.A fleet of ships, aircraft and 15,000 soldiers set sail to wrest the Falklands away from the occupiers, the Argentine military.
It proved to be a nasty little war.In the end, we saw ships sunk, by submarines and high tech weapons; air battles, night time commando raids to gather intelligence and destroy aircraft on the ground, landing crafts, rescues of dead and injured from ships on fire, aircraft dog fights, forced marches to engage the enemy, close in fighting by soldiers, heroism by some, (2 VC's and a DFC won) and miserable death in the wet and cold of a Falkland's winter, night fighting, dislodging the enemy from the high ground, civilians held captive, a couple of civilian death (by friendly fire I believe), lies for the folks back home and in the end a victory and a defeat. The ill trained occupying Argentine forces were no match for the professional British soldiers in spite of some advantages on the Argentine side. It was a major war writ small, painful for those on all sides as shattering as any large war.
As in most wars nothing immediately changed after all the smoke and dying ends. The Argentinians, returned home, hopefully sadder and wiser, the Falkland Islands picked up their live on this remote island in the South Atlantic and the British celebrated themselves for one last time as a great empire, ready to move on to more wars closer to home.
Ironically, all the participants benefited from the war. The Argentines saw the collapse of the military junta, avoided a war with Chile and the establishment of democracy; the British, particularly, Margaret Thatcher and her government felt good for still being able to be a world power able to enforce it's will.. Margaret Thatcher regained her popularly and was reelected.
The Falkland Islands have since benefited the most. Their insistence that they are British subjects and wanted to remain so put an end to the United Kingdom of disowning them any time soon. Their local government was reorganized so that local people had more say. A 200 mile fishing zone, enforced by the British, who established a military base on the island, became an important source of income through the selling of fishing licences. The large corporate sheep farm was broken up and sold former to employees and local people. It's flocks (total about 500,000) were redeveloped to supply both wool and meat for export, which made them more economically viable, Tourism to this remarkable natural wonderland has been slowly increasing as a viable economic element.With these three improved economies the Falkland Islanders have become economically self sufficient with the exception of defense, for which the British continue to pay. With the discovery and development of oil off it's coast the day will come when the Falklands will eventually be able to pay for its defense.
The future of the Falklands seems secure and prosperous for now.
Stanley, Falkland Islands
Below is a video on the history of the Falklands War. It is one of several to be found on Youtube.
This one is compact and worth watching to understand the war.
Cold and wet Infantry march
To grain some appreciation of the final fierce fighting for the high ground outside Stanley I suggest a visit to blogger Peter. His last couple of blog entries show how the battlefield today is still the site of abandoned military hardware and small crosses where soldiers on both sides died. These hill remain a memorial to the war.
This year in Canada we are celebrating the War of 1812. I see some similarities between Canada's (British North America)then and the Falklands 30 years ago. We were a remote colony of Britain with only a small number of British military to defend us. For military officers it was a career backwater at a time when Britain was fighting Napoleon. Our neighbour, the United States, angry at Britain for interfering with it ships on the high seas and with a growing attitude the capturing British North America was to finish their struggle for Independence, thought they could invade and occupy "Canada" easily and without an adequate response from Britain. They thought they would be welcomed by the "Canadians". It turned out they were not welcomed and Britain would come to the defense of British North America. The invasion was repelled and the British went on to attack parts of Eastern Continental United States. They were no match for Britain and when Napoleon was defeated the British would be formidable. A peace treaty was signed, The Treaty of Ghent. Nothing was gained:" Canada" was not occupied, The United States gained no territory, British enforced their domination of the seas. Canada, like the Falklands, gained a better sense of itself. It at least knew it did not want to be part of the United States, (That was a start). They learned that they could not always depend on Britain to defend them. The process of Canada came into being a united British North American from Atlantic to Pacific. We learned to live with United States as our powerful neighbour. diplomacy and economics established our mutually beneficial relationship. We have been good neighbours for 200 hundred years. The Falklands still have to find a working relationship with its neighbours, particularly Argentina. They must know that the day will come when Britain can no longer or will not defend them as they did 30 years ago. Even now there are British military people who say such a military expeditionary force could not be assembled today.
I hope the Falklands eventually find a way to live with the Argentines to their mutual advantage, perhaps, oil may make this possible. I would like to see the Falklands form its own international airline so it many connect with other Commonwealth Countries, making travel and trade more available.
There is now a generation of Islanders who were born after the war. And there are increasingly more people coming to the islands, some returning from being away and others newcomers to work and live there. I trust the feeling of "we are British" will give way to "we are Falkland Islanders. That is where their future lies: a proud and independent country the celebrates it's self sufficiency and independence as well as it British heritage.