Royal Navy Sea King Helicopters transport troops

The Falklands War

Falklands 40

On the 2 April 1982, Argentine forces invaded the British overseas territory of the Falkland Islands, sparking one of the largest major conflicts since WW2. 

Lasting 74 days, the conflict was the first military action since the Second World War that utilised all elements of the Armed Forces.

255 British personnel lost their lives defending the Falklands, of whom 86 were Royal Navy, 124 Army, 27 Royal Marines, six Merchant Navy, four Royal Fleet Auxiliary and eight Hong Kong sailors. Seven ships were also lost to enemy action and nine aircraft shot down.

Remembering The Falklands

Join RBL as we mark the 40th anniversary of the Falklands War at the National Memorial Arboretum.

Falklands 40

Contested lands 

Sovereignty over the Falkland Islands and its territorial dependencies, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, had long been challenged.

Argentina claimed that the land, which they call the Islas Malvinas, belonged to them because of its natural proximity to the South American mainland. They also asserted that it was rightfully inherited from the Spanish Crown in the 1800s.

Britain’s claim rested on the idea of self-determination, and that the people who inhabited the island wished to be governed by Britain.

Argentine army soldiers during the invasion of the Falkland Islands
Argentine soldiers during the invasion

Invasion

On 2 April 1982 Argentinian forces invaded the Falklands Islands. The British were vastly outnumbered, 600 Argentine Commandos to 57 Royal Marines, and forced to surrender.
Argentine soldiers during the invasion
British soldiers leave Southampton aboard Queen Elizabeth 2 Troops Leave For Falkands War HMS Invincible Leaving Portsmouth, 5th April 1982

Task Force sets sail

The British response to this attack was swift.

On 5 April 1982 the first ships, including HMS Hermes and HMS Invincible, set sail towards the Falklands.

In total, the task force was compromised of 127 ships carrying a reinforced 3 Commando Brigade with 2nd and 3rd Battalions, the Parachute Regiment attached, along with other units including a reinforced troop from The Blues and Royals.

stories_john_sheppard_falklands_full_portrait
My big wake-up call was when the skipper announced over the tannoy that HMS Sheffield had been sunk John Sheppard

Chef on MSV Stena Seaspread

John's story
RAF Avro Vulcan XM607

Operation Black Buck

On 2 May 1982 the British task force reached the Falkland Islands. The RAF launched their opening attack on Port Stanley airport using Vulcan bombers covering 8,000 miles. These became known as the Black Buck Raids and were the longest-ranged bombing raids in history at this time.

Huge losses incurred

Casualties from both sides were to follow. On 4 May HMS Sheffield became the first British warship lost in action since WW2 when it was hit by an Exocet missile, leading to the death of 20 crew members.

 

Two days previously British submarine, HMS Conqueror, had torpedoed and sank the Argentine vessel, ARA General Belgrano, leading to the death of 323 Argentine sailors.  

Gurkha Corporal Tamang Kirtiman piping members aboard QE2

Reinforcements

It was agreed that an extra army brigade should be made available as soon as possible. On 12 May, the 5th infantry brigade, composed of the Gurkhas, Scots Guards, Welsh Guards and their supporting elements sailed aboard the requisitioned Queen Elizabeth II ocean liner.
Soldier white

30,000

Altogether, 30,000 sailors, marines, soldiers, airmen and merchant mariners took part in the conflict.
3 Battalion, Parachute Regiment disembark from a landing craft during the landings at San Carlos

Reclaiming the Falklands

On 21 May 1982, the units of 3 Commando Brigade successfully executed landings in San Carlos Water.

These landings were almost unopposed but the Royal Navy continued to suffer from Argentine air attacks in what became known as the Battle of San Carlos.

Three Royal Navy ships, the HMS Ardent, HMS Antelope and HMS Coventry, were sunk in the space of four days, with 42 crew members lost in total. 

Charlie on bench wearing medals
We took multiple cannon hits and 14 of our crew were injured Charlie Threfall

Served on HMS Broadsword

Charlie's story
Gurkhas being air lifted from Goose Green on the Falkland Islands
Gurkhas being air lifted from Goose Green

Goose Green

Attention then turned to Goose Green, where the first and longest land battle of the campaign would be fought.
Gurkhas being air lifted from Goose Green
During the 14-hour battle, 690 British Paratroopers faced 1,100 of the Argentine army and air force, who were scattered across a nearly featureless and windswept terrain.
Steel helmets abandoned by Argentine armed forces who surrendered at Goose Green
Steel helmets abandoned by Argentine armed forces after surrendering at Goose Green

Eighteen British Paratroopers were killed, including Colonel ‘H’ Jones, who lead the battalion and was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for his service. On the Argentine side, 55 were killed and 961 were captured. 

Nicci Pugh, former QARNNS nurse with Royal Navy
It was a frenetic, exhausting time Nicci Pugh

Nurse who treated injured troops on hospital ship SS Uganda

Nicci's story
42 Commando, Royal Marines, moves off Mount Harriet during the mountain battles

Final push towards victory

Following victory at Goose Green, British forces began their battle for Stanley, the islands’ capital.

On 11 June, a series of attacks were launched on the high ground west of Stanley. Mount Harriet, Mount Longdon and Two Sisters were all captured from Argentine forces by the next morning.

As part of the second phase of attacks, Mount Tumbledown, Mount William and Wireless Ridge were captured on the night of 13-14 June. 

Falklands veteran Trevor Bradshaw
It was mayhem, with friendly and enemy artillery fire dropping all over the place Trevor Bradshaw

Fought at Battle of Mount Longdon with 3 Para

Trevor's story
Marines of 40 Royal Marine Commando raise the British flag on West Falkland after the Argentine surrender

Surrender

With Stanley surrounded, Argentine forces surrendered on the evening of 14 June 1982, with the Royal Marines of 40 Commando raising the British flag on West Falkland to mark the end of the conflict.

The aftermath

After the capture of Stanley, other operations continued to take place which fully secured British victory, leading to the surrender of Argentine troops in West Falkland and in the South Sandwich Islands and Southern Thule.

The repatriation of Argentinian prisoners of war soon begun, with 10,250 prisoners returned to Argentina by 20 June. 

 
Troop ship SS Canberra welcomed home from the Falklands War at Southampton on 12 June
Troop ship SS Canberra returning to Southampton

British troops were finally able to make their way home, with huge crowds gathering in Portsmouth and Southampton to welcome them back.

40 years on, many Falklands veterans and their families still live with the consequences of the conflict, and the RBL are here to provide support and comradeship to anyone affected by the Falklands War.

Stories from The Falklands

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