An Cosantóir

Dec 2012/ Jan 2013

An Cosantóir the official magazine of the Irish Defence Forces and Reserve Defence Forces.

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Page 19 of 43

20 | A Conflict Interest of A By Paul O'Brien MA s Ireland gears itself up for a decade of centenary events, across the water in Britain this year they have been remembering the 30th anniversary of the Falklands War, or as it is known to others, Guerra de las Malvinas. While many of us may remember this war taking place, few may remember what actually caused it or how Britain managed to regain control of a group of islands thousands of miles away in the South Atlantic. At 0430hrs on April 2nd 1982, 150 men of the Buzo Tactico – Argentine special forces – landed by helicopter at Mullet Creek, a small inlet some three miles to the south-west of the Falklands' capital, Port Stanley. This landing was part of an Argentine invasion of the Falklands and coincided with an earlier covert operation by Argentine special forces that had secured South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands. After a brief fire-fight, the island's garrison of British Royal Marines surrendered and were taken prisoner along with 1,800 inhabitants. With the islands secured, a large Argentine amphibious landing followed comprising two brigades under Brig Gen Mario Menendez. The Falklands War had commenced. Located in the South Atlantic, the Falkland Islands lie approximately 500 miles (805km) east of southern Argentina. Port Stanley, the islands' capital, is the most southerly capital in the world. The area consists of two main islands and two hundred small islets. While the two main towns are Port Stanley and Goose Green, the population of the Falklands is scattered throughout the many sheep stations dotted throughout the islands. First sighted in the 16th century, the islands were subse- An Cosantóir Dec 2012/Jan 2013 quently colonized by Britain, France and Spain, with Britain retaining ownership since 1833. The question of British sovereignty has long been disputed by Argentina, who laid claim to the islands on the basis of previous Spanish occupation. In 1982, after almost 150 years of British occupation, the ruling Argentine junta wanted to force Britain into conceding sovereignty over the islands. The Junta hoped to force the issue at sovereignty negotiations in New York, asserting that the Falkland Islands were Argentine territory since the 19th century and therefore should be returned. The occupation of the islands by Argentine forces was seen by many as a legitimate claim to their lands but the British government saw it as an invasion of a British dependent territory. Britain was initially taken by surprise by the Argentine attack, despite a warning from Royal Navy commanders that a reduction in the presence of its forces in the South Atlantic would encourage an attack. The British prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, quickly decided to send a task force to the south Atlantic to retake the islands. As the British defence budget had been slashed and the British ministry of defence had no contingency plan for an invasion of the islands, this task force was rapidly assembled from whatever vessels were available.

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