Home button The Falklands Conflict - FAQ

Here is a list of questions (and their answers) that I am frequently asked. In contrast to the rest of my Falklands pages, which should be considered a factual resource, please note that this page contains my personal opinions, with which you might not agree. Whatever is said here, I mean no disrespect to any person, living or dead.

1. Why did I make these pages?
2. Why did the war happen?
3. Do you hold any animosity towards Argentina/Argentinians?
4. Why isn't there a version of these pages in Spanish?
5. What branch of the services were you in?
6. Were the Americans involved?
7. Were the Russians involved?
8. Were any other countries involved?
9. Did Britain invade or attack the mainland?
10. Were the British right to sink the Cruiser Belgrano?
11. (How) could Argentina have won the war?
12. Has there been any official/military interest in these pages?
13. Could there ever be another Falklands War?
14. Can you name some famous quotes from the war?
15. What was the name of the British soldier who was severely burned?
16. I have something to contribute. How do I get in touch?
17. I am researching a book/paper/etc. Can I make requests for information?
18. Were there incidents in which the Media influenced events?
19. What was the British media's view of the war?
20. What famous incidents were there that involved unexploded bombs?
21. Was it a war or a conflict?
22. Is the story about penguins and aircraft true?
23. How many lost their lives?
24. Where can I find a list of those who died?

Why did I make these pages?

When I started this page, other than the occasional posting on UseNet there was next to nothing about the Falklands War on the Internet. As I was playing a lot of computer Harpoon (versions 1 & 2 which incidentally cannot model the southern hemisphere) I felt that I should read up on the subject and create a new set of pages to serve as both a source of information and a tribute to those who died.

To date, most of my research has been on the naval side, but I hope to provide more coverage of the ground forces' participation. I have never conducted face-to-face interviews with veterans, but have received a number of contributions from around the world, including Argentina, by email.

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Why did the war happen?

As the famous Prussian military theorist Carl von Clausewitz once said "war is merely the continuation of politics by other means".

Like many others, this war was a result of failed diplomacy. The matter of the Falklands' sovereignty has been a political hot potato for many years - no government has shown a will to resolve the situation because as soon as a change of ownership is mentioned to the islanders, they create a big noise. The majority do not want to become Argeninians and probably never will.

It is generally accepted (at least outside Argentina) that the war occoured at that particular time because of a number of factors. Most significantly these included:

Actually, Argentina picked a bad time for the invasion for a number of reasons, not least that the Marine detachment was in the process of changing over (thus there were twice as many on the Islands than usual) and if they'd have waited until later the same year, Endurance would have been sold. They had also received only a small part of an order for Exocet missiles and Super Etendard aircraft that they had fully paid for - the rest of this order was held back by France. In fact they didn't even have the ability to fire their air-launched variants when the invasion began.

Once Argentina had invaded, Britain had to respond militarily or forever be considered a lesser world power - it would have significantly undermined our standing in NATO and would have likely led to further 'military' situations elsewhere in the world (Hong Kong, Gibraltar, etc). To have backed down in the face of invasion and takeover by a military dictatorship (as Argentina was at that time) would have been political suicide - the lack of a decisive military response would have spelled the end of the Tory government. The British victory secured Thatcher a decisive win at the following general election, which was deliberately called early.

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Do you hold any animosity towards Argentina/Argentinians?

No. Those who fought were under orders from their superiors to do so. Many of the Argentine ground troops were conscripts and so had absolutely no choice in the matter. But that's not to say I condone their actions. If anyone is in any doubt as to the type of Government Argentina was under at the time of the war, they should read about The Disappeared. The majority of the contributions I've received from Argentinians have been rather complimentary.

Whether I believe the Argentine claim to the Islands or not is irrelevant to this site, which is intended as a tribute to those who fought, were injured or lost their lives.

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Why isn't there a version of these pages in Spanish?

a) I don't speak any Spanish
b) although I do work with some people that do, they probably wouldn't be interested in translating for me

I would willingly post a Spanish version but with more stuff appearing on the Internet about the war, this is probably no longer necessary.

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What branch of the services were you in?

None - I have never served in the armed forces of any country. Although I may have been fit enough in 1982, I went to University instead; had I not done as well in my exams, I would probably have considered an technical career in the RAF or British Army. My late father served in both the (RN) Fleet Air Arm and the RAF during WWII as a 'fitter' (engineer). Although I'm sure he would have been proud of me had I joined up, there was never any pressure to do so.

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Were the Americans involved?

To my knowledge, no active members of the US Military took part in the war. However, I have recently received information that "American Mercenaries were used and caused the initial casualties to the British land based assault troops the Mercenaries were later airlifted out back to Argentina"
In February 2012, Fred Clark contributed the following:
Ref US citizens in action in the Falklands, I met one who was an Argentinean born to Argentinean mother and a US father. He was born in New York. He had volunteered to fight for what he called his Home Land (Argentina).

Britain's 'special relationship' with the US Government ensured us a quick and early supply of the latest all-aspect variant (AIM-9L) of the Sidewinder Air-to-Air missile which gave us a great advantage over the Argentine air forces in aerial combat.

As soon as all chances of a diplomatic solution had faded, the then US Secretary of Defence Casper Weinberger offered Britain the use of virtually any military hardware she requested, "'up to an including an aircraft carrier" (the USS Eisenhower). However, it would have required approval from Congress (which would probably not have been forthcoming) for any of their military personnel to have actually 'gone to war' and we would have had to man it ourselves; why we never took up this option is unclear - pride perhaps?

Extensive satellite recon intelligence was provided by the Americans - they had satellites from a number of systems including the high-definition Keyhole series, in orbit at those latitudes. Apparently, SR71 overflights were also considered but the archives of the USAF confirm (Dec 2008) that they never took place.

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Were the Russians involved?

Err, good question. Russian intelligence gathering vessels (spy trawlers) were on-station off Ascension pretty much all the time, but I have no evidence to suggest that any information was passed on to Argentina. In fact it seems quite likely that Argentina received no intelligence as to British fleet location because of their heavy reliance on aerial recon (some of which, including a Lear Jet, got shot down).

During the war, Russia actually launched a whole slew of new recon satellites over South America, they were that interested in the conflict. I think they were keen to exploit the situation and any potential rift between South American countries and the USA/Europe.

Berthed at Lagos Harbour, Nigeria, in May 1982 on route to the Falklands were a Submarine, a 'Destroyer-sized ship' and the Helicopter Carrier Moskva (the Moscow).

In June 2001, Mariano Sciaroni published this article about Soviet activity during the conflict.

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Were any other countries involved?

Yes. You might consider that Chile had a significant role in the war. They kept up a threat of invasion into disputed border territory (3 large islands in the Beagle Channel) with Argentina, thus ensuring that some of Argentina's best mountain troops and aircraft were unable to enter the conflict. Chile allowed us use of the auxiliary RFA Tidepool who we had sold them shortly before the war; American influence in Panama allowed her to sail back through the Canal. Independent observers confirm that Britain leant Chile a pair of Hercules aircraft for signals gathering; Chile also received Hawker Hunter and Canberra aircraft on rather good terms after the war, presumably for "services rendered".

A posting from E.Moraz in Sept. 2007 describes the incident when a Vulcan bomber was 'forced' to make an emergency landing in Brazil whilst flying home from a Stanley bombing mission, refusing to let the aircraft leave the territory for some days.
In that time, after a fail in air refueling event, the Vulcan runned out of fuel. The crew had two options: 1 - Eject. 2 - Find somewhere to land. Because the good diplomatic relationship between UK and Brazil, authorization was granted for the approach and landing of the bomberd at the today called Tom Jobim International Airport. (AKA Galeão International Airport, Rio de Janeiro).

The crew was not arrested. They were placed in a luxury hotel in Rio de Janeiro, while the diplomatic issues were being solved, because Argentina called Brazil government symphatetic with the UK campaing in Falklands. Expenses paid by UK government. Reapairs and logistics were deployed by UK to make the Vulcan fly again, because the air refueling system was damaged, and other arrangements were necessary to be made assuring the recovering of the Vulcan bomber.

I remember the Vulcan in the airfield with bomb doors open with land crew doing repairs and some military people from Brazil's army patrolling and securing the area.

Some signals intelligence was provided by New Zealand.

Britain made huge efforts to prevent French-made Exocet cruise missiles from reaching Argentina, but some got through despite the UN arms embargo.

I was recently told (November 2005):
"The Brazilian air company EMBRAER sold, during the war, some EMB-111 Bandeirantes patrol aircraft. I have information that Israel sold some Daggers (a kind of Mirage aircraft) to Argentina via Peru. Another information that Equador transported some bombs to Argentina as well."

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Did Britain invade or attack the mainland?

After the start of hostilities, intelligence as to the movements of certain Argentine aircraft were considered immensely important. This was most apparent after the sinking of HMS Sheffield - where the Argentinian pilots demonstrated their skills at defeating our inadequate radar screen. Both direct air strikes (Harrier or Vulcan) and special forces landings were given serious consideration in an attempt to disable the remaining 3 Exocets and their Super Etendard launch aircraft. An abortive recon mission was undertaken (Operation Mikado): the Fleet Air Arm crew of the deliberately crashed and destroyed Sea King were captured but the nine-man SAS team evaded capture and only left Santiago after the end of the war. Give the 30th anniversary of the conflict is now upon us, further details of such operations are likely to be made public.

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Were the British right to sink the Cruiser Belgrano?

Ooh, now there's a hot question! I believe the British were right in their (successful) attempt to remove the Argentine Navy from the battle, but to do so with such massive loss of life was most unfortunate. The arguments of the exact movements and location (in or out of the exclusion zone) are irrelevant - wherever she was, the Belgrano battle group posed a threat and had to be dealt with in some decisive manner. It would have been militarily beneficial to have sunk the carrier 25 de Mayo (they would have lost the use of Skyhawks that were used later in the war from land bases) but we never knew her exact location.

Of course, the Argentine command knew of the presence of British SSN (attack submarine) patrols around the islands, so to have been operating at all with a less than first-rate ASW capability was extremely risky. Perhaps they overestimated the abilities of their own submarine(s).

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(How) could Argentina have won the war?

I think it was the late then-chief of the defence staff Lord Lewin who said after the war "that was a damn close-run thing". Argentina need only have sunk one of the carriers and it would have been curtains for the whole operation.

For them, Exocet was probably their most decisive weapon - had they had more (and they were desperately trying to buy more on the black market well after the Task Force arrived off the islands), I think we would have been in serious trouble. Britain had been kind enough to sell Argentina two of our best destroyers (Type 42 - same class as Sheffield - whose bright idea was that I wonder?) and had been training their Etendard pilots to attack them and evade their defences. We had to put a lot of stay in un-combat-proven SAMs which, in the event, did not provide an adequate defence against the sea skimmers.

There is no doubt that Argentina's pilots were incredibly brave - they can truly be said to have had "the right stuff". To have continued to press home attacks whilst flying through hails of AA fire to deliver plain old iron bombs (again mostly British made!) is testimony to that.

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Has there been any official/military interest in these pages?


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Could there ever be another Falklands War?

Probably not. Anglo-Argentine relations have never been exactly good. Argentina has bought a significant number of aircraft (mostly ex-US military) but the country is in a seriously bad financial state. Although Britain has made cuts to its navy, the war tought us to retain carriers - we're in the process of building two new, bigger ones but they will take years to enter service. Stanley's airbase has been improved and there is now a garrison of fast jets there, but an improved runway is a mixed blessing - usable by either side.

The presence of oil reserves near the islands and continuing disputes over fishing rights and territorial limits have ensured the continuing political instability of the issue. Even with the 30th anniversary of the conflict, Argentina's claim to the islands show no sign of abaiting and any British foreign secretary who thinks so is fooling themself.

I personally hope, of course, that no more young men loose their lives in the cold, forbidding South Atlantic.

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Can you name some famous quotes from the war?

"Best pleased to inform Her Majesty that the Union Jack once again flies over Stanley. God save the queen"
Major General Jeremy Moore, overall commander ground forces

"A damned close run thing"
Lord Lewin (possibly)

"I counted them all out, and I counted them all back"
BBC correspondant Brian Hanrahan, carefully avoiding censorship whilst describing a Harrier sortie.

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What was the name of the British soldier who was severely burned?

Simon Weston; a guardsman aboard one of the RFAs caught by Argentine A-4 Skyhawks waiting to disembark in Bluff Cove. He has started his own charity called "Weston Spirit". He has also been the subject of a number of British TV documentaries.

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I have something to contribute. How do I get in touch?

You can send a message via the contact form - I am particularly intested in receiving first-hand accounts, especially from Argentinians (as I don't have any from that 'side' yet), but note that I cannot personally read Spanish (although I can get translations done).

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I am researching a book/paper/etc. Can I make requests for information?

You can send a message via the contact form - I can post your request, either with your return email address or anonymously.

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Were there incidents in which the Media influenced events?

The most notable incident was the announcement of the attack on Goose Green before it occurred. The Argentines were able to reinforce their positions and as a result, many more soldiers were killed, including Col. 'H' Jones, c/o 2nd Parachute Regiment.

When the Argentines were found to be dropping iron "dumb" bombs from their A4 Skyhawk below their minimum height (to give the bomb fuses time to arm), this was also reported on British television, but its not know if they changed their attack altitude to counter this.

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What was the British media's view of the war?

This question crops up frequently, often asked by people studying modern history as part of a degree course. Other that the memory of the famous headline from The Sun 'Gotcha' (in massive print) when the Belgrano was sunk, I don't really know - we didn't take any newspapers either then or since.
I would especially welcome contributions from journalists working in the media at the time, from anywhere around the world.

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What famous incidents were there that involved unexploded bombs?

The vast majority of Argentine air attacks on the task force involved dropping plain old 'dumb' iron bombs. The enormous amount of AA fire meant the pilots often unded up flying so low, dropping their bombs so close to their targets, that the often didn't arm properly, resulting in unexploded bombs lodged in various parts of the ships. I think the most famous incident was on or around May 18th or 22nd and involved HMS Antelope.

One bomb entered below the hanger and later another hit the port side right below the bridge, destroying the PO's mess but again not exploding. The former ended up in the boiler room, coming to rest in the air conditioning unit and was thus surrounded by dangerous toxic gas. This I presume was somehow vented because later two Royal Engineers, w/o Phillips and St.Sgt. Prescott (who had earlier been diffusing bombs on Argonaut) boarded her to try make it safe while the ship's company gathered on the fo'c'stle for safety in freezing weather. At 2015 whilst preparing to detonate a small disrupting charge, the whole bomb exploded, killing the Sargeant and badly injuring the w/o, who later lost his arm. The ensuing fire, whipped up by near gale-force winds, soon engulfed the ship, firefighting made impossible by the rupture of the fire main by the explosion. The captain, Commander Nick Tobin decided that with the other UXB on board and the fire getting worse, it was time to abandon ship and a mere 10 minutes after the last man left, the main magazine exploded, thus providing one photographer with probably the most memorable photo of the entire war. Although she burned for half the night, finally the second bomb exploded and she broke in half and sank.

Staff Sargeant Prescott received a posthumous Conspicuous Gallantry Medal; Warrant Officer Phillips received the Distinguished Service Cross.

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Was it a war or a conflict?

It was a 'conflict' - war was never officially declared between the two countries.

A contribution from Ian Mcvitie in March 2013 adds: As you know it wasnt a War it was a conflict but did you know that Argentina never gave a formal cessation of hostilities, only the military on the islands surrendered. Hostilities continued right up until Sept/Oct 1982. The words of Margaret Thatcher on the 29th July 1982: "The response coming out of Buenos Aires was hostile and confused. The possibility of a surprise Argentine ATTACK ON a British Ship could not be Ruled OUT". The Argentine Air Force remained opposed to any accommodation with the United Kingdom into September 1982 and beyond. There was only a de-facto cessation of hostilities and still to this day their has never been a formal cessation of hostilities. 14th June is only the liberation day not the end of the conflict.

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Is the story about penguins and aircraft true?

There is a famous legend regarding Penguins that fall over onto their backs while watching airplanes flying overhead. As witty as it sounds, its not true - see http://www.snopes2.com/critters/wild/penguin.htm

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How many lost their lives?

British Army - 122
Royal Navy - 87
Royal Marines - 26
Merchant Navy - 9
Royal Fleet Auxiliary - 7
Falkland Islanders - 3
Royal Air Force - 1
Total 255

Total wounded - 777
Navy - 392 (323 in ARA Belgrano, rest most marines)
Army - 179 (11 officers, 30 sc, 138 conscripts)
Air Force - 55 (36 pilots)
Gendarmeria (border guard) - 7
Prefectura (coast guard) - 2
Total 635

Total wounded - 1068

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Where can I find a list of those who died?

The Falklands Veterans' Foundation has a webpage that lists the British Forces' dead. The South Atlantic Medal Association has a nice online garden of rememberance too.

Click for a list of Argentine casualties.

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