History of the Falkland Islands

The islands were uninhabited when discovered by Europeans. France established a colony on the islands in 1764. In 1765, a British captain claimed the islands for Britain. In early 1770 a Spanish commander arrived from Argentina with five ships and 1400 soldiers forcing the British to leave Port Egmont. Britain and Spain almost went to war over the islands, but the British government decided that it should withdraw its presence from many overseas settlements in 1774. Spain, which had a garrison at Puerto Soledad on East Falklands, administered the garrison from Montevideo until 1811 when it was compelled to withdraw by pressures resulting from the Peninsular War. In 1833, the British returned to the Falkland Islands. Argentina invaded the islands on 2 April 1982. The British responded with an expeditionary force that forced the Argentines to surrender.

Pre-European Discovery

While Amerindians from Patagonia could have visited the Falklands, the islands were uninhabited when discovered by Europeans. Recent discoveries of arrowheads in Lafonia (on the southern half of East Falkland) as well as the remains of a wooden canoe provide evidence that the Yaghan people of Tierra del Fuego may have made the journey to the islands. It is not known if these are evidence of one-way journeys, but there is no known evidence of pre-Columbian buildings or structures. However, it is not certain that the discovery predates arrival of Europeans. A Patagonian Missionary Society mission station was founded on Keppel Island (off the west coast of West Falkland) in 1856. Yahgan Indians were at this station from 1856 to 1898 so this may be the source of the artifacts that have been found.

The extinct warrah is sometimes taken as evidence of pre-European discovery.
– The extinct warrah is sometimes taken as evidence of pre-European discovery.

The presence of the warrah, Dusicyon australis, has often been cited as evidence of pre-European occupation of the islands. However, in 2009, this hypothesis was disproved when DNA analysis identified the Falkland Island wolf’s closest living relative as the maned wolf – an unusually long-legged, fox-like South American canid, from which it separated about 6.7 million years ago. It would seem that the lineages of the maned wolf and the Falkland Islands wolf separated in North America; canids did not appear in South America until roughly 3 million years ago in a paleozoogeographical event called the Great American Biotic Interchange, in which the continents of North and South America were newly connected by the formation of the Isthmus of Panama. This means it is likely that the warrah arrived in the islands long before humans.

The islands had no native trees when discovered but there is some ambiguous evidence of past forestation, that may be due to wood being transported by oceanic currents from Patagonia. All modern trees have been introduced by Europeans.

Early Colonisation

France established a colony at Port St. Louis, on East Falkland’s Berkeley Sound coast in 1764. The French name Îles Malouines was given to the islands – malouin being the adjective for the Breton port of Saint-Malo.

In 1765, Capt. John Byron, who was unaware the French had established Port Saint Louis on East Falkland, explored Saunders Island around West Falkland. After discovering a natural harbour, he named the area Port Egmont and claimed the islands for Britain on the grounds of prior discovery. The next year Captain John MacBride established a permanent British settlement at Port Egmont.

Under the alliance established by the Pacte de Famille, in 1766 France agreed to leave after the Spanish complained about French presence in territories they considered their own. Spain agreed to compensate Louis de Bougainville, the French admiral and explorer who had established the settlement on East Falkland at his own expense. In 1767, the Spanish formally assumed control of Port St. Louis and renamed it Puerto Soledad (English: Port Solitude).

In early 1770 Spanish commander, Don Juan Ignacio de Madariaga, briefly visited Port Egmont. On 10 June he returned from Argentina with five armed ships and 1400 soldiers forcing the British to leave Port Egmont. This action sparked the Falkland Crisis between 10 July 1770 to 22 January 1771 when Britain and Spain almost went to war over the islands. However conflict was averted when the colony was re-established by Captain John Stott with the ships HMS Juno, HMS Hound and HMS Florida (a mail ship which had already been at the founding of the original settlement). Egmont quickly became an important port-of-call for British ships sailing around Cape Horn.

However, with the growing economic pressures stemming from the upcoming American War of Independence, the British government decided that it should withdraw its presence from many overseas settlements in 1774. On 20 May 1776 the British forces under the command of Royal Naval Lieutenant Clayton formally left Port Egmont, while leaving a plaque asserting Britain’s continuing sovereignty over the islands. For the next four years, British sealers used Egmont as a base for their activities in the South Atlantic. This ended in 1780 when they were forced to leave by Spanish authorities who then ordered that the British colony be destroyed.

Inter-colonial Period

Following the departure of the Spanish settlers, the Falkland Islands became the domain of whalers and sealers who used the islands to shelter from the worst of the South Atlantic weather. By merit of their location, the Falkland Islands have often been the last refuge for ships damaged at sea. Most numerous among those using the islands were British and American sealers, where typically between 40 and 50 ships were engaged in exploiting fur seals. This represents an itinerant population of up to 1,000 sailors.

Argentine Colonisation Attempts

In March 1820, the Heroína, a privately owned frigate that was operated as a privateer under a license issued by the United Provinces of the River Plate, under the command of American Colonel David Jewett, set sail looking to capture Spanish ships as prizes. He captured Carlota, a Portuguese ship, which was considered an act of piracy. A storm resulted in severe damage to Heroína and sank the prize Carlota, forcing Jewett to put into Puerto Soledad for repairs in October 1820.

Captain Jewett sought assistance from the British explorer James Weddell. Jewett’s ship received Weddell’s assistance in obtaining anchorage off Port Louis. Weddell reported only 30 seamen and 40 soldiers fit for duty out of a crew of 200, and how Jewett slept with pistols over his head following the mutiny. On 6 November 1820, Jewett raised the flag of the United Provinces of the River Plate (a predecessor of modern-day Argentina) and claimed possession of the islands. In the words of Weddell, “In a few days, he took formal possession of these islands for the patriot government of Buenos Ayres, read a declaration under their colours, planted on a port in ruins, and fired a salute of twenty-one guns.”

Jewett departed from the Falkland Islands in April 1821. In total he had spent no more than six months on the island, entirely at Port Luis. In 1822, Jewett was accused of piracy by a Portuguese court, but by that time he was in Brazil.

Luis Vernet’s Enterprise

In 1823, the United Provinces of the River Plate granted fishing rights to Jorge Pacheco and Luis Vernet. Travelling to the islands in 1824, the first expedition failed almost as soon as it landed, and Pacheco chose not to continue with the venture. Vernet persisted, but the second attempt, delayed until winter 1826 by a Brazilian blockade, was also unsuccessful. The expedition intended to exploit the feral cattle on the islands but the boggy conditions meant the gauchos could not catch cattle in their traditional way. Vernet was by now aware of conflicting British claims to the islands and sought permission from the British consulate before departing for the islands.

In 1828, the United Provinces government granted Vernet all of East Falkland including all its resources, and exempted him from taxation if a colony could be established within three years. He took settlers, including British Captain Matthew Brisbane (who had sailed to the islands earlier with Weddell), and before leaving once again sought permission from the British Consulate in Buenos Aires. The British asked for a report for the British government on the islands, and Vernet asked for British protection should they return.

On 10 June 1829, Vernet was designated as ‘civil and military commandant’ of the islands (no Governor was ever appointed) and granted a monopoly on seal hunting rights. A protest was lodged by the British Consulate in Buenos Aires. By 1831, the colony was successful enough to be advertising for new colonists, although the Lexington‘s report suggests that the conditions on the islands were quite miserable. Charles Darwin’s visit in 1833 confirmed the squalid conditions in the settlement, although Captain Matthew Brisbane (Vernet’s deputy) later claimed that this was the result of the Lexington raid.

USS Lexington Raid

In 1831, Vernet attempted to assert his monopoly on seal hunting rights. This led him to capture the American ships Harriet, Superior and Breakwater. As a reprisal, the United States consul in Buenos Aires sent Captain Silas Duncan of the USS Lexington to recover the confiscated property. After finding what he considered proof that at least four American fishing ships had been captured, plundered, and even outfitted for war, Duncan took seven prisoners aboard the Lexington and charged them with piracy.

Also taken on board, Duncan reported, “were the whole of the (Falklands’) population consisting of about forty persons, with the exception of some ‘gauchos’, or cowboys who were encamped in the interior.” The group, principally German citizens from Buenos Aires, “appeared greatly rejoiced at the opportunity thus presented of removing with their families from a desolate region where the climate is always cold and cheerless and the soil extremely unproductive”. However, about 24 people did remain on the island, mainly gauchos and several Charrúa Indians, who continued to trade on Vernet’s account.

Measures were taken against the settlement. The log of the Lexington reports destruction of arms and a powder store, while settlers remaining later said that there was great damage to private property. Towards the end of his life, Luis Vernet authorised his sons to claim on his behalf for his losses stemming from the raid. In the case lodged against the US Government for compensation, rejected by the US Government of President Cleveland in 1885, Vernet stated that the settlement was destroyed.

Penal Colony and Mutiny

In the aftermath of the Lexington incident, Major Esteban Mestivier was commissioned by the Buenos Aires government to set up a penal colony. He arrived at his destination on 15 November 1832 but his soldiers mutinied and killed him. The mutiny was suppressed by armed sailors from the French whaler Jean Jacques, whilst Mestivier’s widow was taken on board the British sealer Rapid. The Sarandí returned on 30 December 1832 and Major José María Pinedo took charge of the settlement.

British Return

The Argentinian assertions of sovereignty provided the spur for Britain to send a naval task force in order to finally and permanently return to the islands.

On 3 January 1833, Captain James Onslow, of the brig-sloop HMS Clio, arrived at Vernet’s settlement at Port Louis to request that the flag of the United Provinces of the River Plate be replaced with the British one, and for the administration to leave the islands. While Major José María Pinedo, commander of the schooner Sarandí, wanted to resist, his numerical disadvantage was obvious, particularly as a large number of his crew were British mercenaries who were unwilling to fight their own countrymen. Such a situation was not unusual in the newly independent states in Latin America, where land forces were strong, but navies were frequently quite undermanned. As such he protested verbally, but departed without a fight on 5 January. Argentina claims that Vernet’s colony was also expelled at this time, though sources from time appear to dispute this, suggesting that the colonists were encouraged to remain initially under the authority of Vernet’s storekeeper, William Dickson and later his deputy, Matthew Brisbane.

Initial British plans for the Islands were based upon the continuation of Vernet’s settlement at Port Louis. An Argentine immigrant of Irish origin, William Dickson, was appointed as the British representative and provided with a flagpole and flag to be flown whenever ships were in harbour. In March 1833, Vernet’s Deputy, Matthew Brisbane returned and presented his papers to Captain Fitzroy of HMS Beagle, which coincidentally happened to be in harbour at the time. Fitzroy encouraged Brisbane to continue with Vernet’s enterprise with the proviso that whilst private enterprise was encouraged, Argentine assertions of sovereignty would not be welcome.

Brisbane reasserted his authority over Vernet’s settlement and recommenced the practice of paying employees in promissory notes. Due to Vernet’s reduced status, the promissory notes were devalued, which meant that the employees received fewer goods at Vernet’s stores for their wages. After months of freedom following the Lexington raid this accentuated dissatisfaction with the leadership of the settlement. In August 1833, under the leadership of Antonio Rivero, a gang of Creole and Indian gauchos ran amok in the settlement. Armed with muskets obtained from American sealers, the gang killed five members of Vernet’s settlement including both Dickson and Brisbane. Shortly afterward the survivors fled Port Louis, seeking refuge on Turf Island in Berkeley Sound until rescued by the British sealer ‘Hopeful’ in October 1833.

Lt Henry Smith was installed as the first British resident in January 1834. One of his first actions was to pursue and arrest Rivero’s gang for the murders committed the previous August. The gang was sent for trial in London but could not be tried as the Crown Court did not have jurisdiction over the Falkland Islands. In the British colonial system, colonies had their own, distinct governments, finances, and judicial systems. Rivero was not tried and sentenced because the British local government and local judiciary had not yet been installed in 1834; these were created later, by the 1841 British Letters Patent. Subsequently, Rivero has acquired the status of a folk hero in Argentina, where he is portrayed as leading a rebellion against British rule. Ironically it was the actions of Rivero that were responsible for the ultimate demise of Vernet’s enterprise on the Falklands.

Charles Darwin revisited the Falklands in 1834; the settlements Darwin and Fitzroy both take their names from this visit.

After the arrest of Rivero, Smith set about restoring the settlement at Port Louis, repairing the damage done by the Lexington raid and renaming it ‘Anson’s Harbour’. Lt Lowcay succeeded Smith in April 1838, followed by Lt Robinson in September 1839 and Lt Tyssen in December 1839.

Vernet later attempted to return to the Islands but was refused permission to return. The British Crown reneged on promises and refused to recognise rights granted by Captain Onslow at the time of the reoccupation. Eventually, after travelling to London, Vernet received paltry compensation for horses shipped to Port Louis many years before. G.T. Whittington obtained a concession of 6,400 acres (26 km2) from Vernet that he later exploited with the formation of the Falkland Islands Commercial Fishery and Agricultural Association.

British Colonisation

Immediately following their return to the Falkland Islands and the failure of Vernet’s settlement, the British maintained Port Louis as a military outpost. There was no attempt to colonise the islands following the intervention, instead there was a reliance upon the remaining rump of Vernet’s settlement. Lt. Smith received little support from the Royal Navy and the islands developed largely on his initiative but he had to rely on a group of armed gauchos to enforce authority and protect British interests. Smith received advice from Vernet in this regard, and in turn continued to administer Vernet’s property and provide him with regular accounts. His superiors later rebuked him for his ideas and actions in promoting the development of the small settlement in Port Louis. In frustration, Smith resigned but his successors Lt. Lowcay and Lt. Tyssen did not continue with the initiatives Smith had pursued and the settlement begain to stagnate.

Pressure to develop the islands as a colony began to build as the result of a campaign mounted by British merchant G.T. Whittington. Whittington formed the Falkland Islands Commercial Fishery and Agricultural Association and (based on information indirectly obtained from Vernet) published a pamphlet entitled “The Falkland Islands”. Later a petition signed by London merchants was presented to the British Government demanding the convening of a public meeting to discuss the future development of the Falkland Islands. Whittington petitioned the Colonial Secretary, Lord Russell, proposing that his association be allowed to colonise the islands. In May 1840, the British Government made the decision to colonise the Falkland Islands.

Unaware of the decision by the British Government to colonise the islands, Whittington grew impatient and decided to take action of his own initiative. Obtaining two ships, he sent his brother, J. B. Whittington, on a mission to land stores and settlers at Port Louis. On arrival he presented his claim to land that his brother had bought from Vernet. Lt. Tyssen was taken aback by Whittington’s arrival, indicating that he had no authority to allow this; however, he was unable to prevent the party from landing. Whittington constructed a large house for his party, and using a salting house built by Vernet established a fish-salting business.

Establishment of Port Stanley

In 1833 the United Kingdom asserted authority over the Falkland Islands and Richard Clement Moody, a highly esteemed Royal Engineer, was appointed as Lieutenant Governor of the islands. This post was renamed Governor of the Falkland Islands in 1843, when he also became Commander-in-Chief of the Falkland Islands. Moody left England for Falkland on 1 October 1841 aboard the ship Hebe and arrived in Anson’s Harbour later that month. He was accompanied by twelve sappers and miners and their families; together with Whittington’s colonists this brought the population of Anson’s Harbour to approximately 50. When Moody arrived, the Falklands was ‘almost in a state of anarchy’, but he used his powers ‘with great wisdom and moderation’ to develop the Islands’ infrastructure and, commanding detachment of sappers, erected government offices, a school and barracks, residences, ports, and a new road system.

In 1842, Moody was instructed by Lord Stanley the British Secretary of State for War and the Colonies to report on the potential of the Port William area as the site of the new capital. Moody assigned the task of surveying the area to Captain Ross, leader of the Antarctic Expedition. Captain Ross delivered his report in 1843, concluding that Port William afforded a good deep-water anchorage for naval vessels, and that the southern shores of Port Jackson was a suitable location for the proposed settlement. Moody accepted the recommendation of Ross and construction of the new settlement started in July 1843. Inn July 1845, at Moody’s suggestion, the new capital of the islands was officially named Port Stanley after Lord Stanley. Not everyone was enthused with the selection of the location of the new capital, J. B. Whittington famously remarked that “Of all the miserable bog holes, I believe that Mr Moody has selected one of the worst for the site of his town.”

The structure of the Colonial Government was established in 1845 with the formation of the Legislative Council and Executive Council and work on the construction of Government House commenced. The following year, the first officers appointed to the Colonial Government took their posts; by this time a number of residences, a large storage shed, carpenter’s shop and blacksmith’s shop had been completed and the Government Dockyard laid out. In 1845 Moody introduced tussock grass into Great Britain from Falkland, for which he received the gold medal of the Royal Agricultural Society. The Coat of arms of the Falkland Islands notably includes an image of tussock grass. Moody returned to England in February 1849. Moody Brook is named after him.

With the establishment of the deep-water anchorage and improvements in port facilities, Stanley saw a dramatic increase in the number of visiting ships in the 1840s in part due to the California Gold Rush. A boom in ship provisioning and ship-repair resulted, aided by the notoriously bad weather in the South Atlantic and around Cape Horn. Stanley and the Falkland Islands are famous as the repository of many wrecks of 19th-century ships that reached the islands only to be condemned as unseaworthy and were often employed as floating warehouses by local merchants.

At one point in the 19th century, Stanley became one of the world’s busiest ports. However, the ship-repair trade began to slacken off in 1876 with the establishment of the Plimsoll line, which saw the elimination of the so-called coffin ships and unseaworthy vessels that might otherwise have ended up in Stanley for repair. With the introduction of increasingly reliable iron steamships in the 1890s the trade declined further and was no longer viable following the opening of the Panama Canal in 1914. Port Stanley continued to be a busy port supporting whaling and sealing activities in the early part of the 20th century, British warships (and garrisons) in the First and Second World War and the fishing and cruise ship industries in the latter half of the century.

Government House opened as the offices of the Lieutenant Governor in 1847. Government House continued to develop with various additions, formally becoming the Governor’s residence in 1859 when Governor Moore took residence. Government House remains the residence of the Governor.

Many of the colonists begin to move from Ansons’ Harbour to Port Stanley. As the new town expanded, the population grew rapidly, reaching 200 by 1849. The population was further expanded by the arrival of 30 married Chelsea Pensioners and their families. The Chelsea Pensioners were to form the permanent garrison and police force, taking over from the Royal Sappers and Miners Regiment who had garrisoned the early colony.

The Exchange Building opened in 1854; part of the building was later used as a church. 1854 also saw the establishment of Marmont Row, including the Eagle Inn, now known as the Upland Goose Hotel. In 1887, Jubilee Villas were built to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria. Jubilee Villas are a row of brick built houses that follow a traditional British pattern; positioned on Ross road near the waterfront, they became an iconic image during the Falklands War.

Peat is common on the islands and has traditionally been exploited as a fuel. Uncontrolled exploitation of this natural resource led to peat slips in 1878 and 1886. The 1878 peat slip resulted in the destruction of several houses, whilst the 1886 peat slip resulted in the deaths of two women and the destruction of the Exchange Building.

Christ Church Cathedral was consecrated in 1892 and completed in 1903. It received its famous whalebone arch, constructed from the jaws of two blue whales, in 1933 to commemorate the centenary of continuous British administration. Also consecrated in 1892 was the Tabernacle United Free Church, constructed from an imported timber kit.

Twentieth Century

Establishment of Communications

Although the first telephone lines were installed by the Falkland Islands Company in the 1880s, the Falkland Islands Government was slow to embrace telephony. It was not until 1897 that a telephone line was installed between Cape Pembroke lighthouse and the police station. The islands isolation was broken in 1911 when Guglielmo Marconi installed a wireless telegraphy station that enabled telegrams to be sent to mainland Uruguay.

A line was laid between Darwin and Stanley, with the ship Consort landing poles on the coast. Construction commenced in 1906 and was finished in 1907 (a length of nearly 50 miles or 80 kilometres). The line was initially only for business but the public could make calls occasionally. Lines continued to be laid to most of the major settlements in the islands, with the Falkland Islands police responsible for their maintenance till 1927. Communications among the settlements relied on the telephone network until radio telephones were introduced in the 1950s, although the telephone network continued until 1982. Telecommunications improved dramatically after the Falklands War, when an earth station was installed to allow direct dialling for the first time. In 1997, an Internet service was launched and by 2002 nearly 90% of Falkland homes had Internet access.

Economic Development

A canning factory was opened in 1911 at Goose Green and was initially extremely successful. It absorbed a large proportion of surplus sheep but during the postwar slump it suffered a serious loss and closed in 1921.

Despite this setback, a mere year later, the settlement grew after it became the base for the Falkland Islands Company’s sheep farm in Lafonia in 1922, with improved sheep handling and wool shed being built. In 1927, the settlement’s huge sheep shearing shed was built, which is claimed to be the world’s largest, with a capacity of five thousand sheep. In 1979, 100,598 sheep were shorn at Goose Green.

The mid-20th century saw a number of abortive attempts to diversify the islands’ economy away from large scale sheep ranching.

In the period just after the Second World War, Port Albemarle, in the south west of West Falkland, was enlarged during the post-WWII period by the Colonial Development Company and included its own power station, jetty, Nissen huts etc.; this was an attempt to revive the old sealing industry which had flourished during the 19th century. However, the project proved to be unviable, not least because seal numbers had declined massively.

Similarly, Ajax Bay on Falkland Sound, was developed by the Colonial Development Corporation in the 1950s, which was also responsible for developing Port Albemarle. It was mainly a refrigeration plant, and was supposed to freeze Falkland mutton, but this was found to be economically unviable, despite the huge expense incurred. Many of the pre-fabricated houses here were moved to Stanley. The site later became a British field hospital during the landings of Operation Sutton.

The seas around the Falkland Islands were not well policed prior to the Falklands War, and many foreign boats fished off the islands, despite protests that potential revenue was being lost. Fishing licences were only later to be introduced.


In 1956, J.L. Waldron Ltd built a school at Port Howard, possibly inspired by the “gift” of the FIC at Darwin, a few years earlier.

Up until the 1970s, Goose Green was the site of a boarding school, run by the state. “Camp” children boarded here, and there were 40 spaces. The boarding school was later transferred to Stanley, although the recent emphasis has been on locally based education. The school itself became an Argentine HQ, and was burnt down. A new (day) school has been built for local children.

First World War

Port Stanley became an important coaling station for the Royal Navy. This led to ships based there being involved in major naval engagements in both the First and Second World Wars.

The strategic significance of the Falkland Islands was confirmed by the second major naval engagement of the First World War. Admiral Graf Maximilian von Spee’s German East Asia Squadron called at the islands on its trip from the Pacific Ocean back to Germany, intending to destroy the Royal Navy radio relay station and coaling depot there. Unknown to Spee, a British squadron, including two battlecruisers considerably more powerful than his forces, had been sent to hunt down his squadron and happened to be in the harbour coaling. In the one-sided battle which followed, most of Spee’s squadron was sunk. Canopus Hill, south of Stanley, is named after HMS Canopus, which had fired the first shot in the battle.

Second World War

The Falkland Islands Defence Force was called out to man gun positions and signalling posts around Stanley as soon as word was received of Britain’s declaration of war on 3 September 1939. Mounted patrols were carried out in the Camp, and coast-watching stations were created around the islands to guard against the approach of enemy ships and the landing of enemy forces. The Falkland Islanders experienced much the same kind of war-time privations and restrictions as the British population, including black-outs, travel restrictions, and rationing.

In December, 1939, in the immediate aftermath of the Battle of the River Plate, County class heavy cruiser HMS Cumberland, which had been self-refitting in the Falkland Islands at the time of the battle, steamed to join Ajax and Achilles at the mouth of the River Plate, trapping the Graf Spee. Convinced by British propaganda and false intelligence that a major naval task force awaited his ship and short of ammunition, Captain Langsdorf of the Graf Spee chose instead to scuttle the ship rather than face the Royal Navy.

Operation Tabarin, an expedition to the Antarctic, was mounted from the islands during the war. The purpose of the expecition was to assert Britain’s claims on the continent, as well as gather scientific data. Operation Tabarin was later replaced by the Falkland Islands Dependencies Survey (FIDS), which was later renamed the British Antarctic Survey (BAS).

In 1942, in response to the Japanese entry into the war, additional forces were sent to the islands to strengthen their defence against invasion. The largest component of these additional forces was a battalion of the West Yorkshire Regiment. In 1944, as a result of the reduced threat of invasion from Japan, the West Yorks were replaced by a smaller contingent of the Royal Scots.

Over the whole war more than 150 Falkland Islanders out of a population of only 2,300 volunteered for the British armed forces – 6.5% of the entire population – 24 of whom did not return. In July 1944, all volunteers were given the right to be identified by a “Falkland Islands” shoulder-flash. In addition to these contributions to the British war-effort, the Falkland Islands also donated five Supermarine Spitfires to the British Royal Air Force.

Falklands War

Argentina invaded the islands on 2 April 1982, using special forces, which landed at Mullet Creek and advanced on Government House in Stanley, with a secondary force coming in from Yorke Bay. They encountered little opposition, there being only a small force of fifty-seven British marines and eleven sailors, in addition to the Falkland Islands Defence Force (who were later sent to Fox Bay). There was only one Argentine fatality. The event garnered international attention at a level which the islands had never experienced before, and made them a household name in the UK.

For a brief period, the Falkland Islands found themselves under Argentine control. This included Spanish-language signage, and attempts to make the islanders drive on the right (although few roads in the Falklands at the time actually had two lanes). In many parts of the Camp, such as Goose Green and Pebble Island, the islanders found themselves under house arrest.

The British responded with an expeditionary force that landed seven weeks later and, after fierce fighting, forced the Argentine garrison to surrender on 14 June 1982. The war proved to be an anomaly in a number of different respects, not least that it proved that small arms still had a role to play. It also had major consequences for the Junta, which was toppled soon afterwards.

Margaret Thatcher’s general political legacy remains controversial and divisive within the UK and within the context of the Falklands her government’s withdrawal of HMS Endurance is a stated contributing factor to the causes of the conflict because it gave the wrong signals about the UK attitude towards maintaining its possession. However, within the Falklands, she is considered a heroine because of the determination of her response to the Argentine invasion. The islands celebrate Margaret Thatcher Day on every 10 January, and named a street Thatcher Drive after her, in Stanley.


Following the war, Britain focused on improving its facilities on the islands. It increased its military presence significantly, building a large base at RAF Mount Pleasant and its port at Mare Harbour. It also invested heavily in improving facilities in Stanley and transportation and infrastructure around the islands, tarmacking the Stanley – Mount Pleasant road and many roads within Stanley. The population has risen due to the growth of Stanley, but has declined in Camp (the countryside). Since November 2008, a regular ferry service has linked East and West, carrying cars, passengers and cargo serviced by MV Concordia Bay, a 42.45 m twin-screw shallow draft (2.59 m) landing craft.

A major change to the way the Falkland Islands are governed was introduced by the 1985 constitution. Under the 1985 constitution the Falkland Islands Government (FIG) became a parliamentary representative democratic dependency, with the governor as head of government and representative of the Queen. Members of the FIG are democratically elected; the Governor is purely a figurehead with no executive powers. Effectively under this constitution, the Falkland Islands are self-governing with the exception of foreign policy, although the FIG represents itself at the United Nations Special Committee on Decolonisation as the British Government no longer attends.

Links with Argentina became severed during the post-war period, with laws being introduced to forbid Argentine citizens from buying land. An alternative trading partner was found in Chile, and over the years, the islands found themselves with closer links to that country, with flights being introduced to Punta Arenas, in the far south of Patagonian Chile, near Tierra del Fuego. In recent years, Argentines have been allowed to visit the islands again, often to visit the military cemeteries where their friends and loved ones are buried.

Relations between the UK and Argentina remained hostile following 1982, and diplomatic relations were restored in 1989. Although the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution calling for the UK and Argentina to return to negotiations over the Islands’ future, the UK ruled out any further talks over the Islands’ sovereignty. The UK also maintained an arms embargo against Argentina that was initiated during the 1982 war, which forced Argentine armed forces, a traditional UK buyer, switch to other markets.

Relations between the UK and Argentina improved further in the 1990s. In 1998, Carlos Menem, the President of Argentina visited London, where he reaffirmed his country’s claims to the Islands, although he stated that Argentina would use only peaceful means for their recovery. In 2001, Tony Blair, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom visited Argentina where he stated that he hoped the UK and Argentina could resolve their differences that led to the 1982 war. However, no talks on sovereignty took place during the visit. His reception in Argentina was more welcoming than that of the Princess of Wales (Diana Spencer) in 1995, who was heckled by the mother of an Argentine soldier killed in the war.

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin


Kevin Ironside

Kevin Ironside

Managing Director

Pat Clunie

Pat Clunie

Finance Director

Tara Francis

Tara Francis

Retail Director

Susan Knipe

Susan Knipe

Procurement Director

Stephen Dent

Stephen Dent

Support Services Director

Roy Smith

Roy Smith

Construction Director

Richard Sawle

Richard Sawle

Non-Executive Director