The Official History of the Falklands Campaign, Volume 1: The Origins of the Falklands War 0415419123, 9780415419123

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The Official History of the Falklands Campaign, Volume 1: The Origins of the Falklands War
 0415419123, 9780415419123

Table of contents :
Front Cover
The Official History of the Falklands Campaign
Copyright Page
List of illustrations
1. Origins of the Dispute
2. Inconsistent Appeasement
3. Communications and Condominiums
4. Mis-Communication and Non-Cooperation
5. Shackleton
6. Unreliable Defence
7. Reappraisal
8. Undetected Deterrence
9. Marking Time
10. Towards Lease-Back
11. The Rise
of Lease-Back
12. The Fall of Lease-Back
13. Micawberism
14. No Plans
15. Alarm Bells
16. South Georgia
17. Crisis
18. Delayed Response
19. The Worst Moment
20. Conclusion

Citation preview

THE OFFICIAL HISTORY OF THE FALKLANDS CAMPAIGN Volume I: The Origins of the Falklands War Drawing on a vast range of government archives, as well as interviews with key participants, the first volume of The Official History of the Falklands Campaign provides the most authoritative account of the origins of the 1982 war. In the first chapters the author analyses the long history of the dispute between Argentina and Britain over the sovereignty of the Islands, the difficulties faced by successive governments in finding a way to reconcile the opposed interests of the Argentines and the islanders, and the constant struggle to keep the Islands viable. He subsequently gives a complete account of how what started as an apparently trivial incident over an illegal landing by scrap-metal merchants on the island of South Georgia turned into a major crisis. Thanks to his access to classified material, Sir Lawrence Freedman has been able to produce a detailed and authoritative analysis which extends the coverage given by the Franks Committee Report of 1983. This volume is ultimately an extremely readable account of these events, charting the growing realisation within the British government of the seriousness of the situation, culminating in the Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands at the start of April 1982. Sir Lawrence Freedman is Professor of War Studies at King’s College London where he is currently Vice-Principal. He has written extensively on military strategy, cold war history and contemporary conflict and is a regular newspaper columnist.


The Government Official History series began in 1919 with wartime histories, and the peacetime series was inaugurated in 1966 by Harold Wilson. The aim of the series is to produce major histories in their own right, compiled by historians eminent in the field, who are afforded free access to all relevant material in the official archives. The Histories also provide a trusted secondary source for other historians and researchers while the official records are not in the public domain. The main criteria for selection of topics are that the histories should record important episodes or themes of British history while the official records can still be supplemented by the recollections of key players; and that they should be of general interest, and, preferably, involve the records of more than one government department. THE UNITED KINGDOM AND THE EUROPEAN COMMUNITY: Vol. I: The Rise and Fall of a National Strategy, 1945–1963 Alan S.Milward SECRET FLOTILLAS: Vol. I: Clandestine Sea Operations to Brittany, 1940–1944 Vol. II: Clandestine Sea Operations in the Mediterranean, North Africa and the Adriatic, 1940–1944 Sir Brooks Richards SOE IN FRANCE M.R.D.Foot THE OFFICIAL HISTORY OF THE FALKLANDS CAMPAIGN: Vol. I: The Origins of the Falklands War Vol. II: War and Diplomacy Sir Lawrence Freedman


Sir Lawrence Freedman


First published 2005 by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN Simultaneously published in the USA and Canada by Taylor & Francis Inc 270 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10016 Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group This edition published in the Taylor & Francis e-Library, 2005. “To purchase your own copy of this or any of Taylor & Francis or Routledge’s collection of thousands of eBooks please go to” © 2005 Crown Copyright All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers The publisher makes no representation, express or implied, with regard to the accuracy of the information contained in this book and cannot accept any legal responsibility or liability for any errors or omissions that may be made The author has been given full access to official documents. He alone is responsible for the statements made and the views expressed British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data A catalog record for this title has been requested Published on behalf of the Whitehall History Publishing Consortium. Applications to reproduce Crown copyright protected material in this publication should be submitted in writing to: HMSO, Copyright Unit, St Clements House, 2–16 Colegate, Norwich NR3 1BQ. Fax: 01603 723000. Email: [email protected] ISBN 0-203-50786-X Master e-book ISBN

ISBN 0-203-60727-9 (Adobe e-Reader Format) ISBN 0-7146-5206-7 (Print Edition) (Volume I) ISBN 0-7146-5207-5 (Print Edition) (Volume II) ISBN 0-415-36431-0 (Print Edition) (set)

CONTENTS List of illustrations




Preface Maps


x xii



























124 132



















The South Atlantic


Falkland Islands—1982


South Sandwich Islands


South Georgia



Comparative British Trade with Argentina and the Falklands: 1972– 75



Anti-Submarine Warfare


British Antarctic Survey


British Broadcasting Corporation


Head of the Secret Intelligence Service


Central Intelligence Agency


Current Intelligence Groups


Commander-in-Chief, Fleet


Defence Intelligence Service


Defence Operations Executive

DP & L

Dundee, Perth and London Securities Ltd


European Economic Community


Foreign & Commonwealth Office


Flag Officer First Flotilla


Greenwich Mean Time


Her Majesty’s Government


International Court of Justice


International Monetary Fund


Joint Intelligence Committee


Latin America Current Intelligence Group


Líneas Aéreas del Estado


Landing Platform Dock


Landing Ship Logistic


Ministry of Foreign Affairs


Ministry of Defence


Member of Parliament


North Atlantic Treaty Organisation


National Environmental Research Council


Organisation of American States


Defence and Oversea Policy Committee


Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries


Royal Air Force


Royal Fleet Auxiliary


Royal Marines


Royal Navy


Rules of Engagement


Royal Research Ship


Rio-Tinto Zinc


Special Air Service


South Atlantic Treaty Organisation


Satellite Communications


Special Boat Squadron


Polaris Ballistic Missile-Carrying Submarine


Nuclear-Powered Submarine


United Kingdom


United Nations


UN Conference on the Law of the Sea


United States


Very Low Frequency


Weekly Survey of Intelligence


Argentine State Oil Company


This volume takes the story of the Falkland Islands up to the point when it became apparent to the British Government that an Argentine invasion was about to take place. In the next volume I deal with the consequences—military and diplomatic—of that invasion and the policies adopted following the recapture of the Islands. The fact that a British government could be caught out so badly in a long running dispute over such a remote territory led to many post-mortems, including an official review. The broad outlines of what happened over the period are well known. I believe nonetheless that the opportunity that I have had to go through the archives, as well as appraise the considerable material already in the public domain, does throw new light on these events. I have been able to speak to many people involved in the events. I was particularly pleased to be able to visit the Falklands in March 2000 and was very grateful to the warm hospitality shown by the Governor and his staff and the islanders. I was able to interview many of the senior policy-makers, who often provided important insights and recollections. This was in addition to those that I had interviewed in the 1980s when I first began writing about these events. It is of the nature of this subject that I keep on meeting people with interesting stories to tell about this period. I am also aware of other people who might be surprised that I have not interviewed them. Often I have learned a lot about the personalities involved and attitudes towards the conflict, but in general, and notwithstanding some frustrating gaps, the great advantage of an official history is the ability to make full use of the archives. Although this story begins in the sixteenth century, the constraints of space mean that only the first three chapters cover the period up to 1974. They draw predominantly on secondary sources which are footnoted in the text, as well as FCO Research Department memorandums on the Falkland Islands Dispute covering developments from 1965–74 together with official records from the House of Commons. The period from 1974–82 is covered in greater detail. I have used materials in the Prime Ministers’ files, the relevant Cabinet Office papers, including Defence and Oversea Policy Committee minutes and memoranda1, Foreign & Commonwealth Office files, Secretary of State for Defence papers, and those of the Chief of the Defence Staff and Chiefs of Staff, including Defence Intelligence Staff files. I have also been able to consult intelligence materials, including Joint Intelligence Committee reports. Use was also made of a staff history produced by the Naval Historical Branch and papers relating to the Report of the Committee of Privy Counsellors, chaired by Lord Franks. I have also been able to make use of US documents kindly made available by the State Department and the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.

The Franks Report addressed the issue of political responsibility for the Argentine invasion coming as a surprise. As will be seen I have some differences in analysis with this report, but my task has never been to assign blame or to make recommendations for reform. Not only was I able to review all the files prepared for Franks, and some that the Committee may not have seen, but I was also able to explore this material more fully, and with different questions in mind. One of the great breakthroughs of the Franks report was to acknowledge the role of the Joint Intelligence Committee. It is difficult to discuss events such as this without examining the influence of intelligence on policy and I believe that I have been able to do this while recognising the sensitivity of much of the material I have been allowed to see. I am grateful to the mature attitude shown by the relevant agencies in accepting the importance of this task. This attitude has extended to the Cabinet Office and the other ministries that have been involved in this project. The analysis in this history is entirely my own. No attempt has been made to suggest that some things are best left unsaid or that particular interpretations would be helpful, irrespective of the evidence supporting them. Lastly I wish to acknowledge the tremendous contribution made by my researcher, Dr Chris Baxter, without whom I would have been quite overwhelmed by the sheer volume of the material to be covered. It has also been a pleasure to work with Tessa Stirling, Head of the Cabinet Office’s Histories, Openness and Records Unit, who has seen this project through from start to finish and has given me marvellous support at every stage. In this she was ably supported by Richard Ponman and Sally Falk.

Notes 1 There is an alternating designation between Oversea Policy and Defence Committee and Defence and Oversea Policy Committee with changes of government. I have largely referred to this simply as the Defence Committee or OD as its normal abbreviation, but on occasion retained the full title.

Map 1 The South Atlantic

Map 2 Falkland Islands—1982

Map 3 South Sandwich Islands

Map 4 South Georgia


What, but a bleak and gloomy solitude, an island thrown aside from human use, stormy in winter, and barren in summer; an island which not even southern savages have dignified with habitation; where a garrison must be kept in a state that contemplates with envy the exiles of Siberia; of which the expence will be perpetual, and the use only occasional; and which, if fortune smiles upon our labours, may become a nest of smugglers in peace, and in war the refuge of future Buccaniers.

So wrote Samuel Johnson about the Falkland Islands in 1771. He wondered then why Britain might be prepared to go to war for such a desolate place. Significantly this quote was put in the files of the Secretariat of the Chiefs of Staff at the end of March 1982, just as Britain was gearing up to war. It reappears often in later files. Johnson’s assessment of the Falklands may have been widely cited during the 1980s, but it was quite unfair. The climate of the Falklands is not at all Siberian. It is temperate, somewhat warmer than Britains in its winter although cooler in its summer. It is perfectly habitable, although there are difficulties with access and internal communications. There is a marked lack of trees although an abundance of wildlife. This archipelago in the South Atlantic Ocean consists of two large islands and about 780 smaller islands. The larger East Falkland has an area of 2,580 square miles while West Falkland, with adjacent islands, covers 2,038 square miles. The Islands are found at the eastern entrance to the Straits of Magellan and some 250 miles to the west is the Argentine province of Patagonia. About 800 and 1,300 miles respectively to the south east are South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, which were throughout the period covered by this account Dependencies of the Falkland Islands.1 Although South Georgia has been used by transient workers from the whaling industry in its past its sub-polar climate discourages habitation: the South Sandwich Islands are quite uninhabitable as they are mountainous, volcanic and covered with glaciers. By contrast, the Falklands have proved able to sustain a settled population and a pastoral economy. The local inhabitants became known as “kelpers” (seaweed gatherers), and anywhere outside of Stanley as the Camp, derived from the Spanish word Campos meaning country. By the early 20th century the community was thriving, with a nonmilitary population of around 3,000. At the previous peak, in 1931, the population

The Official history of the falklands campaign


reached 2,392. The 1980 census found a total population of 1,813, but declining at the rate of about 30 a year. All but around five percent were British, but there were some 30 Argentines, connected with the links established between the Islands and the mainland, 27 Chileans, mainly farm and road workers, and 24 Americans, largely of the Bahai faith. There were in total 589 residential buildings in the Islands (363 of them in Stanley).2 Until 1982 the most important military association of the Falklands was the battle fought close by in 1914 when four German cruisers were sunk with the loss of some 1,900 men, after a squadron had been sent urgently from Britain to respond to the loss of two British cruisers in an earlier engagement. The main problem for the Falkland Islands was, and still is, disputes over its ownership, continuing over 250 years. Since 1833 they have been under British control, and successive British governments have insisted that this is right, but an international court has never tested the claim and Argentina disagrees. This question was considered in public in a semi-formal manner a few months after the Falkland Islands had been retaken by Britain after an Argentine attempt to settle the matter in its favour by force. A Select Committee of the House of Commons addressed seriously the question of who actually owned the Islands. The Government insisted that there was no issue, but Members of Parliament were clearly troubled by a confusing story, which went some way to explaining why it was that Argentina had been so persistent in its claim. As the Committee was about to reach a conclusion, the May 1983 general election intervened, and it took until the next year before a reconstituted Committee could issue a report. The result was hardly a ringing endorsement of Britain’s claim to a territory on whose behalf it had just gone to war. The Committee declared itself ‘unable to reach a categorical conclusion on the legal validity of the claims’ of either Britain or Argentina.3 It then raised the significance of the Argentine invasion of 1982 by declaring that this in effect had decided the matter. The ‘historical argument…has been rendered less relevant by Argentina’s illegal resort to arms.’ The British Government disputed the suggestion of any serious doubt surrounding its claim, but it could not ignore the fact that for some 15 years it had been prepared to talk with Argentina about the future of the Falklands, with the transfer of sovereignty often explicitly on the agenda, and that these talks also involved the Dependencies, albeit tentatively and even though the British claim here had quite different foundations. There is no doubt that the 1982 war was a watershed in the sense that it bolstered the resolve of the British Government to defend robustly the right of the islanders to live under a government of their choosing and diminished even further any islander interest in joining Argentina. This is, however, no more than to confirm what has always been the case with the Falklands: that law has mattered less than power and determination when it comes to deciding ownership. The Government expressed its regret in 1985 at the Committee’s reluctance to reach a conclusion. The official, confident line on sovereignty still held as if it had been constant for over 200 years. In practice, however, the British position had evolved, with an increasing stress on constant occupation and then on self-determination. In this chapter we shall chart this evolution and evaluate the legal claims made by the two sides against the historical record. In doing so it is important to note that there has never been any formal presentation of the British claim before any international or judicial body. Britain has certainly never repudiated the original basis for its claim.4

Origins of the dispute


The question of ownership of the Falklands remains bound up, as it has always been, with the ability to sustain relatively small settlements, if necessary by force. In the years up to 1833 a number of states pursued parallel claims to these Islands without a consensus on sovereignty emerging, as each attempted to sustain their own settlements and on occasion ejected those of others. After 1833 Britain was able to maintain its settlement against Argentine objections. Argentina never renounced its claim even when there was not much that could be done about it. Equally when British officials considered the possibility of transferring the Islands to Argentina this was not because of a lack of confidence in the claim but more in their ability to sustain the Islands in the face of continued pressure from Argentina. Handing the matter over to international lawyers would not have taken the matter out of politics. Any opinion from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) would not arise simply out of a disinterested process of legal analysis. Much would depend on the composition of the Court, including the nationality and legal philosophy of individual members, as well as whether they were disposed to see the Falklands as a relic of colonialism or a shining example of self determination.

Origins Both sides seek to justify their claim to the Falklands by drawing on the complex history of the Islands, and the chronology of discovery, settlements, treaties, conflicts, claims and protests, but also to the meaning of sovereignty in practice during some fleeting moments of occupation.5 The dispute starts with the question of discovery. Argentina argues that the first sightings should be credited to either Amerigo Vespucci in 1502, Esteban Gomez, a Portuguese sailor in Magellan’s expedition of 1520 or the Camargo expedition of 1540, and point to their appearance on early sixteenth century Spanish maps. Britain puts the discovery of the Islands at 1592 and attributes this to a British Captain, John Davies, aboard the Desire, followed two years later by Sir Richard Hawkins who passed along their northern coast. Both sides agree that the Islands were first named in 1600 as the ‘Sebaldes’ by the Dutchman Sebald van de Weert who came across them as he sailed through the Straits of Magellan and into the Atlantic. This is the only authenticated discovery. The question of discovery constitutes the pre-history of the dispute. The question of ownership only really became moot in the middle of the eighteenth century. Britain can claim the first recorded landing, on 27 January 1690, by Captain John Strong of the Royal Navy, from the Welfare. It was he who named the sound between the eastern and western islands, Falkland, in honour of the third Viscount Falkland, Anthony Cary, who was later to become First Lord of the Admiralty. Some decades later it was argued within the Admiralty that this could be just the strategic base Britain required in the South Atlantic to interdict Spanish sea lines of communication. In 1748 it was therefore decided to send an expedition to the Falkland Islands. Spain objected. It considered itself to have rights to all territories in this part of the world. This was traced back to the Treaty of Tordesillas of 1494, which divided the New World between Spain and Portugal on a line that ran from Pole to Pole, 370 leagues to the west of Cape Verde. Portugal would remain predominant to the east of the line, the Spanish to the west. Spain had continued to argue for exclusive rights to the whole region under the Anglo-Spanish

The Official history of the falklands campaign


Treaty of 1604 and the Treaties of Madrid of 1670 and Utrecht of 1713 reinforced this claim. Britain refuted the Spanish claim, asserting that it could not ‘in any respect give in to the reasonings of the Spanish ministers.’ The right ‘to send out ships for the discovery of the unknown and unsettled parts of the world must indubitably be allowed by everybody.’ Nevertheless, this was a time of important commercial treaty negotiations with Spain and so while denying the Spanish claim the British did not pursue the expedition. At this point France enters the picture. Having lost its position in North America during the Seven Years’ War (1756–1763), it sought to rebuild its colonial power at Spain’s expense. Antoine de Bougainville, a French navigator, established a settlement at Port Louis on the Falkland Islands in 1764, proclaiming the Islands (Les Malouines) in the name of Louis XV. Spain contested this occupation on the same basis that it had challenged the proposed British expedition, referring to papal awards and prior discovery. The French backed down, reluctant to enter into another war at a time when relations with Spain in Europe were improving. As important, they received a substantial sum from Spain under an agreement of 4 October 1766, which led to the French evacuation of Port Louis and its formal transfer to Spain the next April when it was renamed Puerto de Soledad (Port Solitude). The Islands were incorporated into the jurisdiction of the Captaincy General of Buenos Aires, and Don Felipe Ruiz Puente became the first Governor of the Islas Malvinas. On 23 January 1765, just before this Franco-Spanish agreement, which concerned East Falkland, Commodore John Byron, the poet’s grandfather, arrived aboard HMS Dolphin at West Falkland, which he claimed for King George III. He reported that: ‘the whole navy of England might ride here in perfect security from all winds,’ leading Lord Egmont, the First Lord of the Admiralty, to contend that the Islands were of extreme strategic importance and: undoubtedly the key to the whole Pacifick Ocean. The Island must command the Ports and trade of Chile, Peru, Panama, Acapulco and in one word all the Spanish Territory upon that sea. It will render all our expeditions to those parts most lucrative to ourselves, most fatal to Spain. Having decided to take the Falklands seriously, the British sent a second expedition. This arrived a year later in January 1766 under the command of John McBride, commander of HMS Jason. At this point a British settlement of some 100 people was established in Port Egmont at Saunders Island on West Falkland. So by this time two settlements, apparently in ignorance of each other, co-existed on the two islands. Because of this ignorance the British laid claim to all of the Falklands and when the French were discovered they were ordered to leave, although without this order having much effect. As soon as Spain acquired its settlement from France it demanded that the British leave their settlement. The two countries swapped demands, until June 1770 when 1,400 Spanish soldiers arrived in five frigates sent from Argentina and the British were compelled to abandon Port Egmont. The British Government were outraged and made preparations for war. It was these preparations that prompted Johnson’s outburst on the dismal quality of the Islands. Now it was Spain’s turn to back down, which it did by means of a declaration in January 1771 that permitted the British to reestablish their

Origins of the dispute


settlement, although at the same time it reserved its position on sovereignty. Britain did not, however, make a counter-claim on its sovereignty rights at this time and, although this did not constitute in itself an implicit acknowledgement of Spanish sovereignty, the Government was criticised for the omission in Parliament. Furthermore, the British were having their own second thoughts on the value of this property. At a time of growing unrest in its American colonies, the Falklands appeared expensive and of marginal strategic value and so Saunders Island was left voluntarily in 1774 as Britain concentrated on North America.6 A flag and a plaque, left behind as the settlers withdrew, with the following inscription sustained the country’s claim: Be it known to all nations that the Falkland Islands, with this fort, the storehouses, wharfs, harbours, bays, and creeks thereunto belonging are the sole right and property of His Most Sacred Majesty George the Third, King of Great Britain, France and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, etc. In witness whereof this plaque is set up, and His Britannic Majesty’s colours left flying as a mark of possession. By S.W.Clayton, Commanding Officer at Falkland Islands, AD 1774. The Spanish Government viewed Britain’s departure with great satisfaction and instructed their Governor of the Malvinas ‘to make sure that they do not return to that quarter.’ In 1775 the plaque was retrieved and transported to Buenos Aires. In 1780 the Viceroy of Buenos Aires instructed that the settlement be destroyed. From 1774 to 1810 Spain, through this Vice-Royalty, was the exclusive administrator of the Falkland Islands. The old settlement was used largely as a prison camp. With a population estimated in the mid-1780s at only 80–120, of which a substantial minority were convicts, Spain’s interest in these barren islands remained slight. There were even suggestions that they might be abandoned. The main task of the numerous governors of the Islands over this period was to undertake inspection tours ‘to prevent British sailors and fishermen from settling anywhere’. In the St. Lawrence Convention of 1790 Spain conceded to Britain navigation and fishing rights in the Pacific and South Seas in return for an agreement not to establish any settlements on the eastern or western coasts of South America or on the adjacent islands to the south or those parts occupied by Spain. This clearly prevented Britain from occupying the Falklands and although this Convention was abrogated in 1795 it was revived in 1814. When, in 1806, Spain was threatened by Napoleon and an unofficial British expedition briefly captured Buenos Aires (in the process retrieving the plaque that had been left on the Islands in 1774) the Spanish Governor in Puerto Soledad fled from the Malvinas. The Spanish eventually withdrew from the Falkland Islands altogether in 1811, leaving behind a few gauchos and fishermen, and a plate proclaiming Spanish rights on a church door at Puerto de Soledad: ‘The island, with its ports, buildings, dependencies…belongs to the sovereignty of His Majesty Fernando VII… King of Spain and the Indies’. For the next ten years the Islands were uninhabited, used only by whalers and sealers, and it could be argued that they had become terra nullius. Having rejected Spanish rule in 1810, on 9 July 1816, the United Provinces of Rio de la Plata declared their independence. The United Provinces became Argentina and

The Official history of the falklands campaign


claimed as its inheritance the territorial rights of Spain. This is the basis, along with geographical contiguity, for the Argentine claim to the Falkland Islands. The governments of the United Provinces generally were unstable in their first years and had difficulty establishing their authority over the territories they claimed. In November 1820 Colonel Daniel Jewett, an American, raised the flag of the United Provinces on behalf of the new government in Buenos Aires at Puerto de Soledad. Finding fifty vessels of various nationalities on the Falkland Islands, Jewett ordered them to cease their fishing activities and leave the Islands. No British protest was made: this may have reflected ignorance, as there was no representative in Buenos Aires at the time. A Governor was appointed, although he never visited the Islands, and there is little evidence of any serious effort to exercise any effective control. When, in 1825, Britain recognised the United Provinces it made no mention of the issue of sovereignty over the Falkland Islands, but there is no reason to suppose that the omission was deliberate. Nor did Britain protest the next year about the establishment of a permanent settlement. It took the appointment of a political and military Governor, Louis Vernet, on 10 June 1829 to revive British interest. The creation of the Argentine colony was largely free enterprise on Vernet’s part. He was granted exclusive rights of the fisheries and endowed with ‘all the authority and jurisdiction necessary to fulfil his job’ as Governor. When the decree became known in Buenos Aires the British Chargé d’Affairs delivered a formal protest on 19 November 1829, noting that: ‘the Argentine Republic, in issuing this Decree, [has] assumed authority incompatible with His Britannick Majesty’s rights of sovereignty over the Falkland Islands’, citing as he did so, British rights from discovery and the restoration of occupation in 1771. At this time the British Government, with the Duke of Wellington Prime Minister, considered reoccupation of the Islands but decided against it. Vernet had received a concession of land on East Falkland as early as 1823 for fishing and grazing rights and since then had been working hard to establish a settlement. The population was between 120 and 200, engaged in the production of cow hides, meat and seal skins. It was at this time that wool began to be exported to London. Gaining in confidence, Vernet decided to enforce Argentine fishing regulations by seizing three American ships, one of which was taken with its Captain to stand trial in Buenos Aires. The American Consul in Buenos Aires, George W.Slacum, protested and threatened reprisals. A warship USS Lexington happened to be in the River Plate at the time and its captain, Silas Duncan, chose to sail to the Islands, landed, destroyed all military installations, razed the buildings, seized sealskins, put most inhabitants under arrest and then left, declaring the Islands free of all government. As a result relations between the United States and Argentina were broken. The US explicitly denied Argentine jurisdiction over the Falklands, and in their arguments with Argentina appeared to acknowledge British sovereignty. Diplomatic relations between the two were not restored until 1844. In London, the Admiralty decided to take advantage of the dislocation created by the Lexington incident by sending two warships, HMS Clio and HMS Tyne, to reassert British sovereignty on the Falkland Islands. They reached Port Egmont in December 1832. The Argentine authorities had meanwhile taken steps of their own to repair the damage and reinstate law and order in the colony. In September 1832 a new interim military and political commander, Juan Mestivier, was appointed and a gunboat, the ARA

Origins of the dispute


Sarandi, was dispatched to support him. The British objected that this appointment infringed British sovereignty over the Islands. More problematic for Mestivier was that his own forces would not accept his authority and two months later, when the Sarandi sailed away from the Islands, the garrison mutinied and killed him. The Sarandi returned and attempted to rout the mutineers. Just as it was doing so, on 2 January 1833, the Clio, under the command of Captain J.J.Onslow, appeared in Port Louis. Onslow told Don José Maria Pinedo aboard the Sarandi that the Islands belonged to no one, and that the British flag would replace that of Argentina the next day, 3 January 1833. Pinedo protested but in the face of superior force he did not resist. To Britain this demonstrated that the transfer of control was a matter of persuasion, for no shots were fired. Argentina points to the coercive nature of the persuasion. Two days later the Sarandi left the Islands, taking with it the Argentine soldiers, convicts from the penal colony at San Carlos and some, but not all, of the Argentine settlers. Pinedo had appointed the head gaucho (farmhand) as Governor, but other gauchos murdered him in August. In July the British explained their action to the Argentine Government on the grounds that the claim to the Falklands had never been relinquished: ‘The British government at one time thought it inexpedient to maintain any Garrison in those Islands: it has now altered its views, and has deemed it proper to establish a post there.’ If this seemed inconsistent it was added that, ‘His Majesty is not accountable to any Foreign Power for the reasons which may guide him with respect to territories belonging to the British Crown.’ In January 1834, a British naval officer was placed in charge of Port Louis, and the Falkland Islands remained under Admiralty control until 1842, when the Colonial Office appointed a British Governor, Lieutenant Richard Moody. Under an Act of Parliament in 1843, letters of patent were issued in June 1844, and the Falkland Islands became a crown colony with a governor, legislative council, and executive council, in 1845.

The quality of the claims Much of the debate revolves around the question of whether Britain acted illegally in 1833. The British defence depends on the view that Onslow was merely reasserting an established British claim and that Argentina had failed to establish a settlement worthy of the name when it had a chance to do so. The quality of the British claim cannot depend credibly on prior discovery or occupation. Reliance was placed instead on the settlement at Port Egmont, West Falkland. When established in 1766 the Falkland Islands were not res nullius (belonging to no one) as the French had a claim based on their earlier settlement in East Falkland and there were the existing Spanish claims. At most perhaps Britain was establishing a claim to West Falkland. Moreover, the departure of the settlers in 1774 could be taken as abandonment. So the claim depended on one settlement of a short duration, not replaced for almost sixty years and sustained by a plaque, which was soon removed and was of dubious validity after so many years. Evident weaknesses in the British claim, however, did not necessarily translate into a strong Argentine claim. Territorial contiguity by itself is no basis for transfer, even with small islands. On this basis the Channel Islands would be transferred to France, while

The Official history of the falklands campaign


Canada would demand from France two small islands—Miquelon and St. Pierre—in the St Lawrence River. The real issue is the quality of the original title and much depends here on the nature of Argentina’s inheritance from Spain under the doctrine of Succession of States (uti possidetis). Spanish sovereignty, it is argued, had been recognised by France and Britain in contemporary treaties. The Islands were occupied and administered peacefully by 19 Spanish governors from 1774 until Argentina’s independence. In 1770 Spain had objected to the British presence in West Falkland and took action four years later. This line of argument is bolstered by the Saint Lawrence Convention of 1790 which appears to have prohibited either Britain or Spain from establishing new settlements on islands adjacent to the coasts of South America, thereby preserving the status quo. The argument goes on to note that Britain recognised Argentina’s independence in 1825 without any claim to the Falkland Islands, which were then under an Argentine governor living in the Islands. Peaceful, undisputed occupation and administration of the Islands continued under five Argentine governors. In the Lexington incident, Argentine rights to the Islands were never at stake. There are a number of problems with this case. Could Spain cede territories it did not possess at the time? The Spanish settlement on East Falkland was abandoned in 1811. If it is argued that the British withdrawal in 1774 meant relinquishing a claim, then so might the Spanish withdrawal in 1811, thereby leaving the territory in a state of res nullius. Argentina did not gain independence until 1816. There is no evidence of any renunciation of title by Spain in favour of Argentina, express or implied, although Spain showed no interest at all in the events surrounding these islands with so much else to worry about in terms of her South American colonies at this time. The establishment of the Port Egmont settlement also meant there had been no absolute possession of the Falkland Islands from 1766 to 1833. As for the Argentine claim that it was the successor to the Spanish viceroyalty of the River Plate, it might be noted that this vice-royalty also governed most of what became Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia and Chile. At no point did Spain acknowledge or formally cede a transfer of title to Argentina. The Argentine case relies, therefore, on what has tended to be the more generous interpretations of uti possidetis by Latin American jurists, assuming territories to be included in the succession, whether or not they were ever formally ceded by Spain or occupied. If it is the case that the Falklands had not simply passed to Argentina from Spain through a process of natural succession, but was in effect up for grabs at this time, then the question becomes one of whether Argentina had really established occupancy of the Islands from 1820 to 1832. At most this involved the acquisition of de facto sovereignty and the expectancy of something more firm. The actual exercise of Argentine control was brief and uncertain. Vernet exercised minimal administrative control from 1826 to 1829. He received no salary as a Governor, no assistance from Buenos Aires and did not collect taxes. As soon as the Argentines began to consolidate their position both the United States and Britain thwarted them. So while one can assume that if these two countries had not intervened Argentina would gradually have established an undisputed sovereignty, at that time it had not quite done so.

Origins of the dispute


Prescription Few of those who have examined the historical evidence are confident that the Port Egmont settlement provided a sufficient basis for the seizure of the Islands by Britain. Having perused the papers in 1829, the Duke of Wellington as Prime Minister remarked that it was not clear to him ‘that we have ever possessed the sovereignty of these Islands.’7 Through the rest of the nineteenth century successive British governments assumed the case to be closed and did not always bother to respond to the occasional Argentine protest. In 1908 the issue suddenly came to a head as a result of Argentine protests at the inclusion of the Falkland Islands as a British possession in the Rome Postal Union Convention. As always Britain rejected the protests but, aware of the coming centenary celebrations in Argentina, decided to investigate the matter further. In 1910, Gaston de Bernhardt, the Foreign Office’s Assistant Librarian, produced a substantial memorandum on the history of the dispute. The effect was to increase respect for the Argentine claim. ‘For more than 60 years we have refused to discuss the question with the Argentine government,’ observed a recipient of the memo, ‘but from a perusal of this memo it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the Argentine government’s attitude is not altogether unjustified, and that our action has been somewhat high handed.’ Thus confidence remained at a low ebb for the next couple of decades, not helped by a substantial American analysis supporting the Argentine claim which was published in 1927.8 By 1933, however, the centenary of British control, the length and peaceful nature of the exercise of British sovereignty began to offer a more impressive basis for it to continue than the means by which it had been obtained in the first place. Over a decade later, after the second world war, there was a firm view that, whatever the quality of the original case, the passage of time had created a new basis for title. While international law was still unsettled in relation to the acquisition and loss of territory, the Islands had been firmly acquired through the process known as ‘usucaption’9 consisting of their de facto possession and occupation since the year 1833. This matter had never been tested in the ICJ but the view seemed to be supported by majority opinion among international lawyers.10 If the matter was put before the Court its judgement would in itself be an important precedent. Having repossessed Port Egmont in 1832 and occupied Port Louis in 1833, the British claim could be based on open, continuous, effective, and peaceful occupation. It might be the case that as Britain commenced its occupation its claim was based on expectancy. Eventually it had stayed long enough to ‘perfect its title’, as encapsulated in the formal declaration of the Falkland Islands as a Crown colony on 11 April 1843, coupled with the appointment of a Governor in June of that year. Uninterrupted British rule on the Islands thereafter made a good case that the British title to the Islands was vested. There were still problems. It was hard to escape completely from the issue of the legality of the seizure of 1833. The weaker Britain’s pre-1833 claim the weaker it was post-1833. At the very least the greater the doubt surrounding the competing Argentine claim, the more credibility could be attached over time to prescription. Could the original owner’s title be annulled if the current occupant took possession of land that was not res nullius and if the original power continued to object? As time passed the British case was

The Official history of the falklands campaign


strengthened by observing that the nature of the acquisition, at a time of different international standards and circumstances, had become less important than the continuity of occupation. The right had been acquired in practice.11 The position was clearly stated by Sir Ian Sinclair, the FCO’s legal adviser at the time of the 1982 events: If there is a doubt to the title, or if a title may have originally been invested in someone else—which I don’t concede—then the fact that you have been in continuous, peaceful occupation, and possession, and been administering the territory for a lengthy period of years, will cure any socalled or alleged defect in the title.12 Argentina never acquiesced in British occupation of the Falklands, although there were stretches of time when it did little to pursue its own claim. In 1838 an offer was made to relinquish the Argentine claim in return for the cancellation of a national loan contracted with Barings in 1824. After three official protests in 1841, 1842 and 1849, the issue was not raised again until 1884. The reason for this appears to be the ratification of a convention between Great Britain and Argentina ‘for the settlement of existing differences and the re-establishment of friendship.’ There are later statements from 1866– 7, which indicate that Argentine leaders considered past problems to have been resolved. Even without the formalities of a treaty it is arguable in international law that a 35 years silence is testament to acquiescence in British sovereignty. In 1884 Argentina tried to force Britain to accept arbitration. This was one of the few points in the conflict when an international evaluation of the competing claims might have been possible. Thereafter formal protests were occasional, although as we have seen that in 1908 did have the effect of encouraging the internal examination of Britain’s claim in 1910. Once the United Nations was established in 1945 the issue was raised on an annual basis.

The Dependencies Perhaps relevant is the approach taken by Argentina to the Dependencies, a number of other British Islands in the South Atlantic area to which Argentina made belated claims. Though their fate became inter-twined with that of the Falkland Islands their legal histories were quite different. The most important island is South Georgia, large and inhospitable, inhabited only by reindeers and seals. There are the familiar disagreements over discovery. Britain suggests that in 1675, Antonio de la Roché, a merchant captain (and an Englishman, notwithstanding his French surname) first discovered South Georgia. Argentine accounts claim that de la Roché was mistaken and that he had instead sighted Beauchêne Island, 800 miles further west. They point to the Spanish ship, the Leon, as discovering South Georgia in 1756, after being blown way off course rounding Cape Horn on a trip from Lima to Cadiz. There seems little doubt that Captain James Cook landed on South Georgia on 17 January 1775 and declared it a British territorial possession, naming it The Isle of Georgia’ in honour of King George III. Cook and his crew landed at Possession Bay and partly charted the coastline. He named the southern tip Cape Disappointment when he realised that the island was not continental Antarctica.

Origins of the dispute


William Smith claimed possession of the South Shetland Islands during 1819. Discovery and symbolic possession of the South Orkneys is attributed to the British sealing captain, George Powell, on 6 December 1821. First discovery of Graham Land is credited to Edward Bransfield, Royal Navy, on 30 January 1820. Some ten years after Cook had claimed South Georgia, British and American sealers had begun to arrive on the island. As their numbers expanded during the nineteenth century these men came under nobody’s jurisdiction, especially as the British made little effort to attempt to colonise or administer South Georgia. There was a vague presumption that Georgia was under the remit of the Falkland Islands administration. The rather tenuous nature of British control based more upon perception than legal title, was exposed in 1903, when the Norwegian, Captain Carl Anton Larsen, created the first modern whaling company in South Georgia. In 1908 Larsen’s exploits saw the British define the Falkland Islands Dependencies in Letters of Patent, bringing them under the administration of the Governor of the Falkland Islands. The Dependencies comprised South Georgia, the South Sandwich Islands, the South Orkneys, the South Shetlands, the Graham Island Peninsula, and a certain number of barren Antarctic islands. A separate colony, the British Antarctic Territory, was established in 1962, taking in the last four island groups, all lying to the south of 60°. From 1909, for administrative purposes, the British maintained a government station at King Edward Point at South Georgia. After 1969, the administrative officer position was replaced by that of the Base Commander of the British Antarctic Survey, who became magistrate of the area. Historically, Argentina showed less interest in the Dependencies, none of which had ever been claimed by Spain, although it did run an observatory at Laurie Island in the South Orkneys as early as 1904, where it later established a post office. Curiously, in 1910 there was intensive discussion in the Foreign Office on the possibility of ceding the South Orkneys to Argentina, not on the basis of doubts on sovereignty but because this was a useless piece of land and its transfer would be a goodwill gesture to a country that was on the ascendant. The British Ambassador to Buenos Aires urged this on the Government. The proposal was rejected as a dangerous precedent and also because it was impossible to think of a suitable quid pro quo. Argentina did not actually advance a claim to the South Orkneys until 1925, and then two years later extended this to South Georgia. The claim to the South Sandwich Islands was not set down until 1948. Argentina attempted to assert some of its claims during the Second World War, despite showing general restraint in not attempting to take advantage of Britain’s beleaguered position by making a further play for the Falklands. In June 1942 Prime Minister Winston Churchill approved the despatch of a small military force to the Falkland Islands to deter a possible invasion by either German or Argentine forces. During 1943, while patrolling the Antarctic Peninsula for German warships, HMS Carnarvon Castle found that an Argentine group, using the ship the Primero de Mayo, were placing bronze plaques on various islands, claiming possession for Argentina. Although unable to stop this activity, the Carnarvon Castle followed the Primero de Mayo and removed any plaques placed on the islands. In expeditions in 1947 Argentina installed beacons on Graham and Duomer Islands and inaugurated a meteorological station, equipped with radio-telegraphic installation, on Gamma Island in the Melchior Archipelago. In 1948 an Argentine naval task force constructed a base on Deception Island.13 There was thus a pattern of Argentine activity of almost attempting to acquire

The Official history of the falklands campaign


the Dependencies through its own form of prescription, by establishing a presence on islands on which Britain had nothing. The Government was confident in the British title to South Georgia, on the basis of regular activities carried out since 1909 in or in relation to the island, although with the South Sandwich Islands British administration had been much more tenuous—largely taking the form of occasional visits by survey ships. Yet even if it was judged that Britain had no title then they were still terra nullius. Legally and constitutionally the Dependencies remained distinct from the Falklands but due to the nature of the administrative relationship, they would always be difficult to separate politically. Because of encroachments, from Chile as well as Argentina, Britain considered an application to the International Court of Justice (ICJ). In 1955 Britain had approached the court unilaterally. Argentina and Chile refused to submit to the Court’s jurisdiction on this issue. The 1955 application stressed that the claim to sovereignty over the Dependencies was separate and not derived from the title to the Falklands themselves. In addition there was no ‘sector’ principle in operation, that is a southerly extension of sovereignty from the Falklands to the Dependencies or from one dependency to another. One implication of this position was that any concessions made with regard to one territory need not affect the others. The description ‘Dependencies’ reflected an administrative convenience, which would have to be addressed if the Falklands were ceded to Argentina, but did not require the consequential cession of these other islands. In 1955 the question was not pursued further due to the fact that a reference to the Court had no attraction for Argentina, while the composition of the court had also become less favourable to Britain. The issue was considered again in 1967 and a similar view was taken. While the idea was to keep the Falklands out of the Court, at least one legal scholar has argued that because the Dependencies have been administered from the Falklands then the status of the Falklands would have had to be addressed.14 On the other hand they were not mentioned in the 1965 General Assembly Resolution and were not raised by Argentina in the first round of talks on the Falklands in 1967–9.

Self-determination Residual uncertainty on the issue of prescription led to Britain adding a third layer of argument, stressing the rights of the local population to self-determination. This concept was not generally recognised in 1833. It grew in importance from the late nineteenth century as part of the developing challenge to colonial rule, and was enshrined as a right in UN General Assembly Resolution 1514 of 1960, the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples. There was no reason why this principle could not be used as a means of staying part of an empire rather than accepting a transfer to a more alien culture and political system. This was not, however, an argument that had much sympathy in the General Assembly, where there was a readiness to put aside selfdetermination in favour of what the majority saw to be the higher principle of anticolonialism, especially when the population in question was considered to be insufficiently established to enjoy the right or likely to assert it in such a way as to jeopardise national unity or disrupt territorial integrity. There was thus hostility in the UN

Origins of the dispute


to the assertion of this principle with regards to Gibraltar when Britain held a referendum in 1967 on whether sovereignty should be transferred to Spain. This provided the basis for Argentina’s objection to self-determination. As with prescription, it insisted that the starting point was all wrong. This position was stated clearly in 1964 when the Committee of Twenty-four on Decolonisation of the United Nations (UN) took up the question.15 Speaking for Argentina, Dr. José Marìa Ruda argued that the application of self-determination would disrupt Argentina’s national unity and territorial integrity: The Malvinas Islands are in a different situation from that of the classic colonial case. De facto and de jure, they belonged to the Argentine Republic in 1833 and were governed by Argentine authorities and occupied by Argentine settlers… They were evicted by violence… and replaced by a colonial administration and a population of British origin… The population is basically a temporary population… and cannot be used by the colonial power in order to apply the principle of selfdetermination.16 Yet this was a community that could boast a substantial lineage, more so than most in Argentina, with families working the same land for generations. Nor had the original settlers displaced, in the 1830s, an indigenous population. A more difficult question might be whether such a small population should enjoy a right of self- determination. Whether this was a ‘self’ with sufficient identity and size to deserve a say in determining its own destiny indicated the scope for political as much as legal judgements to shape the application of this principle. In late 1981 the Research Department at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) produced a paper on the British case. The intention had been to produce a sanitised version to pass to suitable contacts but officials were clearly surprised by the conclusion that the British case rested ‘almost entirely on 148 years of continuous settlement.’ This was not a view that officials chose to put to the test, especially given the ‘probable inbuilt anti-colonial bias of most of the international institutions which might be involved if the case went to arbitration.’ The South American Department reminded the Embassy in Buenos Aires about the potential consequences should doubts be seen to be expressed on the British side vis-à-vis sovereignty prior to 1833. Yet the 1910 memorandum was in the Public Records Office, and could not be recalled, and had, in any case, already been identified by an academic researching the matter who had drawn it to the attention of the FCO. By the time the conflict started in 1982 officials were stressing, particularly in the context of a possible referral to the ICJ, the importance of self-determination. It may be that the British claim triumphed in the end simply because it was backed by the stronger power. It was not diminished by the passage of time. It could gain strength from the permanence of the settlement and the growing respect for the principle of selfdetermination. Furthermore, attitudes to force also changed. The UN Charter, in Article 2 (4) denied States the right to settle disputes such as this by force. Lastly, the conflict itself changed matters.17


In a moment of frustration during the 1970s a diplomat in Buenos Aires sent back a neat encapsulation of the Falklands problem. Britain was, he observed, ‘attempting to appease simultaneously the Falkland Islanders on the one hand and the Argentines on the other, irrespective of the inconsistencies into which this leads us.’ The Government appeared weak in the face of both. It could not overrule barely two thousand islanders on their future constitutional status yet also seemed unable to provide properly for their security and prosperity. It could neither promise Argentina a transfer of sovereignty nor, at the same time, threaten serious resistance should Argentina decide to take matters into its own hands. To escape this dilemma, successive British governments attempted to identify common ground between Argentina and the Falklanders but the ground they found was narrow, and prone to erosion rather than expansion. They could contemplate neither the resources that would need to be expended once they told Argentina that sovereignty was non-negotiable nor the political damage that would result from telling the islanders that, contrary to past pledges, sovereignty had to be negotiated. Successive Foreign Secretaries understood full well that the position could not be sustained indefinitely, but attempts to find a solution normally ended in grief, and so the temptation was to play for time, hoping that at some point the islanders would come to share their view of the situation and so let them off the political hook upon which they had become impaled. In British political circles the Falklands might have been a minority interest, but that minority was well organised and influential. It had sufficient clout to stop a British government abandoning the islanders but not enough to ensure that they were properly cared for. By contrast the Malvinas mattered a great deal to all Argentines. This was an issue that no Argentine government could ever settle except on national terms, a piece of unfinished business left over from the foundation of the Republic. According to national mythology, the Malvinas had been taken in an act of imperialist high-handedness, and Argentina had been left territorially incomplete as a result. Some day, some how, the nation would have to be completed. This was more than a matter of legal title: it was bound up with a sense of national identity. In Britain for most of the time the Islands were off the political agenda. Yet whenever they did achieve some salience, issues of identity were soon to the fore. Whatever successive governments may have thought about the quality of the British claim, if all that had been at stake was the title to the land there is no reason to suppose that its

Inconsistent appeasement


transfer would have occasioned much hesitation. Other than possible oil resources, the exploration of which would depend on Argentine acquiescence, the strategic and economic value of the Falklands to Britain was minimal, and becoming less important over time, especially as holding on to them jeopardised political and commercial relations with an important Latin American country. Moreover, the Islands were indefensible against a determined effort to take them, without a wholly disproportionate military effort. For Britain the issue was the people who lived on the Islands. There were not many of them and their numbers were dwindling. Yet they were undeniably British in culture, character and allegiance and they did not want to be transferred to Argentina. It also had to be admitted that Argentina, prone to bouts of great political and economic instability, did not appear as an attractive haven. The issue of an outright Argentine purchase of the Islands or of the holdings of the Falkland Islands Company was often raised, even at times by islanders (who could see the material advantages of being bought off), but it was never pursued. In narrow terms moving the community to, for example, a comparable island off the Scottish coast would have been relatively cheap, especially if Argentina picked up the bill. Perhaps the idea of selling sovereign territory was too awkward to broach. To the islanders it appeared largely as a fallback option, to be pursued only in the event of a betrayal, and was raised largely to expose the logic of British indifference. The Falklands was their home and that is where they wanted to stay under the Union flag. They became intensely suspicious of any efforts to persuade them to change this state of affairs, and had strong supporters in Britain who could champion their cause. Although Argentina presented the Falklands as an example of colonialism, the Islands remained British because of the principle that had animated the anti-colonial movement of the mid-twentieth century—self-determination.

The development of the dispute In 1946 General Juan Peron came to power as Argentine President, a position he occupied until 1955, with a regime that contained elements of militarism, authoritarianism, nationalism and Anglophobia. It took the opportunity of the advent of the UN to raise the profile of the Falklands issue, but refused to recognise British efforts to have the Falkland Islands regarded as a non-self-governing territory. Nonetheless, the regime still confined itself to diplomatic means and the exchange of notes. In 1957 Argentina issued a decree declaring the Falkland Islands and its Dependencies as part of the National Territory of Tierra del Fuego, Antarctica and the South Atlantic Islands. The British, for their part, pointing to the UN Charter on self-determination, provided the United Nations with yearly status reports on the Falkland Islands administration. The dispute, however, largely remained a side issue and developments focused instead on the Dependencies and the Antarctic which was highlighted by the Hope Bay incident in the early 1950s. In December 1951 a naval task force of six Argentine ships landed a construction team at Hope Bay (the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula). The construction of the base was close to a British base that had been built in 1945 (which had been temporarily abandoned after a fire). Three months later, when a scientific party returned to Hope Bay on the John Biscoe, to rebuild the base, the Argentines prevented their landing by firing

The Official history of the falklands campaign


machine guns over their heads. A RN frigate, HMS Burghead Bay, was sent from Stanley in February 1952 to defuse the situation and land the British scientists. Concerned about this incident, Winston Churchill, the British Prime Minister, called for a review of defence plans for the Falkland Islands. Churchill was now inclined to believe that the Argentines might resort to military force to take the Falkland Islands. Consequently, in April 1952, the frigate HMS Veryan Bay was sent to Stanley with a complement of thirty Royal Marines (RM). The Foreign Office, though it disagreed with Churchill’s alarmist view of the Argentine threat, was encouraged by the move as it highlighted British interest in the South Atlantic region. Fortunately, various international claims on Antarctic territory were defused by the scientific community’s proposal for a third International Polar Year.1 This led to the International Geophysical Year of 1957–58 that placed a special emphasis on Antarctica. Twelve nations, including Britain, Argentina and Chile, utilised their Antarctic bases and constructed new ones for the enterprise. Its success led the twelve to agree upon an Antarctic Treaty (drafted in 1959 and signed in 1961). Robin Edmonds, head of the FO’s Latin American desk in the 1960s, later noted how the Argentines and British drew quite opposite conclusions from the successful negotiation of such a complex treaty. Argentina, having agreed to freeze sovereignty for 30 years in this context were reluctant to do so elsewhere. The British believed that a creative way of managing territorial disputes had been found, relevant to the various claims being faced in Latin America—by Venezuela against British Guiana (Guyana) and Guatemala against British Honduras (Belize) as well as the Falklands. If a problem so ‘complex and vast’ could be ‘solved with application, good will, and reasonable intelligence’ then so could others. If the Falklands had been uninhabited then this might well have been the case, but they were not.2 The test came as the Falklands returned to centre stage in the early 1960s. The Argentine Government worked hard to push the issue to the fore, with the institution of a ‘Malvinas day,’ a National Museum devoted to the Islands and the Dependencies, propaganda films and committees of influential figures, plus a series of protests and demonstrations. In addition, there were private adventures designed to assert Argentine sovereignty, of which the first came in September 1964, when an Argentine pilot landed at Stanley, planted a flag and proclaimed sovereignty on behalf of his country. The most notable came exactly two years later with ‘Operation Condor.’ An Argentines Airlines DC-4 was hijacked by 20 young activists who directed it to Stanley where it made a forced landing on the racetrack. Although the government kept its distance, the activists were widely considered to be national heroes. The 1966 World cup, held in England, did not help. The quarter-final between the Argentine team and the host nation involved an unseemly brawl after the Argentine captain was sent off, and led to the English Manager, Alf Ramsay, referring to the Argentine team as ‘animals’, for which he was later required to apologise. The Argentine view was that the match was rigged. ‘First they stole the Malvinas from us’, a Buenos Aires newspaper complained, ‘and now the World Cup.’3 Throughout this period Argentina attempted to garner support through international institutions such as the UN and the Organisation of American States (OAS), by appealing to the Afro-Asian nations and attacking British colonial policies. For this purpose the islanders were described as colonists who could not exercise the right of independence through self-determination. In 1964 Argentina raised the issue in the UN Committee of

Inconsistent appeasement


Twenty-four. Argentina’s persistence eventually paid off and the dispute between Britain and Argentina regarding sovereignty over the Falkland Islands and the Dependencies was recognised by the UN General Assembly in Resolution 2065(XX) of 16 December 1965. The resolution invited both sides to proceed with negotiations for a peaceful solution to the problem. This was passed by 45 votes to zero, with 14 abstentions (including Britain). These negotiations, which began in 1966 and went on, with occasional interruptions, until early 1982, failed to reconcile the contrasting principles of territorial integrity and self-determination. Argentine strategy was based on the use of all available political pressures to outweigh the islanders’ countervailing resistance to a change in status. Buenos Aires was aware of the dangers of taking the dispute too far unilaterally and so used the UN to press its case. On this it could rely on third world, and especially Latin American, opinion that seemed ready to back Argentina, albeit on a rather shallow basis. This was a colonial situation and, like all other colonial situations, should be brought to a close. By the mid-1960s Argentina, in its post-Peronist turmoil, was no longer the substantial and prosperous power it had been during the first decades of the century. It was, nonetheless, still too significant to be ignored by Britain. On every material measure, interests in good relations with Argentina far outweighed those of holding on to the Falklands. There were clear dangers in refusing to even discuss the matter. Yet it was hard to conduct negotiations without at least allowing for the possibility of a change in the constitutional status quo. Even raising this possibility agitated the islanders. At one level almost the best that the British could hope for was indefinite discussions. This required that the Argentines never quite felt that the time was right to bring the issue to a head, either because the talks appeared to be on the verge of a breakthrough or because of the damage to their international reputation that would follow any attempt to resolve the matter by armed force.

A negotiating strategy Part of the problem for Britain was that in most respects, with one critical exception, the Falklands had not been one of the great imperial success stories. The initial period of colonisation had seen many of Vernet’s sensible schemes for the development of the Falklands (which he had been prepared to continue under the British) squandered and arguably development thereafter was skewed as a result. Though surrounded by the sea the islanders barely involved themselves in marine activities. The economy of the Islands became dominated by absentee landlords, who had little incentive to invest or diversify and whose farm managers formed the local élite and worked with the Governor. The critical exception was that the local population, although small, was content. It had no desire to see a change in status, and in this there was common cause between the islanders and the absentee landlords. The islanders’ anxieties about any transfer of sovereignty to Argentina ensured that the issue was defined in Britain as being firmly one of self-determination. The principle of self-determination led to a formula that required the ‘wishes’ of the islanders to be ‘paramount.’ Argentina would never go further than accepting that the ‘interests’ of the islanders (of which they might not themselves be the best judges) could

The Official history of the falklands campaign


be taken into account. A British government would never accept that Argentina could be a better judge, but there was the question of its own judgement. To what extent should this particular population be considered a sufficiently determined ‘self’ to be allowed to pursue its interests even when in apparent contradiction with those of the wider British ‘self.’ Those in Britain keen on a settlement with Argentina tended to question the wisdom of allowing a small community such an influence over British foreign policy, in a way that would not be tolerated by other small communities. This focus also had awkward implications for the secondary matter of the status of the Dependencies, which had no indigenous population, and which had also been acquired by Britain at different times and in a different manner. Though their position had to be kept separate from that of the main Islands, it was generally assumed that the treatment of the Dependencies would be shaped by any final deal on the Islands, although there were occasional discussions about ownership being a sort of consolation prize for the side that failed to get its way on the Falklands themselves. The test of self-determination was an extremely difficult one to honour. It was raised not only in consideration of the form of a final settlement but in the very act of discussing a settlement. This was only ever possible by promising the islanders the final say on any changes. Buenos Aires consistently offered a simple transfer of sovereignty backed by safeguards to protect the islanders’ rights and way of life. London tended to explore proposals that would provide the islanders with real guarantees, involving a measure of continuing British administration. Numerous schemes and precedents from elsewhere were explored over the years but the two obvious options were a condominium and leaseback. A condominium would involve joint Argentine-British sovereignty and administration. A lease-back would involve a transfer of sovereignty to Argentina but with a long lease that would allow for continuing British administration. Condominium held centre stage briefly in 1974 but after that lease-back was the only real contender. It was identified within the Foreign Office in 1975 as the only scheme that began to offer fruitful possibilities, especially as Argentina showed some interest. The islanders, however, viewed all schemes with intense suspicion as the thin end of an Argentine wedge. Moreover, once Argentina was allowed some influence over the Falklands, there was the question of whether this would be used to change the demographic balance within the Islands by insisting on a right to Argentine settlement. Because of the effective veto power on a settlement enjoyed by the islanders, the British tried to persuade Argentina that the best way forward was to improve the ties between the Islands and the mainland. A ‘hearts and minds’ campaign might over time ease islanders’ suspicions of Argentines, and could allow for profitable joint ventures to exploit the area’s natural resources, including oil. It also had the advantage of rendering the Islands more viable, by ensuring that they could be efficiently supplied and had more outlets for their produce. This much the islanders accepted but they were still wary that any deal with Argentina was a means of softening them up for some sort of sell out. At times both the islanders and the Argentines suspected that Britain might have an overriding economic interest, especially in oil, that might lead them to abandon or hold on to the Islands whatever the political costs. There was a brief moment in the mid-1970s when the Falkland Islands, or more precisely their continental shelf, appeared to offer sufficiently attractive riches to provide the key to the dispute. Although this moment passed, ministers often suspected that the possibility of a step change in economic

Inconsistent appeasement


circumstances made possible by oil discoveries might be an incentive to both the Argentines and the islanders to settle their differences. This was one matter on which in fact both were agreed: economic issues were interesting and of some importance but quite secondary to sovereignty. As the principle of self-determination was at the core of British policy, and islander wishes were said to be paramount, even the most tentative move in the Argentine direction depended on an act of persuasion. Ideally this would be almost spontaneous. All opposition in the UK to a deal would evaporate, as the islanders persuaded themselves of the benefits of a change in sovereignty. Somehow the islanders had to be encouraged to make realistic assessments of their long-term prospects under a variety of alternative regimes. To this end, and in line with self-determination, Governments sought to get the islanders involved in the negotiating process. Argentina had an equivocal attitude to these aspects of the discussions. It could see the logic of a ‘hearts and minds’ campaign but did not want to offer concessions without something in return. It was therefore always looking for ways to link movement on informal ties with progress on the constitutional issues. As Argentina did not believe that the principle of self-determination applied in this case—the islanders were a settler community rather than an indigenous people—they were never effective co-conspirators with Britain in efforts to turn local opinion. The ‘hearts and minds’ campaign had as its main vehicle the 1971 Communications Agreement, but the increased contacts between the Islands and the mainland produced more irritation than amity. Whatever the theory behind the idea that more regular and intense communication might improve mutual respect and understanding, in practice it often reinforced stereotypes.


The negotiations start Following the General Assembly Resolution of December 1965 Argentina’s public campaign was stepped up while some discussions took place between London and Buenos Aires in an attempt to find a way forward. Although neither side was prepared to give ground on the fundamental issues of sovereignty, British officials were already trying to persuade their Argentine counterparts that the best way forward was to win over the islanders to the benefits of Argentine citizenship. The thrust of British proposals from the start was that measures should be taken to reduce the isolation of the Islands, with normal freedom of movement to the mainland. The idea was that after a number, say three, decades of close contact and economic co-operation the islanders would be invited to choose between British and Argentine sovereignty. During this period, the administration of the Islands would remain in British hands and neither side would push its legal claim. This required too much patience of Argentina: improved communications had to go hand in hand with the transfer of sovereignty. When this proposal was rejected in December 1966 the British came back, in March 1967, with a modification. The length of the transitional period could be reduced and, more importantly, in principle it could conclude with the transfer of sovereignty—so long as the ‘wishes’ of the islanders were respected. To Argentina this was a great improvement. Discussions were now moving in the right direction. All that needed to be done was to get Britain to remove any suggestion that the islanders could have a veto. To clarify the issues the British submitted to Argentina, on 13 June 1967, a draft Treaty. It put the ‘principle declared in Article 73 of the UN Charter that the interests of the inhabitants of non-self-governing territories are paramount’ ahead of Resolution 2065 which had referred only to the ‘interests of the population.’ Article One offered sovereignty to Argentina and then effectively took it back again: Her Britannic Majesty will be prepared to transfer sovereignty over the Falkland Islands to Argentina provided that the change is acceptable to the inhabitants of the Falkland Islands.

Communications and Condominiums


There then followed a series of provisions designed to look after the general welfare of the islanders under Argentine rule, including ‘human rights and freedoms not less favourable than those enjoyed by the inhabitants of the Falkland Islands at the date of transfer’ and the right to leave the Islands after the transfer with ‘movable property under conditions no less favourable than those prevailing immediately before the transfer.’ The initial Argentine response was to reject not only the right of the islanders to veto a proposal, but also the very idea that they should be consulted on the principle of transfer. In July 1967 London tried a softer version of Article One: Her Majesty’s Government will recognise Argentine sovereignty over the Islands provided that the guarantees and safeguards for the Islanders offered by the Argentine Government are acceptable to the Islanders. The Argentine response kept the reference to ‘guarantees and safeguards’ but required only that these ‘give satisfactory assurance of respect for the interests of the Islanders.’ Who was to judge whether satisfaction was to be given? The British then went about as far as they dare go in modifying their previous position: London would determine whether the provisions were acceptable to the islanders, rather than the islanders themselves. This reduction in the islanders’ veto power was not enough for the Argentines, although they had by now taken on board the proposition that improved communications with the Islands would help allay suspicions. It was not that they found consultation with the islanders unacceptable in itself—only the idea that they might be allowed a decisive say. As the effort to draft detailed Treaty language was getting bogged down the British tried a new tack. They suggested instead a Memorandum of Understanding designed to produce a joint text that could serve as the basis for a public announcement. Yet the problem was one of content and not of form: the same problems soon reappeared over the ‘wishes’ versus the ‘interests’ of the islanders. Moreover, the islanders, who had been kept in ignorance for a number of months, were now getting wind of what was going on with the help of the Governor, who was unhappy about the course of events. In February 1968, the Island’s Executive Council was shown an early version of the Draft Memorandum. This described a progressive opening up of links between the Islands and the mainland with a view to an eventual transfer of sovereignty, so long as the islanders found the safeguards acceptable. The islanders took more notice of the broad thrust of the document than this critical proviso. They doubted that their objections would really be sufficient to halt a deal if the two governments were determined to make one. Their suspicions were excited further by the fact that matters had already progressed so far without their views being sought. Their response was to mobilise popular support in Britain. An open letter was despatched to Parliament and the press complaining about the secret negotiations and an imminent sell out. The letter had the desired effect. An all-party Falklands Islands Emergency Committee was established, under the chairmanship of a director of the Falklands Islands Company. MPs deplored the very idea of negotiating with Argentina and editorials warned of betrayal. The future of the Falklands Islands was now a matter of domestic British politics. In the face of this pressure, and given that the actual position did desire the consent of the islanders, the Foreign Secretary, Michael Stewart, pledged

The Official history of the falklands campaign


that nothing would be done against the islanders’ wishes. Although public statements from Argentina were also sounding more hawkish, it was decided that it would do no harm if Buenos Aires appreciated the political difficulties facing the British Government. The discussions on the Memorandum of Understanding did in fact move along surprisingly fast, leading by August to an agreed document. The basis of the compromise was contained in the second paragraph. The islanders’ ‘interests’ would be taken ‘duly into account’ while, at the same time there would be: early progress with practical measures to promote freedom of communication and movement between the mainland and the Islands in both directions, in such a way as to encourage the development of cultural, economic and other links. The issue was not, however, fully resolved, for the agreement acknowledged continued divergence over ‘the criteria according to which the United Kingdom Government shall consider whether the interests of the Islanders would be secured by the safeguards and guarantees to be offered by the Argentine Government’ and would then be ‘satisfied that those interests are so secured.’ On this language the islanders would depend on London’s judgement. To get round this implication, the Government intended to issue a unilateral statement when the Memorandum was published. In draft this made the case for resolving the dispute—to remove ‘an increasing source of vexation and uncertainty to the Islands’—but also promised no transfer of sovereignty against the wishes of the islanders. As the Memorandum was not legally binding, this would just be a clarification of the requirements for satisfaction. This was the line taken by the Minister of State responsible, Lord Chalfont, when visiting the Islands in late 1968. He had been sent there in anticipation of a hostile local reaction when the proposals were published. He was meant to calm the protests but he had little effect. Nothing, he promised, would be done against their wishes. At the same time he was encouraging them, as they considered the future, to think about their longterm economic prospects in the absence of an agreement. Anxiety levels in the Islands were now high and constant reassurances were required. The anxiety was picked up in the House of Commons. The politics of the dispute were now being established, with islander and Parliamentary opinion convinced that only constant vigilance would prevent a Foreign Office sell out to Argentina, and the Foreign Office desperate to find a formula that would convince the islanders that it was in their interests to negotiate in such a way that would actually satisfy Argentina. At a Cabinet meeting on 11 December Michael Stewart’s draft paper, which stated that ‘sovereignty would be transferred at a date to be agreed’, was withdrawn as a result of the hostility of other ministers who were annoyed that such a large political storm had been allowed to develop out of such a small matter. The Commons that afternoon and the next day was still hostile. Stewart refused to promise that there would be no future negotiations on sovereignty with Argentina and insisted that he still sought a settlement, both because the UN was seized of the matter and because without a settlement the ‘vexations to which the islanders are subject’ could not be removed.1 He did, however, make the critical pledge that islander wishes would be paramount and also promised that the Government had not and would not pressurise the islanders to change their minds.2

Communications and Condominiums


The obvious conclusion from Stewart’s experience was that anyone who tried would pay a heavy price in domestic political terms. The pattern for the future was also established in that a plus for the islanders was soon seen as a minus for the Argentines. The core point of difference was now in an even sharper relief. As Buenos Aires would not reinforce the reassurance, the Memorandum route had now been taken as far as it could go. 1968 closed with a cordial exchange of letters, acknowledging that the gap had been narrowed with promises to continue the discussions. In practice the momentum had been lost. The long-term consequences were profound. Politicians on all sides noted the perils of even the appearance of seeking to persuade a group of people that their future, and that of successive generations, could reasonably be sacrificed in the government’s wider interests. The islanders now had a view of the Foreign Office as an organisation inclined to negotiate behind their backs in order to bounce them into the surrender of sovereignty, but also a grasp of how such efforts could be blocked by mobilising parliamentary and media support in London. Their prize from the 1968 debacle was a parliamentary statement that in the future their wishes would be paramount. Subsequent governments all considered themselves bound by this commitment and felt obliged to work within its confines, knowing that whatever could be agreed with Argentina might by vetoed by the islanders.

Communications agreement In August 1969, having got nowhere with attempts to revive the negotiations, Argentina went some way towards the British position by proposing talks on communications between the Islands and the mainland that did not depend on the sovereignty issue being resolved. This was picked up by the Government and also by the Falkland Islands Executive Council and by early 1970 it had been agreed to take this forward. Talks were held in July, just after the surprise election of a conservative government. They provided the first direct contact between the islanders and Argentine officials. Relations were somewhat strained. The islanders remained highly suspicious of any Argentine proposal, while the Argentines felt badly misunderstood. Nonetheless important issues were identified concerning the form of communication between the Islands and the mainland (sea or air transport), the documentation to be used by the islanders during their visits, postal and telephone links, and trade and cultural exchanges. Over this period the precarious position of the Islands became more apparent. The islanders might prefer self-sufficiency but without Argentine support there was no way that the cost of a proper airfield at Stanley could be met. Self-sufficiency was becoming more expensive and it was not only the British Government that was reluctant to bear the costs. In December 1970 the Falkland Islands Company announced that the monthly sea service from Darwin to Montevideo would be withdrawn in a year’s time. If the logic of the situation was pushing the islanders into its welcoming arms, Argentina’s inability to sustain a charm offensive produced the opposite reaction. A distinctly unfriendly welcome by the local press when three islanders visited Argentina in November led to their abrupt departure. By the start of 1971 the Argentines appeared to be dragging their

The Official history of the falklands campaign


feet, while soundings in the Islands during the spring revealed the prevalent assumption that any overtures from Buenos Aires were a prelude for an eventual take-over. Aware of this, British officials worked hard with the islanders in June to calm their fears that sovereignty need be an issue in a communications agreement while working out an outline proposal. The preference was for an external air service, possibly run by the Argentines, and a freight service by sea. Intensive discussions the next month in Buenos Aires produced two draft documents: an Exchange of Notes protecting both sides’ positions on sovereignty and a draft Joint Statement, establishing the air and sea links as proposed. A card would be issued by the Argentine to all residents of the Islands and the mainland for purposes of travel between the two, and a Special Consultative Committee would be established to sort out any practical problems. There were no objections to the drafts on the Islands and they were generally welcome in Britain. The two documents were duly signed on 12 August 1971 and sent to the Secretary-General of the UN. Soon there were tangible signs of progress. The first official Argentine flight to the Falklands took place just before signature. By the end of the year engineers were surveying a site for the construction of a permanent airfield, and at the start of 1972 fortnightly amphibian flights began.

Back to stalemate This was the high point of British diplomacy on the Falklands. The Argentine Government and the islanders were persuaded to support a major initiative that should change for all time the nature of the relationship between the Islands and the mainland. With improved communications, so the theory went, would come the steady development of mutual understanding. Somehow the Falklanders might discover that they really could strike up a long-term relationship with the Argentines, who would, in turn, become more sensitive to the islanders’ concerns and appreciate that communications were not secondary matters but contributed to creating the conditions for an eventual settlement. Meanwhile Britain would be spared, at least for the short-term, a hopeless negotiation. But such a happy prognosis required time. This was the part of the theory Argentina did not accept. In Buenos Aires the issue tended to be seen in terms of mutual concessions. Argentina had done as Britain had asked and so now looked for reciprocation. They had their own domestic pressures. Taking things slowly for the benefit of the islanders left Argentine nationalists frustrated and they were now demanding evidence that sovereignty was at least being addressed in substantive negotiations. To Britain this seemed unwise. It saw little point in endless repetition of familiar positions with the same, inevitable impasse at the end, and considerable danger of unnerving the islanders just as the communications agreement was being implemented. For a while this view prevailed. In March 1972 it was agreed that more talks would be held on communications issues in the autumn of 1973 and, depending on how well these went, the British would agree to talk again on wider issues. A temporary airstrip was put down near Stanley and by November a weekly air service was in operation. Talks produced further progress on practical measures to improve communications, including trade. But the anticipated arrival of a nationalist Peronist government in May 1973 brought renewed strain to the process. The Argentine Foreign Ministry was desperate to

Communications and Condominiums


demonstrate that the sovereignty issue was still alive: Britain saw little point in pretending that it was on the table. The issue came to a head in preparation for a round of meetings on the wider issues to be held in London in April 1973. Argentina wanted to move forward on the basis of the 1968 Memorandum; Britain sought a discussion of alternative proposals for solving the dispute and on more practical issues. Either way Britain wanted islanders present while Argentina refused to accept that they had any role in discussions on sovereignty. The talks appeared to be heading for breakdown before they had begun, and there was danger for Britain if it could be presented as the guilty party for failing to discuss sovereignty. On this basis the British decided not to rule anything out of the discussions just so long as it was understood that these were at most negotiations on how to resolve the dispute, not on sovereignty itself. This put the ball back into the Argentine court for their delegation now had to decide whether to take the opportunity to raise the sovereignty issue with the islanders present, or to abandon the effort altogether. They decided that it was best to raise the issue, and set down nine safeguards for the islanders. These were full exercise of civil rights; regime of optional citizenship; exemption from military service; use of English language; respect for private property, purchase at fair price of property from islanders wishing to dispose of it; regime of respect for acquired rights; favourable tax system; maintenance of sea and air communications. A proposal for discussions with Argentina about these safeguards was put to the Islands Joint Council but rejected at a meeting in October 1973. In retrospect this was the turning point in the whole saga. Argentina was entering into a period of political instability followed by military rule. This strengthened nationalist feeling in Argentina while undermining the credibility of any promises, especially in the area of human rights, made to the islanders. The British Government was caught between increasingly intransigent islanders and increasingly militant Argentines, and could only repeat its conviction that the best way forward consisted of confidence building through co-operation. Argentina decided to up the ante, taking the issue back to the UN and charging Britain with reneging on past promises. With support in the General Assembly coming through on the anti-colonial ticket there was little problem getting Resolution 3160 adopted on 14 December 1973. This encouraged the two parties ‘to proceed without delay with the negotiations,’ and referred again to the ‘interests of the population.’ Gratitude was expressed for ‘the continuous efforts made by the Government of Argentina, in accordance with the relevant decisions of the General Assembly, to facilitate the process of decolonisation and to promote the well-being of the population of the Islands.’ It was adopted with 99 in favour, zero against and, as in 1968, 14 abstentions. Against this background the position of the islanders was robust. They were happy for the dialogue to continue and could see the benefits from the 1971 agreement but, should it come to the crunch, their priority was to stay British. Certainly no initiative should be taken by the British to appease Argentina. If any talks did take place they should not be in secret and the islanders expected to be involved.

The Official history of the falklands campaign


Condominium After the islanders had refused to enter into discussions on the Argentine safeguards in October 1973, both the Governor of the Falklands and the Ambassador to Buenos Aires became concerned that the lack of any forum for negotiations could lead to a dangerous situation. The pattern of reasoning had already acquired a standardised form. Without any move Argentina would put great pressure on the Islands and Britain would be obliged at considerable cost to do something to resist this pressure. Given the promises made to Parliament and the islanders no diplomatic move could go very far without their explicit consent. The trick was to find a proposal potentially acceptable to both sides and edge it forward at a pace fast enough to hold on to the Argentines and slow enough not to lose the islanders. This required elaborate choreography, and strategies in the FCO from this point tended to be as much concerned with how to convince the two sides to stay with the process than with where the process might eventually lead. At the start of 1974 the favoured destination was an Anglo-Argentine condominium. The concept was a familiar one and, although its application in practice (Anglo-French New Hebrides, Anglo-Egyptian Sudan) pointed to administrative difficulty, it seemed at the time the least bad option available. It would have involved the two flags flying together and English and Spanish serving as two official languages. The islanders would have dual nationality and retain as much as possible of their present system, although there might have to be alternating Governors. It would only apply to the Islands and not the Dependencies. There were a number of obvious areas of difficulty in the negotiations, including the authority of the Argentine and British parliaments, and the provision of financial and technical support. Would this be a final or an interim arrangement? The British Ambassador suggested that Argentina would want no more than twenty years: the islanders would balk at anything that appeared as a step towards the full transfer of sovereignty. There is no evidence that the problem of Argentine settlement on the Islands was even addressed. The basic difficulty lay not in this particular concept but in securing any compromise on sovereignty. When the proposal was brought to the Cabinet’s Oversea Policy and Defence Committee during the last weeks of the Conservative administration it was acknowledged that it might involve too much for the islanders and too little for the Argentines. One reason for taking the idea seriously in early 1974 had been confidence that attitudes in the Falklands towards their neighbour were already changing. It seemed as if the younger people were looking to Argentina for supplies and recreation. The Argentines had been ‘unexpectedly successful in winning the friendship of the Islanders’, though they had yet to erode their loyalty to the United Kingdom. This aspect was critical. Opinion in Westminster would probably follow that in the Islands. The Chief Whip wrote to the Foreign Secretary warning of backbench hostility to the surrender of sovereignty unless the islanders could be shown to be agreeable, and without having faced undue pressure to become so. The plan agreed was to explore with the Governor the likely attitude of the islanders before consideration could be given to raising the matter simultaneously with both the islanders and the Argentines. There was already some concern that the Governor was

Communications and Condominiums


moving ahead of the game by starting to put pressure on the islanders. He had concluded the previous year that the islanders were ready for some discussions, and the idea of condominium had already been alluded to in a meeting of the Joint Council. The basis for optimism here was rather flimsy. A Councillor had raised it as a possibility in October and the Governor’s Deputy, who had happened to spend six years in the New Hebrides, explained how it worked. On this basis, the option was now being explored in London. Nonetheless, as always, any serious proposals on sovereignty raised immediate objections. He was now prepared to start arm-twisting to keep the Island Council committed to dialogue, much to the alarm of British ministers who doubted the ability of London to lead islander opinion: We do not, repeat not, wish to encourage them to take this line. As you know, the Secretary of State minuted on 8 October that each step would have to have the assent of Exco [Executive Council] and should indeed not be urged on us by them. Even if the islanders saw the virtues of negotiating on condominium, the Argentines would still have to be persuaded to accept a second-best solution to their own problem and then exercise considerable restraint in its implementation. The Governor thought it best to gain Argentine agreement to talks on this basis before broaching the matter with the islanders. If they agreed then there would be a definite proposal to put and if they did not then the islanders would not have been needlessly agitated. The first idea was for the Minister of State at the FCO, Julian Amery, to broach it directly with President Peron when they attended the same function in Brazil in March. The major issues facing the two countries would be stressed in the light of the world energy crisis. Against this the sovereignty of the Falklands seemed a rather small matter while the possible oil wealth of the southwest Atlantic appeared to be of growing significance. This later became amended to a proposal for the Prime Minister to write in general terms directly to Peron, with Amery following up later. By the time of the surprise general election of February 1974, however, the idea was already running out of steam. The idea of a wider package to appeal to Argentina was faltering on the basis of Treasury concerns about Argentina’s long-term credit worthiness, while large issues were starting to develop in the context of the Law of the Sea Conference which could affect sovereignty over coastal waters and the continental shelf, areas of growing importance given the potential importance of oil discoveries.


The end of condominium The new Labour Government’s parliamentary position was precarious, and was only marginally improved by the year’s second general election in October. Harold Wilson was Prime Minister until his surprise resignation in March 1976 when James Callaghan, who until that time was Foreign Secretary, succeeded him. In both positions Callaghan exercised a strong influence over the management of this issue for the rest of the decade. The first big international crisis of the administration, which blew up over Cyprus in the summer of 1974, demonstrated to Callaghan the way in which intractable problems involving small islands could trip up a government, especially one without a majority. Though issues such as this might appear trivial they needed constant watching. Later, in 1975, he told Ted Rowlands, who had just joined the FCO team, that he was to be responsible for ‘these dots on the map’ as they ‘have a much greater tendency to embarrass Governments than any big issue.’ Few of these dots had been the subject of much attention by the Party in opposition, including the Falklands. Callaghan was aware of the rumpus caused by Chalfont’s initiative in 1968 and this made him wary. On the other hand, on entering office he was presented with the plan that had been gestating under the previous government for a solution to the Falklands based on the condominium idea. The result was a push in this direction during the first months of Labour Government followed by a sudden withdrawal.1 The revival of the condominium initiative was the result of post-election prompts from the Argentine Government, enquiring about the future of negotiations. Although the condominium proposal was available, ministers wanted to proceed cautiously. While accepting that some discussions were unavoidable, they wanted to avoid repeating what they considered to be Chalfont’s central mistake: failing to engage the islanders from the start. Accordingly on 10 May the Cabinet’s Defence Committee decided that as a first step the Governor should consult the Executive Council on the condominium hypothesis, to see what sort of safeguards and guarantees might be required for this to be taken forward. Only with this agreement would the next step—an approach to Argentina—be entertained. Given the flimsiness of their parliamentary position, the Government also intended to work with the opposition front-bench to maintain a bipartisan approach.

Mis-communication and non-cooperation


The Governor was instructed to take the proposals to the Council, and allowed to remind the Councillors of the dangers of refusing to talk. As might have been expected preliminary discussions with the Council on 7 June revealed no enthusiasm but equally no apparent objection to preliminary talks so long as the Councillors were not expected to be involved themselves. The matter was viewed in a purely tactical sense. If the talks looked like they were moving forward then support could be withdrawn at any time: if Argentina refused to talk on this basis then this should be publicised for the propaganda advantage. The matter was viewed tactically in another sense. While all these consultations were supposedly confidential, within no time at all—possibly even on the same day—the Falklands Islands Committee in London was being alerted to what was afoot. The route was via the Stanley Manager of the Falkland Island Company. Parliamentary questions were tabled, which produced the customary assurances about islander wishes being paramount, and their possible membership of any negotiating team.2 Stories appeared in the newspapers,3 and deputations arrived at the FCO from the Falkland Islands Committee. Before the appearance of this campaign, islander acquiescence in initial contacts had been considered sufficient to get things moving in Buenos Aires. On 11 June Sir Donald Hopson, the British Ambassador, put the proposal to Sr Vignes, the Argentine Foreign Minister. The latter saw sufficient merit in the proposal to take it up with President Peron but noted immediately the difficulties posed by the idea of a shared administration unless it could be for a limited period before the full transfer of sovereignty. The formal reply came on 20 June which offered joint administration as a means of integrating the islanders into the Argentine way of life in preparation for the eventual transfer. Otherwise many aspects of the Argentine response were similar to the British proposal. Vignes and Hopson both judged that there was sufficient basis here to start negotiations. Officials in London judged that the best way forward might be to discuss a formula for safeguards and guarantees in the event of either condominium or joint administration, without prejudice to the question of sovereignty. Yet the foundations for this initiative were flimsy. Reports soon came back of local agitation against the proposals. The rallying cry of 1968—‘Keep the Falkland Islands British’—was being revived by the Falkland Islands Committee. All this made it unlikely that any Councillor would dare join a delegation to discuss a condominium. In combination with the well-judged lobbying campaign in London major obstacles were now starting to appear. Callaghan could not see how negotiations could proceed and wondered whether the discussions with Vignes could be suspended. A visit to London by the Islands’ Financial Secretary in late July confirmed the trend in islander opinion, and indicated (against past suppositions) that it extended to the younger islanders. Both the Governor and the Ambassador resisted this conclusion. Officials pushed for the start of talks, to go ahead with or without islander participation. The political difficulties at home should the Government appear over-eager to deal with Buenos Aires were, however, now coming into a sharper focus. The islanders had yet to hear of the even more unacceptable Argentine counter-proposal, and this could only add to the pressures.4 At the end of July the FCO Minister in the Lords, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, advised that Vignes should be told that Britain was prepared to talk

The Official history of the falklands campaign


but the exercise would be useless and counter-productive until islander participation could be assured: both the Argentine and the UK would be seen to be engaged in one of the worst forms of “imperialism” i.e. disposing of a people without their consent or even their participation in a discussion on their future. Callaghan, who had already concluded that the conditions were not present for a negotiated outcome, added his comment: ‘Leave this poisoned chalice. You are quite right.’ So at the end of July the Buenos Aires Embassy was instructed to inform the Argentine Government that the talks could not proceed on the previous basis if islanders were not prepared to be present. As this left Hopson out on a limb, he need only tell Vignes that there was to be a reappraisal of policy and any ideas about how to win over the islanders would be welcomed. Goronwy-Roberts added a personal note for the disappointed Ambassador, explaining that as islander opinion (and by extension Parliamentary opinion) had veered against the proposal, the Government would have to mark time.5

Mis-communication Sir Donald arranged to meet with Vignes on 19 August to present him with the discouraging news. Two days before, however, he was taken ill and soon died. As a result the new hard-line ended up being communicated by Hopson’s deputy in an informal and hurried fashion a day after the Ambassador’s death, virtually over the Ambassador’s body as it lay in state. It was hard to be sure if it had got through with any clarity. Embassy staff believed that the message had got through, but Sr. Vignes was a secretive man who did not communicate well within his own ministry, keeping even the London Embassy ignorant of the state of play, and may have put his own gloss on what he thought he had heard. At any rate when he met Callaghan in September he remarked that he was looking forward to a reply to his proposals. To this Callaghan expressed surprise. The Argentine Foreign Minister’s perception that the British were still trying to sort out their position may have been shaped by the imminence of Britain’s second general election in a year. Callaghan’s attempt to dispel such an illusion and convey the importance of islander opinion may have been hampered by the lack of a Spanish interpreter in New York so that the conversation between the two was conducted through an Argentine official. Vignes remained inclined to suppose that if the Labour Party emerged from the election with a stronger majority then Argentina could look forward to a more conciliatory line. It may also be the case that while he understood perfectly well Britain’s difficulties he chose not to report back to his Government that the negotiations had reached an impasse before they had begun lest this undermine his personal position. Perhaps because the Government’s tough stance was not fully appreciated in Buenos Aires it did not appear to result in any damage to Anglo-Argentine relations. Slow but nonetheless tangible advances on the basis of the 1971 agreement sustained the appearance of progress. Falklander suspicions had been evident when, in September

Mis-communication and non-cooperation


1973, the Argentine proposed that its State Oil Company (YPF) supply petroleum products to the Islands at mainland prices. This made good economic sense but required allowing YPF a monopoly. Proposals to develop the sea link with the mainland came up against the objection that this might erode British sovereignty. To meet this objection a ‘sovereignty umbrella’ was suggested by the Government to cover all commercial transactions, confirming that any discussions were undertaken without prejudice to either sides’ position on sovereignty. Agreements on both matters were signed on 12 September 1974, although in the event actual implementation added to, rather than reduced, friction between the two sides.6 Meanwhile on the Falklands islander opinion had not yet calmed down. The reluctance of London to take a lead had created an opportunity for the Falkland Islands Committee. Flushed by its success in blocking the condominium proposal it now came forward with ever more ambitious plans for the Island’s development. In this it was largely promoting the interests of the Falkland Islands Company, who feared that closer ties with Argentina would threaten its own monopolistic position. The Falklands Islands Company owned approximately half the Islands and produced about half the annual wool crop, with assets in the mid-1970s of some £2.5 million. In July 1972, when it was acquired by Dundee, Perth and London Securities Ltd. (DP & L), as a wholly owned subsidiary, the Directors became concerned that it might be sold off because of its lack of profitability, possibly even to an Argentine company. The Falklands Islands Committee had in fact been revived in 1972 largely in response to a fear that the assets would be sold to Argentina. This was at the instigation of the company itself, which helps explain the close association at this time between the two. With disquiet in the Islands, DP & L gave a written undertaking that the Falkland Islands Sheep Owners’ Association would be given first refusal should it decide to sell. Although there was some uncertainty, it was judged that this undertaking still held, even when DP & L was acquired by Charrington, Gardner & Locket in June 1974. If the Falkland Islands Company sought to sell its assets to Argentine interests, the local management would undoubtedly appeal to the parent company while the Executive Council would never agree to issue a landholding license to an Argentine company. The Committee was now leading the call for a hard line with Argentina. The Governor complained in October 1974 that while he was under instructions ‘virtually to say nothing (to avoid criticism from the Committee that pressure is being used)’ the field had been left open to local Committee activists and the case for dialogue with Argentina had gone by default. A visit by two senior FCO officials in December pinpointed the problems of dealing with a scattered population, largely isolated from the outside world, and limited in its access to news. Views were formed by rumour, with islanders often feeling that they were being kept ignorant deliberately while their representatives were always nervous about getting too far ahead of local opinion. Against this background there was little chance of movement towards an appreciation of the possibilities of dialogue unless the Governor was allowed to talk more frankly of the hazards ahead. Soon this view attracted some support from the responsible Minister of State, David Ennals. He agreed that an educational campaign of some sort was required, with ministers working on Parliamentary opinion while the Governor explained the realities of the situation to the islanders. He was convinced that doing nothing would just lead to worse trouble. In this he was influenced by a brief conversation with Vignes in Lima in

The Official history of the falklands campaign


December 1974 who told him that there were only two options—invasion or negotiation. Ennals did not think that the Islands were defensible. A paper by the Ministry of Defence which, in contrast to later submissions, had a generally optimistic tone, suggested that there were a number of deterrent options, including reinforcing the marines, the despatch of a nuclear-powered submarine (SSN) or mine-laying at Stanley, or other means of interdicting Argentine air and sea communications. Ennals was dissatisfied with the note. He ‘could not see a Labour Government despatching’ the requisite brigade group. Ennals’ approach was also shaped by his long-standing desire to stay in touch with UN opinion, including the decolonisation committee, and demonstrate that Britain was willing to negotiate seriously. He was well aware of the influence of the anti-colonial, non-aligned forces in the UN, and that, whatever the strength of the legal case on sovereignty, the fact of colonial status was against Britain. An appreciation from the Ambassador to the UN, Ivor Richard, in January noted that European countries supported Britain in Falklands resolutions largely out of community solidarity but they assumed, along with the Americans and Canadians, ‘that the Falkland Islands will eventually be taken over by Argentina and can therefore see no reason to jeopardise their bilateral relations with Argentina in support of what they believe to be a lost cause.’ Richard was also extremely worried about the consequences for Britain’s international standing of a successful invasion of the Islands. An analysis from the UK Mission to the UN (not shown to ministers) concluded that there was no chance of a supportive resolution in advance of an invasion and once faced with a fait accompli members would be unwilling to stick their necks out.

Enter lease-back On the assumption that negotiations had to be revived, Ennals was now: Moving towards the view that the best long-term aim might be a longterm leasing arrangement by which, under a Treaty, we would cede sovereignty but would otherwise retain virtually all the arrangements on the Islands which exist now. The FCO’s Latin American Department had developed the idea in a paper. The proposed lease would be for a fixed period. The original suggestion was for a minimum of 25 years (to give the younger generation a long enough time frame to plan their lives). The paper identified the problems that could arise over citizenship, Argentine rights to buy land, the transfer of responsibility to Argentina for the foreign relations of the Islands, the role of sterling, and the possibility of payment to Argentina to preserve the appearance of a landlord and tenant relationship. This was still no more than a thought for the long-term. It was far too controversial to be taken much further at this time and so was not mentioned in a draft Oversea Policy and Defence (OPD) Committee paper on the problem. This only argued the need to negotiate a modus vivendi between the Islands and the mainland. Callaghan was unimpressed by the arguments for raising lease-back at this time. He was unconvinced by the political case (‘especially with the new Tory leadership in truculent mood’), thought

Mis-communication and non-cooperation


Ennals overestimated the importance of opinion in the United Nations and underestimated the possibilities of defence. Why could not Britain state unequivocally that sovereignty would not be ceded until the islanders agree? ‘I suppose,’ he commented, ‘there will be uproar in the UN. And what would follow?’ Ennals responded that Callaghan underestimated the difficulties of keeping the Argentines in play in the absence of a more constructive line. A meeting in late March led to a revised paper, more neutral between the options of sitting tight and accepting negotiations, and identifying the defensibility of the Islands as a critical issue. Callaghan at least wanted the problem examined thoroughly for this appeared to be the critical issue in deciding between opting for the status quo or negotiations. Its importance was accentuated when, at a press conference on 19 March, Vignes implied that Argentina might be contemplating an invasion. Callaghan thought an invasion unlikely but that opinion against such drastic action in Buenos Aires was likely to be helped by an unequivocal British stance. Anxiety at the Ministry of Defence over this issue, and Callaghan’s approach, were aggravated by his instructions to the new Ambassador, David Ashe, drafted without much consultation, to threaten a military response in the event of an Argentine attack on the Islands. There was general scepticism with his belief that Argentina should—could—be left in no doubt ‘that any attempt by them to settle matters by unilateral action would have the most serious consequences.’7 MoD drew attention to past analyses, which warned of the likely ineffectuality of military responses, without making much impression on a Foreign Secretary considered ‘reluctant to accept unpalatable conclusions.’ Now MoD sought to tone down the optimism in Callaghan’s May memo (discussed below) about the viability of a Falklands defence. Nonetheless, Ashe delivered this message at his first meeting with Vignes on 14 April. Vignes made no answer at all, confining himself to a remark later that his public statements should not be seen as inflammatory but as a means of avoiding the further inflammation of Argentine opinion. At the same time Vignes maintained the established position on sovereignty and was unmoved by protestations of the paramountcy of islander wishes. He did accept the need for a transitional arrangement and had picked up on the lease-back idea, prompted by its brief mention in an article in the Financial Times on 3 April 1975.8 On 16 April 1975 Ennals and Callaghan called on Prime Minister Harold Wilson to discuss Falklands policy. Ennals was still pressing his view that sitting tight was not an option. Argentine pressure could only be contained by means of substantive negotiations, and in this he saw the potential of the lease-back idea. Callaghan was now persuaded that this was the best option (on a 99-year lease) if Argentine pressure could not be deflected, but on deflections he was more optimistic than Ennals. The Prime Minister recognised the apparent international isolation of the UK on this issue, recalling how shocked he had been by the lack of Commonwealth support over Gibraltar. Yet he believed strongly that islander wishes should be paramount and was reluctant to address the sovereignty issue directly. Wilson saw as a way forward the possibility of engaging the Argentines in a discussion on oil. The evidence on exploitable reserves was encouraging and joint ventures would be a way of giving Argentina the benefits of sovereignty without ‘giving up the legalities.’ Though warned that Argentina would keep on coming back to sovereignty, Wilson nonetheless wanted to ‘play it slow’ on this issue, hoping to ‘play the Argentines along for 18 months or so.’

The Official history of the falklands campaign


It was not surprising that oil was looming large in government thinking. In the mid1970s, with oil prices having quadrupled following the October 1973 Arab-Israeli War, and the growing influence of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), the possibility of new reserves was guaranteed to excite governments. The Government had just received a report on the area’s oil potential, commissioned in 1971, from Professor Griffiths of Birmingham University. Although there was no proof of any oil, nor whether any could be extracted, the findings were sufficiently encouraging to warrant further commercial exploration. The area of interest was closer to the Islands (400–500 miles) than previously thought at 50–1000 fathoms deep. The Falkland Islands Committee was also seized of the oil issue, and had encouraged the Island Council to resolve that oil exploration licenses should be issued. To the Government this completely missed the point of the oil opportunity. Britain could not issue licenses for exploration unilaterally let alone move to extraction without risking a confrontation. It was only with Argentina that this potentially valuable resource could be explored and, if found, exploited. Divided the two countries would get nothing. This was one of the issues to emerge strongly from a seminar held by the FCO on 8 May 1975, with officials from interested departments, representatives of the Falkland Islands Committee and a few outside experts. This had been designed to widen the policymaking circle, providing those with an economic and political interest in Latin America a chance to get over their view that the dispute was holding back broader British interests. Against the costs of sustaining the Falklands had to be set the losses that might accrue if the dispute continued to sour relations with Argentina and the rest of Latin America, and, perhaps more important, the economic opportunities that might have to be foregone. The Foreign Office observed that the ‘businessmen concerned with the Falkland Islands seemed more worried about the fate of their cash flow under Argentine sovereignty than they were about the life of the islanders themselves.’ Taking all this into account, in May 1975 Callaghan sent the Prime Minister a long memorandum. It reviewed the influence of the Falkland Islands Committee, the problem of defence, and the prospects for oil. Opinions differed on the actual oil potential, but politically it offered a way out as an alternative to negotiations on sovereignty or confrontation. The proposal was to get discussions going on the economic issues, precluding sovereignty for the moment but indicating that a serious economic dialogue would have implications for the consideration of Argentine rights. This suited Wilson. He was content to go ahead and ‘play the oil card’ so long as the views of the Falklanders were paramount. Yet the Joint Intelligence Committe (JIC) had reported the Argentine view that the oil potential was ‘small and very long term,’ and its impatience with a lack of progress on the sovereignty issue. Buenos Aires was never convinced that the potential of the South Atlantic was sufficiently promising to justify the relaxation of claims for sovereignty. If its claims were valid then this potential was for Argentina to exploit as it chose. The Ambassador was still told to approach Vignes on the basis of Callaghan’s memorandum. The Foreign Minister was not pleased that Britain considered the time not yet ripe for a final settlement of the problem and judged inadequate the proposal that the two countries should work together to exploit the resources of the region, in the process changing the economic and social context in which the sovereignty issue would be addressed. He had his own package involving a 15-year leaseback. Ashe had no

Mis-communication and non-cooperation


instructions on this matter. All he could do was promise that discussion ‘of long-term Argentine rights’ would not be precluded if the British proposal on economic cooperation were implemented. Nonetheless, later talks in June gave Callaghan sufficient hope that Vignes was moving towards accepting the potential benefits of economic cooperation (even extending to the Argentine mainland) while acknowledging that Britain would not agree to the principle of sovereignty transfer from the start. In July Callaghan felt confident enough to offer his strategy to OPD. The objective would be to ‘seek an interim settlement by using co-operation over oil on the Falkland Islands continental shelf and over the fishery resources of the South West Atlantic as constructive inputs for a new Anglo-Argentine dialogue.’ By locking the Argentine Government into discussions on these issues, as had been done for seven years over communications, they would not push forward the more troublesome sovereignty issue. There was an obvious difficulty. The strategy was somewhat transparent. At some point it would therefore be necessary to acknowledge the implications of consideration of these resource issues for discussion of long term Argentine rights in the region: Thus we would aim gradually to share with the Argentine Government some of the physical attributes of sovereignty, without giving up the substance. Nevertheless, once we had entered into a dialogue of this kind we would sooner or later reach a point at which we could no longer refuse to discuss the issue of sovereignty.


There was another reason to consider the economic aspects of the problem, and that was the long-term viability of the Falklands. The background was not good. This was a tiny community trying to survive in a distant and inhospitable part of the world (geographically and politically). The Argentine economy was in a mess and global international economic conditions were poor. The Falklands could not escape the inflationary pressures, as fuel prices rose. The price of wool was unstable. The local equilibrium seemed so delicate that any new factor could have knock-on effects—for example the wages of workmen imported to build the airport raised demands elsewhere. Meanwhile the population was declining steadily. If there was to be any hope of the Island community surviving, especially in the face of Argentine hostility, development was vital. There had to be some diversification in economic activity as well as improved internal communications. This required substantial capital investment. For a population of barely 2,000 development assistance on any scale was always going to seem disproportionate.1 When, for example, it was decided in May 1974 to authorise the construction of the airfield, at an estimated cost of £4.1million, the Minister of Overseas Development, Judith Hart, expressed her concern at the cost for so few people. She was told that there was no alternative to the project and no other source of funds.2 Yet even this was not in itself enough to satisfy the Islands’ needs. This view was impressed on Ennals at a meeting in Rio de Janeiro in May, when Councillors (talking directly with a minister for the first time since the 1968 fiasco) argued for a serious examination of the prospects for economic development to see if they could be offered a sound future. The islanders’ interest was to find some way of addressing the short-term problems, brought about by declining wool prices and emigration, while giving substance to the long-term prospects of oil discoveries. The Government was inclined to pose the problem in a different way, in the form of two inter-connected questions. First, could the Islands remain viable at a reasonable cost without improved relations with Argentina? Second, were there attractive prospects for long-term development that could only be realised through co-operation with Argentina? If, as the Government had come to suspect, the answers to these questions were ‘no’ and ‘yes’ then the sooner the islanders appreciated their situation the better. Even if the answers came out differently, the cost of continuing along current lines had to be quantified, as well as the possibilities for the use of extra aid to develop and diversify the islanders’ way of life.



Given that the thrust of the new approach to Argentina was now largely economic it seemed to make sense to establish a firm basis for all future policy decisions. Accordingly, part of the new policy agreed in July was to commission a high level Economic and Fiscal Survey of the Islands. Terms of reference were worked out with the Island’s Executive Council. The agreed terms were ‘to examine the total resources both known and potential of the Colony and Dependencies and the prospects for economic development,’ looking at such questions of infrastructure, fiscal structure, government services and housing. Lord Shackleton, an eminent Labour peer, then Deputy Chairman of Rio-Tinto Zinc (RTZ), agreed to accept the Chairmanship. He was chosen from a short list of senior figures with some interest in the area and a reputation for good judgement. His own connection was that his father, the great explorer, was buried on South Georgia, although he had never visited the Falklands or the Dependencies himself.3 He suspected that behind his appointment was the hope that ‘if somebody with his name reported that there was no economic future to the Falklands this would then be more likely to be acceptable to the islanders than if the point was made by an official or Government minister’. This was, however, a risk for the Government, for it was always likely that Shackleton would take islander views seriously, and demonstrate that there was indeed a future. Just before departure for the Falklands, Shackleton met Callaghan who told him to ‘try, in his usual gentle manner, to influence the Islanders directly on the political side. It did make sense for them to agree to have some form of association with Argentina.’ Shackleton replied carefully, agreeing ‘to expose the economic truth (of the Islanders’ situation), whatever it might be.’ Callaghan also cautioned against assuming that the Chancellor would make much money available. To this extent he recognised that he was asking Shackleton ‘to make bricks without any straw.’ The Foreign Secretary also hoped that a report that set out the benefits of co-operation would impress the Argentines, and so serve, to use another metaphor, as ‘a sprat to catch a mackerel.’ This depended, however, on Shackleton taking the same line and on the Argentines appreciating the British purpose in commissioning the report, and not interpreting it as an attempt to sustain the Falklands as a colony. In the event things did not work out as planned. Instead of pointing to a way forward, the Shackleton exercise aggravated relations with Argentina.

Argentina reacts The circumstances were not propitious for any sort of negotiation with Argentina. Since the start of the year the political situation in Buenos Aires had been getting steadily more chaotic. Peron’s wife had attempted to succeed her husband, who had died the previous summer. There were constant and credible rumours of an imminent coup d’etat. Before Callaghan could follow up his new policy, Vignes had departed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs without, in all probability, leaving behind any serious record of his conversations with British diplomats and ministers. The new Argentine Foreign Minister, although not for long, was Sr Robledo. At short notice he requested an opportunity to meet Callaghan at the UN General Assembly meeting in September. They met, with Callaghan accompanied only by a junior diplomat

The Official history of the falklands campaign


and again dependent upon the Argentine Ambassador to the UN for interpretation. Part of Callaghan’s message was that there could be no discussions about sovereignty and that any invasion would be resisted forcefully. But he spoke at great length about the possibilities for oil, including in passing a reference to the high level Economic and Fiscal Survey of the Falklands that he wished to establish. He suggested that a senior official should go to Buenos Aires to discuss an environment for co-operation and a timetable for the implementation of the survey. Robledo was not really prepared for this. He put forward the old line, a condominium, apparently unaware that the British had taken the idea off the agenda rather than just left it in suspension. He missed the significance of Callaghan’s reference to an economic survey. At the same time, he also told Callaghan that there was no ‘question of an Argentine invasion of the Islands nor of an attempt to solve the problem by force.’ The initial British assessment of the meeting was positive. Almost as soon as he returned from New York, Robeldo was replaced by Arauz Castex. The announcement of Shackleton’s appointment and his mission on 16 October 1975 came before Ambassador Ashe had a chance to clarify matters with the Argentine Ministry of Foreign Affairs and explain the strategic purpose of the survey. Callaghan’s proposal for the visit of a senior official became confused with Lord Shackleton’s own visit. Instead of being vaguely hopeful about the line of official thinking in London Argentina suddenly became extremely distrustful. The formal reaction to Shackleton’s appointment described it as unwelcome and unilateral. Soon Britain was warned that the mission could expect neither transit facilities nor consultations. More seriously still, the measure was likely to lead to the recall of Ambassadors. The breaking off of relations was contemplated. The only hope was that if the mission were delayed then there could be discussions about a joint venture, in which Lord Shackleton might participate. The problem was that the attitude struck by the Argentine Government was one of the few popular things they had done and they were not, according to the Ambassador, likely to moderate their line without a British gesture. Unless Shackleton’s mission could be postponed, he warned, there could be no high-level meeting, and without that, no prospect other than deteriorating relations. This confirmed the view of those in the FCO who believed that Argentine pressure would only ease if the Government budged from its refusal to consider negotiations on sovereignty. From Stanley came the immediate rejoinder: ‘either cancellation or postponement of the Shackleton Mission could do damage in the Islands which it would be hard to exaggerate.’ It would show Britain as being ‘impotent’ and ready for more betrayals. On 10 December Argentina confirmed (as expected) that the transit of the team through Argentina would not be acceptable. It was only the help of another Latin American country that prevented postponement of the Shackleton Mission for practical reasons. This would have been a major setback: jubilation in Argentina with a demonstration that Britain no longer controlled communications with the Islands, and dismay in the Falklands leading to immediate demands for expenditure on defence. In addition, the survey itself would have had to be abandoned. To try to get Argentina to relent, Callaghan made a special visit to Paris on 17 December, to meet Castex, who was attending a conference. He re-iterated his established line that the key to the problem lay in islander opinion, this would only



change over time, but that if economic co-operation could progress, then ‘other things might follow.’ Castex accepted none of this but raised the idea of retrieving the situation by attaching some Argentine technicians to the survey team. Cautiously, Callaghan agreed to take the proposal seriously, stressing that the islanders would have to agree. He decided to respond positively, suggesting that two to three Argentine scientists should join the survey team as advisers, though they would not be involved in the preparation of a report. Argentina responded offering a retired admiral as the mission’s deputy leader (though this was supposed to be independent of any government) and proposing a joint report to both governments, to be followed by negotiations on the transfer of sovereignty the coming March. On 30 December Britain suggested another compromise. The admiral could have the position of Chief Argentine Scientific Adviser to the Survey, and there would be a provision for an exchange of views between the whole team and Argentine authorities before returning to London. These suggestions had no impact. On 2 January, in the press and in private, the tentative Argentine willingness to be associated with the survey was withdrawn, as traditional demands were re-emphasised and accompanied by warnings of a ‘head-on collision.’ Against this background it is not surprising that the reception in the Falklands for Shackleton and his team, when they arrived on board HMS Endurance on 3 January, having managed to avoid Argentina en route, was extremely enthusiastic. The Argentines had been successfully taken by surprise, for although they had been told the date of arrival they had not been informed of the mode. The day, depending on one’s point of view, was not wholly propitious: exactly 143 years previously Captain Onslow of HMS Clio had hoisted the British flag and pulled down that of the Republic of Buenos Aires. This was, according to the Argentine Ambassador ‘a coincidence which might be considered unfriendly and unhelpful in reaching agreed solutions.’ Argentina was now moving towards breaking off diplomatic relations and even military action. On 12 January Britain sent a conciliatory message urging that a way be found to turn ‘a sterile dispute into a bridge for co-operation.’ The next day the Argentine Government informed Britain that the Argentine Ambassador (on leave) would not be returning to London and suggested that the British Ambassador be withdrawn.

The Shackleton report The Government had expected the team to represent the matter from a London perspective. Callaghan later recalled that it had not ‘crossed my mind …that Eddie would come back with a report that because of the general atmosphere at the time could ever say anything other than look this is a hopeless situation.’ Instead Lord Shackleton took on the islanders’ concerns and did little to nudge them in the direction of accommodation. He travelled extensively within the Islands—visiting 31 of the 36 farms—and concluded that their needs were often quite modest, and largely geared to the local social structure. Shackleton is reported to have described the Falklands as ‘islands entirely surrounded by advice’ and he sought a way to provide action instead. His report, while optimistic about what might be achieved, provided a compelling picture of a small community doomed to decline in the absence of investment. More than half the population had

The Official history of the falklands campaign


always lived at the capital Stanley—some 1,050 in 1976—and the numbers there were the most constant, barely changing since the start of the century. The whole area outside of Stanley, known as the ‘camp,’ involved around 33 settlements, the largest of which was in Goose Green, with about 140 people. Less than half the camp population lived in West Falkland. The population was remarkably homogenous—all but a few percent of British stock—with three quarters locally born, or ‘kelpers’. The birth rate had always exceeded the death rate on the Falklands, although this could be explained by the number of short-term members of the population who did not retire on the Islands, rather than by fertility or good health. The population decline was the result of migration and the exodus had some worrying features. The decline was in the camp more than Stanley, among kelpers more than immigrants, among women more than men. The result of this latter factor was that in critical age groups men were coming to exceed women by three to two. This had a number of unfortunate social effects, including a high rate of divorce. Another visitor from a couple of months before Shackleton’s team, after reporting on the remarkable ability of such a small community to sustain the infrastructure of a modern society, noted the determination of so many young people to emigrate and ‘a vision of romantic solitude’ coming up against the realities of ‘an unending diet of mutton, beer and rum, with entertainment largely restricted to drunkenness and adultery, spiced with occasional incest.’4 Sheep farming was the mainstay of the economy. Attempts to diversify tended to fail. The world price for wool was the variable, which exercised the single most important economic influence on the lives of the islanders, and it was one over which there was no control. A second important variable was the level of inflation in the UK, as that was the source of the bulk of imports. The local economy was dominated by the Falkland Islands Company, which owned over half the farmland, provided the internal shipping and ran the charter vessel that carried wool exports and ran rudimentary banking services. It faced no competition and, as it was owned by a British parent company, could take decisions with scant regard for the effect on the local community. There had been little reinvestment of the profits earned from the Falklands in the Falklands. For some time the economy had been stagnant or declining. Average earnings were some ten percent lower in real terms than in the UK. Yet over time the Falklands had exported more than they imported, provided more funds to the UK than had been returned in the form of civil aid and investment income, and the local government stayed in surplus. A small and scattered population was hard to look after, with the tax base unable to sustain a road network or much by way of social services or amenities. Communications within the Islands were primitive, with tracks rather than roads outside of Stanley. The internal air service had come to assume critical importance, while heavier goods tended to be transported by sea. None of this helped generate social cohesion, but Shackleton put the greatest blame for this malaise on the pattern of dependence—on the Falklands Islands Company; the Falklands Islands Government, Britain, and to the expatriates who provided many key services. The symptoms were an ‘apparent lack of enterprise at individual and community levels, and a degree of acceptance of the status quo which verges on apathy.’ This did not mean that the people were divided or dispirited, or that they did not display many admirable qualities such as honesty, versatility and hardiness. There was also, of course, the sovereignty issue, which had ‘undoubtedly been a unifying



factor.’5 There was one issue which could animate the community and that was a threat from Argentina to their British identity. In general he judged the Islands viable.6 At the time he visited wool prices were quite high and most people he met wanted to stay. To overcome the sense of internal isolation he argued strongly for a road to join Stanley and Darwin as well as a proper school house.7 The most controversial proposal was the extension of the runway by 2,500 ft., a cause close to the hearts of the islanders. This issue had been raised the previous summer by the Falklands Islands Committee and had been dealt with by the Government by pointing to the economic survey that would be able to examine the economic case. Civilian flights from Ascension would still not be possible but a longer runway would allow direct flights from Rio or Buenos Aires. This was in fact difficult to justify on straightforward economic grounds, other than the argument that for every possible form of development better communications were necessary. Undoubtedly, also in Shackleton’s mind was the hope that a better runway would help in the defence of the Islands by making possible more rapid military reinforcement. When Shackleton gave Callaghan a verbal briefing on his return to London, prior to the completion of the full report, he stressed the importance of runway extension. While most of his proposals would not involve early capital expenditure this was the exception: savings might be possible if the government moved quickly, while the construction team was still finishing off the airfield. He guessed a cost of some £2 million—the FCO supposed that it would be at least twice that figure. Callaghan was sufficiently impressed to seek approval of the scheme from the Defence Committee. The Ministry of Overseas Development, who held the purse strings, were by contrast unimpressed. On 4 March 1976, Callaghan stressed to the Overseas Development Minister, Reg Prentice, the wider defence considerations, while acknowledging that the economic justifications so far adduced were not sufficient. Another advantage of an early decision was that the existing work force and machinery could stay on site. To the Ministry of Overseas Development, the economic case seemed flawed while the experience of the airfield up to this point, with cost overruns and technical difficulties, did not arouse great enthusiasm for its further extension. The islanders were already getting £2,000 a head for the existing airfield. Given the history of this matter, Prentice warned that his Accounting Officer would be required to record a formal warning that he could not defend this expenditure before the Public Accounts Committee. These objections led to a typical delaying device: a decision that the issue needed more careful study. This confirmed the dilemma created by Shackleton: the Government dared not risk the blow to islander morale by dismissing the report out of hand, and in particular its most conspicuous recommendation.8 Prentice did not budge from his view. The air port was less about commercial development and more an ‘implicit pledge’ to the islanders; ‘the more extravagant the symbol, the stronger the pledge.’ As the first drafts of the report began to emerge the Government became anxious. Instead of the strong case for an early and close economic relationship with Argentina that the Government might have welcomed, the emphasis was on the potential for selfsufficiency. In the long-term Shackleton appreciated that the most substantial options depended on Argentina—fishing, oil and even tourism. But he did not share the view that oil was the key to unlocking the whole problem because the prospects were so murky.

The Official history of the falklands campaign


Nor did he agree that the Falklands were a lost economic cause. He envisaged recovery through targeted infrastructural development that would strengthen the social as well as the economic fabric of the Islands. If this meant that Britain had to fund yet more capital expenditure then he pointed out that up to this point the Exchequer had done rather well out of the Falklands. From 1951 to 1973, aid to the territory had been around £900,000 in total while tax income from company dividends and undistributed profits was an estimated £1.9 million. The Islands had also been self-supporting in that they balanced their own budget without subventions from London. He did acknowledge, with some prompting, that the picture changed somewhat if defence costs were included. So not only did he give the islanders a strong case for arguing that they had a promising future without moving closer to Argentina, he even provided a rationale for the significant price-tag attached to his main recommendations, with the extension of the airfield at an estimated cost of £3–5 million, and the subsidy of fishery research requiring an estimated £6.5 million over six years. In total he envisaged expenditure of at least £14 m over five years, about twice as much as the internal government estimates.9 Without this the most likely prospect was of slow economic and social decay. Instead of everything depending on the islanders appreciating the need for dialogue with Argentina the onus was being put on the Government to come up with the cash. The FCO saw a looming political disaster. The Government was committed to publishing the report yet the consequences could be unfortunate. It would be read in both Buenos Aries and Stanley as a manifesto for the political status quo. The Argentine Government would take it as a rebuff, a confirmation that the British had been less than candid in 1975 when they tried to suggest that economic logic was the way to a political breakthrough, while the islanders would expect to see Shackleton’s recommendations implemented and create a terrific fuss if the Government dragged its heels. It was, however, clear from the first skirmish with the Ministry of Overseas Development over the airfield that there was no chance of further capital expenditure on the scale envisaged. There was no economic case for giving priority to sustaining the Falklands at the expense of relations with Argentina. Trade with the Falklands was worth a few percent of that with Argentina. Against an anticipated cost of some £7.5 million to develop the Islands over five years had to be put the risk the dispute posed to current and pending contracts with Argentina worth over £240 million, as well as investment worth £60 million. On viewing a draft of Shackleton one Ambassador to a Latin American country observed in language that few dared to use but many probably felt: It is ludicrous that the interests of less than 2000 persons, the inhabitants of the Islands, should be allowed to be a thorn in the flesh of Anglo/Latin American relations, damaging the interests of the more than 50 million population of the United Kingdom. This seems to me to be the case where our principle of self-determination ought to take second place behind the principle that in a democratic society the minority have to bow to the majority.



Instead of finding a way of persuading the islanders to leave by making life more uncomfortable, Shackleton proposed pouring in more taxpayers’ money, which might attract even more immigrants and perpetuate the problem: Surely the time has come for HMG to let the inhabitants of the Islands know that they are a nuisance and make it clear that if they want a better life they ought to seek it elsewhere rather than look to HMG to make the Islands pleasanter for them. The Chargé d’Affairs in Buenos Aires warned that it would confirm the worst Argentine suspicions about British motives, that the objective was to hold on to the Islands and develop them independently, relying on Argentina tolerating the intensive exploration of oil and fishing resources by offering them a modest share of the spoils. He advised the Government to ensure that it was made clear that the report was independent, confined to economic and fiscal measures, and without prejudice either way to Anglo-Argentine relations. The Ministry of Overseas Development were concerned about being bounced into expensive projects and wanted it to be made clear on publication that HMG did not necessarily accept the recommendations. They took the view that, while after publication some of the low-cost recommendations might be considered, Shackleton’s estimates of capital and recurrent costs were unrealistically low. Only from the Falklands was a predominantly favourable reaction expected. Some relief came because problems with drafting meant that the presentation of the report was delayed. The islanders had wanted it before their

Comparative British Trade with Argentina and the Falklands: 1972–75 Trade with Argentina (£ ‘000,000) 1972




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Trade with Falklands (£ ‘000) 1972




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May election but the length of the report meant that quick publication was physically impossible. As we shall see in the next chapter Anglo-Argentine relations went through a stormy period over the first months of 1976 and the unavoidable delay in publication gave the Government some time to revive the dialogue between the two countries. To officials the report remained a bomb waiting to explode and so they sought to defuse it, to Shackleton’s increasing irritation. For their part officials considered Shackleton indiscreet. Just before the report was due to be published he was read out an

The Official history of the falklands campaign


official disclaimer, which the Government wanted in the report. This he considered unprecedented, suggesting in advance that the Government was washing its hands of the report. He was reluctant even to accept a loose-leaf statement. This had been described from the start as an independent survey. As far as he was concerned the Government could make its view known through public statements when the report was released. Trickier still was the question of Lord Shackleton’s introduction. The first draft contained the following: Secondly there are some general considerations which all readers of this Report should bear in mind. The report has been prepared by a wholly independent team. The terms of reference, which were largely economic, excluded any matters relating to the political future of the Falkland Islands and the Dependencies. The Survey was therefore conducted on the assumption that their political status will remain the same as during the past one and a half centuries. And although only occasional references are made to it in the Report, we were necessarily conscious of the current political situation of the Islands. In any major new development of the Islands’ economy, especially those relating to the exploitation of offshore resources, the importance of Argentine co-operation, and even participation, should remain in the reader’s mind [not be lost from view]. The FCO wanted him to go further, and suggested an alternative wording for the last sentence: Any major development of the Islands’ economy depends on Argentine cooperation and even participation, especially in the exploitation of offshore resources. The fact that the report has been deliberately written with only occasional references to the wider political context of AngloArgentine relations should not obscure the imperative need for a political accommodation with Argentina on which the economic well-being of the Falkland Islanders ultimately depends. Shackleton, however, was not prepared to agree that a settlement of the sovereignty dispute was a sine qua non to any major economic development of the Islands. The alternative, if he would not use these phrases, was to scrap the passage altogether and put in a single sentence stating that all political factors, including the sovereignty dispute had been left out. Shackleton could point to the fact that his terms of reference had not mentioned giving the islanders any particular steer. On 25 May Ted Rowlands, who had now taken over responsibility for the Falklands, met Shackleton. He explained the problems the report would pose for the Government— ‘whetting the islanders’ appetites to a degree which the Government here could not satisfy. Shackleton indicated that he had been surprised himself by the degree of selfsufficiency apparently possible. Having come to this view he did not intend to embark on a crusade but would defend himself against criticism. Eventually language was found for the final report which clarified the relationship of the survey to the sovereignty question:



Nonetheless, the hopeful development in international affairs which has led to regional co-operation between different nations is as relevant to this part of the world as to other areas where economic co-operation has been achieved. It is logical therefore that in any major new developments of the Islands’ economy, especially those relating to the exploitation of offshore resources, co-operation with Argentina—even participation—should, if possible, be secured. The sovereignty issue overhangs our Report, as it does the Falklands, and the absence of a settlement could well inhibit the full development of the Islands. This does not, of course, diminish the fact apparent to any visitor to the Islands that the population is British and, as was forcefully impressed upon us whenever the subject was discussed, is firm in its desire to remain British. After the report was published Government commentary focused hard on the penultimate sentence, and to some extent this was picked up in the press commentary.10 Yet this could not obscure the extent to which the Shackleton Report had backfired. The objective had been to demonstrate a way forward based on the miserable prospects if the islanders insisted on standing alone and the much brighter vistas that opened up if they could only co-operate sensibly with Argentina. The same message would hopefully get through to Argentina who must understand that pressure on the islanders only hardened their attitudes. Positive, material inducements were more likely to be a winning strategy, just so long as they were prepared to be patient. Yet Shackleton had instead concluded that the Islands could be made viable. When he presented his report to the Foreign Secretary on 22 June he acknowledged that this conclusion was not ‘palatable.’ He suspected that while commissioning the report ‘had seemed a good idea at the time’ it had now came at an ‘awkward moment’ The Argentine reaction, based on the supposition that Shackleton’s intention was to develop a ‘stand-alone’ option, served to heighten rather than calm tensions, and their reading of Shackleton’s own views was only slightly exaggerated. A year later the Cabinet’s Defence Committee was told that the report had ‘not given us the result we hoped for—a clear-cut pointer towards economic co-operation between the Islands and Argentina.’ As for the main recommendation of an extension of the airfield, this was: An expensive fantasy which could never be justified in cost effective terms unless we, the Islanders and the Argentines were co-operating together on some large-scale development such as fishing or off-shore oil. Eddie bases his recommendation on the tourist potential of the Islands. But he fails to add that the majority of any tourists would come from Argentina in any case.11


The Shackleton incident In January 1976, while Shackleton and his team were in the Falklands, Argentine irritation was demonstrated by overflights of the Islands. As the team was preparing to return home, an Argentine destroyer, Almirante Storni left port. Shackleton assumed that this was in order to intercept Endurance with his team on board, and then arrest him as an illegal immigrant. Instead they found a ship which looked like Endurance and was called Shackleton. This research ship was named after the then Lord Shackleton’s father. It was owned by the National Environmental Research Council. In 1974 it had conducted a survey into the oil potential of the continental shelf. In 1975 it was engaged on a programme of international scientific research in the area of the Falklands Dependencies, much of it in Antarctic waters south of latitude 60°. At 1330 GMT, on 4 February the Royal Research Ship (RRS) Shackleton was accosted on the high seas, 87 miles from Stanley. The Almirante Storni ordered her to stop her engines and accept a boarding party. When this was refused three shots were fired across the bows. Shackleton’s captain warned the destroyer that he was carrying explosives for the purposes of scientific research and so fire directed at his ship could have grave consequences. A command to alter course and proceed to Ushuaia was repeated and ignored. Two further shots were fired and warning was given that the next would hit the ship. Regardless Shackleton continued to Stanley, which was reached at 1945 GMT. On 14 November the British Embassy in Buenos Aires had been handed a note by the Foreign Ministry saying that RRS Shackleton would need to seek clearance if proposing to carry out research within 200 miles of the Argentine coast or continental shelf. This new limit (including waters around the Falkland Islands) had just been announced. The whole question of territorial waters had achieved a high salience at this time because of the UN Conference on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) which covered all fishing and mineral exploitation. Although the ship was carrying out geodynamics research, Argentina claimed that its research was related to the search for oil and so to the work of Lord Shackleton. On this basis, the Argentine challenge reflected a belief that any attention to the economic potential of the region challenged their claim to sovereignty. The British naval attaché in Buenos Aires had been given an informal warning on 4 December by a Vice-Admiral, second in the hierarchy to the hawkish Admiral Massera

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(and in the latter’s earshot). He was told that ‘if the Shackleton enters Argentine waters, i.e. within the 200 mile limit, the Argentine Government would be compelled to arrest her.’ In such a situation Britain would almost inevitably forfeit its valuable contracts with the Argentine Navy.’ This was taken seriously enough for the Argentine authorities to be informed of the Shackleton’s scientific programme, for the master to be told to keep radio transmissions to a minimum and for the Embassy to keep an eye out for threatening activity. An alternative explanation remains mistaken identity. The Almirante Storni addressed its prey as ‘Endurance’ although it later used the correct name. There was now a problem of getting Shackleton out of Stanley. Or even worse if Argentina decided to follow up this action, perhaps with some symbolic landing on the Falklands. If they were in a belligerent mood then not only might it be dangerous to use the lightly-armed Endurance to help Shackleton out of the Falklands, but Endurance might best be held back in case of some local contingency. This led to the consideration of despatching a task force to provide an escort. Argentina had means to respond to most forces Britain could send, none of which could arrive in less than a fortnight. Furthermore, the required effort, even involving an aircraft carrier, seemed disproportionate, for a research ship. Endurance could probably do the job as well, without the provocation of a task force, unless the Argentines were determined on a confrontation. As the ship left for home it was followed by Endurance ‘in general support and within helicopter range.’ It never returned to the South Atlantic. The Shackleton incident came after a period when the Government had become obliged to take increasing note of the possibility of low-level Argentine military action. After Vignes had raised the possible use of force in March (leading to April’s instructions to Ashe to warn of a military response), the Argentine Foreign Minister had then in June 1975 proposed to Ashe that, as a precondition for the opening of talks, Britain should turn a blind eye to the occupation of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, neither condoning nor condemning, for here the ‘wishes’ of the islanders were irrelevant. Ashe responded that if the situation was exacerbated by threats or military action the British Government would demonstrate its determination to defend the Islands. ‘The Argentine Government must clearly understand that an attack on the Islands would meet with a military response.’ The Argentine Foreign Minister largely backed off, denying an interest in making a grab for the Dependencies. These robust statements, mirrored in Callaghan’s May 1975 memorandum, revealed to the MoD an inadequate grasp of the problems of reinforcement and the possibilities of a military option if the problem could not be dealt with through negotiation. Yet now Argentina appeared belligerent, and this time they had gone so far as to fire shots. The Shackleton incident could be the first of a series. Callaghan asked that a frigate should be sent straightaway to the South Atlantic to stay three to four days sailing off the Falklands, if possible in secret. MoD was not sure what this frigate was supposed to achieve: it could neither deter nor redress any Argentine action. It would be necessary to send an accompanying tanker, and the presence of the two together if cruising in waters to the east or northeast of the Falklands could soon be picked up on the basis of their electronic emissions. If the commitment lasted for any time then soon the frigate would have to be relieved, and the more ships involved the less likelihood of secrecy. If a deployment had to be made better that it be overt. This would be easier because the ship could refuel at a Latin American port, although this would obviously encourage

The Official history of the falklands campaign


speculation as to its purpose. So if a frigate really was required then the one currently stationed off Belize should be withdrawn for this purpose. MoD’s preference remained to do nothing at all, relying on either the established, local forces or, if a substantial threat emerged, to send a proper task force. The FCO accepted the argument that the Belize frigate should be used (an earthquake in Guatemala had reduced the immediate threat to Belize from that quarter) and that the deployment should be overt. Indeed merit could be seen in some high profile port visits.1 On this basis HMS Eskimo left Trinidad on 1 March, accompanied by a tanker, to move in the Argentine direction with port visits to Brazil and Uruguay.

A military strategy The discussions on military options during 1975, combined with the Shackleton incident and then this modest response, were throwing the problems of Falklands defence into sharp relief. Up to this point the main concern had been with the possibility of an unofficial adventure rather than an official assault. It was with this in mind that, in the mid-1960s, it had been decided to deploy a detachment of Marines in the Islands. Before that the only military commitment to the Islands was HMS Protector, the RN’s ice-patrol ship. In late 1964 the Captain of Protector and the Governor recommended that Marines be disembarked to stay in the Islands when the ship left the area in March 1965. This was in the context of the propaganda campaign of that time that, it was feared, could excite some nationalist escapade. A platoon of thirty men was stationed temporarily, and at the same time it was decided to explore the expansion and re-equipment of the local militia, the Falkland Island Defence Force, as a longer-term solution to the Islands’ defence. The same recommendation was made again in 1966, but this time it was resisted by MoD. Their preference was to encourage self-defence by focusing on the militia, and to this end a small RM training team of about six, led by an officer, was sent. The fears of unofficial action were then shown to be justified with Operation Condor. The few Marines, supported by islanders, were sufficient to disarm the hijackers but this incident revived the call from the Governor for a full platoon (1 officer and 36 men). A platoon was sent, in 1967, though with the proviso that this was not to be seen as a long-term commitment. That is, nonetheless, how it came to be viewed. When the Chiefs of Staff considered the defence of the Islands in July 1968, the platoon (designated NP8901) was upgraded to a year-long commitment and not just an interim measure when Protector was off station. The decision was reaffirmed in 1971 and then again in 1974. In addition to deterring an unofficial adventurist operation, the detachment met training requirements for the Falkland Islands Defence Force. The task of the Falkland Islands Defence Force, with some 40 volunteers in Stanley and another 80 scattered around the rest of the Falklands,2 was to help the Marines deal with a small-scale threat, such as a repeat of Condor, or something similar using a passenger ship rather than an airliner to bring a ‘guerrilla force,’ by arresting the insurgents.3 There was particular sensitivity to any attempt to take over the airfield. Exactly what the Marines plus the Defence Force should do if there was an invasion by Argentine forces was a matter of debate. Ostensibly the task was to cause delay and disruption. The Defence Force was tasked to assist the police or Marines—establishing

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road blocks, guarding vulnerable points, ‘quelling civil disturbance,’ and in more serious situations operate as a full troop with NP 8901. Until the mid-1970s the Governor might eventually order NP 8901 ‘to withdraw into the hinterland from where it should be prepared to carry out guerrilla activities against the enemy.’ There was then a debate about whether this was really prudent, and a higher premium might be placed on simple survival. Given the need to protect the key sites in Stanley itself, including Government House, it would be very difficult to deal with an incursion away from the capital. The basic concept was that of a ‘tripwire’. The hope was that Argentina would recognise that any confrontation with British forces, although few in number, would turn an apparently low-cost operation into something altogether more serious. After further discussion it was considered best to change the Defence Instructions to ‘offer resistance, under the guidance of the Governor, to any major incursion by enemy forces.’ The Marines in 1976 had 37 men. In addition to personal weapons they held five general purpose machine guns and two hand-held anti-tank weapons. With one 4-ton vehicle and three landrovers they had limited cross-country ability within East Falkland unless they could use the patrol ship’s helicopters. Later on another officer was added and the force grew to 42. In 1975, the Falklands Islands Committee had proposed a heavily-armed garrison of some 200 on the Islands—‘the maximum which would be socially acceptable’—but there was evidence that even the Committee realised that this was not a serious option, especially in the light of the lack of accommodation. There was a proposal in late 1975 for a detachment of Royal Engineers to supplement the Marines. The FCO was not prepared to pay for this out of its vote while MoD argued that it should be paid for out of the Overseas Development budget as it would be undertaking some capital projects while adding to the defence of Islands. It could not accept a civilian development task. Like most of these ideas it was defeated by the practical implications. Getting the team to Latin America and then on to the Falklands, followed by plant and equipment, would make any work extremely expensive and timeconsuming. It would first require a reconnaissance and then detailed planning, which could take up to eighteen months. Little could be done before 1978. At the time of the Shackleton incident, Prime Minister Harold Wilson asked about the possibility of sending a Special Air Service (SAS) team to the Falklands but this seemed an inappropriate use of a scarce resource as they could not by themselves change the local balance of power. One security problem the Falklands did not face was that of internal subversion.

Reinforcement If there had been a real military emergency somehow extra forces would have to be rushed to this remote spot. Until the mid-1960s contingency plans assumed the possibility of a relatively rapid reinforcement—that is six to nine days. This would require access to an airfield on the South American mainland where troops could disembark and then continue their journey by sea to Stanley. Unfortunately, consultations with Ambassadors in the region soon made it clear that Chile, Uruguay and Brazil were all unlikely to cooperate. The effect of this was that all plans for air reinforcement were scrapped. For flights from Britain Ascension Island was the nearest staging post but this was still 3,385

The Official history of the falklands campaign


nautical miles from Stanley. An aircraft might just have reached Stanley from there, so long as the weather stayed fine—something upon which it would be unwise to rely in the South Atlantic. Any problems and then either the plane would be obliged to ditch or else land at an unfriendly airport, compounding the political embarrassment. If it was decided to wait for good weather all the advantages of speed associated with air flight could soon be lost. Until November 1972 there was not even an airfield on the Islands, other than some rough landing strips. Then the temporary airfield constructed by Argentina opened, but there was no information on its load bearing capacity. The British-built permanent airfield had a runway by 1976, although it was not fully open until 1979. It would seem that at least at the start of 1974 there was a real hope that the airfield would make the Falklands ‘less dependent upon Argentine goodwill.’ One concern with the larger runway was that it was harder to block and so easier for an adventurist operation from Argentina. Yet this runway’s load classification number was roughly half that strictly required for Hercules operations. The airfield was not geared to a military airlift: the facilities were rudimentary, with few landing aids, poor communications (which were relayed through Argentina), and no fuel storage. What fuel there was had to be brought from a fuel farm owned by an Argentine nationalised company. There was at most sufficient fuel for two Hercules to return to Ascension. At any time only three could park at the airport, and, given their weight, they could only have been left safely for a short period. As the most that could be carried would be about thirty armed men, this was not a means to provide a militarily significant reinforcement. The only way to get combat aircraft to the Falklands was on an aircraft carrier (which in 1976 meant Ark Royal) or possibly the sea transport of Harriers. These could not be provided quickly, nor for prolonged periods, without damaging the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) commitment. It might have been possible to get Harriers to the Islands with air-to-air refuelling, but there would then have been insufficient fuel as well as a complete absence of logistics support to sustain them. Sea reinforcement was in general more practical, and more substantial forces could be carried, but there would always be a problem with timing as it would take weeks rather than days for reinforcements to be sent. As we shall see, when crises did start to develop thoughts always turned at first to the despatch of nuclear submarines or frigates. The length of their journeys meant that unless they could be sent in anticipation of a crisis, they would arrive too late to prevent Argentine action or else, and even worse, provoke the action they were supposed to prevent. Even if they arrived in time, and could play a deterrent role, long-term deployment was an expensive option. Three ships had to be committed for every one on station, and to this had to be added the Royal Fleet Auxiliaries (RFAs) required for supply. Endurance Other than the Marines the only military presence was the RN’s ice patrol ship. In 1968 an ex-Danish merchant ship, HMS Endurance, was procured to replace HMS Protector. Its typical cycle of operations was to arrive in the Falkland Islands around mid to late November each year. With Stanley as her base she would carry out scientific and hydrographic tasks in South Georgia, the Dependencies and the British Antarctic region.

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It was charged with rendering to the Governor of the Falklands any necessary assistance in maintaining his jurisdiction. It would be involved in the roulement of the RM garrison and her captain would carry out the annual inspection. At the end of the Antarctic summer, around March/April, it would leave to return to the UK, so no more than five months of each year were spent in the area. Although the FCO always found the political ‘presence’ useful, MoD took the view that its limited capability and only short tours in the South Atlantic meant that it achieved less in defence terms than the RM garrison. It was expensive in money and manpower while inessential to NATO commitments, which had a higher priority. For these reasons MoD saw Endurance as a prime target when any cuts were required, along with the Royal Yacht Britannia. The 1974–5 Defence Review set in motion by the incoming Labour Government had as a general theme the completion of the business begun in the 1967 review of bringing British forces back into the NATO area. MoD saw no reason to keep Endurance in service beyond April 1976: If accommodation with the Argentinians is possible she will not be necessary; and if it is not possible and we are in for a long haul, she will not be adequate. The FCO pressed for this to be reversed. It saw the presence of Endurance as providing an additional deterrent that was not negligible and provided a possible means of preventing the occupation of South Georgia. Governments tended to find it useful as a stabilising influence. In 1973, for example, when there was some anxiety about Argentine military action, Endurance’s programme was adjusted so that it arrived a month early. If removed the wrong signal would be sent to Argentina and to the islanders. In the light of the apparent interest in Argentina about mounting some operation against the Dependencies, Callaghan asked the Secretary of State for Defence, Roy Mason, to delay announcing the withdrawal of Endurance from service and to consider retaining it in service after April 1976. Mason was unconvinced that the ship was worth keeping and warned against making plans on the assumption that it would be kept in service, although he would make no public statement. The White Paper stated only that: We shall continue to maintain forces in the dependent territories of Hong Kong, Gibraltar, Belize and the Falkland Islands. It also mentioned that ‘the ice patrol ship HMS Endurance is in the Antarctic to support the British Antarctic Survey and to conduct hydrographic surveys.’ Mason expected that people would draw their own conclusions. It was reported in January 1976 that ‘in March, HMS Endurance is to be withdrawn from the area and scrapped because of defence cuts’.4 The lack of a public statement still left it open for the FCO to return to the argument. In early 1976, with tensions in the area rising and Endurance due to complete her service in April, MoD considered ways of filling the gap. Increasing the size and capability of the Falkland Islands garrison, possibly through the addition of Endurance’s own detachment, would have the advantage of providing a second officer for NP 8901, but other than that it was hard to see how it would change the basic calculations. The other alternative, of

The Official history of the falklands campaign


more regular visits by other RN ships, was also problematic. To provide an equivalent service two ship visits a year would be needed, each taking about 18 days (at 15 knots) to reach the Islands and requiring an accompanying tanker unless it was possible to refuel en route. It might have been possible to combine South Atlantic duties with Caribbean duties—but the stationed West Indies frigates were also due for withdrawal in March 1976. For these reasons MoD accepted that it would be better for the time being to keep Endurance in service. It was reluctant to do so, although the Navy was keener to keep Endurance running than they let on, and were preparing to argue over who should pay for further deployments. This was only seen as a short-term concession, although in the absence of any political breakthrough it is difficult to see why the MoD expected the decision to be any easier in 1977. Indeed 1977 began with a letter from the Foreign Secretary warning of the damaging political consequences of an announcement that Endurance would be withdrawn, demoralising the islanders and emboldening the Argentines. It needed to be retained as an ‘important element in our negotiating strategy’ Fred Mulley, now the Secretary of Defence, saw no point in pursuing a tough line, as he would inevitably lose, although he refused to accept the commitment beyond another year. The reversal of the 1975 position was not one with which MoD ever became reconciled. To them it could not ‘really be seen as more,’ as a paper in 1977 described it, ‘than the constable on the beat.’ If Endurance was going to remain in service then it was necessary to attend to its armament. It carried two Whirlwind helicopters, which could fire SS11 1 missiles, but had only two 20mm guns of her own. It also carried a RM detachment of thirteen, including one officer. The possibility of sea mines being taken by Endurance for storage at Stanley was also discussed in 1975 but dismissed. In July 1976 the Chief of Naval Staff proposed replacing the Whirlwind helicopters with Wasps, and the SS11 missiles by AS12s, with about treble the range and greater accuracy. In addition, he wanted to give the Royal Marines Carl Gustav anti-tank weapons. This did create some potential difficulties with the Antarctic Treaty (as all weapons taken into the Treaty area had to be declared), and the Foreign Office were nervous about raising the temperature while discussions with Argentina were at a delicate stage. The inclination would have been to delay a decision indefinitely were it not for the fact that the Navy needed to sort the matter out before Endurance set sail again for the South Atlantic. The declaration was eventually made in December 1976.5

Contingencies After the Shackleton incident the threat to the Falklands was re-examined. On 19 February 1976 the Defence Operational Planning Staff released a full assessment on available military options to counter possible Argentine actions. This set the terms for subsequent debates on the topic. It focused hard on the problems arising from the sheer distance of the Falklands from the UK, their inhospitable neighbourhood and the primitive state of local facilities when it came to supporting a force of any substance, whether temporary or permanent. The deployed force was small and the problems of

Unreliable defence


reinforcement were substantial. That Argentina held the military initiative and could escalate in any confrontation as it chose was never doubted. It had a variety of options available if it wanted to cause trouble: Britain would have few in response. The Argentine Navy could devote a couple of destroyers to sustain continual harassment of the limited British shipping in the area claimed as territorial waters. There was not much sea traffic from Britain to the Falklands with which to interfere. A supply ship chartered by the Falklands Island Company did the round trip about once a quarter, while an RFA topped up the harbour oil storage tanks annually.6 In addition to the occasional visits of RSS Shackleton, the two British Antarctic Survey (BAS) ships, RRS Bransfield and RRS John Biscoe, were in the area during the southern summer. There were up to ten British merchant ships in the River Plate area at any one time. To pick on any of these ships Argentina could call on an aircraft carrier, a cruiser, destroyers, shore-based aircraft and even two submarines (although these were assessed to be in a poor state). The most obvious way to hurt the Islands would be to remove the new air service, operated from Comodoro Rivadavia by the Argentine Air Force. This would not in itself cause major supply problems, so long as sea communications could be maintained, but it would affect delivery of mail and the ability of the islanders to leave the Islands, including emergency medical treatment. There were no obvious substitutes (any charter flight to Chile would have to cross Argentine air space and any Royal Air Force supply effort would need access to Brazilian or Uruguayan airfields, even supposing that the airfield at Stanley could cope). Essential supplies could continue to come by sea. If, however, the Argentine Navy decided to harass the supply ships then it would be necessary to provide a degree of protection through an accompanying task force capable of providing some form of deterrence. This could involve a helicopter cruise ship or guided-missile destroyer, frigates, possibly a submarine, supporting RFAs and, if available, Ark Royal. Each deployment would last six weeks. Depending on the number of visits required this would be a heavy extra commitment if the siege lasted for any time. Any effective deterrence would require a force of about brigade group strength deployed in advance by sea. Given all the problems of transport and support this did not seem to be a practical proposition. Planning therefore against any Argentine attempt to seize the Islands had to focus less on defence and more on recapture. It was understood, as later proved to be the case, that the options then for consideration would be a blockade, to prevent the resupply of an Argentine garrison, or an amphibious operation with embarked troops. The problem with a blockade was that it would need a substantial and sophisticated task force to prevent convoying of supplies or airdrops, and it could take a long time to have an impact. The amphibious option therefore seemed the more viable. Either way it would take about four weeks to assemble the necessary force and get it to its destination. In early 1976 the planners identified eight ships with a total lift capacity of a brigade group, which could sail ten days from the order being given and arrive at the Falkland Islands eighteen days later. One of these ships, HMS Bulwark, was however about to be paid off and this would reduce the lift capacity by about 800 men. The minimum reaction time for a nuclear-powered submarine would be 13 days with as many as 19 days required for a single surface ship or small force, and progressively longer the more substantial the force, with all the problems of fuel provision. In 1975 consideration had been given to the possibility of stationing a SSN in the area, but to

The Official history of the falklands campaign


maintain the patrol cycle would require the allocation of at least three of the Navy’s six available SSNs. Furthermore, a submarine operating on its own would have difficulty in communicating with the UK unless a surface ship was in attendance to relay messages. If it was intended to send a force large enough to defend or recapture the Islands then at least a month was required. In practice this meant that pre-emption was never an option. Whatever force was to be sent, the Argentines could always get there first with something larger. The only point of any deployment was to register a political commitment. There would be, in addition, a possible trip-wire effect, in that by forcing a direct confrontation with an Argentine force engaged in a hostile act they would be denied the possibility of a peaceful walk over and would have to cope with the repercussions of having been the first to resort to force. Taken more seriously was the Chief of Naval Staff’s proposal to store naval mines at Stanley for use in a deteriorating political and military situation as a means of complicating Argentine plans for any seaborne invasion. When Secretary of State for Defence, Mason’s initial inclination had been not to put this idea forward, leaving it to a time when Falklands policy was being discussed again at the Defence Committee, and then putting the proposal forward for consultation with the FCO. Eventually the idea was put to the FCO in September 1975, as any mines would need to be taken on Endurance when it left for the South Atlantic in October. Care was taken to ensure that the diplomats were left in no doubt that such a step could not be kept secret and would not change MoD’s general view about the indefensibility of the Islands. The response was dismissive: this was a poor time politically to take such a provocative step; the contribution to the Islands’ defences would be marginal as would be any contribution to the islanders’ morale. The Governor raised a number of practical problems. The Embassy in Argentina saw the proposal as combining the ‘maximum of provocation with the minimum of deterrence.’ The implication of this forbidding analysis, which did not change in its fundamentals over the next six years, was that the Islands were to all extents and purposes indefensible and only barely retrievable once lost. The long-term logic pointed to a deal of some sort with the Argentines. Over the short-term it also had implications for crisis management. When relations were in a sensitive phase the issue would be whether any notionally resolute action on Britain’s part could actually improve the military position in any confrontation, or whether it might just inflame a situation in which the operational options were slight.


If the Argentine objective in the Shackleton incident had been to convince the British Government that there was no option but to talk seriously about sovereignty then it succeeded. The discussion on military options was dispiriting in itself, while the difficulties of December and January with the Shackleton Mission provided little support for the procrastinators. This was despite the fact that the immediate crisis atmosphere subsided quite quickly, helped by the appearance of yet another Argentine Foreign Minister, Sr Quijano, who seemed anxious to calm things down after the precipitate action of Castex. Rowlands was sent—with some urgency—to catch Quijano during a visit to New York. They met on 12 February 1976. They had a frank but reasonably friendly exchange out of which there came the assurance that there would be no more interference with RRS Shackleton’s scientific mission. There was even discussion of the possibility of Ambassadors returning. The effort to move forward on the basis of economic co-operation as an alternative to a discussion on sovereignty had stalled. Even if Buenos Aires had not misinterpreted the signals it was not to be deflected from its quest for sovereignty. Instead of accepting joint oil exploration as a possible way forward the Argentines appeared to be under the misapprehension that Britain had decided on an oil-based independence for the Falklands. This idea had also occurred to the Falklands Lobby although it had no short-term basis in actual prospects or possibilities for independent action, absent Argentine co-operation. If there was no Argentine interest in economic co-operation then it was unclear what points of leverage might exist. International opinion largely sided with Argentina or else found British objections to substantive negotiations and insistence on self-determination disproportionate. There also seemed to be little scope for economic pressure. One possibility lay in European Economic Community (EEC) restrictions on Argentine beef imports, on which Britain might offer to help in return for a more positive Argentine attitude on the Falklands, always supposing that Britain could persuade the EEC to be more flexible on the issue. By and large the opportunities for retaliation seemed meagre: ‘They could threaten to renege on their debts if we cut their financial lines of support; they could always sell their wheat and meat on world markets; and the IMF (International Monetary Fund) were unlikely to agree to exert pressures.’ Some possibilities were noted in terms of developments in the cold war. The role played by Soviet and Cuban forces in Angola, plus an increase in Russian fishing activity in the area, had encouraged the view that the South West Atlantic might become a new

The Official history of the falklands campaign


zone of confrontation. The victory of the Marxist MPLA (Movimento Popular de Libertaçao de Angola) in Angola in 1976 encouraged geo-political thinkers in Argentina, now closer to power with the military junta, to remark on the possible options this gave the Soviet Union in the South Atlantic. Argentina appeared interested in a regional defence pact—a South Atlantic Treaty Organisation (SATO)—which would bring the anti-Marxist states on both sides of the Atlantic together, with American backing if not its active participation. A case might be made for Britain, on behalf of NATO, to support this by turning the Falklands into a major military base. On the other hand the same reasoning might lead Argentine geo-politicians to believe that the Americans might collude with them to push Britain out of the Falklands in return for their own base. Officials in Britain toyed with the idea of trying to use the cold war to create a new framework for Anglo-Argentine relations. Yet there was very little here with which to work. From Britain’s perspective a Falklands naval base would be contrary to defence policy—the only defence interest in the area was the Falklands! Nor had there been any appreciable increase in the Soviet naval presence in the South Atlantic. The fact that South Africa was also a proponent of a SATO was another reason to steer clear. There was no evidence that the Argentines themselves had sufficient interest to raise the idea. The Latin American Department took a more positive line. Perhaps a ‘joint’ marine facility might be considered rather than a base. A polite interest should certainly be shown if the Argentines did raise the matter for if they were brushed off this would only lead them to return with renewed vigour to the sovereignty question. MoD saw little merit in this idea, and much to dislike, but reluctantly agreed to have a representative should negotiations resume in case the Argentines brought it up. The only other important relationship of any relevance was arms sales. Here the Falklands dispute had not been a major inhibiting factor. The previous Labour Government had sold Argentina six minesweepers in 1967 and then agreed to the delivery of twelve Canberra’s in January 1969, with the only reservation coming from the Treasury, worried about the state of the Argentine economy. It also agreed to the sale of two Type 42 destroyers, with Lynx helicopters, in May 1970.1 The public position at the time had been that the Government was ‘satisfied that Argentine government was dedicated to the settlement of international disputes by peaceful means.’ As extra warships made no difference to the already irresistible Argentine ability to seize the Falklands, there seemed to be no defence reason to oppose the sale. Lord Chalfont, when FCO Minister of State in February 1970 had even given qualified support to the possible sale of Harriers. The major concern with the Harriers seems to have been to avoid an adverse reaction in Chile or the United States (although in the event the Argentines bought Skyhawks). This approach had continued through the Conservative Government, which had begun negotiations in 1973 over the possible construction in Argentina of six Type 21 frigates. The Labour Government had given consent, in late 1974, to promote the sales of Hawk and Harrier aircraft. In July 1975 approval had been given to release secret information on Sea Wolf in connection with a prospective order for frigates. The size of this potential order—some £180 million in 1976 prices—if anything provided an Argentine lever over the UK rather than the other way round. Certainly there was never any suggestion that a sale should be eschewed to reflect British displeasure with Argentine behaviour. The Defence Sales team were worried that the deal could be jeopardised by the Shackleton incident, and on this basis drafted a letter for Mulley to



send to the Foreign Secretary. On 5 March 1976 a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the British and Argentine Governments to make possible the sale, by then judged to be ‘entering into the final delicate stages on the financing stage.’ The ships were to be built in La Plata by AFNE. Thus defence contracts appeared as another means by which the Argentine—rather than the British—Government might express its displeasure. It could be added to a full break in diplomatic relations, the disruption of communications and perhaps even a token landing on an island. None seemed imminent but all were feasible in the future.2 Consideration of how best to head off such actions soon led to discussion along what had already become a familiar sequence. The first choice was between ‘battening down the hatches and hoping for the best,’ which risked high cost or humiliation, or agreeing to go some way to meet Argentine demands on sovereignty. If the latter route was to be followed, the ground either had to be prepared politically by an education programme, or else be quick and decisive, avoiding steps that might alert the Falklands Lobby to the possibility of a ‘sell out’. Lease-back returned as one of the few possible ways forward, abandoning the ‘trappings’ rather than the substance of sovereignty. This concept would be relatively easy to sell to the public, allow the islanders to continue to live their lives without interference, and might just be acceptable to Argentina. Callaghan instructed that the concept should be further investigated. MoD was very supportive: it wanted the risk of further Shackleton-type incidents reduced and looked forward to the end of all military commitments to the Islands. Callaghan himself remained unsure, however, and was reluctant to make the running until Argentina pushed the matter and the Government had researched it further. He doubted that a dramatic departure in policy could be made without proper preparation of public opinion at home and in the Falklands. At the start of March 1976 Callaghan took the issue to the Defence Committee and then to the full Cabinet, where the new policy was endorsed on 18 March. ‘Indefinite secret “talks about talks”,’ he explained, ‘are not practical politics.’ But practical politics did not really argue for open talks about sovereignty either. If even the most tentative steps towards lease-back were to be reconciled with past commitments then somehow the islanders would need to be won over. Unpalatable facts would need to be explained, but these should be accompanied by agreement to grant some islander wishes in other respects. It was for this reason that he had favoured the airfield extension as an earnest of good intent. Yet even if he had been able to persuade his colleagues to support this expenditure, Callaghan still doubted whether a political storm could be prevented if it was thought that Britain was about to betray the islanders. The first move was therefore to be cautious, a personal message to the Argentine Minister of Foreign Affairs proposing a fresh dialogue to include both economic cooperation and ‘the nature of a hypothetical future constitutional relationship between the Falkland Islands and Argentina.’ There would be two provisos: 1 Any dialogue being without prejudice to either Government’s known position on sovereignty over the Islands; 2 The involvement of Falkland Islands’ representatives at the appropriate stage. For these ideas to be pursued in the first instance, both Ambassadors should return to their posts. These ideas would be kept confidential between the two governments.

The Official history of the falklands campaign


The letter was sent on 23 March. The next day there was a coup in Buenos Aires. In responding to the letter, Admiral Guzzeti, the Foreign Minister appointed by the new military government, indicated the problems to come. Unsurprisingly he asked for clarification of the phrase ‘hypothetical future constitutional relationship,’ and sought to link any discussions to UN General Assembly resolutions. More awkward was that he ignored the ‘sovereignty umbrella proviso,’ demurred on the return of Ambassadors and took scant notice of the confidentiality requirement. He told a press conference on 18 May that the ‘British seem willing to talk.’ However there were no further statements of this nature and relations began to improve.

Reviving negotiations Not only the Argentine Government changed. In March Prime Minister Harold Wilson announced his resignation and was succeeded by Callaghan. The next months were some of the most tumultuous in post-war British politics, as economic conditions deteriorated, culminating in a request for financial support to the IMF. This left Callaghan with virtually no time for the Falklands, while the new Foreign Secretary, Anthony Crosland, took time to settle into his new job and was also caught up in the IMF issue. Though a member for a fishing port, Crosland took the courageous step of producing a settlement in a fishing dispute with Iceland (the ‘Cod War’). Against this background, the Government was even more reluctant than before to take on any more politically emotive issues. As Rowlands noted in June: ‘…even if this is the month for grasping long outstanding nettles, I do not think we can afford to be stung too many times too quickly.’ Yet a course had now been set. There were signs of restlessness in both Argentina and the Falklands. It was becoming harder to keep them both calm at the same time. An illustration of this came when, in order to avoid further provocation to Buenos Aires, the Government decided to postpone some constitutional changes in the Falklands that had been approved by ministers in November 1975. The constitutional arrangements for the territory had been introduced in 1949 and amended in 1955 and 1964. At the pinnacle of the structure was the Governor, appointed by the Queen, supported by an Executive Council consisting of two ex officio members (the Chief Secretary and the Financial Secretary), two unofficial members appointed by the Governor and two elected members of the Legislative Council (LegCo), elected by the members of that Council. The Legislative Council consisted of the Governor, who presided, two ex officio members (the Chief Secretary and the Financial Secretary), and six members elected on the basis of universal adult suffrage. In addition a Court of Appeals had been set up in July 1965 to hear and determine appeals from the Courts of the Territory. One of the 1975 proposals was a lowering of the voting age to 18, and a change of residency requirements for candidates, who were expected to have been resident for three years rather than just one. The most important of the proposed changes was replacement of two nominated members of LegCo by two elected members, giving LegCo an all elected non-official majority.3 Although minor in themselves, they would be seen as yet more evidence of a British emphasis on self-determination. At the New York meeting in February, for example, the Argentine Foreign Minister appeared to be under the misapprehension that



the intention was to elect MPs to Westminster. Postponement was justified to the islanders on the grounds that it made little sense to implement them until consideration had been given to whatever Lord Shackleton recommended. This led to a furious reaction in the Falklands and a possible mass resignation from LegCo. The Councillors were only mollified with difficulty. Even more now hinged on the publication of the Shackleton report. Publication had been delayed because of genuine difficulties in the report’s completion, and getting it ready for publication, but also because of governmental anxieties about its impact. Rowlands feared that it would do more harm than good, annoying Argentina as an assertion of British sovereignty (‘read cold it would drive them up the wall’), irritating the Falklands Island Company by questioning its role, while whetting the appetite of the islanders for more expenditure. To blunt its impact, it was to be published with a non-committal Government statement, after some advanced warning had been given to Argentina. They might be encouraged further with more hints that sovereignty might be on the agenda.4 In July an opportunity was provided by an Antarctic Treaty meeting in Paris. The confidential talks took place in its margins at Under Secretary level. Here took place the first discussions on sovereignty for two years. Britain managed to reassure Argentina that the phrase ‘hypothetical future constitutional relationship’ could allow further discussions in this area and that they were genuinely interested in developing a basis for substantive negotiations rather than playing for time. It was, however, up to the Argentines to develop proposals on sovereignty, which they promised to do. Britain, for its part, would table its ideas on economic co-operation. The officials alerted the Argentines to the imminent publication of the Shackleton report, provided a copy, advised that the Government was not obliged to accept any of the conclusions or recommendations, and drew attention to those aspects which stressed the value of co-operation. Though the Argentine delegation still wanted publication delayed, and the British had to explain why this could not be done, the atmosphere improved at once. Immediately after the Paris talks, Captain Allara, the Argentine Deputy Foreign Minister, travelled incognito to London for a working lunch with Rowlands. Here they discussed such matters as the YPF agreement and travel card difficulties. Arms sales were also on the agenda as were human rights, which, following the coup, was becoming a serious issue. Rowlands, aware of Labour Party sensitivities over Chile, was already coming to the conclusion that the Argentine Junta was just as bad. After this first round there was general satisfaction that the British team had managed to avoid getting involved in detailed discussion of substantive issues. At a further meeting in Buenos Aires in August Argentina revived its proposal for the gradual transfer of sovereignty with provisional joint administration lasting for eight years with alternating governors. Britain produced a working paper for economic co-operation, but did not want to put anything in writing on sovereignty, and so sought clarification of the Argentine position orally. Nonetheless, the head of the British delegation decided that the new initiative could soon grind to a halt if Argentina did not get some indication of where British thinking was leading. He therefore met privately with Allara, stressing that he was speaking in a personal capacity and off the record. He described four criteria against which Britain would evaluate future proposals:

The Official history of the falklands campaign


1 The UK’s concern for people as distinct from Argentine interest in sovereignty over territory; 2 The difficulty of administering people jointly as distinct from administering territories and developing resources jointly; 3 Careful consideration of the length of any transitional period prior to any sovereignty transfer and of detailed guarantees; 4 Possible Argentine input into the economic development of the Islands. These were later passed on in written form. It did not require much investigation to realise that the separation of issues connected with people from those connected with territory potentially involved major concessions: it stressed that the main British interest was in the Falklands themselves rather than the uninhabited Dependencies, and pointed to lease-back rather than condominium. At the very least the summer’s activity had secured a breathing space and perhaps more. The idea of parallel negotiations had been accepted, the latest Argentine position appeared an improvement on what had gone before, the hurdle of the Shackleton Report’s publication had been overcome, the Vospers’ ship-building contract appeared imminent and there was now a chance of getting through the annual General Assembly meeting without a major row. In fact Resolution 31/49 of December 1976, sponsored by Argentina, followed the same lines as Resolution 3160 of three years earlier, thanking Argentina for its efforts to promote decolonisation and the well-being of the islanders but specifically excluding their wishes as a factor in the negotiations. Although this resolution was introduced by a military junta, this came just before the scale of human rights abuses it instigated became apparent. It was adopted by 94 votes with 32 abstentions, including the US and most EEC countries. The ‘chances of reaching agreement on a basis for negotiation,’ were put at ‘a little better than even.’ Furthermore, having raised Argentine expectations it was now going to be difficult to dampen them down again: a request for a third meeting was on the table. If this process was to be taken further then some approach would have to be made to the islanders. Argentina had honoured the confidentiality of the talks thus far but the secrecy could not be sustained indefinitely. Meanwhile the islanders were keenly awaiting the much delayed official response to Shackleton’s recommendations. In October the Foreign Secretary was brought up to date with a lengthy memorandum followed by a ‘teach-in.’ The memorandum was agnostic, without recommendations, but stark in its description of the problem, the ‘nub’ of which was put as ‘Parliament’. If Parliament could not be persuaded to deal with Argentina then it was pointless attempting to continue stringing Argentina along—the available diplomatic stratagems had been exhausted. If it could be so persuaded then the basis for negotiations had to be assessed. While the military Government appeared in some respects a more satisfying negotiating partner than its Peronist predecessor, in other respects its repressive and non-democratic character, and the evidence of violence from the extremes of right and left, was not calculated to encourage an accommodating attitude in the Islands or in Parliament. From the Buenos Aires Embassy came some optimism that the Junta was more inclined to woo the islanders and less inclined, because of its own economic difficulties, to invite a major international crisis. But Britain had its own well-advertised economic difficulties, and the Junta had the potential levers of contracts that might be denied and their ability to cause embarrassment by making known just how far the informal dialogue had progressed.



The conclusions remained the same: ‘Fortress Falklands’ was not an option, an attempt to play for time would fail, dialogue must continue, and by a process of elimination the only credible option for an eventual deal was lease-back. Even with this idea there were evident difficulties. The main precedent was the 99-year lease of the New Territories in Hong Kong in 1898, but this was an unusual arrangement in international law. Lease-back usually occurred in connection with military bases, where the rights of the lessee tended to be fewer than in Hong Kong. At the top of the checklist of issues was the duration of the lease: Argentina was unlikely to find 99 years acceptable but the sort of lengths discussed internally in early 1975, ranging from 25 to 50 years, were unlikely to impress the islanders. Problems could also be envisaged with foreign policy, the rights of Argentine nationals to enter and own land, and the basis for sharing revenues from the exploitation of any resources. It was hard to see how Argentina would accept anything less than lease-back, although ideas were circulating for interim stages involving a sovereign naval base for Argentina, or a deal involving the transfer of sovereignty over the Dependencies, or some symbolic gestures, such as the flying of flags, to indicate a special status. By the time the policy review had been concluded in November, a rather complex proposal was starting to emerge. Argentina would be offered an early presence in, and eventual sovereignty over, the Dependencies. This would be in exchange for economic co-operation, including fisheries and oil. At most, ultimately, there could be a transfer of sovereignty followed by lease-back of the Falklands for a substantial period. This might need to be bolstered by provisions for buying out or resettling the islanders. Wherever the process might lead the next step was going to be difficult. The best way to get a permanent solution was to be up front and enter into early, substantial discussions, but this would mean introducing the emotive aspect of sovereignty without first having consulted the islanders and without confidence that they would stay with the government for at least some of the way. Rowlands considered sugaring the pill by offering the islanders some of the Shackleton projects including the airfield. But this was strongly opposed in Whitehall, so instead somehow the islanders would need to be convinced that there was a price to be paid. ‘They cannot expect us to disburse large sums of money for a small group to maintain their “dream island”. The price of non co-operation on the sovereignty issue is slow economic and social decay.’ Following such a path, Ministers could see themselves being charged with selling British citizens down the river. It was possible to imagine how a new government with a substantial majority might pull this off, but not one with the accumulated problems of the Labour Government at the end of 1976. The case for stalling seemed impressive. So the search was on again for sufficient movement to keep the Argentines satisfied and the islanders calm. To achieve this there would be a Parliamentary statement on Shackleton to explain the reality of interdependence with Argentina, followed by a ministerial visit to both the Islands and the mainland, with the aim of bringing the islanders to the conference table. If the islanders would not sanction any discussions with Buenos Aires then they might have to be told with brutal frankness that there could now be no economic development, or else an attempt could be made to buy time with Argentina by offering a separate deal over the Dependencies. The retiring Governor had indicated earlier in the month that he did not think that lease-back would be acceptable. According to Rowlands, Crosland’s contribution was to understand that it would be best

The Official history of the falklands campaign


to negotiate across the board and that it was necessary to ‘search for a permanent solution, and not addressing oneself to another temporary solution’.5 This was a different approach from his predecessor, now the Prime Minister, who doubted whether a permanent solution could be found and was anxious mainly to keep the situation calm. When Crosland wrote to the Argentine Foreign Minister offering talks, he provided a teasing indication of the British position: The future prosperity of the Falkland Islands depends on inter-dependence between the Islands and Argentina: and that there is therefore a need to reexamine both the scope for Anglo/Argentine co-operation in the South West Atlantic and the whole range of our relations in the area including the relationship past, present and future, between the Falkland Islands and Argentina. The position was announced to Parliament in early February 1977. Shackleton’s more modest proposals for internal development were accepted but not his more expensive ideas. As little could be done to exploit the area’s resources except in collaboration with Argentina it was necessary to talk about the future with both the islanders and the Argentine. To that end the Minister of State, Ted Rowlands, was about to set off for discussions with both. So far the Government’s careful calibration of policy to avoid falling out with either the islanders or the Argentines seemed to be working.

Visit to the Islands The general mood of the islanders at this time was not good. It had been over a year since they had been asked for their views, and the intervening period had been difficult. After the Shackleton incident and the consequent deferment of the constitutional changes suspicions of the Government’s intentions had been exacerbated. The Shackleton Report offered a means of reducing what they sensed to be a growing dependence upon Argentina for their communications. The fact that Britain appeared unwilling to contemplate the cost of enlarging the airstrip confirmed its tolerance of this dependence and its lack of interest in providing for the Falklands over the long-term. The previous Governor had not had the full confidence of the islanders. He viewed the Islands with a certain despondency, coming close to concluding that ‘we may be striving officiously to keep it alive’: The bleak prospect, therefore, is that within, say, a decade or so the Falklands could well consist of a community of well-respected, but aged, non-productive pensioners and a few problem families of unemployables, almost wholly supported by short-term contract farm staff, a large band of expatriate technical assistance experts, and relatively modest artisans. The previous October he had written of a ‘perceptible and sharp drop in morale, amounting almost to a failure in nerve.’



The new incumbent, recently arrived, explained why the atmosphere had become particularly tense: After a more than usually harsh winter, a breakdown in the medical services, followed by the death, in a then seemingly mysterious accident, of the only Islander pilot in the internal air service, a hero to his people, brought emotions to crisis pitch in a community that tends always to look in upon itself and feeds in such situations on rumour and speculation, particularly if, in some way, the government can be blamed. Crosland’s parliamentary statement on 2 February, however, had been generally well received and this helped Rowlands when he arrived on 16 February for a five day visit. He left knowing that Crosland had just had a stroke from which he would never recover. While he was away Dr David Owen was appointed Foreign Secretary. Rowlands’ visit did much to improve the situation. His personal warmth revived goodwill while his readiness to discuss the details of the sovereignty problem increased confidence that islander voices were being heard. He managed to persuade the Council that they had nothing to lose by exploring Argentine ideas on sovereignty. After the meeting on 17 February 1977 the Joint Councils passed the following resolution: We understand that the Minister will have to have discussions on the sovereignty question while in Argentina. We realise that these discussions will take place under the sovereignty umbrella and so the stand of all parties concerned will remain unaffected by the fact of these consultations. We would be very interested to learn from the Minister after his time in Buenos Aires in what areas he thinks we might make progress with regard to the sovereignty question. From a further meeting on 20 February Rowlands gained a final communiqué that reported the Council’s approval of the Government’s intention ‘to try to establish a basis for negotiations with the Government of Argentina.’ This readiness to trust the Government provoked a strong reaction from the more militant sections of the community and their supporters in London. They campaigned against the communiqué, much to the irritation of the Councillors who had signed up to it. The strongholds of the lobby were in Darwin and Goose Green. The other key elements were the Falkland Islands Committee and Alginate Industries Ltd. The activists over played their hand by calling for demonstrations that were poorly attended, and appealing over the heads of the Councils. This did not mean that the islanders more generally were ready for an assault on their way of life or nationality, but more that they hoped to find ways to reduce the irritations and inconveniences caused by their situation. Moreover many islanders were suspicious of the Falkland Islands Committee as being far too much influenced by the interests of the Falkland Islands Company.6 In terms of bringing home to the islanders the nature of the problem it was the many conversations with individual islanders rather than the wilder allegations of the activists that affected Rowlands’ perception of the problem. He came away with a sense that

The Official history of the falklands campaign


London had very little grasp of the national character of the islanders. He was reminded of mining villages in the Welsh valleys that had no serious economic future but wished to be left alone to decline as they saw fit. Rowlands’ visit to Buenos Aires left him even less sanguine about the prospects for a long-term settlement. Having got the islanders to tolerate discussions on sovereignty in return for those on economic co-operation, he now found it difficult to persuade the Argentines to give the economic track an equivalent status to the political. It took until April for diplomatic exchanges to resolve this matter. More seriously he could not see how lease-back could be made to work, because he could not imagine that the Argentines would fail to exercise their rights as freeholders, with their flags showing and their personnel visible on the Islands. If to counter this Britain insisted to Argentina that its rights were to be tied down to a minimum it was by no means clear why it should be interested.


South Thule If lease-back was going to prove difficult, Rowlands judged that the only alternative basis for negotiations would be the transfer of sovereignty over the uninhabited Dependencies to Argentina in return for an abandoned or at least deferred claim to the Falklands. In this context the discovery, at the start of 1977, that Argentina had already taken a unilateral initiative in this direction was something of an embarrassment. South Thule is one of the South Sandwich Islands, 1,200 miles south-south-east of Stanley, just to the north of the Antarctic Treaty area. It was first discovered by Captain Cook but not annexed by Britain until 1908. Argentina laid its first claim in 1948, which was rejected by Britain as being without legal or historical foundation. Nonetheless, in pursuit of this claim, Argentine personnel landed twice between 1955 and 1957. They started to establish a base (in practice a couple of huts) for scientific purposes but this was never completed, probably as much because of the harsh conditions as British protest. This sort of activity was not unknown at this time in other Antarctic Islands claimed by Britain. When and if discovered, normally action did not extend beyond a formal protest, although in 1953 when a small Argentine party (and an unoccupied hut put up by Chile) was discovered on Deception Island in the South Shetlands they were removed by a warship. In this case, however, there was an existing British base close by. As noted earlier there had been during the summer of 1975 an attempt to ascertain Britain’s likely reaction to an occupation of the uninhabited Dependencies. Argentina had been told that such a move would have serious though unspecified consequences. The Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) drew the obvious conclusion from this exchange that such an occupation was now a distinct possibility. There was, with some prescience, even consideration of a scenario in which Argentina attempted such a move, probably using the Navy, and thereby stimulated a hostile reaction from both the islanders and influential pressure groups in Britain: And we cannot entirely exclude the possibility that the Argentines would think this reaction had set back their hopes of attaining sovereignty over the Falkland Islands by negotiation to such an extent that they would feel they had no more to lose if they occupied by force the main Islands.

The Official history of the falklands campaign


Early in 1976 the British Antarctic Survey placed a magnetometer on Southern Thule as part of a research project. Argentina had been informed in advance and said nothing. They did eventually protest in September, after the coup in Argentina. At about this time the Argentine encampment was established on South Thule. A landing party from Endurance discovered it on 29 December 1976 as it was retrieving the BAS equipment. Approximately 20 men were spotted, apparently in military uniform and led by a major, with the Argentine flag flying. This was reported to London on 4 January 1977. If this was to become public knowledge the FCO could only see trouble. They would be obliged to respond in circumstances that would only highlight British impotence and could be a propaganda coup for the Argentines. Just as an effort was being made to reestablish some sort of dialogue the atmosphere in Parliament and the Falklands would become soured. As it was the sort of territory that Crosland had in mind to transfer to Argentina as part of some grand compromise any public commitments could end up removing this option. Accordingly, it was decided to keep the discovery secret and Endurance was told to keep it this way. There were no plans to eject the intruders nor, it would seem, serious consideration of how this might be done. The Prime Minister was concerned that the FCO was playing the episode down and requested a full report and a formal protest. This led to the Argentine Chargé d’Affairs being asked to explain what Argentine nationals were up to on South Thule, though he was also told that no publicity was being given to their presence in the light of Britain’s desire for progress in the impending talks. The explanation soon came back that this base had been established as part of the Argentine Navy’s programme of scientific investigation, which included the completion of the ‘infrastructure’ begun in 1954/55 and 1955/56 seasons. The Argentine note restated its claim to sovereignty over the South Sandwich Islands, and added that ‘since this is a project of uncertain result it was not thought necessary to inform the Antarctic Treaty Member states.’ All the FCO could do was warn that such incidents would complicate forthcoming negotiations, especially if it achieved any publicity. In a formal protest delivered to Buenos Aires on 19 January the Argentine presence was described as a violation of British sovereignty. The secrecy surrounding it contrasted to the open way in which Britain had informed the Argentines of its own intention to place scientific equipment on the island. The hope was expressed that the base would be abandoned, a step that would improve the atmosphere for the forthcoming talks. None of this appeared to move the Argentine authorities. Still anxious to avoid a public row, the nearest Crosland came to referring to the incident in his parliamentary statement on Falkland Islands policy was to add: ‘Today, as 12 months ago, the situation in the South West Atlantic is a source of potential confrontation, of which there have been recent examples.’1 The FCO might have wanted to play the South Thule incident down but they could not pretend that it had an innocent explanation. In a JIC assessment on 1 February 1977, the base was described as a political act designed as a physical demonstration of sovereignty, and might have been considered so successful as to encourage the Argentine Government to take further actions. Following that assessment information was received about Argentine naval contingency planning for the forcible occupation of the Falkland Islands. The plan, developed by Admiral Massera, Commander-in-Chief of the Navy, involved a joint Navy/Air Force plan to occupy the Islands, to be coupled with a simultaneous

Undetected deterrence


appeal for intervention by a UN peacekeeping force to pre-empt British military countermeasures. Sources suggested that implementation of this plan was not imminent. The Navy lacked the support of the Army and was aware of the problem of international reaction. Nonetheless, it indicated a risk that Massera would provoke an international incident to strengthen his own and the Navy’s position. It drew attention to the risk of tough action following a breakdown of discussions on sovereignty. This could take the form of action against British shipping in what Argentina claimed to be its territorial waters or the forcible occupation of the Islands. This assessment came in just before Rowlands was about to leave for the South Atlantic. Consideration was given by FCO and MoD officials about whether to send a task force to demonstrate resolve in case threats began to be made while Rowlands was in the area. Other ideas were for getting an SSN to pay a courtesy visit to an Argentine port, or drawing attention to joint training exercises to be conducted between the RN and the Brazilian Navy in April. The officials came to the view that there was no need for exceptional measures. As it happened RN Task Force 317.5, consisting of a helicopter cruiser, five frigates, one Fleet submarine and three support vessels, was about to sail from Gibraltar for the Caribbean on 14 February, and would be around 16 days or less steaming from the Falklands, to where it could be diverted in an emergency. It was at any rate going to be deployed in the Atlantic for up to three months. The existence of the task force was already public knowledge because of a press release: Rowlands could draw attention to it if the talks went badly but without threatening any particular use. In a letter to Dr John Gilbert, his opposite number at MoD, Rowlands proposed that in the event of any suggestion that Argentina might contemplate military action then he might seek permission for this group to be diverted. If threats were made during his discussions in Argentina ‘it might be useful for me to let them know that a British Task Group, including a nuclear powered submarine, is in Atlantic waters.’ Although the need did not arise, as another indication of the curious nature of the relationship between arms sales and defence, there was then a request that HMS Antelope, which was part of the task force, visit Argentina in support of Vosper’s attempt to sell frigates. This was to be kept secret as the Vosper contracts had thus far been unpublicised and were recognised to be potentially provocative. At the same time it was considered useful if the Argentines found out that Antelope had come from a task group (‘it may be salutary for the Argentines to be made aware of the existence of the task force’). Rowlands met the Argentine Foreign Minister in mid-February. Just before an Argentine journal had reported a weather station on a South Sandwich Island. When Rowlands complained he was told that the leak was not official and that in fact the base would soon be abandoned. Nonetheless reports kept on appearing in the Argentine press, generally giving the impression that this was a reaffirmation of Argentine sovereignty. The British press and Parliament picked up none of this, although the Falkland Islands Committee did query the issue. Having been given an assurance that South Thule would not be used as an instrument with which to affirm Argentine sovereignty, Rowlands decided not to make a public fuss.

The Official history of the falklands campaign


Negotiations begin When strategy was discussed further in July 1977, it was apparent that it depended on the process of negotiation gradually moving both the islanders and the Argentines away from the hitherto entrenched positions. The negotiations had to be seen as an educational exercise in themselves, helping to create a climate of opinion in the Islands, and at home, that could contemplate a change in the constitutional position. At the same time it was hoped that offering economic co-operation would ‘provide a sufficient inducement to wean the Argentines away from their more extreme sovereignty claim.’ The British focus was now veering definitely away from lease-back, which remained the main fall-back position, towards the retention of British sovereignty over the Falkland Islands themselves and their 3-mile territorial sea, in return for ceding to Argentina sovereignty over the Dependencies combined with major concessions over the local maritime resources. The Falkland Islands and Argentina are situated on the same continental shelf. Argentina claimed all of this. A 1950 Order of Council extended the ‘boundaries’ of the Falkland Islands to include an area of continental shelf bounded by the 100 fathom line. This did not cover the Dependencies where the UK had not claimed continental shelf rights. At that time the Islands’ territorial sea was only three miles, sufficient for inshore fishing and the development of an alginate industry from seaweed. A 200 miles limit for the fishery and continental shelf borders might be difficult to justify. This would be a claim to resources of an area so far from the United Kingdom that it could not be properly exercised. Having just been through the ‘cod war’ with Iceland close to home, there was little appetite for a similar contest with Argentina. At most, it was argued, the claim should be spelled out, if only to ‘use as a bargaining counter in order to reach some agreement on joint co-operation with the Argentines.’ Perhaps British Petroleum could then form a consortium with the Argentine National Oil Company for the purposes of preliminary oil exploration.2 There were problems with this stance. Economic concessions could jeopardise the future prosperity of the Islands and even Britain. If, as claimed, there was a 10% chance of finding hydro-carbons in the Falklands’ continental shelf there was reason to be cautious about abandoning them, even though neither the oil nor fishing industries had shown much interest in investing in this part of the world. Precedents might be created for other continental shelf disputes involving Rockall and the Channel Islands. The MoD was concerned that interim solutions might not actually relieve them from the burden of defending the Islands and they were not keen about getting involved in fisheries patrols. For them it was vital that any arrangements represented a long-term solution and not just a temporary breathing space. It might well be unrealistic to suppose that the economic benefits were sufficient for the Argentines to justify relinquishing their claim to the Islands. If so, having pocketed any concessions they would just ask for more. So conceding sovereignty on the Dependencies (which would require legislation) might be judged to be playing a valuable card for a very small trick. For the moment discussions were not getting close to the point where concessions might be traded. The meeting in Rome at official level did not progress much beyond the

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restatement of positions. Argentine comments indicated that the sort of options that the British might consider for the very long-term, such as a condominium or lease-back, would be seen in Buenos Aires as at best short-term, transitional, arrangements. British attempts to explain the basis for their mixed approach met with only moderate success. In addition, the Argentines were told that they were lucky to have any discussions with Britain at all as the Government risked accusations of a ‘sell out’ for talking to a country in which human rights were abused. For his part Captain Allara, leading the Argentine delegation, denied the abuses and pointed out that his Government was under pressure because sovereignty was considered non-negotiable. Another dampener on any optimism was Argentine behaviour with regard to its other major regional dispute, that with Chile over the Beagle Channel. In 1972 the two countries had agreed to submit all disputes between them to the International Court of Justice. The particular dispute concerned three islands in the channel occupied by Chile. At stake was not just these islands but the associated sovereignty over their territorial waters and continental shelves. Apart from anything else, confirmed Chilean sovereignty would give them rights to Atlantic waters, something Argentina had always found intolerable. An arbitration had awarded the three small islands in dispute to Chile, but did not resolve the question of the seaward extension of either sides’ claims. This in itself was an important indication of the significance of questions of the territorial sea and continental shelf in Argentine thinking, especially as no interest had been shown in using the processes of international law to resolve the dispute. A further indication of Argentine thinking was its authorisation of a speculative seismic survey by an American company of the continental shelf around the Falkland Islands. The Department of Energy was worried that if an incursion was condoned then this would in effect be ‘giving up without so much as a whisper the title to any oil which might lie beneath the sea outside the 200 metres line.’ Eventually this company, plus another one, approached the British Government for permission for their surveys, and this was granted. This issue was a difficult one. There was not much chance of stopping the American investigations, and if they came up with interesting finds, then that could strengthen Britain’s negotiating hand. By and large, it was supposed, the more likely it was that oil was present, the greater the possibility for some sort of deal. The Secretary of State for Energy, Tony Benn, was keen that Britain did not lose out to American companies in working with Argentina. He proposed in August that a joint venture between a British oil company and YPF be discussed at the first opportunity, although the FCO believed that this would just lead to Argentine demands to discuss sovereignty in parallel. The resources around the Islands were seen, correctly as it turned out, as the basis for their future prosperity. For the moment they simply raised the stakes of the dispute without providing the basis for a compromise.

Disturbing intelligence By the autumn of 1977 there was diminishing confidence in initiatives of any type preventing the conflict from boiling over. In the Falklands the Governor was also getting anxious and considering a request for reinforcements. By August word had come back from Buenos Aires that Argentina had reneged on the agreement over South Thule. There

The Official history of the falklands campaign


was also evidence that Admiral Massera had made it clear that if Britain tried to remove Argentine personnel from South Thule he would arrest BAS personnel on South Georgia. Then in September the Argentine Navy began to intercept and arrest Soviet and Bulgarian vessels within their claimed 200 mile limits, causing and taking casualties, and with a well-publicised order from Massera to sink the vessels if necessary. This demonstrated an intent to control fishing in the area as well as the implied warning to Chile and Britain. All of these incidents pointed to a consistent two-tier policy. Above the surface there was a very smooth diplomatic operation while below there was an active and aggressive military action being planned. A JIC assessment of 11 October made disturbing reading. It focused on Massera. Reflecting his own ambitions as well as the Navy’s traditional rivalry with the Army, he was said to consider the top Army Generals Videla and Viola too soft. The tough line being taken against Chile, actions taken against Eastern bloc trawlers and the various incidents involving the Falklands and the Dependencies were all indications of his influence. It was Massera who had contrived the incident against RSS Shackleton and ordered the destroyer to fire into its hull, and encouraged the occupation of South Thule. The Argentine party had withdrawn only because of intolerable weather conditions, but returned as soon as the South Atlantic winter cleared. Up to this point David Owen, who became Foreign Secretary following Crosland’s untimely death in February 1977, had been unconvinced that major difficulties were developing with Argentina. His opposite number, whom he met in September 1977 in New York, did not appear to be straining at the leash. He was anxious lest exaggerated concerns about the consequences of Argentine restlessness generated proposals for ever more concessions on sovereignty testing the tolerance of his Cabinet colleagues. When the proposed negotiating position that had been developed in the FCO was described to him in early October he took the view that too much was being conceded on the question of sovereignty, and that he could not get the Defence Committee to support this. Officials then came back to him warning that the Argentines were taking an increasingly militant attitude and this could harden further if there was no progress in the next round of talks. Owen asked for chapter and verse. This led to a four page memo on 13 October from the Latin American Department developing this theme. When this was provided Owen was sufficiently concerned to ask for a JIC survey, in itself an unusual step for a Foreign Secretary to take. The JIC met on 28 October and produced an assessment, confirming that Argentina was irritated with the slow speed of the negotiating process and Britain’s stance. Rowlands was due to meet his Argentine opposite number in New York in December. As he did not have much to offer the Argentines, there was concern that if these talks broke down or ended in deadlock, there was a ‘high risk of their then resorting to more forceful measures.’ In those circumstances the JIC saw action against British shipping in the disputed waters around the Islands to be the greatest risk, with an invasion of the Falkland Islands ‘unlikely.’ One response to this assessment was to argue the need to work even harder on a negotiated outcome, and this was a view firmly held by many in the Foreign Office. Another response, to which ministers were more inclined, was to reinforce the British position.3 As soon as Owen saw the JIC assessment he asked how long it would take to get a nuclear submarine down to the South Atlantic.

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The covert task force In the light of this assessment MoD was asked to prepare a paper on the defence implications of the threat. The paper circulated on 4 November 1977 largely followed the previous year’s analysis. Meanwhile, the Governor was asked to assess the ability of the Islands to cope with the loss of communication with the mainland and the consequent siege conditions. On this he was reasonably sanguine, so long as the charter vessel could get through. The most essential fuel was diesel and there were sufficient reserves, if drawn from MoD stocks, to sustain the economy on an emergency basis.4 It would be necessary to get extra supplies of foodstuffs and products from the mainland, but the only short-term problems were likely to be chicken meal and possibly flour. The medical facilities and staff were judged able to cope with most emergency operations, and they would be almost entirely self-sufficient with an additional surgeon and theatre sister. It would certainly help to have an extra freighter service to a point with air access in South America, or, if this was not possible, to Ascension. Any air connections would help sustain morale until things settled down. He added: ‘You will appreciate that, to avoid any danger of causing a run on supplies, we have been able to make only the most circuitous enquiries about stocks.’ Consideration of this problem in London appeared governed by the question of whether the provision of air services and fuel supplies were military tasks. MoD took the view that naval escorts might be required but civil charter could undertake the main work. There were no obvious advantages between an RFA and a civil freighter. The RFA had a larger capacity than a freighter, but this could be surplus to requirements. Most problematic was an air link. Unless there was co-operation with other Latin American countries there was no reliable means of re-supplying the Falklands by air. Owen was concerned that the responses were not addressing the problem raised by the JIC assessment of direct Argentine action following a breakdown in the negotiations. More talks had been agreed for mid-December. Accordingly he requested the despatch of a single SSN so that Britain would not be in a position of total vulnerability. This would have the advantage of staying on station a long time without refuelling—a hidden presence to be used only when and if necessary. MoD was unimpressed. A single SSN provided no means for a graduated response. All that could be done would be to make itself known or sink ships. Once revealed the Argentines would then have to be convinced that Britain really was prepared to sink ships before they could be deterred. A further problem was one of communications. Very Low Frequency (VLF) reception was not practical so that constant communications would not be possible—the most that could be hoped for was half of each day.5 MoD was not keen to send any extra force to the South Atlantic. The Chiefs of Staff were aware of the limits of Endurance’s capability, even her ability to defend herself, but at least she represented an ‘intention to resist’ so that any attack would represent a serious escalation on the Argentine part. The problem would not ease with almost anything else that could be sent, including frigates, as they could soon be outmatched. Yet for any RN ship a journey to the South Atlantic would still be a round trip of 38 days steaming and 14,000 miles. The Prime Minister asked whether it was possible to use a ship from close at hand—say Belize—and then back this up with something from the UK. The lack of

The Official history of the falklands campaign


apparent flexibility in naval deployments concerned him sufficiently to ask thereafter for weekly maps showing the state of naval deployments around the world. A more balanced force of a helicopter cruiser or destroyer, frigates, possibly a fleet submarine and supporting fleet auxiliaries would raise the familiar problem of appearing to increase the stakes while Britain was still in a relatively weak position. The deployment only made sense in terms of a readiness to suffer casualties, and even possible defeat, in order to further the objective of identifying the Argentines as aggressors. The assumption was that the Argentines would prefer any aggression to be quiet and bloodless and therefore they would be deterred by the prospect of having to fight even in conditions where they could expect to win the battle. MoD’s preference, if something had to be sent, was for frigates. Precisely because they would be overt they could have a deterrent effect, while the SSN would only be of value in the event of ‘serious aggression.’ In addition to their flexibility, frigates also made it possible for the SSN to be sent as well, as it could take advantage of their satellite communication. After the Defence Committee discussed the issue on 15 November, MoD proposed a force of two destroyers or frigates and a nuclear submarine with RFA support. This was described as a force able to ‘respond flexibly to limited acts of aggression.’ The only way of providing full air support would be to send Ark Royal but that was seen as a disproportionate escalation in the light of the limited threat to British shipping. This did not answer Owen’s concern that an overt deployment would be regarded as an act of bad faith or intransigence. Sending surface warships into the Falklands area during the negotiation and therefore before any breakdown ‘could provoke a serious incident.’ On 17 November he was still pushing for a lone SSN. The military also had concerns about an overt deployment, namely that once deployed in a conspicuous manner the force would have to hang around for some time if the problem it was supposed to address was not solved. For the moment there were no major exercises planned, so the deployment would not require the cancellation of other activities, but an extended stay in the South Atlantic would start to bring operational penalties. The logical conclusion to this debate was for the frigates and SSN both to be sent, but for the frigates to stay outside the normal Argentine search area. The SSN could get closer but it was preferable for the frigates to keep three or four sailing days away so that they avoided becoming subjects of speculation and possibly Argentine irritation. No harm would be done if an Argentine vessel detected them well back in the Atlantic. This would be non-provocative preparedness. The frigates would come from the UK: the SSN from Gibraltar. Secrecy was to be maintained but the line if asked was to be that the ships were being sent on normal exercise purposes. This was to be told to the crew so as to reduce the risk of any leak. Only the captains of the vessels involved were informed of their destination and purpose. To get to the South Atlantic by 13 December 1977 (when Rowlands was due to begin his talks) the ships had to leave by 24 November. Endurance’s itinerary also needed to be adjusted so that she could arrive at Stanley on the same day. The frigates HMS Phoebe and HMS Alacrity together with the RFAs Olwen (tanker) and Resurgent (stores and ammunition) were deployed from UK ports on 24 and 25 November. HMS Dreadnought deployed from Gibraltar on 26 November. Rowlands would have the option, if the talks went badly, of telling the Argentines that this force existed. This would hopefully deter a military adventure.

Undetected deterrence


The Americans were informed of the diversion of the SSN but not its ultimate destination. Callaghan assumed that both the Soviet Union and the United States knew about the ships anyway but there was no knowing as to whether either had informed the Argentines. He appears to have decided that it would do no harm if the Argentine Government was aware in general terms that preparations had been made, and so he made a point of telling Sir Maurice Oldfield, known in Whitehall as ‘C’ (The Head of the Secret Intelligence Service), about the deployments in the expectation that this would be passed on in some way through the Americans. This was done by ‘giving him a hint without actually telling him’ to let the naval move be known to the Americans who, he assumed, would then tell the Argentines. Owen’s view was that Oldfield, knowing that the Foreign Secretary had expressly asked for secrecy in Cabinet, would not have acted upon the Prime Minister’s hint.6 Notification, if done with any specificity, was a risky move as it would have allowed the Argentines to make provision. Callaghan sought a margin of deterrence. His preference had always been for an overt deployment, reflecting his view that occasional firm statements by Britain and shows of determination would ensure that the moderate elements in the Junta would refuse to allow the Navy to start an invasion. Either way there were no indications at the time to suggest that ‘C’ did anything as a result of this conversation or that Argentina was aware of this deployment or allowed it to affect its behaviour. Special steps were taken to monitor Argentine activities during the deployment period and nothing unusual was noticed. Interviews conducted for a television programme in 1992 suggested a conversation of 1977 between Admiral Juan José Lombardo, then commander of the Argentine Navy’s submarine force, and Admiral Jorge Anaya, then Fleet Commander of the Argentine Navy. Anaya is said to have asked Lombardo if the new German-built diesel submarines could find and attack a British SSN. Lombardo gave a definite ‘no’, thereby scuttling plans for an invasion.7 If this is the case then it helps explain Anaya’s anxiety in March 1982 to get his task force underway before a British SSN arrived on the scene. In the event Rowlands’ talks were thought to have gone well. Once it became apparent that the Junta was also content with the outcome of these talks, the task force was withdrawn—with no publicity about its mission—from about 20 December. This task force later achieved notoriety because Callaghan himself mentioned it in the Commons just before the 1982 invasion,8 after officials had told the then Foreign Secretary, Lord Carrington, of the episode. Carrington could not then see the immediate relevance of this report to the situation he then faced. It has remained as something of a curiosity in the Falklands history as a precautionary deployment that turned out not to have been needed. Because it was precautionary Argentine awareness was never essential. Indeed, it was believed to be for the best that the ships returned home without anyone being the wiser. Once their presence had become known, supposedly serving some deterrent purpose, then the risk was that they would be stuck there for an extended period. Although this was a unique deployment, it was fully in keeping with the pattern of crisis management of the Labour Government. As awkward moments approached, Foreign Office ministers were always seeking the comfort of some extra RN deployment. Thus, as we have seen, on 1 March 1976, during the period of post-Shackleton stress, HMS Eskimo left Trinidad, accompanied by a tanker, to move towards Argentina. A year

The Official history of the falklands campaign


later, when Rowlands had his previous talks with Argentine ministers, he was given permission to draw attention to the substantial RN Task Force 317.5, as it sailed from Gibraltar if the talks went badly. After the 1977 deployment Owen looked— unsuccessfully—for the dispatch of another task force in February 1978 and a frigate the following October. The episode was also important because it encouraged consideration of rules of engagement (ROE) and the use of exclusion zones, although it is unclear whether the discussions in 1977 had much influence on decision-making in 1982. This became an issue in 1983, following the publication of the Franks Report. During the Parliamentary debate on the report, Dr Owen revealed the ROE to the Commons as follows: ‘if Argentine ships came within 50 miles of the Falkland Islands and were believed to have displayed hostile intent, the submarine was to open fire.’9 In a newspaper article Lord Lewin, who had been First Sea Lord at this time and was Chief of the Defence Staff during the Falklands campaign, took issue with Owen. The instructions to the naval force, he recalled, were based on minimal use of force in response to a hostile act. The Law Officers, he surmised, would have ‘advised most strongly against any interference with Argentine ships on the high seas.’ He also suggested that the main threat under consideration was harassment of shipping rather than direct invasion, and that if hostile intent was revealed then the ROE would have been reappraised.10 Owen disagreed, and quoted directly from the ROE of the time.11 The Chiefs asked for approval of broad guidelines as to the degree of force to be used in differing circumstances before the ships set sail. Minimum force could be used against Argentine units which had already displayed hostile intent. MoD also proposed that, if intelligence indicated that an invasion of the Islands was imminent, an exclusion zone should be established within 25 miles of the Falkland Islands. Should Argentine warships or military aircraft violate this exclusion zone they would be ordered to withdraw. If they failed to do so, ascending degrees of force—from warnings to the discharge of conventional weapons—could be used to compel them to do so. The Foreign Office was concerned that an exclusion zone of 25 miles would be too close to the Falklands, and would prefer to set one at 100 miles ‘with progressive escalation of warnings in between.’ RN ships would not open fire until 25 miles. There were military objections to this while the FCO legal advisers drew attention to the serious implications in international law that would be raised by what could be considered as interference with high seas’ freedoms (in respect of Argentine forces). The FCO then suggested that an alternative approach would be to extend the territorial sea of the Falkland Islands. As soon as intelligence indicated that an invasion was under preparation, the FCO would instruct the Government of the Falkland Islands to publish an emergency proclamation (which had already been drafted) extending the territorial sea of the Falkland Islands from three to 12 miles. This step was entirely admissible under international maritime law. The Argentine Government would be informed that their warships and military aircraft approaching to within 25 or 50 miles of the Islands (to be declared as a maritime identification zone) would be asked to identify themselves and state their intentions.12 There was no legal precedent for an identification zone, but nor would it require any legislation as it would have had no jurisdictional significance. British forces could shadow the aircraft or ship. Should it enter the 12 miles zone this would clearly no longer represent innocent passage.

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So it was that the ROE sent to the naval group on 23 November did state that the mission was ‘to establish a presence in the area of the Falkland Islands and their Dependencies to protect British lives and property by deterring or countering Argentine aggression,’ and recorded what had to be done in the event of an invasion. In terms of the dispute between Owen and Lewin the most critical paragraph was 8(b), which stated that: In the event of a deterioration of relations between the UK and Argentina, HMG may decide that the territorial sea of the Falkland Islands and their Dependencies should be extended to 12 miles and that the Argentine Government should be informed that Argentine warships and military aircraft approaching to within some greater distance (eg 50 miles) of the Falkland Islands themselves (ie excluding the Dependencies) will be asked to identify themselves and to state their intentions. The next step, however, was unclear. The discussion continued, even after the decision to withdraw the task group, on the grounds that another operation might have to be launched in the future. The most interest here lay in the innovatory notion of an identification zone. What would constitute evidence of hostile intent? How would Argentine ships be approached once they had entered the zone? What action might then be taken? After the rules had been issued, the Attorney General indicated a preference for alternative language that did not prejudge the size of the zone and what might be done within it: that an identification zone will be notified to the Argentine Government within which Argentine warships and military aircraft will be asked to identify themselves and state their intentions. In that event you will receive full further instructions as to the boundaries of the identification zone and the action to be taken. MoD was content to use this in similar circumstances in the future. The legal advisers generally took the view that the totality of circumstances would have to be considered before coming to a judgement, but nonetheless the RN was pleased to be given latitude to use force on the high seas.


At the same time as the Defence Committee decided to send the small task force on 21 November they also discussed negotiating tactics. The Argentines were still pressing for progress on sovereignty and in September 1976 had resubmitted the proposal for an eight year joint administration prior to a transfer, a list of safeguards for the islanders and a request that Argentine business interests be allowed to acquire a majority shareholding in the Falklands Islands Company. The islanders were moving in the opposite direction: following their May elections the Council was even more hard-line. While lease-back remained the least bad option it was hard to see how it would bridge this widening gap. The moment did not seem propitious for a direct negotiation between the two views, and so, despite a promise that the islanders could be involved directly in all stages of the negotiating process, in this case it was hoped that they would be satisfied by a report back to the Council by Rowlands. As expected the December talks began with the Argentine side grumbling: without progress they would appear to public opinion as resembling ‘one of those delegations sent to the imperial court of Byzantium and which stayed there years consuming its energies in discussing methodological problems and semantics, while real negotiations made no progress at all.’ For his part Rowlands disputed this by drawing attention to the fact that by deciding to discuss sovereignty the British had ‘crossed the Rubicon.’ He nonetheless challenged the Argentine presumption that the talks were about the mechanisms for the transfer of sovereignty and insisted that they should be a search for compromise. In response to Argentine demands for some concrete British ideas to which they could respond, the British side tabled a paper indicating the characteristics of a settlement, and building on the informal note that had been passed over the previous summer. The area where it was most possible to discuss fresh sovereignty arrangements in favour of Argentina, the paper suggested, were those without permanent population—the Dependencies and their maritime zones. Issues to be discussed under this heading were the BAS headquarters in South Georgia and port facilities in the event of fish/krill industries becoming established. Any new arrangements would need to ensure the orderly and controlled development of resources. As far as the Falkland Islands and their maritime zones were concerned it was ‘essential that sovereign rights in respect of the Falkland Islanders should continue to rest with Britain.’ They would ‘maintain, under their own system of administration and government, their British way of life.’ This did

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not preclude ‘special arrangements designed to produce a framework for economic activity’ for the maritime and continental shelf resources lying beyond the territorial sea of the Islands. In the talks Rowlands stressed the distinction between inhabited and uninhabited territory, because he preferred not to advance on lease-back until absolutely necessary, given the stormy reception it was likely to receive. Governor Parker had warned that he could not carry this with islanders. Yet Rowlands’ readiness to relinquish the Dependencies created its own problems, as here the British title was believed to be much stronger. At any rate the Argentines were unimpressed. They interpreted the distinction between sovereignty over islanders and territory as envisaging a nineteenth century type arrangement ‘giving the islanders a special legal regime under a British court system.’ They accepted only that the ‘mixed approach’ required further study. Nonetheless the talks did not break down and it was agreed to set up two working parties to examine the ideas for economic co-operation and political development further. After the talks Rowlands went to Rio to meet an islander delegation. They seemed generally content with the ‘mixed’ approach even if, like the Argentines, they found it rather complicated. There seemed some hope that the islanders understood the need for some concessions if they were to stay under British rule. In the short-term they were much more preoccupied by issues of island development. Here the concern focused on the acquisition of a Britten-Norman aircraft rather than the extension of the airfield. Rowlands also picked up that they were wary about the Falklands lobby in London as being too much in the pocket of the Falklands Islands Company, about which they showed increasing disillusionment. There was discussion at this time with OD concerning the possibility of ‘a take-over of the Company by—perhaps—the Falkland Islands Government, with a view to running it for the greater benefit to the Islanders.’ By the time the two Anglo-Argentine working groups met in Lima on 15–17 February, ministers had become even more cautious, accepting that they had to move forward on sovereignty but wishing to test the ground carefully at each stage, and avoiding the promotion of lease-back. During the course of the Lima discussions a new issue arose with the Argentine assertion that the Islands did not generate a continental shelf, a position relevant to their dispute with Chile over the Beagle Channel. For Britain the introduction of this question was not unhelpful as it provided something to argue about that kept the really hard issues in the distance.1 The Argentine delegation undertook to reply to questions raised by the British at Lima on their juridical position on maritime zones, and this put the onus on Argentina to come up with something. Although Argentina took the view that the issue of the zones had been postponed until a ministerial meeting, so that the working groups could convene without this matter being settled, Britain argued that this was an Argentine spanner that had been thrown in the works, and that if they wanted more momentum they should remove it. This absolved Britain of any responsibility to come forward with new initiatives.2 By now it had become clear that the Beagle Channel was the Argentine priority and, to British relief, this meant that they expected little on the Falklands for the moment. Another factor, not to be discounted, was that Argentina was hosting the 1978 soccer World Cup and did not want the event caught up in any international crises. For a while the pressure went off the Falklands issue.

The Official history of the falklands campaign


South Thule again The most important factor complicating the relationship at this point was the Argentine base at South Thule. If Argentine promises were to be believed this base should have been abandoned during 1977. In the autumn of that year consideration was given to whether South Thule should be subject to a special inspection by HMS Endurance, RRS Bransfield or RRS Biscoe, all of which might be expected to visit the Dependencies as part of their research programmes. A FCO minute of late September 1977 noted the dangers should the Argentine authorities infer that Britain had been successfully fobbed off with a verbal assurance about withdrawal from South Thule and the scientific purpose of the presence. If nothing was done they could well conclude ‘that we were not prepared to take direct action to dislodge an Argentine force occupying British-claimed territory.’ One option was to send RFA Tidespring, a tanker, scheduled to visit Stanley in the autumn, to have a look before Rowlands met his Argentine counterpart at the end of the year. He needed to know whether they were keeping their word about removing their people: if not he wanted to show them that the situation was being watched. A JIC assessment of the risks that it might face concluded that the base had only been left because of intolerable conditions and remained an assertion of sovereignty, and that hostile action by the Argentine Navy could not be ruled out but was unlikely. The consequences of an attack on an unarmed tanker would be serious. Any risk suggested to MoD that a frigate should be sent instead. To the FCO this was starting to look both expensive and potentially provocative. The issue became moot when the Argentine authorities informed Britain on 26 October 1977 that they were returning for ‘purely scientific’ work ‘in support of Argentina’s Antarctic programme.’ All the FCO could do was reaffirm sovereignty and urge, once again, no publicity. It seemed out of proportion to send a task force to remove a hut with 20 men. This notion was abandoned, and the question of frigate deployments became bound up with the JIC estimate that more dramatic Argentine measures might be afoot and the despatch in November of the task group. There was still an issue as to whether Endurance should continue with her planned programme, which included an early January 1978 visit to South Thule. As it was reasonably clear what would be found this visit appeared to invite a confrontation. It was therefore cancelled. At the beginning of 1978 the Argentine Foreign Minister told the British Ambassador that because of the risk of more leaks he intended to make a public statement ‘in measured terms’ confirming a presence on the island. Discussions took place on the wording of such a statement but no form could be agreed. The risk of disclosure was evident. At about the same time, for example, Bransfield passed the Argentine base and spotted it. While the Master, who was surprised nobody had warned him what he might find, was told to keep his crew ‘muzzled’, a journalist happened to be on board. For his part the Governor was irritated by the lack of consultation on the route and expressed his hope that the particular programme then being followed, of ‘science for the sake of science, will shortly end.’ There was now no alternative but to come clean. On 23 February he discussed Thule with Island councillors without great upset. At the time it was understood that there were 40 Argentine personnel present, of which a number were likely to be military. The Argentine Antarctic Programme (unlike the BAS) used the

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military for logistics and maintenance support. In May this issue reached the press3 and then Parliament.4 The press story was doubly embarrassing because it also implied that hesitation on South Thule was the result of negotiations then underway for valuable naval contracts. The potential contracts—another Type 42 destroyer plus kits for six or seven Type 21 frigates—had been under active negotiation since 1974 with British Shipbuilders (now a nationalised industry). They were causing rumblings of discontent within the Labour Party because of the human rights record of Argentina. Owen had taken the view that arms sales should still be encouraged, despite human rights abuses, if only to get a better flow of information from the naval attaché in Buenos Aires and to encourage the Argentine Navy to think more about the advantages in talking to Britain. In fact it was not Falklands considerations, or the ethics of arms sales to repressive regimes, but the effect on the RN programme that turned out to be the major obstacle facing the contract. The contract acquired a degree of urgency for Argentina as the Beagle Channel dispute made it anxious to establish naval superiority over Chile. Delays in the negotiations, and the time for the first vessel to be in service, led Argentina to initiate a competition, in which Italy, France, West Germany and the Netherlands engaged, to see if there was a better deal. As potentially this could be the biggest export order ever won by British Shipbuilders (at some £365 million), they were eager to beat off this competition. One approach would be to divert a Type 21 from the RN to Argentina as an interim measure. Something similar had been offered by the competition, and the Secretary of State for Industry, Eric Varley, pushed the case. As others were prepared to supply Argentina, Falklands considerations appeared irrelevant. The First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Terence Lewin, objected strongly on military grounds. The shipbuilding programme was behind schedule, there were more deserving customers within NATO if there was to be a diversion, and there were doubts about whether British Shipbuilders could get the order anyway. These arguments proved persuasive and no ship was offered to Argentina. The Germans, who already had a better reputation as industrial partners and seemed even less bothered about human rights issues, were able to respond and got the order.5 On South Thule itself, though a difficult matter to drop, rather than a confrontation the British decided to seek some sort of understanding that could leave honour satisfied on both sides. The subject was raised in a ‘low key’ manner at the meeting in Lima. It was proposed to regularise the situation while safeguarding British sovereignty by means of a new agreement whereby Anglo-Argentine scientific co-operation would take place under terms similar to the Antarctic Treaty, that is without sovereignty implications. During the talks the Argentines refrained from commenting on the British affirmation of sovereignty over South Thule, though they deemed the idea of an agreement on scientific cooperation imaginative. In May Rowlands sent a letter explaining the Government’s handling of South Thule to the islanders, noting that the problem was not the ‘scientific activities’ but that they were being conducted without British permission, and then dwelling on his efforts to maintain momentum in local development schemes. An agreement along these lines was reached in late December 1978 at talks in Geneva. The Argentines envisaged scientific co-operation only applying to land based operations. Britain wanted it to extend to maritime work as well. This immediately raised the problem of defining maritime areas, and the Argentine desire to exclude the continental

The Official history of the falklands campaign


shelf. Rowlands obtained Allara’s agreement to the broad formulation that the agreement would apply to ‘surrounding maritime areas.’ This would not prejudice either position. The Argentines refused, however, to accept a clause that would have prevented them setting up another station, although Rowlands made it clear that this would prejudice the whole negotiating process. All Allara would say was that they had no plans at the moment but did not want to abandon the right in principle. Rowlands agreed to drop the matter. ‘If I had not,’ he reported back, ‘I believe firmly that we would not have got an agreement at all.’ The Argentines also agreed on the idea of co-administration of Dependencies Maritime Zones, and agreed that the two should jointly declare a 200 mile zone, without being clear how this could be reconciled with their sovereignty claim and existing zone. The major stumbling block was Argentina’s rejection of the idea that this could be put under the sovereignty umbrella. Their price for the zone was the transfer of sovereignty. Rowlands rejected this. Although both sides swapped positions on sovereignty there was still no substantive discussion on taking the matter further forward. With the British Government’s position in Parliament looking increasingly delicate the time for substantial British initiatives had passed. Owen had already warned Foreign Minister Montes that there could be no movement this side of an election. Getting through another round of direct talks with Argentina without discussion of sovereignty was considered by Rowlands to be an achievement in itself, and discussions of coadministration of the Dependencies had at least begun. Rowlands’ concern derived more from the fact that the hawks in Buenos Aires would be cross with Allara for having achieved so little rather than any difficulty he would have with the Island councillors when he met them in Rio to report back on the talks. Certainly when he met the councillors on 7 January everything seemed to be fine. The problems began in Stanley when they reported back. The Falklands Joint Councils together decided that they could not accept the South Thule scheme. They had the specific objection that unless the scheme applied only to South Thule, the Argentines were in effect being given some status in the rest of the Dependencies. This led to the more general, familiar concern that any agreement represented the beginning of ‘a process of concession to the Argentines, which will lead to the loss of sovereignty over the Falklands.’ Because the Argentines had refused formally to agree not to establish further bases in the Dependencies, the Council assumed that this is exactly what they would do. The Government eventually had to promise to the islanders that the agreement would not be signed, asking in return that they kept their objections to themselves in order not to provoke the Argentines. Consideration was given to a visit by Rowlands in an attempt to win the islanders over, but this in itself would draw attention to the problem. So the matter was left with the Councillors agreeing that Britain should have further exploratory talks with the Argentines to see if further progress could be made. The Argentines wanted another meeting in New York at official level at the end of March and to keep them content this went ahead, in the hope that they could be persuaded to stick to the basic understandings reached. As another sweetener Owen proposed an exchange of full ambassadors again (a sensitive issue for a Labour Government because of Argentina’s human rights record). This was all in effect now a holding operation. The New York talks in March were low-key and no progress was made on any issues of substance. Argentines agreed to leave the draft scientific co-

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operation document on the table, and to conduct any future ‘scientific activities’ in the spirit of the draft. As far as Owen could see the Government’s negotiating position was already at least five years ahead of public opinion both in Britain and in the Falklands. Nothing more happened before the election.

Military options During the course of 1978 there was active discussion of military options. As always the concern was that the gap between what Argentina wanted and Britain was prepared to give could lead at some point to a major incident. In early February, prior to the Lima talks, Owen commented to Callaghan on the difficulties of maintaining ‘our strictly rational approach in the hope that we can persuade others that our course is wise and reasonable.’ The Argentine Government had rejected the Beagle Channel award, confirming that these were not matters in which they were disposed to compromise. The combination of this intransigence and the promise of mischief-making over South Thule, raising the question of why they had not been evicted, could lead to ‘serious criticism of our willingness even to talk to the Argentines at this juncture.’ To avoid accusations of being supine, Owen argued the importance of being: able to declare publicly, if need be, that in our talks we have confronted the Argentines with their disreputable attitude over the Beagle Award and their establishment of a station on Thule, i.e. that we have not just turned a blind eye because of our desire to talk regardless of Argentine behaviour. He was hoping to avoid a confrontation with the Argentines, but was concerned: I am not suggesting that we should immediately reintroduce a fullscale naval task force into the area now, but I do think we should put in hand urgent plans to do so rapidly if the situation deteriorated. Indeed, in the short term I would like to see a nuclear-powered submarine deployed in the area and maintained there possibly for a considerable period. There was not enough time on this occasion to get a task group or even a single SSN to the South Atlantic before the first Lima meeting on 14 February. Nor did the Chiefs of Staff see much point, for the same reasons as before, to the despatch of one submarine. Even Endurance could not get back to the Falklands until 17 February as she was currently in the Argentine port of Mar del Plata for self-maintenance. In this position it was, in effect, a hostage. MoD also noted that as the December talks appeared to have been satisfactory and in the absence of a further negative JIC assessment there was no reason why the situation should appear as dangerous. The Beagle Channel dispute was not Britain’s quarrel. Secretary of State for Defence Fred Mulley expressed his concern that: we may be in danger of over-estimating the effectiveness of putting forces into the area; to think that we can resort frequently to this option may

The Official history of the falklands campaign


throw us off course in pursuit of our longer term aim of a negotiated settlement to the Falkland Islands dispute. He queried the wisdom of treating the Argentines to lectures on the Beagle Channel and South Thule, lest they found them provocative and so created the very conditions which the Foreign Secretary feared. He saw little point in sending a submarine on its own, and stressed the penalties of keeping a force in place for a ‘continuous period.’ As a serious force could not be covert, escalation in force levels would be inevitable—an escalation that would see Britain at a severe disadvantage. ‘At the end of the day we cannot “win” in a military confrontation with the Argentines.’ The arguments against sending a SSN on its own remained as compelling as they had been before. The Defence Committee decided against sending forces once again. Nonetheless by April naval planners almost took it for granted that the FCO would want a task force to coincide with future talks on the Falklands and were asking for due notice as to when these might be, although there was some recognition of the danger that this could lead to an automatic association of talks and confrontation. A letter was sent to the FCO, tentatively referring to the ‘slight possibility’ of a confrontation, and the need to take into account the need for early notice if it was hoped to send a task force again. The FCO confirmed that no talks were planned, and the intention was to delay and to keep tensions low, but there was a risk of confrontation over South Thule or the declaration of economic zones as well as a breakthrough in negotiations, and these might require a naval presence. Accordingly information was requested on naval deployments in the area up to late June should ministers decide that reinforcements were necessary. The answer was that nothing could be done until Endurance deployed again. Ships exercising in the Caribbean, for example, were not much closer than those in the UK and could only move towards the Falklands for a limited period, attracting international attention. For the moment there were no military options available. In August the FCO asked that provision be made for a warship to visit the Falklands the following spring, and the MoD agreed to plan for a frigate to leave an exercise with the Brazilian Navy in April 1979. Later in the year Owen returned again to the issue, this time in connection with the possibility that there might be some Argentine interest in co-administration of the maritime zones of the Dependencies, particularly over fishing, in advance of progress in other areas of the dispute. One consequence of this would be a need for some on the spot contribution to the policing of a new fishing zone, although this did not necessarily require a permanent RN presence. Another need was to persuade the islanders that a deal on the Dependencies did not imply their abandonment. For this reason the Foreign Office hoped that two short naval visits might be made to the Islands during the Antarctic summer. MoD were very leery of all these ideas. They had taken the view that the Government of a Dependent Territory must protect its fishing limits, and that the RN could not allocate forces to this task. In the UK civil departments bore the cost of offshore protection. The issue was best left until there was an actual agreement with Argentina. Nor were they keen about trying to organise regular visits to the Falklands. Ships were rarely ‘just passing’ that part of the world: even exercises to Brazil and West Africa were infrequent, and deploying a single ship for a visit was far more bother than the Foreign Secretary might imagine. Endurance could be deployed in a different fashion, although of

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course MoD saw little point in deploying at all, given its limited capabilities. If she was not withdrawn she could be used for patrol duties. Owen picked up on this and raised the possibility of two patrols by Endurance during the Atlantic summer. At the same time his officials were looking at ways to improve Endurance’s capability to defend herself. MoD agreed that it would make sense to take a hand held warning intercept receiver to detect radar emissions form Argentine ships, and a communication intercept facility involving receiving equipment and possibly a Spanish speaker. They were less sure of the wisdom of fitting the boat with depth charges before it left Portsmouth on 9 November for its next deployment. Argentina had four submarines— two old American ‘Guppy’ and two relatively new German ‘Salta’ class. Neither Endurance nor its helicopters had anti-submarine sensors but the submarines might be spotted visually and, given concerns about Argentine aggressiveness, MoD accepted that some capability might be prudent. As with previous enhancements of Endurance’s capability, the main problem lay with the need to declare under Article VII-5 of the Antarctica Treaty. The real issue with Endurance was whether it had any long-term future at all after the 1978/79 deployment. Owen had written on 27 October 1977 in the context of growing concern about Argentine intentions: For us to announce next month the paying off of Endurance would be seen by the Argentines on the eve of the next round of negotiations now set for 13/15 December as a clear admission of weakness on our part and a lack of determination to defend our interests. Such an announcement would also have a serious effect on morale of islanders themselves. MoD’s view had not changed. The boat was superfluous to requirements. Yet it was recognised that this issue would not go away, as Owen wanted to retain Endurance in service ‘so long as there is no definitive settlement.’ The issue of the psychological importance of Endurance was a matter on which there were differences of opinion, even within the Foreign Office, although the Prime Minister tended to agree with Owen on this matter. Mulley had held back initially, awaiting the outcome of Cabinet decisions on the future defence budget. As the settlement was considered to be reasonable, this in itself provided little reason to resist Owen. The internal MoD view in early 1978 was that for their own planning purposes they should assume that Endurance would make at least three further deployments (1978/9, 1979/80, 1980/81) but only one more should be promised to the Foreign Secretary, and no open-ended commitments made. By late 1978, however, Owen was calling for the boat to be kept in commission until there was a solution to the dispute: I see no prospect for some time to come of our being able to dispense with her. And the possibility of an additional fisheries patrol role for her reinforces the case for retaining her on a long-term basis. I view Endurance, together with the Royal Marine contingent on the Falklands, as a vital and visible military presence. I should therefore be grateful if

The Official history of the falklands campaign


you could look again at the question of her future. Might it not be better to take a decision now that HMS Endurance should be retained for, say, at least a further 5 years after her present deployment. Meanwhile he still did not want to rule out visits by other RN ships whenever opportunity offered—so he did want a frigate to be detached from the Brazil exercises in April. HMS Ashanti was detached from the task group visiting Rio de Janeiro and visited Stanley in early May 1979. As internal MoD planning already assumed that Endurance would make further deployments up to and including 1980–81, Mulley was advised to confirm this to Owen but not commit himself beyond that and to make it clear that his decisions had to be governed by budgetary and manpower considerations, and not just the state of the negotiations. There were also practical constraints on the movement of Endurance back and forth to the South Atlantic. Defence officials worried about the implications of signing up to regular visits by Endurance and/or frigates for what could be an indefinite period. They agreed to the request that a frigate should visit Stanley in May 1979 but expressed anxiety when this was used to reassure the islanders that ‘we shall be considering the possibility of further RN deployments in this part of the world.’ Mulley feared that this was creating unreal expectations: ‘Well-intentioned messages of reassurance to them now will lead to future pressure on my Department to fulfil hopes that we knew at the time we could not meet’


The Conservatives take office After the general election on 3 May 1979 Margaret Thatcher took over from Jim Callaghan as Prime Minister. Lord Carrington became Foreign Secretary and Nicholas Ridley took over from Ted Rowlands as Minister of State in the FCO with special responsibility for the Falkland Islands. The briefing note prepared for the incoming Government described the problem. A remote set of islands, with a dwindling population and limited economic prospects, was reliant for communications and supplies upon a neighbouring country. This country claimed sovereignty, and if it acted on this claim with armed force then the small RM garrison would provide scant defence, and a subsequent effort to retake the Islands would involve a major amphibious operation. The sovereignty claim might be ‘unsound’ but it still cast a shadow over relations with Argentina and caused Britain difficulty in the UN. Any long-term development of the Islands required a solution to this problem but efforts to find a negotiated settlement had not got very far. The islanders had been given an undertaking that only solutions that they supported would be brought to Parliament, but no proposals that were of interest to Argentina appealed to them. The Government could expect an early call from the Argentine Government for a meeting. The Argentines did not seem to want to force the pace too hard so long as matters were moving in a positive direction, but there were a number of measures they could adopt if they judged that the direction was essentially negative. These included cutting off the air service and fuel supplies, intercepting fishing vessels, action in the Dependencies, and discrimination against British commercial interests in Argentina, as well as taking the issue back to the UN. A full-scale invasion was not mentioned in this context. The diplomatic challenge was stated starkly: The Argentines insist on sovereignty but are prepared to provide safeguards for the Islanders’ way of life. HMG have insisted that sovereign rights over the islanders must continue to rest with HMG as long as the Islanders so wish, but that, if this is absolutely safe-guarded, new sovereignty arrangements could be contemplated.

The Official history of the falklands campaign


In the first version of the paper, this was followed by the observation that: Each is aware that one, and perhaps the only, way to resolve the sovereignty issue could be a nominal transfer of sovereignty over the Falkland Islands to Argentina and a lease-back to the UK, but this has not been mentioned and might not be acceptable. This passage was deleted from the final version: this was not the place to start planting seeds in ministers’ minds. It was, however, not long before officials were taking Ridley through the policy logic. Within a week the FCO’s South American Department had prepared a much longer brief. The political problem at home was highlighted: a vociferous and highly organised Falkland Islands lobby determined to ‘monitor and oppose’ any attempt to establish closer links between the Falkland Islands and Argentina, now backed by those opposed to the Argentine regime’s human rights abuses. Outrage on this matter extended beyond the Labour Party. Thousands of young people had ‘disappeared’. Stories came through of bodies dropped by aircraft into the sea, of priests abducted and regular assassinations. This did not appear to be a regime with whom it was appropriate to do any sort of business, let alone the transfer of British sovereignty. Yet outside of Britain the pressures were in the other direction. The Argentine claim enjoyed widespread international support. The poor state of the Islands’ economy, the cost and futility of the Islands’ defence and the fruitlessness of the negotiations were all rehearsed. Out of this came the familiar options: accept a ‘Fortress Falklands’ option, and all the associated financial, military and political costs; give the Falklands up and then buy out and re-settle the islanders, though this would be ‘politically—and probably morally— indefensible’; keep on going through the motions of negotiations in the (unlikely) hope that Argentina would play along; negotiate in good faith. If the latter course was followed, which would probably involve a form of lease-back, ministers had to expect a long haul, much criticism and a real effort to win and maintain the confidence of the islanders. A covering note spelled out the lease-back option: formal surrender of sovereignty immediately followed by a perpetual, or at least 100 year, lease to the UK over the Falkland Islands and South Georgia. This would be backed by an agreement on equal co-administration of the economic resources of the maritime area outside territorial waters, on Argentine support for essential services and communications, and a condominium (possibly including Chile) covering overlapping claims in Antarctica. There were reasons for both Argentina and the islanders to be suspicious of this and so the negotiating effort could easily be derailed. Possibly the logic of such an agreement might emerge during the course of the talks; preferably Argentina could be faced directly with the argument that this was the best they could get. Already the Argentine Foreign Ministry probably understood that the British position implied this outcome. Sir Anthony Parsons, in a brief contribution to the debate before taking up his post as Ambassador to the UN, where the issue came to dominate the last months of his time in New York, was more cautious. Better to start with an exchange of Ambassadors to improve the climate with Buenos Aires, let the Minister visit the Falklands to assess the state of local opinion and hopefully gain their confidence, and only then move into discussion on the right way forward. He saw little prospect of the lease-back option

Towards lease-back


succeeding unless the islanders proposed it themselves. If Britain entered into negotiations with this in mind the position would leak at some point and ‘the whole thing would blow up in our faces.’ The best approach remained confidence-building measures and functional co-operation. Parsons concluded ‘Having dealt with the Arab/Israeli problem over the best part of 35 years I have become doubtful about the proposition that there necessarily are tidy solutions to all problems!’ The South American Department dissented: ministers had to sort out their basic stance before Ridley went travelling. Lease-back was in effect a continuation of the previous Government’s policy which the Argentine side appeared to understand, even though nothing had been formally submitted. Carrying on as before implied its pursuit. Anything less was likely to lead to the collapse of the negotiations that could not be sustained on economic matters alone. This argument persuaded Ridley, in terms of the broad thrust of policy, though he inclined towards Parsons’ advice on initial tactics. He understood that ‘we must keep the Falkland Islanders with us’, lest there be a’blow up in Parliament and in the Press’. The first step was to get Ambassadors reinstated but the timing of this had yet to be sorted out. (This was announced on 16 November 1979.) On the Falklands he intended to visit the Islands. In the initial approach to Argentina he would keep quiet on lease-back, pushing economic and scientific co-operation, reserving a position on sovereignty until he had more time to think about it. Lord Carrington wished to keep the problem off the agenda for the foreseeable future, as he already had quite enough on his plate, but he understood that depended on Argentine patience, which had its limits. The policy line to Buenos Aires that the general election had held things up could not last indefinitely. To provide reassurance some communication was necessary, and so Carrington agreed that a positive letter should go to the Argentine Foreign Minister, Pastor, promising that dialogue would continue in a constructive spirit. Ridley also met with Pastor’s deputy, Cavándoli, who was visiting London. Cavándoli was told that Britain wanted to revive the talks but that the new Government would not be in a position to move just yet. However, with visits now planned to the Islands and Argentina in July and opportunities for higher level discussions in the autumn in New York, it was possible to envisage formal negotiations by the end of the year.

Arms sales One immediate question was whether the Government was going to take a more relaxed attitude towards arms sales. After the Germans had taken the shipbuilding contract away from Britain in 1978, Defence Sales still pushed for more orders, for example for Hawk aircraft, and were concerned that Britain was judged to be snubbing the Argentine military.1 The Foreign Office set in motion an exercise to categorise mooted defence sales to Argentina in terms of the potential role of the equipment, the relevance to the Falkland Islands dispute, and the place of manufacture and employment considerations. It was on these latter grounds that the Northern Ireland Office persuaded the Foreign Office to agree to a further sale of Blowpipe and aiming units. On 26 January 1979 David Owen wrote to Fred Mulley establishing that the UK should not agree to supply Argentina with: 1 Equipment which could be directly used for internal repression;

The Official history of the falklands campaign


2 Equipment which could threaten the Falkland Islands. Mulley accepted these criteria. For his part Owen agreed that it would be difficult to achieve complete consistency and cases would still have to be considered on an individual basis. The criteria ruled out supply of mortars, ammunition and tanks but permitted sale of auxiliary equipment for German-built Argentine frigates, Lynx helicopters, Sea Dart missiles and Blowpipe (among others). Owen expressed clear reservations about a third Type 42 destroyer, and asked to be consulted if a further sale was in prospect. Mulley agreed the guidelines except that he asked that ammunition should be supplied as part of normal after-sales service. This was accepted. The Conservative attitude to arms sales was generally less restrictive. Indeed at the end of 1980 the Defence Committee invited MoD and the FCO to exploit all possible opportunities to extend overseas markets for defence contracts. At the June 1979 meeting between Ridley and Cavándoli, Sir Ron Ellis, Head of Defence Sales was also present, and Argentine air and naval requirements were discussed. Contracts were eventually signed for eight Lynx helicopters, 22 additional Sea Dart missiles and 43 Sea Cat. However, all these followed negotiations authorised by Labour. At the same time, a proposal to offer Argentina two support ships originally built for Iran was turned down at the official level. Defence Sales judged the FCO’s approach ‘pretty inflexible.’ There was resistance to proposals to be allowed to bid for dock landing ships and to intense lobbying (led notably by the journalist Chapman Pincher and the war hero Douglas Bader) for Hispano Suiza guns to be sold. As the Prime Minister had agreed with the Defence Secretary that there should be a review of unilateral constraints on defence sales generally and Chile in particular, this was seen as creating a precedent for Argentina. The Defence Sales Organisation demonstrated that few European competitors, especially the Germans, showed much inhibition when it came to selling to Argentina, and argued that rather than the Falklands dispute providing a reason why Britain should not sell it might explain more why Argentina did not buy, given the risk of dependence upon Britain for continued supplies and support. On this basis, anything that increased Argentine commercial and military dependence on Britain helped to avoid an escalation of the dispute. Regardless of these arguments, in general Ridley was prepared to work within Owen’s criteria. Argentine interest in an amphibious assault ship, for example, was blocked initially by officials but was then supported by ministers at the Departments of Industry and Trade, and even Lord Strathcona at the Ministry of Defence suggested that British Shipbuilders be allowed to tender without any assurance of supply. Ridley firmly rejected this.

Beyond foot-dragging The exchange of Ambassadors was agreed at Ridley’s visit of late July, and the Minister’s trip to the Islands went off well enough. It left Ridley impressed by the problems, not least because of the tough aide memoire he was handed as he left Buenos Aires. He was convinced that ‘dragging our feet will do no-one any good’, that a deal would help unlock the potential of the Islands and the area, and that there was a reasonable chance of a positive response from the Argentines to a serious proposal. The

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lease-back issue also appears to have been raised in conversation with Councillors, although not in any definite form, as something that might eventually be considered. On his return, the South American Department pressed him to request Cabinet agreement for the resumption of talks, with the objective of exploring lease-back. Carrington remained unconvinced. He wanted more detail on how it would work. He doubted that this was either the only or the right solution, and suspected that his Cabinet colleagues would share this view. A meeting was arranged for 7 September 1979 to discuss the alternative options. The basic problem was to find a solution which met the concerns of both the Argentines and the islanders. There were a series of standard models for this sort of conundrum: Spitzbergen (Norway has sovereignty but others have right of economic access); Aaland (Finland has sovereignty but islanders have special rights reflecting their links with Sweden); condominium (co-sovereignty and co-administration); and the mixed approach explored by the previous Government whereby there would be an effective exchange of the uninhabited Dependencies and the Maritime Zones for the abandonment of the claim over the Islands. The first three of these would be unacceptable to the islanders while the fourth would not work for Argentina. So this left lease-back, although the length of the lease was clearly recognised as a problem (100 or 50 years were mentioned as fall backs). If adopted it would mean that negotiations with Argentina could proceed with at least some idea of a preferred destination. The basic alternative remained “Fortress Falklands” and here there were no takers. It would involve enormous expense to defend and sustain a small and declining colony in the face of regional opposition and international incredulity. To drift without deciding either way left Britain vulnerable to growing Argentine anger and islander demoralisation. Carrington set the Government gently on course with a letter to the Prime Minister on 20 September making the case that any long-term economic development depended upon a political solution, for which lease-back was the best option available. In an annex, the preferred term was put at 99 years with the proviso that it might be necessary ‘to settle, as a last resort for something like 30 years.’ In this case, ‘special arrangements’ might be required ‘to enable some of the islanders to settle in the UK but, if the economy were to blossom in the period agreed, only a few people would be involved, particularly the older generation.’ The key to overcoming the political obstacles it might face lay in gaining islander support. Carrington reported that he had written to the Argentine Foreign Minister to say that he looked forward to a constructive dialogue and, as he now expected to see him during the annual General Assembly deliberations, he hoped to indicate that Ridley and his opposite number could begin serious discussions in the autumn. The MoD was supportive but others were less sure. The Department of Energy, with an interest in the region’s oil assets, wanted a thorough discussion of the implications of going ahead. Trade and Industry entered a reservation on the substance and tactics of the negotiations. The Chancellor of the Exchequer confessed to ‘some political anxieties.’ Diplomatic resources were already extended over Rhodesia, and with Gibraltar likely to be an issue in negotiations over Spanish accession to the EEC, ‘I doubt whether we should deliberately promote another initiative which involves issues of sovereignty.’ ‘It would be a sorry business,’ the Lord Chancellor wrote,’ to give over British subjects of UK origin to the whims and changes of a South American dictatorship.’ The commitment to

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the islanders had to be paramount, even though the dispute was ‘tiresome’ and best terminated. Before any drastic steps were taken a clearer sense was required of the Argentine threat. In late September, having seen the submissions, the Prime Minister saw a serious issue of principle and sought an early meeting of the Defence Committee. Meanwhile Argentina had to be told that any bilateral meetings would be premature. Carrington conveyed this request for patience when he met Foreign Minister Pastor on 26 September. The response was that though ‘the Islands were a long way down British priorities, they were top of the list for Argentina.’ There was thus a basic political imbalance. The British Government could only see difficulty if the issue was pushed to the fore: the Argentine Government saw difficulty if it was not. At the start of 1980 the Parliamentary Select Committee on Foreign Affairs was dissuaded from conducting its own investigation into the problem. In retrospect this is a pity, for this would have been an opportunity to develop a wider understanding of the dilemma that the Government faced, even if the Government itself would not have then been able to go public on how it proposed to resolve this dilemma. The relative priority of the Falklands was soon indicated when the Prime Minister changed her mind on the necessity of an early meeting. Only one tricky decolonisation issue could be taken at a time. A Defence Committee discussion on the Falklands scheduled for 17 October was postponed ‘until after the Rhodesian issue is settled.’ This gave time for a full JIC assessment that was published in November. In some ways the situation had eased since its previous assessment of two years earlier. The Argentine Government was still preoccupied with the Beagle Channel dispute. In the previous year this had brought it to the brink of war with Chile and the Vatican-led negotiations to resolve the matter were likely to be protracted. Meanwhile the new Junta was more moderate than its predecessor, and Admiral Massera was no longer controlling the Foreign Ministry. On the other hand the March 1979 talks had not gone well and the critical factor in the end was Argentine confidence in a negotiated outcome. If they continued to perceive that Britain had lost interest then direct steps might be taken to remind Argentina of the British claim. Direct military action against British shipping or the Falkland Islands could not be discounted, though the risk was not believed to be ‘as high as hitherto.’ In the light of this assessment, on 29 January, the Defence Committee agreed that a new round of talks should begin. They were seheduled for April 1980. Ridley was convinced that the islanders had to be involved as soon as possible. The nature of their role was the main bone of contention leading up to the April talks. Argentina agreed to an islander presence, so long as confidentiality could be observed. From Stanley, the Governor, Sir Rex Hunt, pressed for two islanders, on the grounds that they saw safety in numbers and one alone might be reluctant to shoulder the burden of responsibility. The FCO decided on just one, as the delegations would only be small, with only four on the Argentine side. In the event the Councillors decided by a small majority—5 to 4—to accept the invitation to send a representative and elected Adrian Monk.2 This was seen as something of a risk. There was concern that he would strike up attitudes that were inconsistent with the official line and sour the climate. Not surprisingly Monk took the view that he was prepared to speak out if necessary. There was also some difficulty in allowing him to see the briefing material prepared for the

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British delegation. This discussed options in such a way that the islanders might be alarmed, as well as ‘brief references to Islander views which would either be resented or give them a tactical advantage.’ In the event his lack of security clearance was used to justify only an oral briefing.3 The most the islanders were prepared to contemplate was a sovereignty freeze requiring Argentina to leave the dispute in abeyance for a given period, say 30 years, at the end of which both would review the sovereignty claim. This was exactly the opposite to the Argentine approach. Buenos Aires was in a hurry, looking for up to three meetings at Minister of State level, with Foreign Ministers meeting at the UN General Assembly in New York in September, and then meetings at Ambassadorial level when necessary at other times. Their agenda still contained proposals for joint administration, safeguards for the islanders, and the rights of Argentines to purchase property and work in the Falklands. The battle lines appeared to be the same as ever. Yet the moment did seem propitious for an initiative. As military juntas went this one seemed relatively moderate, apparently coping with internal subversion and economic weakness, and not currently in crisis with its neighbours. It might be better placed to manage the dispute than a civilian government, which would have to take far more account of nationalist sentiment. Since the change of British Government in May 1979 it had shown patience, content that negotiations were due to resume. Nonetheless, its patience would soon wear thin if it became apparent that the British were procrastinating. It was looking for movement. The British Government was prepared to move but it dare not get far ahead of the islanders, who did not want to move at all. The moment of truth could not be delayed indefinitely.

April talks At the April meeting in New York, Cavándoli began by congratulating Britain on the Zimbabwe settlement, which he also hoped would set a precedent for other unfinished business. Ridley explained that while his Government was not abandoning everything that had been done before, he was still prepared to take a fresh look at the problem. Ridley then moved the discussion on to the functional areas where Britain thought progress could be made. Thus with oil, an absence of a regime was holding up proper control and exploitation of resources. Why not agree on joint exploration and some percentage share if resources were found? Similar points were raised on fishing, which was even more urgent than oil. Cavándoli responded with warm generalities to these matters, opening up only when the future of the Islands was discussed. After Ridley had explained the British position, he outlined his country’s view on the background to the dispute, and how he understood that simple incorporation into the Argentine State was not at present an attractive possibility for the islanders. Argentina therefore wanted, Cavándoli insisted, to make the option as attractive as possible, intellectually, economically, and socially, touching on all aspects of the life of the islanders. Ridley made it clear that the obstacle did not lie in London. The only claim Britain had about which he felt strongly was that to Bordeaux because of the wine! Britain had got rid of its empire and the Islands lacked the natural resources that would lead Britain to hold on to them for that reason. The issue revolved

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around people who would prefer to stay as they were, treasuring democracy, and enjoying an enormous degree of self-government: When he [Ridley] said that nothing would be done that did not meet the wishes of the Islanders, he was expressing in a different form the dangers for the future if Argentina were to take over the Islands without Islanders’ consent. The Islands had no natural resources, no wine, gold or oil. There were only people, who, the Argentines would agree, would prefer to stay as they were. There was a distinction here. He recognised the strength of feeling on the Argentine side and Argentine ambitions, that their claim was not something trumped-up as an act of aggression and that it was long-standing and genuine. The question of title, claiming land, seemed to be at the back of the desires of the Argentine people: there was a distinction between the absence of resources and the absence of the consent of the people. The problem with pushing forward on functional areas was illustrated by the inability of the British to persuade the islanders to accept the draft Scientific Co-operation Agreement, bound up with South Thule. It would have permitted the establishment of bases in disputed areas. Critics said ‘the Agreement should have been reconsidered before the Argentines established their station at South Thule’. The islanders were worried that it gave too many opportunities to the Argentines to set up stations in the Dependencies beyond British control. On Antarctic matters it was agreed that the sovereignty claims of the two countries could have been expected to be divisive but they had not been. As collaboration was important they should not allow differences over the Dependencies to be imported into the negotiation of the Convention. In getting to the core of the problem Ridley took the three key elements of land, resources, and people: Each side placed a different emphasis on each. For the British side for many years, the people of the Islands had been the most important of these three; hence our commitment to their wishes. For the Argentines he suspected that the key element was sovereignty over the land. The question of the resources of the Islands was important for both sides. If we could solve the problem of the land and the people, there would be no remaining difficulty over the resources. Cavándoli accepted the possibility of progress on oil, fishing and economic development, but sovereignty was a sine qua non. One aspect of the discussion appeared to Ridley to go particularly well. On cooperation between the Islands and the mainland, he confirmed enthusiasm for the 1971 agreement and 1974 YPF agreement, referring to the ‘small difficulty over the provision of a jetty in the Islands for the supply of fuel; as he understood it we were awaiting a further tender from the Argentines.’ On the question of the house for the Líneas Aéreas del Estado (LADE) representative, the only remaining difficulty was one clause in the proposed lease. LADE was a section of the Argentine Air Force that operated both

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passenger and transport aircraft on non-economic commercial routes, particularly the remote areas of southern Argentina, the Falklands, and islands of the southern ocean. Although all these issues had a practical aspect, for the islanders they were all examples of attempts by the Argentines to use the 1971 agreement to establish an ever-larger presence in the Falklands. When Cavándoli asked directly why Argentine efforts at co-operation met with a negative response, Monk explained that he appreciated all that the Argentines had done in communications, fuel and medicine. The islanders remained unimpressed because of concern about Argentine intentions. The vast majority would agree that there were excellent opportunities for trade co-operation with their nearest neighbour, provided there were no other overtones. Cavándoli acknowledged that the islanders believed they were intending to establish a presence rather than provide a service. When Ridley asked whether some direct contact between Argentina and the Island Councils should be established, Cavándoli said he was about to suggest this himself. Later Monk accepted that misunderstandings might be caused by insufficient communication. He therefore welcomed the idea of consultation to deal with the small matters, which could be so irritating and increased co-operation on economic matters, so long as this was without prejudice to the sovereignty position. If relations between the Islands and Argentina could always be conducted in the spirit of understanding shown during these present talks, the problems would recede. In reporting back on the talks, Ridley’s assessment was that they had ‘gone well and probably much better than we might have expected’. Both sides had agreed that they should be exploratory, to improve understanding of respective positions: We were therefore closely in accord on the need for co-operation in licensing fishing by third parties, and agreed also that we had mutual interests in furthering exploration and possible exploitation of oil deposits. We agreed nevertheless that everything had to be ad referendum to our colleagues and that we would report back. The only decision, strongly supported by Island Councillor Monk, was that we should develop a further direct channel of consultation between the islanders and the Argentines to clarify any day to day matters which caused the islanders particular difficulty, but also including further economic co-operation. Cavándoli was keen to establish a good atmosphere by not raising the temperature, apparently wishing ‘to continue to woo the islanders by expanding and developing contacts.’ Meanwhile, Britain would adhere to its position that nothing could be done that was unacceptable to the islanders while accepting that the Argentines needed to show that some progress was being made. The communiqué referred to ‘comprehensive and wideranging nature’ of discussions and ‘conducted in a cordial and positive spirit.’ The two governments ‘intend to hold future meetings in order to continue these exchanges.’

The Official history of the falklands campaign


Minor contacts Ridley hoped to build on the most positive result, which was Monk’s proposal for improved working contacts between the Islands and the Argentines. He reported back to the islanders that: We were all agreed that some flexible, informal and rapid way of dealing with these matters should be possible. Our Embassy in Buenos Aires is ready to act as a point of contact, to help put islanders in touch with the appropriate part of the Argentine machine, whether governmental or in the private sector. This seemed to me to be a sensible and practical advance and I hope that you will consider this initiative welcome and productive. Our Embassy in Buenos Aires will be in touch with the Governor to work out how best to proceed. In addition, he suggested that the islanders’ fears of an Argentine presence on the Islands were unfounded. If it was the case that a better economic future required co-operation with Argentina then this would obviously involve some Argentines operating in or even living in the Islands. Monk’s idea was being turned into a stronger proposal than he had envisaged. Reporting back to the other Councillors, Monk had talked vaguely about his idea of direct contacts with Argentines who dealt with the Islands without mentioning any proposal for an informal committee. He elaborated on the implications of more cultural co-operation and said this would inevitably mean more Argentines coming to the Islands and some, perhaps, living here. The hard liners were totally opposed to this, and even the majority had grave doubts that the islanders would accept more Argentines. Monk at least convinced them that it was worth continuing discussions. The Council saw the point of Argentine co-operation if fishing and oil exploration were to be developed: they drew the line at agriculture and any other joint ventures that might lead to more Argentines living in the Falklands. When the Buenos Aires Embassy began to make suggestions for direct discussions on such matters as the air service, YPF supplies, and new sources for Stanley shop-keepers, the response was not encouraging. The islanders did not want any contacts misconstrued, and were wary of any idea of a Visible occasion’ to launch the new contacts. Monk complained that the proposed contacts were becoming too formal and cumbersome. It was one thing to use the Embassy to make contacts with relevant Argentines on practical matters but quite another to set up institutionalised links. Hunt reported the islanders’ fright ‘of being dragged further into what they regard as a trap to enmesh them even more closely with Argentina.’ When an official from the Buenos Aires Embassy, charged with establishing the contacts, visited the Falklands in June 1980 he found the feelings about Argentina were as strong if not stronger than ever. The symbols of cooperation—LADE, YPF—had turned into sources of irritation. They resented the small Argentine presence in Stanley. They might, grudgingly, accept the need for contact ‘but do not like to be reminded of it

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by seeing Argentine houses, offices or personnel on the ground.’ In private some expressed different views, ‘but in public the only “safe” view is to be against any Argentine activities in the Falklands.’ One example of the problems was a scheme to bring two boats to the Falklands for summer cruises. This was likely to fail because LADE was unable to offer block bookings on flights for tourists. The Argentines suggested that the answer was to get Argentine capital involved: ‘accusations of blackmail are likely soon.’ By July it was apparent that the attempt after the April talks to get things moving on co-operation had failed because of the opposition of the islanders. They would not go beyond ad hoc contacts on day-to-day problems and did not favour substantial initiatives. The LADE episode was taken as evidence that the islanders preferred ‘stagnation to Argentine involvement in their affairs.’ As they could not be forced to take a more positive attitude, ‘the apparent failure of this minor initiative illustrates the difficulty of leading Islanders towards a wider political solution without the exertion on them of strong, determined and consistent pressure.’ A senior official added: The Minister of State’s personal relationship of confidence with the Islanders is going to be of crucial importance in shifting them from this position of primitive antipathy to the Argentines and chronic suspicion of HMG to which they collectively (but not necessarily individually) adhere. Ridley’s comment was that if they could not be pressed much further on this then the problem ‘has got to be tackled at the root, and on a much bigger scale! Let’s hope we can do so one day.’ The Foreign Office’s exasperation was reflected in a letter back to the Governor: the ‘refusal to have anything to do with their neighbours is only inhibiting their own development.’ Hunt responded more positively: We shall continue patiently to chisel away. I am sure that the inherent common sense and practical nature of the Islanders will overcome their deep suspicion and dislike of the Argentines once they perceive that it is to their advantage to have more direct contacts. There will always be the die-hards, but I think they are a diminishing race.

Major contacts By this time Ridley had already decided that although there was only a ‘slim possibility of a solution to this dispute,’ as he put it to Carrington, it was one that was worth pursuing. He had concluded after the New York talks that continued stonewalling was not an option, but if the principle of lease-back could be established, and the talks moved to a new level, then their pace could thereafter be slowed as the details were worked out. There was no point, however, in taking risks with islander opinion unless Argentina was prepared to work with this approach. He therefore sought approval to ‘explore the possibility of a settlement on these lines secretly with my opposite number in the Argentine Government, without it being known, and without commitment.’ This

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represented a fundamental change in strategy. In effect Ridley wanted permission to negotiate a lasting settlement and then see if he could sell it to the islanders. In late June 1980 Carrington took the issue to the Defence Committee. As always negotiation was presented as the only real alternative. Pulling up the drawbridge, telling the Argentines that sovereignty was not negotiable, would mean accepting the costs and headaches of retaliatory action. Stringing the Argentines along was increasingly incredible and did nothing to ease the uncertainty, which continued to erode islander morale. The advantage of a solution was that it would give the islanders an assured future, help unlock South Atlantic resources, remove an impediment to political and commercial relations with Argentina and one of the last colonial problems, and save a great deal of money. Not any solution would do. It had to be one that had the agreement of the islanders and met their strong desire to be administered by Britain, ensured the development of the Island’s economy and access to resources, and satisfied the essential aspects of Argentine aspirations. An outline agreement was suggested which would involve: 1 Titular sovereignty over the Islands, the Dependencies, the Continental Shelf and the maritime zones would be transferring to Argentina; but 2 All these areas would simultaneously be leased back to Britain, ideally (and possibly) for an indefinite period, but at least for long enough not to inhibit the future economic development of the Islands; thus 3 British administration of the Islands, the Dependencies and their maritime zones would continue, for the duration of the lease; 4 There would be (i) Anglo-Argentine co-operation to control fishing within a 200 mile fishery zone around the Islands and the Dependencies; (ii) Anglo-Argentine co-operation in the exploration for and exploitation of any oil deposits in the Continental Shelf; (iii) Argentine financial assistance to develop the economy of the Islands. This could not be rushed. It would not be easy to sell to either the Argentines, who would have to be patient, or the islanders, whose acceptance would be an essential condition: Any arrangement involving a transfer of sovereignty (which would require an Act of Parliament) would cause great anxiety in the Islands, and opposition both in Parliament and among the public in the United Kingdom. Many people here would view with distaste the prospect of British territory being transferred, however technically, to a military Junta with a deservedly bad reputation. But if we do not explore these possibilities, the dispute could develop into a confrontation which we would find very difficult and expensive to handle. Lord Carrington sought the agreement of colleagues to find out whether such a solution was possible.


Secret meeting1 In June 1980 Ridley met the Argentine Ambassador and recalled that he had mentioned the possibility of discussing the dispute informally, over a fishing line in Scotland, with Comodoro Cavándoli. He now hoped to make good on the invitation but first he needed to be sure where he was with his colleagues. He did not want to deceive Comodoro Cavándoli: it was a long way to come simply for fishing. Dates were discussed. The Argentine side showed enthusiasm. On 10 July 1980, following the Defence Committee’s approval, a telegram was sent from London to the Embassy in Buenos Aires informing the Ambassador, in the strictest confidence, that it had been decided to explore with Cavándoli the possibility of a settlement based on lease-back and the joint development of resources. Only in the light of this exploration would ministers take it further in the form of canvassing islander views and opening formal negotiations. As few people as possible should know of this initiative. Ridley added: ‘If Islanders or the lobby were to get any wind of it [at this stage] and were to claim that we were going behind their backs, the political damage would be very serious.’ Ambassador Williams was to deliver the message personally to Cavándoli, stressing the need to avoid leakage. The meeting would have to take place at a venue where the Ministers’ presence would attract no attention. Only Bill Harding, Assistant UnderSecretary of State at the FCO, would accompany Ridley. The message stated: Following our talks in New York, I have now consulted my colleagues. I am sorry that I have not been able to contact you earlier. In New York and subsequently through Ambassador Ortiz de Rozas, we mentioned the possibility of getting together with each other for an informal and wide-ranging exchange of thoughts. I continue to be much attracted by this idea, as you know from my mention of a fishing party. However, on further consideration, I believe that our purpose would be best served by an entirely private meeting during which we could explore each other’s ideas freely without any pressures from publicity. You may agree that it would not be possible to do this in your country or mine—and least of all on a river bank. I should like therefore to propose that we try and meet in privacy for a frank and personal talk. Between 9 and 12 September would suit me—but later dates that suit you would also be acceptable. This might perhaps be best in Europe; Geneva or Venice might

The Official history of the falklands campaign


be suitable venues. I would propose bringing only one Spanish speaking official with me. We would need, I would imagine, one or at the most two days together. Please let me know what you think. Best wishes Within three days Williams reported that ‘action taken and initial reaction both positive and comprehending.’ Discussion soon turned to venues. Venice or Rome was suggested as Argentine figures were making regular visits in connection with the Beagle Channel dispute. Cavándoli was worried about leaving it so late as 9 September because Carrington and Brigadier Pastor were due to meet in New York at the end of September and they wanted a ‘solid agenda’. At the same time he realised the need for a pretext to travel that would not stimulate speculation. They could always find a UN excuse to go to Geneva or a Beagle Channel excuse to go to Rome. He would be bringing his private secretary, Commandante Bloomer-Reeve. Williams warned that: with the best of intentions, Cavándoli may well find great difficulty in avoiding leaks. He is watched day and night, not only by the press but by others in the Ministry and the establishment who do not like or trust him. And asking a junior Argentine Minister to enter into secret discussions on the Falklands is rather like asking a junior Israeli minister to enter secret discussions on the Gaza strip. Hunt was told what was being planned, stressing that the situation would be reviewed before being taken further and before the Government revealed its thoughts to the islanders. Because of the damage to be caused by leaks and speculation, he was told to destroy the letter and ‘continue to maintain the line with all your contacts that the Government are still considering the implications of the April talks.’2 Cavándoli had to go to Geneva in late August and proposed moving on to Italy for early September. Ridley proposed 9–12 September in Venice. ‘He would be accompanied by Mrs Ridley, ostensibly for a private holiday (painting etc).’ Meetings could be spread over the period and could take place in a hotel suite. This was agreed. Ridley would make his own bookings so as not to involve the Italian Embassy and pay for his own wife. When informed Carrington commented ‘Why Venice? It all looks very hole in the corner.’ It would ‘look very odd if it came out.’ The Foreign Secretary thought it very unlikely that a meeting would be unobserved. ‘If the news leaked, our cover story would look thin, and the furtiveness of the operation could cause us considerable damage.’ He wondered why they could not meet in London, but the press were likely to get wind of anything going on in Britain. Geneva seemed preferable but Cavándoli was not keen. Rome was a compromise but the security services warned against this for reasons of personal safety and secrecy. A Dutch city would appear even more odd than Venice and there was no obvious reason to go to Brussels (and the idea of Brussels as a holiday venue for Ridley looked unlikley). Eventually, on 25 August, the ‘person concerned’ indicated that Geneva was, in fact, acceptable. The question was ‘what excuse his counterpart will be giving for such a trip, so that a suitable rendezvous can be arranged.’ The ‘Hotel du Lac in the picturesque lakeside village of Coppet, ten miles or so up the

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Lake from Geneva’ was chosen. The cover story was that ‘Mr Ridley’s visit to Geneva with his wife is private for a short holiday break and that he hopes to do a little water colour painting.’ Rather bizarrely, given the determination to keep it secret a defensive news briefing—‘Mr and Mrs Ridley were on a private holiday. We do not know what they talked about: it was purely a social occasion’—was prepared and then passed to news departments, who were about to circulate it to their desk officers before it was stopped. The objectives of the conversation were to explore the possibilities for a solution to the dispute ‘including a surrender of sovereignty and a simultaneous leaseback.’ The exchanges were to be ‘secret, exploratory and deniable.’ As such they could break new ground. They were not bound by earlier negotiations. The preparation for the meeting built on the outline proposal suggested to the Defence Committee. It was to be made clear that this was the best outcome that Argentina could hope to get. It was appreciated that Cavándoli would probe for further concessions, including an immediate transfer of at least some territory to Argentine control, such as the South Sandwich Islands, and rights over the maritime zone it generated. There should be no concessions concerning South Georgia, given the Antarctic base and scientific interests. The first law of Falkland negotiations: The greater the concession we grant to the Argentines, the less possibility there is of securing Islander agreement.’ The islanders could not be forced into a deal. More to the point, while everything might be done to sell a proposition to them ‘which we considered in their best interests’ they were also able to ‘mobilise widespread support in the UK, not least in Parliament, for their views.’ The second law of Falkland negotiations: parliamentary opposition could only be overcome with islander agreement. Without this the ‘Government would be in an impossible position.’ So even if an outline solution could be agreed, the Argentines would have to allow the British to play the matter in good faith. This led to the third law: any attempts to put pressure on islanders would be counter-productive. The practicalities of lease-back were also daunting. The most the Argentine had offered in terms of an interim period was eight years, and then in the context of joint administration. In the past they had rejected the idea of a lease in perpetuity. Nonetheless, a 999-year lease would be preferable: ‘99 years would probably be too short to sell to Islanders; anything less would be well nigh impossible.’ It would also be important to continue with internal self-government. Proposals for joint administration, such as the Argentine ideas for a 50 percent involvement in local government and an alternating Governorship, ‘would be complicated and unacceptable to Islanders.’ Some Argentine presence, however, would be inevitable. Preferably it should lack authority (for example a High Commissioner) and flag flying should be kept to a minimum. Although Argentina had proposed that all new legislation should have their agreement and that existing legislation be brought into line with its own, the Island authorities must retain exclusive power to make laws. Nor would it be acceptable to encourage the gradual development of the sole use of Spanish, spoken by very few islanders. It might be possible to agree on an eventual joint status, as it would be useful for the development of the islanders’ mainland contacts. This position was set down in a short paper that was not handed over until the end of the first day’s talks:

The Official history of the falklands campaign


1 Titular sovereignty over the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas) and their maritime zone would be transferred to Argentina, with effect from the date of signature of the Agreement. 2 Continued British administration of the Islands and their maritime zone, with a view to guaranteeing to the Islanders and their descendants the uninterrupted enjoyment of their way of life under British institutions, laws and practices, would be simultaneously assured by means of a lease-back to the United Kingdom for a period of 99 years. The terms of such a lease would be subject to periodic review, by agreement between the two parties. 3 The British and Argentine flags would be flown side by side on public buildings on the Islands. 4 The British Government would be represented by a Governor who, together with a locally-elected Council, would be responsible for the administration of the Islands and their inhabitants. 5 The Argentine Government would be represented by a Commissioner-General. 6 There would be a Joint Council to arrange co-operation over the economic development of the Islands and their maritime zone. The key question was duration. Ridley at first (before handing over the paper) suggested the lease should be for 200 years. It could be drafted in a flexible form, providing for regular review every five or ten years. Argentina would have the opportunity of influencing the islanders and opening their minds to the benefits of a closer relationship between them and Argentina notably by means of the Joint Council. The Argentine reaction was positive, once they accepted that they were talking about the immediate transfer of titular sovereignty. Cavándoli claimed to have been thinking along the same lines and would have been ready to put forward a similar proposal. But he saw difficulty in the length of the lease. The idea of an indefinite lease or one for 200 years would not impress the Argentine people, who would not consider that they had achieved anything real, but he understood that a period of 20 years would be much too short for the islanders. It was necessary to think of some median figure. Bloomer-Reeve suggested 75 years. An alternative approach was to arrange matters so that the change in the internal administration of the Islands was gradual. He gave as an example the citizenship status of the islanders. All islanders possessing British citizenship at the time of an Agreement could retain this exclusively; their children born after the date of the Agreement would be entitled to dual British and Argentine citizenship; and their grandchildren would be entitled to purely Argentine citizenship. Aware of the new nationality laws being introduced by his Government, Ridley suggested that there were technical problems to this, but the basic principle had to be that while Argentine citizenship could be offered, British citizenship could not be denied. Cavándoli had a number of suggestions. He wanted to visit the Islands to dispel illusions about Argentine designs, to explain that the mainland regime would not be extended to the Islands but it would become a special independent province with its own laws, type of government and civil service (like Tierra del Fuego), and to ascertain what material advantages the islanders might be prepared to accept in return for an eventual integration with Argentina. It would be helpful if the RM detachment could be removed as part of an agreement. This would underline to the islanders that there was now no further threat while going down well with Argentine opinion. He also argued that

Towards lease-back


Argentine citizens should be entitled to buy or rent land on the Islands, with a view to showing how farming techniques could be improved. Here Ridley had to point out that this could not happen straight away as the islanders were worried that Argentina was trying to buy them up wholesale. Such matters would have to be dealt with by the local government by internal legislation. Cavándoli also indicated that there was a degree of urgency so that negotiations could be seen to be underway with solution in sight by the time President Videla handed over to President-designate Viola in March 1981. From Ridley’s perspective the talks had gone well. Cavándoli had accepted the principle of lease-back and even thought that a term of 99 years could be acceptable to his government. It was agreed that exchanges were secret and ad referendum, and indeed must never become public knowledge. It was now up to the Foreign Ministers to decide whether more meetings were needed or whether they had taken matters as far as they could go. The most important step would be for Ridley to visit the Islands and discuss the possibility of lease-back with the islanders themselves. Only then could they have formal negotiations.

Follow-up Ridley’s report to Carrington highlighted the careful nature of his approach, and noted the extent to which the UK was ‘uncommitted and unencumbered’ by the absence of leaks. He was confident that this would hold with the Argentines: So we are left with a clear option to decide what to do on the merits of the problem. We can either seek a solution by negotiation along the lines of the Geneva talks (to which I think we could get Argentina to agree), or we could say that the concessions are beyond our political ability to deliver, and break off the talks (with all the obvious consequences). I do not think that there is much to gain by attempting to find a different package: both sides are close to their rock bottom positions. This was ‘not only the best bargain we can get, but also…it is not a bad one.’ It would provide for virtually complete control for 99 years and spare Britain expensive economic and defence commitments, while opening up the potential for exploitation of oil, fish and sheep. The real problem was political: could the agreement be justified to the islanders, parliament, and the country as a whole? The left detested the Argentine military regime: the right opposed the concept of ceding sovereignty. So the key was the attitude of the islanders: If we cannot sell it to them, it is hopeless. If we can sell it to them, the opposition here at home will have little but straw to make bricks with. I believe it can be sold to the Islanders, but I am not certain. He proposed to Carrington that they persevere. The Foreign Secretary was to see Pastor in September at the UN General Assembly. Ridley suggested that it would be unwise to

The Official history of the falklands campaign


go into details when they met, although Carrington might say that 200 years would be easier to sell than 99. He could also ‘stress the bleakness of the alternatives.’ After this meeting there might be a verbal report to the Defence Committee. Meanwhile word came back from Buenos Aires that Cavándoli was ‘bubbling with pleasure’ over Ridley’s company, very pleased with the content, ‘though careful to say the answer is not for him to give,’ but confident that a fruitful line should be found. He was also ‘joyfully and conspiratorially conscious of the risk from our point of view of even the slightest leak.’ Their idea was that after the Carrington/Pastor meeting, a definite proposition would be proposed for submission to the President at the same time as the Cabinet met in London. The President would then seek endorsement from the three commanders-in-chief that made up the Junta as the British sought endorsement from the islanders. There was some uncertainty in the Embassy about this sequence, and also the local politics. The President and the Foreign Minister were Army and Air Force respectively, but it was the Navy that was always the most hawkish. The chronology was different to that proposed in Geneva. Britain did not want any more clandestine meetings, or more bargaining, and needed a firm view of the Argentine position before the issue could be taken to the Defence Committee. This intelligence indicated the potential problems of timing. When would Britain know whether there was a potential deal? How did that affect consultations with islanders? On 25 September Pastor visited Carrington at the latter’s suite at the UN Plaza Hotel. Pastor declared himself satisfied with the latest developments and the goodwill shown by Ridley. In light of this progress he wanted to accelerate the discussions. There was now a ‘solid basis’ for ‘satisfactory results in the near future.’ Lease-back was a clever formula. The one difficulty for Argentina was that the proposed duration of the lease would be regarded as excessive by Argentine public opinion.’ For his part Carrington observed that Britain also ‘faced difficulties with our public opinion.’ It was going to be difficult enough to get agreement on the transfer of sovereignty, even with a lease of the duration Argentines might regard as excessive. Pastor ‘suggested that we should continue to negotiate very confidentially to devise a product which could then be sold to islanders.’ After the meeting the British felt uncertain. It ‘went well climatically’ but with ‘fuzziness on where we go from here.’ It was not clear that Pastor was delivering a formal Argentine reply. There was certainly an insufficient basis to go to Cabinet. A firm indication was needed from Argentina that they would accept the Geneva formula. There could be no more clandestine meetings or bargaining for a shorter lease. A genuinely chance encounter between Ridley and Ortiz de Rozas outside a New York restaurant on 30 September made possible a brief meeting in the UK mission. This confirmed that for the Argentines the duration of lease-back was a problem, and they were expecting another secret meeting after Carrington had gone to Cabinet and Ridley to the Islands to sort this out. Indeed, so anxious were they to get Ridley working on the islanders that they offered, somewhat bizarrely, to help him get there anonymously from Rio. The FCO’s South America Department was now sufficiently concerned to propose a telegram to Buenos Aires, stressing the need for a definite Argentine response. It was not clear ‘whether they appreciate consultation cannot take place without firm indication that proposal broadly acceptable—they appear to want to bargain further on length of lease.’ The British view was that there was nothing left to negotiate, and that further delay would

Towards lease-back


just result in a leak, as more people were let into the secret. Unless the British could be sure that Argentina was on board—and with a 99 years lease—there was no point in consulting. In Buenos Aires Williams managed to see Cavándoli. It seemed that the British were not going to get much more than a general statement that the Argentine Foreign Ministry was satisfied with the proposal. There would be nothing firm from the Junta. Moreover, while there was a definite commitment to the idea, the length of the lease remained an obvious subject for negotiation. Williams was not pessimistic on eventual agreement on 99 years: ‘only that we cannot expect the Argentines to commit themselves to accept that length of time before negotiations even start.’ But this was different from the perspective in London where officials only wanted to move forward on the assumption that Argentina accepted the proposal handed over by Ridley in Geneva. Williams urged that the matter be taken to Cabinet. No definitive commitments need be made. Equally to insist on something definitive from Argentina could be counter-productive, as it could only be achieved following a ‘probably leaky reference to Junta’ before the ‘hurdles’ of the Cabinet and islanders had been cleared. In London the debate on tactics continued, with some officials anxious for more clarification. At the same time the need to move quickly was also understood because of the desirability of making real progress before the coming March’s presidential succession—after which it might be necessary to start the whole process again from scratch. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) might revert from the moderate Air Force to either the hardline Navy or an ineffectual civilian. The ever-present concern that secret discussions might leak was another reason to move forward to a situation where the talks were public knowledge. Ridley was persuaded that it was worth consulting with the Defence Committee even without more from Buenos Aires. In discussions with Carrington it was agreed that this would be done at the meeting on 7 November, but without papers or request for anything more than agreement to persevere. Hunt was alerted to the possibility of a visit, which was to be portrayed as tentative and for general pastoral purposes. No expectations should be raised. The critical hurdle was not Cabinet but the islanders, and so while it was possible to take the next step without a firm commitment from the Junta the step after that would be more fraught. Williams was told that he must try to extract something more from the Argentines. He could tell them about the movement in London and explain ‘that Mr Ridley will need some assurance that the Argentine junta accept the lease-back proposal as a basis for negotiation before he talks to the Islanders.’ This would be reinforced, once he had been given a green light, by a message from Ridley to Cavándoli on the Cabinet decision and the need for a formal statement of the Argentine position before the visit. Without this the venture looked increasingly risky: If we do not have that assurance, we risk bringing the whole idea out into the open, facing the storm that will inevitably accompany it, only to discover that all our efforts have been wasted because the Argentines will not play ball.

The Official history of the falklands campaign


Unfortunately the time between the Defence Committee’s meeting and Ridley’s proposed visit was short. That would leave little time for the Argentine government to sort out its position. If it was unable to do so—or simply rejected the idea—then Ridley might have to cancel his visit or treat it as purely pastoral. Yet there were also risks in getting Williams too busy before the meeting, for the result could be a red or amber light. It was unwise to do or say too much before 8 November. Williams, in London for consultations but about to return, pressed for earlier action. The opportunity for dealing with Argentina was unlikely to be so favourable again. For the moment reasonable people were in charge of the Foreign Ministry and the administration was more preoccupied with the Beagle Channel dispute, where the Vatican was currently playing a mediating role. The Falklands was the sort of issue that was all too likely to rush to the fore if that mediation collapsed, or was put on ice, and the regime wished to distract attention from the worsening economic situation. There was a risk of ‘having to educate the Argentines all over again from square one, and in the face of rasher demands for more direct action.’ At a more practical level, he noted that the Junta did not meet that often, and that even if they did have time to consider the matter, one could not assume a clear response. They might ‘jib at our acceptance of their decision made conditional on the wishes of the sheep farmers in the Islands.’ He believed that he could still get sufficient a commitment to make it worth while continuing with the effort. Ridley remained cautious, and it was agreed that it was too risky for Williams to tell Cavándoli in advance of the date of Cabinet consideration lest he raise expectations. He should say that that the ‘process is on course. Cabinet should be discussing proposals before too long.’ Ridley would be visiting the Islands in November and would first come to Buenos Aires to see Cavándoli. ‘He would need some indication of Junta’s view on the proposals as a basis for negotiation. How do things stand?’ On 7 November the issue went to the Defence Committee with a ‘brief and relatively anodyne’ paper on the broad background, and the more serious material delivered orally. The Committee was told that ‘exploratory and confidential’ talks had taken place. The reasons for the talks remained unchanged, in the uncertain future of the Islands, and now there was ‘a reasonable possibility of reaching a settlement.’ Emphasis was placed on the lack of commitment and the possibility of prolonged negotiations even once the basic terms had been agreed. The Argentines: realise that our contacts have been strictly as referendum to cabinet. But they would be taken aback if we were to pull out at this stage. The new Argentine Government might well be less amenable, particularly if control of the Foreign Ministry were to pass from the Air Force to the more nationalistic and hard-line Navy. This could have serious consequences for the Islands and could lead to an expensive and dangerous confrontation. The next step was consultations with islanders. The aim would be ‘to secure the endorsement of the Islanders for formal negotiations with the Argentines on the possibility of a solution based on leaseback.’ At this stage, Ridley ‘would not go into the details of any solution with Islanders.’

Towards lease-back


By the time of the meeting word had come back from Williams saying that he had been told that the Junta had already been consulted on lease-back and had endorsed it. It now seemed as if there was at last a real possibility of a concept for a solution that both sides could accept. Everything now depended on the islanders. It was not only essential to be seen to be consulting them fully: their acquiescence in the process was essential to the whole political management of the issue. The Committee agreed that Ridley should move to this next, consultative step. Williams could now really tell Cavándoli that matters were on course. Ridley would explain the next steps when the two met when he was en route to the Falklands. It was vital that this meeting attract no publicity. More than that the Argentines must play down the visit and react in a non-committal way to any news from the Islands, restricting themselves to a wish for progress through negotiations. ‘They should at all costs avoid any public welcome for the proposals and of course any mention of prior contacts.’ On the eve of his visit Ridley went further. He did not even want the Argentines to be ‘too nice in public about us.’ He wanted them to ‘complain about lack of progress and the absence of a date for more negotiations—could they be asked to be a little more pressing when I arrive in BA tomorrow.’ In order not to get local journalists too inquisitive, it would be best if any critical comment emerged after Ridley’s courtesy call. In retrospect this desire to provide cover illustrates the underlying problem. The fact that it was considered to be politically safer to present the situation as one of antagonism as usual was in itself an indication that the islanders would be suspicious of any efforts at compromise, yet if there was no Argentine will to compromise what was the point of encouraging the islanders to embrace a specific proposal? The two men met on 21 November for a quiet drink. As Cavándoli’s first grandson had been born on 7 November and was to be called Nicolas a silver spoon was taken as a gift. Ridley explained that the British decision had not been easy and it would be even harder to persuade the islanders: He would discuss with them various sovereignty options: some unacceptable to the Argentines, some to the Islanders: the aim would be to obtain their agreement to explore the scope for leaseback through negotiations. He could not promise that he could extract a clear endorsement before he left the Islands. A more lengthy process of persuasion might be necessary. He explained that he wanted some pressure and impatience to discourage the islanders from assuming collusion. They ‘were already drawing conclusions from the coincidence of his visit to the Islands with the Argentine decision not to press the Falklands item at the General Assembly.’ For his part Cavándoli confirmed that he had consulted the President two weeks earlier on the basis of the Geneva heads of agreement, and that this had been taken to the Junta whose agreement had now been secured. They discussed the tricky issue of the length of lease. Ridley stressed the importance of the 99 years previously agreed, and that the UN should underwrite any settlement. In addition there were a number of aspects (flags, Argentine presence, co-operation on oil and fish) which had to be negotiated in detail. All this was fine with Cavándoli but he had to report that his President was worried about the length of lease. If all went well, Ridley wanted to avoid further secret meetings. He

The Official history of the falklands campaign


would report back to the Cabinet and then officials would need to meet to work out terms of reference for negotiations. Lease-back should not explicitly be on the agenda—it should arise in discussion.


Visit to the Islands Ridley’s objective when visiting the Islands was to get an agreement to formal negotiations on the basis of a lease-back. It was known, given everything that the islanders had said in the past, that this was going to be extremely difficult. They were opposed to any change to their status. A supreme act of persuasion was required. Yet Ridley took on this task with a number of handicaps, and these, in the end, defeated his endeavours. Part of the problem was personal. He did not relate easily to the islanders, unlike the more ebullient Rowlands. He also made a tactical error by trying to work solely through the Legislative Council, and only belatedly attempting to sell his message to the whole population. His most serious handicap, however, was the content of the message. Somehow he wanted proposals for lease-back to emerge almost spontaneously out of the islanders’ own deliberations, as if this was really their very own idea. This might have been possible if they had been able to go through the same deliberative process that he had been through with his officials and then taken to Cabinet. But here he was caught by two political considerations. First, a frank appraisal of the Falklands’ long-term prospects could appear as tantamount to duress. There were recommendations in the FCO brief that ‘It may be necessary to paint a grim picture of the alternatives,’ or the need to make the ‘Councillors’ flesh creep.’ Nonetheless, Carrington was concerned lest Ridley over-do warnings about the difficulty of sustaining the aid programme and about their indefensibility, thereby exposing the Government to the accusation that they were pressuring the islanders. Second, he could not appear to be conspiring with the Argentines. No deal was formally on the table. So the islanders did not know how far Ridley had got in his talks with Cavándoli on the principles of a settlement. The briefing note prepared for Ridley was blunt. The islanders wanted to preserve the status quo, and if possible acquire an increased British commitment to the defence and economy of the Islands. They did not accept that the offshore resources could only be developed as a result of a political solution. When it came to any negotiation their inclination would be to drag their feet. They certainly would not want to take a firm position on the merits of lease-back. Given the choice between stagnation and increased involvement with Argentina they would choose the former. As things had been relatively quiet with Argentina they might be assuming that there was no choice to be made on

The Official history of the falklands campaign


security grounds. The message therefore had to be that the Argentine claim had not and would not go away, so that impatience at the lack of progress could result in potentially difficult consequences for the Islands. All that was sought was agreement that negotiations be opened, at which Councillors could be present, rather than a sanction for a fully-fledged proposal. This should not require delay or endless consultations. The Councillors could consent as elected representatives. Ridley had not intended to proselytise at public meetings throughout the Islands the virtues of a lease-back settlement. Instead he simply wanted the Council to endorse the process. He would meet the Council on 24 November, outline the alternatives, meet again the next day, and then hope for a final discussion on 29 November to receive their answer before his departure. Those who knew the Islands were sceptical from the start. This was a closed and small society in which secrets would not be kept for long. As he travelled around he was bound to be asked probing questions. In the end Ridley accepted this, but he still had to respect the confidentiality of his talks with Argentina and wanted to avoid detailed discussions of secondary issues, such as the flying of Argentine flags. His aim if possible was to focus on the positive advantages of a settlement in terms of economic recovery and the possible injection of cash. The dispute ‘frightens away private investment,’ the economy was stagnating and population decreasing. Argentina could prevent any exploitation of marine resources they did not sanction. At the same time trade with Argentina made even better commercial sense than trade with the UK. For this reason it was necessary to ‘look at possible ways of satisfying Argentine sovereignty claim while preserving British way of life.’ It was soon evident that Ridley had set himself a formidable task. After the announcement of the visit the Falkland Islands Committee complained to Ridley’s office that they had not been consulted, and reported that the islanders were ‘very concerned and worried.’ Hunt reported that there was already a local assumption ‘that HMG have done a deal with the Argentines.’ When Ridley arrived at Stanley on 22 November he was handed a memorandum replete with stickers (‘Keep the Falkland Islands British’) from the local branch of the Falkland Islands Committee. They demanded fewer rather than more ties with Argentina: an extension to the airport, the declaration of a 200 mile limit, only straight commercial relations with Argentina and renegotiation of existing agreements. They deplored the construction of a house by LADE, grumbled that they had not been informed about the September meeting at the UN, and repudiated any Argentine claim.1 As planned, Ridley met with Island Councillors on 24 and 25 November, and set out his position. In his meeting on 25 November Ridley promised that Britain would not do anything unacceptable to the islanders and stressed the primary importance of the retention of a ‘British way of life, administration, laws, nationality and freedoms,’ adding ‘security and stability.’ After going through the options he agreed that lease-back required a ‘gulp-making’ step on sovereignty but it would allow for the freezing of the administrative status quo and a chance to develop off-shore resources and encourage investment. Answering questions he described the importance of a UN guarantee and ‘maximum international endorsement.’ He conceded that islanders had every right just to resist all the pressures without making any concessions, though they would have to consider the consequences. Was the British government giving the islanders an

The fall of lease-back


ultimatum? ‘Absolutely wrong. But we have to consider what should be done in dispute. Argentines will not just leave Islands alone.’ Asked about the right of settlement in the UK he noted that two-thirds of the islanders were already patrial and the proposed nationality legislation would not affect those rights. For the rest HMG would in real emergency be able to exercise discretion on entry. He could not go further since it was not possible to discriminate between Britain’s remaining Dependencies. Hunt reported back that the: Initial response of councillors has been predictably mixed. They do not contest the need for further negotiations on sovereignty. Some appear prepared to see talks on lease-back; others prefer that a possible freeze linked with fish/oil co-operation should be explored first or exclusively. No support for joint administration. They made clear however that they cannot reach a firm position before Mr Ridley’s departure and need more time to think and consult local views. He will have a further meeting with Councillors on 29 November. They have tentatively agreed that a response should be agreed by Joint Council before Christmas. He then reported that the Minister was getting ‘a serious and sensible response,’ with the most negative reaction coming from those more recently settled in the Islands. Nonetheless, it was going to ‘take time for a clear reaction to emerge and one cannot be optimistic on the prospects for lease-back.’ The Councillors had further complicated matters by asking Ridley to put the issues openly to islanders. This he did, speaking to a number of bodies, including the Falkland Island Committee. He addressed a well attended meeting and then went off to talk to outlying settlements. Some exchanges during Ridley’s substantial meeting at Stanley’s town hall, attended by about 400 people, indicate his difficulties: ISLANDER: I don’t think we should give them sovereignty. We’re giving up our birthright. RIDLEY: Well then you take the consequences, not me. ISLANDER: Doesn’t Britain own the Falklands any more? RIDLEY: Indeed we do. ISLANDER: That’s a pretty bald statement “You take the consequences.” RIDLEY: We’ll help you any way we can…. But if you can’t fly to Commodoro, if you can’t get the communications, if you can’t get the medical services and the educational services, if you can’t get the oil, then it’s you who suffer, not us. ISLANDER: We know that, we realise that, we’re not nits. At one point he was asked: ‘If the Argentines invaded, what is Britain going to do?’ His reply ‘kick them out!’—was greeted with laughter. To this he responded, shouting over the noise: Of course we will! Goodness me—that’s not the problem. The problem is do you want the Argentinians invading you and us kicking them out in a state of perpetual war. That’s what you’ve got to think about. I mean its

The Official history of the falklands campaign


all very well sitting here saying someone else must come and kick the Argentinians out. Of course we will, but is that good for sheep farming, for fishing, for looking for oil, for all of your futures, for your children, and your grand-children and your great grand-children. Is that the way you want to live?—That’s what you’ve got to think about. Later Ridley claimed that as he presumed he was being taped and that a report would be relayed to Argentina he made a point of saying without equivocation that if the Argentines invaded Britain would come and kick them out. In interviews twenty years later it was the phrase ‘you take the consequences’ that stuck in the minds of those islanders that had been present. Not all the discussion was negative or hostile, yet the islanders were clearly frustrated with the lack of detail on what was on offer, Ridley’s inability to reassure them that they would be helped to resettle, except in an emergency, and the qualifications attached to promises to look after them if they were put under siege, as they were asked to think of the cost. The plan was vague: islanders could not know the length of lease possible nor the shape of the whole package. To be sure they were only asked to set a process in motion, and they understood the need to talk if only to keep Argentina calm, but this seemed to be a process with a destination, and it was not one with which they felt comfortable. The idea that Ridley’s trip could be a relatively confidential, low-key consultation of a negotiating option was being exposed as wishful thinking. The issue was triggering interest in London and Buenos Aires. The reporting in Argentina was largely factual, with some hostility to the idea of lease-back (‘pirates want to rent our Malvinas.’) A signed article in La Prensa rejected the idea in forthright terms: ‘15 years of useless negotiation: London’s proposals are unacceptable from every point of view.’ The most serious response in London came in Parliament. On 27 November Labour Member of Parliament Peter Shore referred to ‘conflicting and unsettling reports’ about Ridley’s visit and the Leader of the House agreed to raise it. It had also been mentioned the previous day in a Lords debate on Foreign Affairs and Carrington was being asked questions. A parliamentary statement was becoming unavoidable. Press interest was picking up, but comment was generally supportive of the Government. Ridley was told of ‘substantial and helpful editorials’ from The Times and The Daily Telegraph of 28 November. The Times welcomed open discussion of an issue that had long hung fire and which had left islanders in a kind of limbo: ‘it is legitimate to look for ways of settling the dispute.’ The Telegraph observed that ‘when our patriotic hackles rise we ought to think what a perpetuation of the status quo really means.’ By the end of the trip it was clear that it had failed in its basic purpose, which was to get the Council to accept that this was an idea worth taking further. The final meeting with Councillors on 29 November was inconclusive with most reluctant to take a personal position on negotiating options. It was left that they would give their opinions at the next Joint Council, scheduled for 6 January. Those with the strongest views, who had already declared them, were opposed to lease-back or any negotiations on sovereignty. Those in the commercial sectors and more outlying settlements were more positive on the need for negotiations, although this was not the same as endorsing a particular outcome. In his memoir, Hunt assesses the vast majority of islander opinion as opposed, with a

The fall of lease-back


minority prepared to discuss it with Argentina, but simply to keep the talks going. He suggests that only good manners prevented Ridley’s team from appreciating the real intensity of local feeling.2 Ridley’s team assessed as the critical factors a distrust of Argentine good faith and guarantees for leaseback, the lack of recent evidence of Argentine pressure and worry of UK settlement rights for non-patrial islanders. If anything opinion against support for negotiations and lease-back appeared to have hardened during the course of the visit. Later Hunt provided a long and thoughtful analysis of the state of islander opinion. He believed it had made them ‘think instead of drift’ Time was needed for Ridley’s ideas to sink in. There were, however, basic problems. They needed ‘guidance and leadership from Councillors, which they are not yet getting.’ There was a battle between heart and head. He compared the attitudes of many as an Israeli asked to hand over his country to the Arabs: He may not have the hatred that armed conflict has generated, but he has the same deep suspicion of the Argentine as the Jew for the Arab. But unlike the Jew, the Kelper is not materialistic. Few of them own the land they live on but are firmly convinced that the Falkland Islands belong to them. They cannot stomach the thought of the Islands belonging to Argentina, no matter how symbolic the sovereignty. They have somehow survived for 150 years and, although they can see no clear way ahead or offer any practical alternative to a lease-back arrangement, they think that somehow they can manage to survive for another 150 years without having to make concessions to the Argentines, even if they become poorer and life becomes more difficult. Somehow, Britain will protect them. Somehow, Britain will not let them down. The younger people, he suspected, ‘would not be prepared to go back to four mails a year, reduced social services and restricted communications with the outside world and they recognise the possibility of all these things happening if no settlement is reached with the Argentines.’ So he remained hopeful that eventually the islanders would decide in favour of talks with the Argentines, but this would not be for a few weeks, and there was as yet no basis for an agreement. The initiative was, in practice, killed not so much by the lukewarm reception in the Islands but the hostile reception in Parliament. Although there was a more considered discussion in the House of Lords, and even in a meeting with the Falkland Islands Committee, Ridley was savaged in the House of Commons on 2 December, and this led to poor press comment the next day. Ridley made a short statement on the consultation exercise in the Islands and the options raised. For the opposition Peter Shore immediately called the statement ‘worrying.’ Were the wishes of the islanders now merely for guidance rather than of paramount importance? Did not lease-back represent a major weakening of Britain’s long-held position on sovereignty? Bernard Braine from the Conservative back benches described the Hong Kong precedent as insulting to the islanders and argued that alternative means of communication were perfectly feasible. The Liberal Russell Johnston complained about ‘shameful schemes for getting rid of these Islands which have been festering in the Foreign Office for years.’ This point was

The Official history of the falklands campaign


apparently confirmed later by Julian Amery, who had held Ridley’s post in the last Conservative Government. These themes were all repeated in a sustained onslaught, against which all Ridley could do was insist that the islanders’ views were awaited and that no solution would be imposed while trying to remind the House that the status quo was hardly satisfactory.3 Ridley later declared himself unsurprised by the reaction of the House: 18 people asked hostile questions. When he went that evening to the Conservative Party Foreign Affairs Committee there was a large attendance and strikingly different in that perhaps 30 percent of questions were supportive. The problem was that the public criticisms in the Commons fed back to reinforce the doubters in the Islands. So although he had seen islander opinion as the key to British opinion, and believed that 60 percent support would have been sufficient to win over the Commons, there was in fact an interaction between the two. The islanders took their cues from supporters in London. Ridley did all he could to encourage attention to the issue, including private lunches at home with Conservative MPs, and a number of meetings with backbenchers on defence and economic aspects, with visits to the Islands from members from each party. There was not sufficient interest to be able to disseminate constructive ideas widely—though the majority would never have taken seriously the costs of Fortress Falklands.

Retreat Even as Ridley was speaking in the Commons on 2 December the Prime Minister was becoming anxious. When the backbencher William Shelton asked about contingency plans Ridley replied that this was ‘a hypothetical question’, an answer that did not please the Prime Minister. She sent the Minister a note saying that further reassurance was required. He was asked the next morning to go to see her, when she asked that he find a separate occasion to provide a more forthright assurance. The method used a few days later was written answers to questions in the Lords and Commons to the Foreign Secretary spelling out the assurances. The notes prepared for the Defence Committee after Ridley’s parliamentary statement still saw a possibility of a favourable response from the Council on 6 January, despite its predictable caution. The FCO line was still that there was a ‘need to maintain internal debate and encourage favourable response without exerting pressure.’ The only proposal for taking the matter forward with Argentina was to send Cavándoli a letter stressing the need for patience. ‘Islander distrust of Argentines acute. Even if agree to lease-back being explored, eventual acceptance will depend on very long lease, no Argentine presence, international guarantees and probably financial assistance to develop economy. But first step is to get them to negotiating table.’ The Prime Minister was now of the view that: ‘Even if the islanders are ready to accept this it is not at all clear to the Cabinet that this is going to be acceptable.’ When the Defence Committee discussed the matter on 3 December, now unnerved by the expression of backbench opinion, it was concluded that: while the ball should continue to roll, we should put no pressure of any sort on the islanders: and should also consider how to manage our future relations with the Argentine Government.

The fall of lease-back


At Cabinet it was agreed that it would be tragic if the attitude of the champions of the Falklands at Westminster diminished the chances of their escape from economic blight. Carrington tried to hold the line, reminding his colleagues of Argentina’s ‘stranglehold.’ Nonetheless, the message went out to Stanley and Buenos Aires: there must be ‘no appearance…of guiding or pressuring the islanders on their eventual reaction to leaseback or other proposals.’ The Buenos Aires Embassy could describe the Argentine position ‘objectively but without painting too black a picture e.g. on Argentine reactions if further negotiations are blocked. It is imperative that no-one can claim that the islanders are being steered to endorse any particular line of action.’ Ridley wrote to Cavándoli explaining the situation: you will have seen press reports and I hope that reactions at your end have not been causing you too many problems. But it became clear, after my arrival in the Islands, that the issue had to be dealt with fully and in public. I cannot at this stage predict the outcome. I encountered a general recognition of the need to solve the dispute. But, as you know, emotions and distrust run deep, both here and in the Islands, and it will require time as well as patience to resolve the problem. I appreciate that that this leaves the future timetable uncertain. As you are aware, we cannot on our side proceed until we have the islanders’ concurrence. I hope that this uncertainty will not complicate matters for you and I am most grateful for the careful and reticent line which you have been taking on this issue. In handing over the letter, Williams was asked to elaborate on how the parliamentary reaction made ‘the hand more difficult to play.’ When he met the Ambassador, Cavándoli explained that he too had difficulties. He conveyed his worry that: the Argentine press but, even more, “informed opinion” in the capital must be given more of a steer, if they were not to rush off and foreclose the only real options available. He fully appreciated the need not to give any appearance of hustling the islanders but the timetable envisaged last September in New York was stretching now so much longer that it was becoming internally impossible for Argentine ministers to go on telling their colleagues and informed opinion no more than the situation was in hand, and patience the best recipe. He must be able to counter the accusation that a solution unsatisfactory to Argentina is being cooked up without Argentina being consulted. To Williams it appeared that the ministerial team at Foreign Affairs was still fully committed to getting a rational and understanding solution launched before they hand over. They were not surprised by the problems encountered ‘But the ice upon which they themselves are skating is getting thinner and they want very close co-operation with us over tactics to get through the next two or three months.’ There was certainly no evidence from Argentine press coverage that there was much mileage in lease-back, which was

The Official history of the falklands campaign


variously described as insulting, tasteless and indecent in the suggestion that there could be a lease to an intruder and access to Argentine fish and oil. In London matters were so delicate that Ridley did not dare meet the Argentine Ambassador either openly or otherwise. Any meeting now ‘would smack of collusion’ and harden opinion. In the event, on 9 December 1980, Ortiz came to call on Ridley. Ridley urged that negotiating possibilities should not be curtailed by taking too critical an approach. The islander views were still awaited. Ortiz indicated that Cavándoli would wait until then, but warned of accusations of passivity, with the Argentine press getting more hostile. There would be a need for some talks reasonably early in the New Year. The problem was that the Argentine Government appeared to have been bypassed in the latest initiative. Ortiz came again on 11 December seeking a formal agreement for talks in January. Ridley explained that this would be quite impracticable as well as tactically inadvisable. Even if the islanders agreed he would still need to consult with the Cabinet. Late February would be the earliest. It was by now almost inevitable that Island opinion would come out firmly against lease-back. The Governor was urged to discourage Councillors from closing off all options but to defer negotiations until after 9 March when there was likely to be a new Argentine government. At the very least the British wanted to procrastinate further by claiming to be engaged in stocktaking following consultations. Any overt moves towards negotiations would only ‘stiffen Parliamentary hostility and suspicion.’ So the only option left was hope that the idea could gain hold while the issue took a low profile. Not all were sure about the wisdom of waiting for a new Junta. After all the Air Force team at the Foreign Ministry had been prudent and shown good will, and there was a risk that it would now be presented as ‘the victims of our perfidious strategy.’ If there was no movement at all ‘we shall have to approach the new administration cold, in every sense of the term.’ Also it would not do any harm for the islanders to be exposed to the full force of Argentine reactions to their ‘no.’ In the Falklands, Hunt was arguing for accepting a long haul, noting the impracticality of some of the ideas circulating. In the end the best that could be hoped for was that there had been a good start: ‘Mr Ridley’s visit has pulled their heads out of the sand; I know that you will be doing all you can to counter their understandable inclination to bury them again.’

The Nationality Bill While the Government was unprepared to do anything now to put overt pressure on the islanders it was also not prepared to do much by way of positive inducements. Reporting on the state of islander opinion at the end of December, Hunt averred that it would be easier to sell lease-back if the government could guarantee to islanders that they would be taken in if anything went wrong. Islanders had raised the issue regularly with Ridley. The right of abode in the UK appeared threatened by the new Nationality Bill, due to be introduced on 14 January 1981. The importance of this issue to the islanders was indicated by their insistence that any further talks with Argentina must be contingent upon all islanders enjoying this right. After a discussion in the 3 December 1980 Defence Committee meeting, Carrington and Sir William Whitelaw, the Home Secretary, were asked to consider the treatment of islanders under the proposed law.

The fall of lease-back


It was estimated at this time that out of the population of up to 1,900 about 1,200– 1,300 were patrial under the Immigration Act by reason of birth in, or descent from a parent or grandparent born in, the UK. Some of the remainder, for example children, would be admissible as dependent relatives. Under the proposals those islanders who were patrial would become British citizens while the remainder would only be citizens of the British Dependent Territories. The islanders, and the Falkland Islands Committee on their behalf, objected to this because Britain was their only mother country and they had no option of independence. The unease had first become manifest in December 1979, when it became known that the new government was revising immigration laws. It was in itself having a harmful effect on the population as families decided to emigrate before they lost the option. Ridley sent a message to the Falkland Councillors, via the Governor, that while he could not give any firm undertakings: I can reaffirm the pledge of HM Government to do everything possible to assist in the event of an emergency, and to consider most carefully and sympathetically the problems of any islander in trouble at such a time. The basic problem for the Home Office was that any commitment beyond this, effectively guaranteeing full British citizenship and the right of abode, would inevitably undermine the whole concept of a Citizenship of British Dependent Territories and strengthen the demands already being made in Gibraltar and the Cayman Islands for special treatment.4 Because of this Whitelaw was unwilling to make any special provision for the islanders in the bill. All he was prepared to do was to make a statement reaffirming the pledge made by Ridley in 1979 adding, if asked, that ‘the admission of such Islanders to this country would be given favourable consideration under our immigration legislation.’5 The islanders were unimpressed. Hunt warned that even if he could persuade them not to boycott the talks in protest, they would make ‘a conditional guarantee of entry into the UK’ part of any proposals for an eventual settlement with Argentina.


On 7 January 1981, as expected, the Councillors made clear that they did not like any ideas for negotiations and, of those being canvassed, a freeze to the dispute for a period of time was the least objectionable. They were not opposed to this being put to Argentina in formal talks, and were even prepared to participate. The FCO were content to go along with this. They knew that the idea of a freeze would be given short shrift by the Argentines but it would do no harm for the islanders to be exposed to the reality of the bargaining situation. Ridley, relieved that the negotiating option was still open, accepted the need for a period of calm in the hope that the islanders would start to realise the virtues of lease-back. This they would have to do on their own, and some had already done so, without being hustled by London. Making the best out of a bad job could not disguise the setback. Williams warned that a complete loss of momentum would mean a loss of the tentative Argentine agreement to the principle of lease-back. He saw a Ridley/Cavándoli meeting as important both to demonstrate to the latter that the previous two years had not simply been an elaborate effort to hoodwink him, to get him to indicate, if only through some circumlocution, that the idea of lease-back was not precluded by Argentina. In London the importance of maintaining contacts with Argentina was accepted, so long as there were no misconceptions on the possibility of early progress. A message was sent to Cavándoli telling him that the result of the Councillors’ deliberations was, in the circumstances, as good as ‘could realistically be expected.’ The two governments were in dialogue and no options had been ruled out. The request was for patience at ‘the beginning of what will be a long road.’ In practice Britain now depended on Argentine passivity, almost impossible given the internal pressures within Argentina. Cavándoli told Williams at the end of January that his Ministry would no longer be able to refrain from commenting on British actions and Falklands issues as press agitation was now getting out of hand. The only other possibility was of shifts in the islanders’ views or the Commons’ mood that would only materialise following some sort of educational effort to explain why lease-back made good sense. Other than that Britain had no cards left to play. The FCO’s credibility had been dented. Carrington had persuaded his colleagues to explore the possibility of negotiating a lease-back, despite their instinctive belief that this was tantamount to giving away the Falkland Islands. The initiative had now blown back in their faces.



The FCO priority was to keep some sort of dialogue going. The relatively easy (in the circumstances) passage of the February New York talks, and the serious approach of the Councillors present, encouraged the belief that there might be some way of sustaining the debate started in November. The scheduled elections were unlikely to help, especially if they turned into a referendum on sovereignty. To keep minds focused the islanders were encouraged to respond to the Argentine invitation, made directly to the two islander representatives by Cavándoli, to forward a list of points on which they required guarantees. They might note that it was an advance for Argentina to acknowledge that their preferences were relevant to any possible solution. As feared, however, positions on the Islands hardened and there was a disinclination to return to the matter until after the elections. On 14 May Hunt reported that the Falkland Island Councillors had decided not to respond. The Government could not tell the islanders that life was going to get rougher for this would be described as threatening and failing to stand by them. Hunt was in a particularly difficult position, as he had to be both the Government and islander mouthpiece at the same time. He had to be encouraged to get the realities of life over to the islanders in a way that would not lose him their trust and support. Williams was less inhibited. ‘No negotiation,’ he warned, ‘can be convincingly confined for long to one day-and-a-half session a year.’ He urged that lease-back be implanted as the content of future negotiations as the only way forward. Perhaps the Argentine side might be persuaded to table it. He was ready to go to the Islands and attempt to ‘wake Councillors up by making their flesh creep with expert advice on potential Argentine frightfulness.’ This was received with some irritation in London. The Ambassador did not appear to appreciate the domestic political aspects of the problem. Ministers would not allow any semblance of pressure put on the islanders. Nor had he proved his case on Argentine attitudes. The new Government had given few clues as to its thinking. Later Williams returned to the fray, arguing that buying time was of little value if there was no idea as to what to do with the time bought. It was unrealistic to expect the dangers inherent in the current situation to be appreciated on the Islands unless the signals came out loud and clear from the UK. Only a sales campaign could persuade the islanders to think through the alternatives. As the year went on Williams played Cassandra with growing conviction, so that his prophecies of doom became increasingly hard to ignore. Others even began to join in the chorus. Assistant Under-Secretary, John Ure, in charge of the Americas for the FCO, visited Argentina and the Islands in June 1981. He found the Argentine Foreign Ministry still well-disposed towards the lease-back idea and aware of the problems of getting a mandate from the islanders until the elections were over. They were also highly preoccupied with Chile. Suggestions were made for improving relations by direct military contacts with Argentina, perhaps to discuss naval collaboration in the South Atlantic (though this idea still bristled with political difficulties). On the Falklands, however, it was clear that, irrespective of the current danger, without persuasion ‘the Islanders would never come to the decision we wanted.’ Even before Ure reported on his visit, Ridley had accepted the need for a policy review. In mid-June he had an informal and unpublicised meeting with Cavándoli’s replacement as Deputy Foreign Minister—Enrique Ros—in Paris. The meeting, as ever, was cordial although little new ground was broken. It did become apparent that the

The Official history of the falklands campaign


Argentine Government was becoming anxious about domestic criticism over the lack of progress on the Falklands. For Williams’s benefit it was noted that Ros gave no hint of mounting frustration, did not seek to exert pressure, and appeared genuinely interested in co-operation on oil exploration. Ridley had confirmed a continuing interest in lease-back, but all subject to islander wishes. The implications of all of this were addressed at a one-day conference at Carlton Gardens on 30 June 1981. Ridley judged that the Government did not have authority to impose lease-back without consent, although it was clear that he remained committed to the concept. He had no confidence (on the basis of private talks with Ted Rowlands) that Labour would back them on lease-back, because of the general unpopularity of dealing with a right-wing Junta. That only left the option of trying to persuade the islanders and MPs to see risks and accept the need for serious negotiations. They were unlikely to be persuaded by officials, but did take note of public figures in Britain. Williams wanted seedlings to be grown in the UK and imported: Ure doubted that they would take root and in this he was supported by Hunt. Even the Falkland Islands Committee appeared as a possible source of persuasion, having appeared more tolerant of lease-back than the Island Council, but for the same reason it might have lost credibility. Hunt recalls incredulity at the idea that the Islanders could be ‘manipulated or persuaded or “educated” into doing something they had made perfectly plain they had no wish to do.’1 The islanders appeared convinced that so long as Britain stood firm no harm would befall them. Clarifying the degree of British impotence in the face of a determined Argentine move might be sobering for the islanders: but it might also be intriguing to Buenos Aires, putting ideas into their head. The only new element that might appear in a negotiation was an offer of resettlement plus finance if things did not work out—but Ridley saw financial inducements at the end rather than the beginning of a negotiation. He had also, up to this point, not seen a great need for contingency planning as the Argentines were being very understanding and could see that the Government was trying to find a solution. Now he accepted that planning might be necessary, looking first at how to supply and communicate with the Islands if put under effective siege, and then on to the military implications of their defence. After the strategy meeting on 30 June Ridley wrote to Carrington in these terms, urging a Defence Committee discussion in September. He saw the islanders as ‘ostrichlike’ with the mood turning against any substantive discussions of sovereignty. While the Argentines might wait for the election results their patience must soon run out, and they would demand movement. If they concluded that Britain was ‘unable or unwilling to negotiate seriously, we must expect retaliatory action.’ There was no evidence that the current policy of avoiding a positive lead was achieving results. The options—as always numbering three—were to negotiate on leaseback without islander concurrence in order to clarify the implications of this option, a public education campaign on the consequences of no negotiation, or to accept these consequences. As always the middle option was preferred, though it carried the risk of political exposure. The campaign would involve an invitation to the new Councillors to visit the UK, in-depth press briefings, publication of papers in the Argentine press and involvement of private institutions and opinion-formers. Soon the Argentine pressure began. When he had met Ros, Ridley had invited an Argentine proposal for future talks, an initiative which his officials suspected was



unwise. Ros had initially been cagey on this point, but on 27 July came a letter (the contents of which were made public) from Sr Camilion, the Foreign Minister. This indicated disappointment at the lack of progress and called for early talks. This had the effect of bringing the issue even more to the fore in islander thinking, thereby making it a central issue for the election campaign. This was not a propitious setting for a more conciliatory attitude. They would certainly not agree to a request from London to make an interim reply to the letter accepting the principle of discussions after the election. When Hunt, visiting London, came to see Ridley on 1 September he was gloomy about converting islanders to lease-back. The draft paper for the Defence Committee began by stressing the urgency of a solution. The Argentines were getting impatient while the movement in islander opinion was going against any transfer of sovereignty. Reinforcement here came from a JIC assessment in July 1981, discussed below, which argued that if the Argentines concluded there was no hope of a peaceful transfer of sovereignty, military action could not be ruled out. The issue was now one of when the Junta might come to this conclusion. It would wait until after the Islands’ elections but not much longer. By early 1982 at the latest ‘they will be in a position to assess whether we genuinely intend to negotiate. If they conclude that we are unable or unwilling to do so, we must expect retaliatory action.’ Simply playing for time was not a viable option. The obligatory three courses of action this time involved, at one extreme, opening negotiations with Argentina without islander concurrence or participation, though this would breach long-held policy and create a political row, and at the other extreme, allowing the Argentines to conclude that there could be no talks about sovereignty and set in motion contingency preparations, though this could lead to a military confrontation in which Britain would enjoy little international support. The obligatory middle course was still to embark on an active campaign to educate islander (and British public) opinion about the facts and the consequences of a failure to negotiate. This would require the Government to come into the open more than it had hitherto been prepared to do, exposing its inability to deal in any effective way with the Argentine threat. The first step of inviting the newly elected Councillors to London for discussions would be criticised for putting pressure on them, and would be reliant on Argentine acquiescence to allow time for the slow process of education to work. The prospect was not attractive, but if the Government was ‘not prepared to take a clear lead and accept the dangers of greater exposure, we may soon be faced with a more difficult problem’. The assessment of the likely course of the dispute had been provided by the JIC in July. Its previous assessment, of November 1979, judged that the Argentine Government would prefer to achieve its objectives by peaceful means. One factor that might change this, other than unrelated developments such as the course of the dispute with Chile over the Beagle Channel, was a perception that Britain was not prepared to negotiate seriously when ‘internal pressures could combine to cause it urgently to seek a success in the Falkland Islands dispute’. As at the time the Government had decided to negotiate and Argentina did have other preoccupations, so the threat did not seem then to be too serious, although a senior Argentine figure gave a warning on these lines in late February. The July 1981 paper followed the same line of the 1979 assessment, assuming that the resort to force would only be a last resort, but it did note some worrying trends, such as impatience at the lack of progress in the negotiations, the unfavourable course (from an

The Official history of the falklands campaign


Argentine perspective) of the Beagle Channel mediation, economic decline and the struggle for power within the Junta. These increased the risk of military action. But while warning of the danger of extreme Argentine reactions, the JIC did not suggest that these were imminent. This influenced ministers and senior officials when they discussed the draft Defence Committee paper on 6/7 September. They concluded that this was not a good moment to face this group with such unpalatable decisions. The Argentine Government itself was changing, and another round of talks was planned for December. The draft paper was turned into a minute on the current state of play, with the idea of an educational campaign removed. It acknowledged the decline of lease-back, despite its promise, and warned of the risk of Argentine retaliation. If this happened it would inevitably fall to the UK, at some considerable cost, to provide alternative transport facilities so far as possible. It was sent to the Prime Minister just before the Foreign Secretary took the opportunity at the UN General Assembly on 14 September to explain to the new Argentine Foreign Minister, Snr Camilion, that Britain could neither negotiate over the heads of the islanders nor coerce them. Before any further moves it was necessary to wait until the Council elections. To this Camilion consented. Robin Fearn, Head of South American Department, FCO, wrote to Williams, knowing that he would be disappointed at the passivity of the policy, explaining that ministers have decided that: the domestic political constraints must at this stage continue to prevent us from taking any steps which might be interpreted either as putting pressure on the islanders or overruling their wishes. Specifically this means that an education campaign in the Islands and the UK has, at least for the present, been ruled out. Our policy will therefore be, as before, to try to encourage the islanders to see the merits of solving the dispute but without overt pressure. The Government was fully aware of the possible Argentine reaction and dangers, and the scope for damage to British and islander interests, but ministers had concluded that the domestic political risks of acting any other way were even greater. The limited aim for the moment was to persuade the Councillors to agree to ‘a further negotiating round without commitment to any specific sovereignty approach.’ This led to a letter from Williams of 2 October warning about Micawberism. To pretend that there was any possibility of a natural convergence of view between the islanders and the Argentines was deceptive. The islanders believed that they could ‘enjoy Argentine facilities while insulting Argentines.’ Argentina believed that Britain was a valid interlocutor and would therefore become disenchanted when they realised that talking was a waste of time. He warned that a hard-line government ‘could mortify and humiliate Her Majesty’s Government in a variety of manners to which we would have no effective or immediate response.’ He was coming to the conclusion that rather than live a lie it would be better to be frank with the Argentines and take the consequences. The new Junta, he warned, was tougher and less patient. All he could think of to buy time was to offer talks about methodology (a phrase he had come up with after talking with Camilion) as a way of avoiding coming to an end too quickly. If talks could be



widened to cover a range of issues, including the economic, this might allow the Argentines an opportunity to show that they too were interested in avoiding a confrontation while offering a way of getting the islanders involved. In London, Nicholas Ridley had been promoted out of the FCO and the new Minister in charge of the Falklands was Richard Luce. He asked what inducements might be offered Argentina to ease up on the Falklands. The answer was not encouraging. Offering concessions elsewhere, on the Dependencies or Antarctica, was unlikely to have much effect other than to set precedents for later concessions. A careful examination of Britain’s position in Antarctica was undertaken. Britain’s claim to Antarctica territory had been frozen under the 1961 Treaty. There was a possibility of substantial exploitable resources in the area and if Britain abandoned its claim then it would have no part to play in the negotiations over how that exploitation might take place. Another possibility might be to argue on behalf of Argentina for more generous treatment by the European Community of its agricultural exports, but this would probably not make much impact. General attempts to improve political relations were ongoing, but they faced real difficulties over human rights. All things considered, ‘the scope for trade-offs’ was ‘severely limited.’

Islander reaction The October elections in the Falkland Islands were a curious affair, taking four weeks for 1,000 voters to elect six Councillors, reflecting the complex system but also the logistical problems of physically taking ballot boxes to the many remote parts of the Islands to get votes recorded. It nonetheless provided a clear guide to the state of opinion, which was now firmly against lease-back. Even in the unlikely event that a secure lease of sufficient duration had been agreed Argentina was simply not trusted to keep its side of the deal. None of this was helped by Argentine behaviour, which generally served to antagonise the islanders. The Governor’s report for 1981 made clear the hill to be climbed by those who hoped that education might do the trick in persuading the islanders to take a more relaxed view of the prospect of negotiations. Instead of the 1971 Communications Agreement encouraging the view that they could live in harmony with Argentina, contacts had just brought more aggravation: A major irritant was the withdrawal of their second weekly flight at ridiculously short notice and without consultation through the established machinery. The sham of reintroducing this flight at the beginning of summer on a trial basis for one month, again without proper notice, served merely to add insult to injury. Other irritants included six overflights by Argentine Air Force aircraft without prior clearances; the boarding by the Argentine Navy of two Polish fishing trawlers on the high seas east and south-east of the Falklands; the advertising of oil concessions across the putative median line: the continuance of radio transmissions and reports of stamp issues from Southern Thule; the building in Stanley of an ostentatious house (by Falklands’ standards) for the resident senior Argentine Air Force officer and the tactless attempt to publicise it by

The Official history of the falklands campaign


planning a high-powered housewarming party; the misleading publicity given to two supply flights (which, without the accompanying propaganda, would have won them much goodwill); the refusal to confirm flight bookings to the mainland unless onward flights were by Aerolineas Argentinas; the frequent non-arrival of passengers, mail, fruit and freight, despite half-empty aircraft; the uncompromising nature of the Argentine rejection of the “freeze” proposal and their subsequent Note urging us to speed up negotiations; the unfortunate remarks in a TV interview by the Argentine Ambassador in London about “conquering” the Islanders’ hearts and minds and making them “the most pampered people” in South America and Ambassador Blanco’s interview on the Falkland Islands Broadcasting Service in which he ruled out any possibility of the Islanders’ right to self-determination. On top of all this, the poor performance of the Argentine Military Government in running its own affairs, with an 80 per cent devaluation, over 100 per cent inflation, falling reserves and rising unemployment, helped to convince Islanders that they were better off outside Argentina than in. Even moderates were beginning to suggest that they would rather leave the Islands than work Argentine land. None of those who believed in talking to the Argentines about lease-back bothered to stand for election. There was one exception and he lost. The only interest of most candidates in negotiations was to ensure that the islanders were not blamed for their failure. The issues were the support that Britain would provide if Argentine services were withdrawn, the right to citizenship and the Nationality Bill, and more development assistance. The election revealed something else about the conservative nature of islander opinion. The successful candidates, with one expatriate exception, all were fourth or fifth generation kelpers. The new Council was ‘more hardline, less experienced and predictable than the old,’ with both the Councillors who had attended the February talks no longer members. The Government might have decided that no attempt should be made to coerce the islanders, but every decision taken appeared to have a coercive aspect, and all aggravated islander anxieties. In addition to the refusal to budge on the Nationality act, the withdrawal of HMS Endurance (discussed below), and the threatened cuts to BAS, there had also been increases in the cost of British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) transcription services and long promised new barracks for the Marines had been postponed yet again. It had been a dismal year. The Darwin road barely made progress and the school hostel project made none at all.2 Recruitment of key personnel from the Islands was slow. As a result of this, despite all assurances to the contrary: The Islanders suspected by the end of the year that they were paying the penalty for having incurred the displeasure of Her Majesty’s Government by deliberately refusing to accept the favoured lease-back solution: life was deliberately being made difficult in an attempt to bring them to heel.3 If this was the plan it was not going to work. The new Council was less conciliatory than before and at most they would deign to carry on talking. Hunt was of the view that the



Islands could be viable without a close connection with Argentina. He regularly received expressions of interest about various forms of investment and a number looked promising. The problem was the need for an alternative air service, about which he was quite optimistic so long as Britain was allowed access to Chile or Uruguay and aircraft of sufficient range were made available. ‘Short of a military invasion, then, the Islands could survive;’ he concluded, ‘with financial help from Britain, they might actually prosper. But I suggest that we should be making practical contingency plans now.’ When Hunt’s report was discussed in the FCO in February it was recognised to be an ‘admirable’ reflection of islander opinion but there was concern that it took insufficient ‘account of either the difficulties which face HMG or the realities of the potential Argentine threat.’ Hunt’s assessment was confirmed by two MPs, Michael Shersby (Conservative) and Eric Ogden (Labour), who reported after their visit that opinion had hardened to the point that they had to demonstrate that they were independent of FCO although financed by FCO. The FCO response was to wonder whether the islanders realised that their level of support in the UK would not translate into much practical help should Argentine pressure increase. Nor could the optimism about the economy be accepted. It was in decline, kept in the black only through stamp sales. No serious investment was possible without a resolution of the dispute or a much more substantial British military and economic presence. There was also less optimism about the ease and the cost with which alternative air and sea services could be established: If talks break down, the range of actions open to the Argentines will be a good deal wider than the Governor assumes in this despatch; and our limited ability to prevent or withstand Argentine pressures will be embarrassingly apparent. At least the Council had agreed by a four to one majority to further talks. These were scheduled for 17 and 18 December in Geneva. The islanders however made it clear that while two of their members would attend they would not contribute if Argentina raised sovereignty issues. The FCO was hoping, as always, to emphasise the scope for economic co-operation but had no reason to suppose that Argentina would accept any such suggestion without a parallel investigation of the transfer of sovereignty. Rather late in the day, with the new Junta sorting itself out, Argentina called the talks off.


Endurance During the course of 1981 the FCO’s confidence in its ability to persuade the rest of the Government that it should take political risks in order to resolve the Falklands dispute or else accept the consequences of an unwillingness to negotiate on sovereignty declined. Its inability to persuade the islanders to move in Argentina’s direction was matched only by its inability to persuade other Departments of State to move in the islanders’ direction and make special provisions to sustain their economy and security. The announcement in June 1981 that HMS Endurance was to be withdrawn from service following the 1981–82 season appeared as the most striking example of the low priority attached to the Falklands question by the Conservative Government. It had begun with the presumption that Endurance would continue in service. Every time the Labour Secretary of State for Defence had tried to withdraw Endurance he had lost against FCO opposition. Within MoD, the plans still had Endurance being paid off in June 1981. It was assumed then that it was ‘inconceivable that the Prime Minister would agree to the removal of this symbol of support for the Falkland Islanders when her predecessor had refused to do so.’ At the beginning of 1981 the Admiralty Board approved a submission recommending the continued deployment of Endurance until the end of its economic life in 1992, subject to any budgetary or planning constraints. This reflected past experience and the difficulty of meeting the stated FCO requirement for a regular naval presence in the South Atlantic by any other means. By avoiding a series of annual reviews of the ship’s future it was hoped to manage the refit programme more efficiently and economically. Soon, however, the Secretary of State for Defence, John Nott, had concluded that financial pressures on his budget were unlikely to abate and there was therefore a strong case to look at commitments in the light of available resources, as well as the pace of technological changes. The review he set in motion looked especially hard at naval forces, so that its most radical suggestion was for a sharp reduction in the size of the surface fleet. The number of destroyers and frigates declared to NATO was to be reduced from 59 to 50. In this context Endurance could be presented as an extravagance—costing £4m per year for a limited contribution. Because of the stringent targets set by Nott during the review, the forces were obliged to be strict with themselves about priorities, identified as SSNs, carriers and the destroyer/frigate force, and the Trident nuclear deterrent which Nott insisted had to be accountable in the Navy budget. Items such as

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Endurance, Britannia and the hydrographic flotilla were of secondary importance. Having set a severe budgetary ceiling, Nott then found it difficult to argue for specific elements within the programme against the Navy’s own sense of priorities. He felt able to reject proposals to scrap Britannia, which was due for an expensive re-fit and was the first on the Navy’s list, but less able to argue for Endurance, the second. When it came to a choice between Endurance and another frigate, the Navy saw no contest. If necessary, they argued, it would always be possible to divert a frigate to the South Atlantic. The decision to withdraw Endurance from service at the end of the 1981–2 season was taken while the July JIC assessment was in preparation. The Foreign Office did not find out about the proposal until late in the day. Carrington immediately expressed his concern: Any reduction (in our presence) would be interpreted by both the Islanders and the Argentines as a reduction in our commitment to the Islands and in our willingness to defend them, and would attract strong criticism from supporters of the Islanders in the United Kingdom. The matter was pursued at an official level. Nott was warned that the FCO would continue to press the case. He had already asked the Admiralty Board to cost a number of ‘addbacks’ to the naval programme, including Endurance. The Navy Department put its reprieve at a low priority (number eight out of ten). In a further minute, Endurance was shown in lowest category, 4, of ‘Contingent Items and Measures which may be funded from central reserves if resources permit.’ At this point the FCO decided not to press the case further. No other ministries had given support. Carrington supported the broad thrust of the defence review and did not want to see the packet upset on this sole issue. When the defence review was presented to the Commons there was no reference to Endurance in Nott’s statement or in the ensuing debate. In a debate in the Lords on 30 June 1981 Foreign Office Minister, Lord Trefgarne stated: I can confirm that HMS “Endurance” will be paid off in 1982 on her return to the United Kingdom, following her deployment in the South Atlantic and the Antarctic Region later this year. There are no plans to replace her. However, the Royal Marines garrison in the Falkland Islands will be maintained at its present strength, and from time to time Her Majesty’s ships will be deployed in the area. The reaction of the Island Councillors was rapid and strong. A message was sent: The people of the Falkland Islands deplore in the strongest terms the decision to withdraw HMS Endurance from service. They express concern that Britain appears to be abandoning its defence of British interests in the South Atlantic and Antarctic at a time when other powers are strengthening their position in these areas. They feel that such a withdrawal will further weaken British sovereignty in this area in the eyes not only of islanders but of the world. They urge that all possible endeavours be made to secure a reversal of this decision.

The Official history of the falklands campaign


In sending the message, Hunt also indicated that he felt that the islanders would accept the decision reluctantly as it was difficult to make a special case for them. There was continued criticism in the press and in parliamentary debates. Ministers received regular complaints. The MoD, supported by the Prime Minister, stuck to the firm line of the June review. Endurance was a low priority. It provided very little real security for the Falklands at a high cost. Even if extra money was available there were higher priorities. The standard letter referred to the ship’s limited military capability and limited time in Falkland Island waters (30 days per year). Even in the FCO there were competing views about the importance of Endurance. The decision to remove it had undoubtedly irritated the islanders (although from some perspectives that was no bad thing) but it was unclear whether or not it affected Argentine views. According to a secret report in September 1981 the Argentines had construed the decision as a deliberate political gesture and not as an economy measure, because of its fundamental implications for the Islands and Britain’s position in the South Atlantic. It does not appear, however, that this report achieved widespread circulation. By the autumn of 1981 the campaign to save the Endurance was starting to gain momentum. To the consternation of his superiors the ship’s captain, Nicholas Barker, had made little secret of his conviction that paying off Endurance was a remarkably shortsighted action and discussed the matter with various politicians. Prior to a visit to the Falklands Barker invited two MPs on board Endurance, much to the irritation of MoD, as he had not cleared the invitation beforehand. He was told that he should not discuss contentious policy issues but there was little confidence that he was disposed to take advice. His commanding officer was asked to convey displeasure. Barker had been influenced by briefings he had received on the resources of the South Atlantic. He had also come to assume that most Argentine activity in the Antarctic as well as South Thule was about sovereignty rather than science, in part because of the military organisation of all their bases. Meanwhile, Lord Buxton was pushing the issue from the House of Lords. High-profile figures such as the explorer Sir Vivien Fuchs and the naturalist Peter Scott were writing public letters to the Times and private letters to the Prime Minister. The campaign pulled together the twin themes of the betrayal of the Falklanders and the possible collapse of Britain’s position in the Antarctic.1 Against this background it also became apparent internally that while MoD had seen the potential savings of taking Endurance out of service they had not thought through the problem of disposal of the vessel thereafter other than to suppose that it would be sold at the best price. In late September 1981 Defence Sales had been approached by the Brazilian Naval Attaché asking for a specification and a sales price. After a visit to the ship in early October he declared an interest, as well as for the purchase of two Wasp helicopters. The offer price was £1.5 m for the ship plus a further £0.5 m for the two Wasp helicopters. In other circumstances this would have been perfectly acceptable. When Endurance went off on what was expected to be its final voyage on 13 October 1981 the first stop was Brazil. But such a sale, given Brazil’s support for the Argentine claim, was seen as likely to double the insult to the islanders and cause widespread public resentment. In the light of the Prime Minister’s awkward correspondence with the pro-Endurance lobby there was anxiety about the sudden disclosure that the boat was destined for Brazil. On the other hand a lot was at stake with substantial arms sales to Brazil worth some £100 m

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potentially at risk. It was hard to see how Brazil could be excluded from purchase without insult if the ship remained on the sales list. In November there had been some intensive discussions within the FCO over whether there was much point in making more representations to MoD. In general the FCO saw itself in alliance against the Treasury which was already, even after the summer review, seeking another £400 million cut in defence spending. Under this pressure the key question was the credibility of the British defence effort in the eyes of allies. It was known that some of the ministerial team in MoD were sympathetic to the case for Endurance, but the Navy were adamant that Endurance was useless compared with a frigate, and there was no new evidence to persuade them to change their mind. The Prime Minister had been drawn into the campaign to justify the decision and would not wish to be seen to be giving in to a pressure group. Yet against this the policy might well already have emboldened the Argentines and demoralised further the islanders. The top officials in the FCO decided against raising this issue again and this, with reluctance, Luce accepted. It was the strength of Conservative Party and backbench opinion that persuaded the Secretary of State that it was worth making another attempt. In January 1982, following a meeting with Michael Shersby MP, a recent visitor to the Falklands, Carrington decided again to write to Nott. Ure was worried that this might lead MoD to suggest that if the problem was further embarrassment to the FCO then the FCO could pay. As Nott had reprieved the amphibious ships, Fearless and Intrepid, he suggested that Carrington propose to reinstate Endurance to ‘ease the passage of more far-reaching defence cuts.’ In his reply, Nott acknowledged the strength of the case, and judged that ‘our position will just about be sustainable politically provided that we do not sell the ship to a South American country.’ There remained no case in defence terms. The most he could suggest, though without conviction, was a joint approach to the Defence Committee for more money. While the FCO believed that Nott was underestimating the domestic political pressures they saw no grounds for hope that the case would get a sympathetic hearing. The best advice was to wait until they saw the results of the next set of negotiations with Argentina and then raise the issue in the Defence Committee meeting then planned. Nott’s view was that: Having cut the Royal Navy’s frigate force from sixty-four to fifty, with all the controversy that this had caused, I did not feel justified in taking on the Naval Staff once again over an ageing and expensive ship, albeit one that had symbolic importance in the South Atlantic. In my final minute to Lord Carrington, dated 3 February 1982, I had observed, ‘I think there would be considerable depth of feeling in the Royal Navy if further inroads had to be made on the Naval Programme to make room for Endurance which, quite frankly, is a low priority in defence terms.’2 The disposal problem was never solved. Keeping Endurance on reserve would cost £80,000 a year and would simply sustain the campaign to maintain the ship. The ship was also overdue for a refit costing £30 m. It was not appropriate for it to be allocated to the Standby Squadron as that consisted of ships in reserve for NATO, and there was no NATO role for Endurance. Scrapping the vessel would raise only £100,000 but it could

The Official history of the falklands campaign


cost more than that to keep her in a saleable condition until a buyer could be found. In the search for another buyer, with a hint that there could be a negotiation on price, the National Environmental Research Council (NERC) was asked in an acknowledged ‘bolt from the blue,’ if BAS would be interested.3 In the light of its own financial difficulties, NERC showed no interest. There was faint hope in apparent—but implausible—interest shown by the Department of Energy in taking up the running costs of Endurance. A proposal to sell it to the Falkland Islands Government was not practical because of a lack of funds (a total budget of £2.4 m) to either purchase (even at scrap value) or operate the vessel. Nor had they the people to man it. The basic point of having a white ensign vessel patrolling their waters would anyway be lost. Brazil remained the only potential buyer and there was no obvious pretext for letting Brazil down. Accordingly there was little option but candour. By early March a letter had been drafted for the Secretary of State to send to his Brazilian opposite number, explaining the political difficulties he faced. In following this up the Ambassador in Rio would point out that Intrepid, in which an interest had also been expressed, had now been spared from the cuts and was therefore also unavailable.

Contingency planning Noting that ‘the ultimate use of force by Argentina is a contingency that cannot be ruled out’, in April 1981 FCO’s South American Department asked for a reappraisal of MoD planning. The work that was got underway was still reliant on papers left over from the 1977 exercise. The only new issue that had been raised was the evacuation of islanders, but after a meeting in May it was decided that there was no need for any evacuation plans nor really any need for much more than the updating of old plans. The most useful contribution to the debate was seen to be a broad-brush analysis of possible responses to various Argentine actions, and on this basis it made sense to attempt to tie it in with the proposed new JIC assessment. This July 1981 JIC Assessment identified as further contingencies: 1 Harassment or arrest of British shipping: 2 Military occupation of one or more of the uninhabited Islands; 3 Arrest of the BAS team on South Georgia; 4 Small scale military operation against the Islands; 5 Full scale military invasion of the Islands. On receiving the JIC assessment MoD judged that there had been a marginal increase in the threat ‘but not sufficient for us to alter our position from 1979.’ British options were due to decline with the loss of Endurance, while the RM detachment could not respond to any of the contingencies discussed by JIC. Defence and deterrence would still require substantial, and still possibly inadequate, deployments. Furthermore, the proposed diminution in Britain’s amphibious capability, which was also part of the 1981 Defence Review although it was later reversed, would mean that reinforcement, subsequent to an Argentine invasion ‘would be extremely difficult, if not impossible.’ Such an option after an invasion was, however, ‘remote.’ The operations staff had ‘severe doubts as to whether it is (or has ever been) a serious political response.’ In the same vein it was

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judged that ‘retaking of the Islands after an Argentinian invasion is barely militarily viable and would present formidable problems.’ Within MoD the view was that the FCO thought too naturally in terms of deterrence and flexible response, along NATO lines. This implied sufficient forces to meet an attack on any level which was clearly not practical in the case of the Falklands. ‘MoD is in danger of being asked to provide a limited force for deterrent purposes in the knowledge that our bluff could be called.’ Unfortunately, geography and logistics limited all options. This attitude pervaded all MoD analyses of the issue. The problems of getting Harriers to the Falklands were re-examined (‘we have been round this particular buoy many times before’) and the answer remained that ‘the nearest practicable staging post, Ascension Island, rules out effective reinforcement by air, even using air-to-air refuelling.’ Even if some aircraft could be delivered fuel supplies would remain a severe constraint (unless the Argentines continued to be willing to help Britain out). As for operating a Hercules into Stanley this could only be done at a risk of ‘damage to the runway, the aircraft, or both.’ There would be a ‘very fine line between success and failure when operating from Ascension Island some 3285 nautical miles away and with no access to South American airfields.’ Passing on these findings, a Wing Commander observed ‘I hope you now have sufficient ammunition to shoot down the idea that RAF aircraft may assist in the implausible task of trying to defend the Falklands.’ To evict a small military force from an uninhabited island would need a RM Company Group of about 150 men with amphibious assault craft and helicopter support. To deter a small scale military operation against the Falklands itself, a group of 850 men plus an air defence capability as well as naval support including aircraft carriers was needed, but this would be costly, while to deter a full scale military invasion an extremely expensive, balanced task force would be required. If any deployment then precipitated the event it was supposed to deter then the available force would not necessarily be able to retake the Falklands. Commenting, one senior official observed that ‘it would be a practical nonsense, besides which Suez would look sensible, for us to attempt to engage in serious operations against a perfectly competent and well-equipped local opponent off the toe of South America.’

Arms sales One indication of the lack of concern within MoD, although this went too far for most, was an idea from Defence Sales that it might make sense to consider the sale of an aircraft carrier plus Harriers to Argentina. The Veinticinco de Mayo, commissioned in 1948, would need replacing in the late 1980s. A Clemenceau class French carrier was one possibility but Argentina might be interested in either an Invincible class or Hermes when it was taken out of service at the end of 1983. This could be worth some £300 m. The Naval Attaché in Buenos Aires had suggested that the Sea Harrier could be promoted jointly with a carrier, and Admiral Allara, then head of the Argentine Naval Mission in London, had asked to visit Invincible to watch the Sea Harrier. By September arrangements were being made for the visit. The Foreign Office noted that while such a sale might not fall foul of the guideline about not being used for internal repression it certainly fell foul of that capable of use against the Falklands and, if

The Official history of the falklands campaign


pushed, would almost certainly be rejected by ministers. Yet the FCO were also wary that offence might be given to Argentina by rejecting an idea for an order of some magnitude that would not make a lot of difference to the Falklands as similar equipment could be purchased elsewhere. To avoid a decision, it was therefore suggested that the Harrier might be more feasible without a carrier, or that ministers might be asked to consider the promotion, but not yet the supply, of a carrier. In 1981 Ridley agreed to a proposal to supply two further ex-RAF Canberras but a tentative interest in refurbished long-range Vulcan bombers, which were about to leave RAF service after over two decades as a nuclear strike force, was quashed at official level. In September 1981 there had been some discussion of the sale of a single Vulcan aircraft, which, it was assumed, would not materially affect Argentina’s strike capability. The FCO judged that a strike aircraft would be ‘entirely suitable for an attack on the Falklands’. Nonetheless continuing expressions of Argentine interest were forwarded. The Air Staff also took the view that the Vulcans would be perfectly well suited to the Falklands and would also alarm Chile. Lastly in 1981 there was some discussion with Vickers over a main battle tank (an order that went to Austria). While FCO objections were a factor in holding back these sales, the difficulty in coming up with attractive tenders was another. The Defence Attaché’s assessment was that Britain was seen by the Argentine military as ‘a useful source of comparative information and a potential supplier to be invited to quote’ but ‘in general regarded as slow and expensive.’

Sustaining communications It was not only MoD who were reluctant to find extra resources for the Falklands. Almost as soon as thoughts had turned to contingency planning during the first months of 1981 the Treasury had expressed an interest in the possible costs. The FCO was assuming that in order to step up the pressure, Argentina would follow the standard escalation path, starting with the withdrawal of services. As extending the airport was now estimated to cost some £12 million, without any obvious increase in customers at normal times, the only realistic response to such pressure would be a maritime service that Britain would have to subsidise. This was before the various military contingencies, all with their own expense. Even if Argentina did nothing, there was every reason to expect that the parlous economic state of the Islands would require some remedial action. These concerns were reinforced by the July 1981 assessment. This suggested that if Argentine attitudes were hardening this was likely to be reflected in pressure on communication links with the Islands. Indicators that this might be on the cards were the reduction in the number of LADE flights out to the Islands and a ten-day delay in the departure of the Argentine naval boat taking stores to islanders, which appeared as a sort of reprisal. Camilion was believed to be advocating an economic blockade on the grounds that if Britain wanted to keep the Islands it could pay for them. When he met Carrington in September he observed that Argentina got very little in return for the services provided to the islanders. He also re-iterated the view that the islanders should not be allowed to have a veto on political progress. After Carrington’s minute of 14 September, with its warning of difficult decisions ahead, Leon Brittan, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, expressed concern about the

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expense of making up the deficiency should Argentina cut communications. He sought ‘precautions against stumbling into accepting new financial commitments inadvertently.’ Britain should make it clear to the most influential islanders that they would not be bailed out: HMG does not have the resources to protect the Islands from the economic consequences of a confrontation with Argentina and that the Island authorities will need to bear this consideration in mind when taking their decisions about the future handling of the constitutional problem. Carrington warned that was not the risk. The islanders understood that Britain could not simply step in and replace Argentine services: But we should be clear that if the day comes when the Islands are cut off as the result of Argentine action, we should come under intense public and parliamentary pressure to do everything possible to provide alternative services. Carrington estimated that there could be a cost of some £6m per annum for an indefinite period should Argentina cut communications. Brittan remained unhappy and proposed studies of these costs. This was a good example of the tension at the heart of policy. There was an obligation to accept that the islanders’ wishes were paramount when it came to negotiations with the Argentines but not when it came to expenditure. At a time when every aspect of public expenditure was being subjected to rigorous unsentimental scrutiny it is not surprising that there be reluctance to fund any improvements to the defence of the Falklands. The two most high-profile issues were Endurance and the possibility of long-distance support for the Islands, and their profile was not very high, but there were other indications. Moody Brook Camp, situated four miles east of Stanley, comprised nine buildings originally constructed during the First World War, and abandoned after the Second until re-occupied by the Royal Marines in 1967. New barracks had been agreed to be necessary and new sites had been proposed in the late 1970s. As a way of demonstrating commitment a party of Royal Engineers went to the Islands in September 1981 to carry out on-site reconnaissance for new barracks, yet even then financial pressures meant that a proposed start in November 1982 had to be postponed at least a year. The imminent conclusion of Endurance’s patrols raised questions about the future of the two RN diesel fuel tanks at Stanley. It also removed the need for the maintenance of a dracone (an engineless, inflatable fuel carrier) sent as an emergency measure in September 1980 in case the existing fuel lighter, in bad need of a refit, broke down. It was not needed for that purpose but soon a use was found supplying fresh water to a Polish factory vessel, and it started to be seen as a revenue-earner. MoD offered to sell the dracone to the Falkland Islands Government, who lacked the requisite funds. The alternative suggestion of a donation was turned down. Against this it could still be argued that the Falklands received the highest amount of British aid per head per annum. A number of Shackleton recommended capital projects were proceeding, although with more than their fair share of delays and troubles. Overall, by late 1981, the long-term prospects for the Islands looked bleak, and the short-term prospects uncertain.


Argentine policy While islander opinion hardened so did that of Argentina. A new Junta took over on 8 December 1981, led by General Leopoldo Galtieri, the Army commander and now President. His colleagues were the head of the Navy, Admiral Jorge Anaya, and of the Air Force, General Lami Dozo. On 18 December the FCO suggested that as a routine courtesy the Prime Minister should send a formal message to the new Government. Her response was that she did not send messages ‘on the occasion of military takeovers’. That same day, the Junta was meeting for the first time on the Malvinas. Within the group Anaya was the leading hawk, and he was also an old friend of Galtieri. An early appointment was Dr Nicanor Costa Mendez as Foreign Minister. He had dealt with the issue in the 1960s and soon concluded that he had left the negotiations in a better state than he now found them. Having been briefed on the lack of progress in the negotiations by Costa Mendez, the Junta discussed the matter again on 5 January 1982 to work out a position prior to the next round of talks with the UK. In part because the Papal decision on the Beagle Channel dispute was likely to go against them, and every possible means for taking this forward appeared to be exhausted, the Junta decided that the resolution of the Falklands dispute would be its top priority for 1982. This did not seem to be a hopeless enterprise. The Rhodesian settlement of 1981 gave grounds for optimism that the Conservative Government might take a pragmatic approach to other old colonial problems. It had shown little real interest in the Falklands, no longer even making much of an effort to prepare to defend the Islands. At the same time it had shown itself unable to deal with the islander lobby opposed to any concession on sovereignty The work on lease-back had been abandoned abruptly. If the British believed that they could get away by continuing to talk without purpose then perhaps this was because previous Argentine governments had failed to convey a sufficient sense of threat to London. It would be possible to put pressure on London by breaking off diplomatic relations or cutting the communications links to the Islands. This was the route anticipated in Whitehall by the JIC. But the Junta saw a risk here of encouraging Britain to forge a strategic alliance with Chile. The Junta therefore decided at the meeting of 5 January 1982 to ‘reactivate to the fullest extent all negotiations for the sovereignty of the Malvinas, South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands’ and at the same time ‘prepare a

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contingency plan for the employment of military power should the first alternative fail’. Assuming little progress was made, the Argentine case would be presented to the UN Decolonisation Committee in August, where a sympathetic hearing could be guaranteed and then on to the General Assembly meeting in November. This would help Argentina garner international support before 3 January 1983, the 150th anniversary of the British take-over of the Malvinas. Two weeks later the Junta approved National Strategy Directive 1/82: The Military Committee, faced with the evident and repeated lack of progress in the negotiations with Great Britain to obtain recognition of our sovereignty over the Malvinas, Georgias and South Sandwich Islands; convinced that the prolongation of this situation affects national honour, the full exercise of sovereignty and the exploration of resources; has resolved to analyse the possibility of the use of military power to obtain the political objective. This resolution must be kept in strict secrecy and should be circulated only to the heads of the respective military departments. Preliminary plans for the military option were to be prepared by mid-March and the operation should be ready for implementation by 15 May 1982. The concept was of a bloodless occupation, limiting the possibility of a British reaction and allowing for later negotiations. As the operation depended on surprise it would be compromised by any British reinforcements.

Assessing Argentina It was the job of the JIC to anticipate such developments. This was the key organisation for the evaluation of intelligence and its presentation to Government. Its members were drawn from all parts of the Government concerned with the collection and analysis of intelligence material. During the period under discussion it consisted of a chairman, a senior FCO official, and a small secretariat which amalgamated material from small subcommittees in Whitehall known as Current Intelligence Groups (CIGs). CIGs were assigned to particular geographical areas that enabled them to monitor events and draft reports. Information on Argentina was the responsibility of the Latin America Current Intelligence Group (LACIG). In early 1982 a senior Army officer, who also had responsibility for three other CIGs, headed it. Argentine intentions had been afforded only a low covert collection priority. This had been set in a 1980 paper on global intelligence requirements and priorities, which placed intentions towards the Falklands in the fourth and lowest category. The subjects which commanded overall priority were the security of the home base and the threat posed by the Warsaw Pact. Third priority targets included Belize, Cuba and Cuban activities in the Third World, especially the Caribbean, and nuclear proliferation. An October 1981 document had recognised, within this relatively low priority area, that there was a need to search out material on certain subjects, including the Falklands, and also that this requirement had increased because of the difficulties over the negotiations. This decision

The Official history of the falklands campaign


to upgrade the Falklands as a priority had scant effect. It was not possible to build-up capabilities in short order. At the same time the Ministry of Defence described matters relating to the Falklands as the second highest priority out of four levels for the provision of assessed intelligence for the Chiefs of Staff. This was largely geared to the analysis of Argentine capabilities rather than intentions, so that the Defence Intelligence Service (DIS) could keep an up-to-date description of Argentina’s general military capability as a DIS Form-at-a-Glance Order of Battle. This did not include continuing and regular information on Argentine military movements and exercises. Central and South America was covered by one CIG desk officer who was dealing with 46 countries. For example, at the same time as the Falklands was reaching a critical stage the Latin American CIG was also covering the run up to the Salvadoran election for 18 February and 25 March and then had to consider the junior officers’ coup in Guatemala right at the end of March. The MoD had one squadron leader in DI4 looking at the whole of Latin America for all Services. There were a number of important topics to cover, in particular Guatemala/Belize, but also EI Salvador and Cuba, and the dispute between Venezuela and Guyana, Nicaragua and the Caribbean. The Defence and Naval Attachés in Buenos Aires faced profound limits on their ability to collect detailed information on Argentine military movements. As a result, much of the reporting from Buenos Aires was based on the local press. The JIC Assessments Staff had little time to study much open source material. There was time to scan BBC Monitoring items, which provided, for example, material on the Argentine press campaign though no basis for weighting it, and to read FCO telegrams. But not all telegrams were passed on and so Foreign Office officials probably had a better feel for the developing political situation than the Assessments Staff. There was a steady flow of reasonable information from a variety of sources. Unfortunately few were at a sufficiently high level to provide insights into the innermost thoughts of the Argentine Junta, and it was often difficult to cross-check the validity of the information received. It is also important to note that the conclusions supported by the evidence were neither confusing nor contradictory. By and large they rang true and tended to fit in with attaché and general diplomatic reporting. At no point does there appear to have been any significant debate within the intelligence community over Argentine policy. The consensus was embraced by DI4, the responsible department at the DIS of the MoD, and also the British Naval and Military Attachés in Buenos Aires. This consensus had been developed through the November 1979 and July 1981 assessments. The basic theme was that Argentina would not do anything rash until there was a clear breakdown in the negotiations. This consensus was not reviewed when Galtieri became President in December 1981. The possibility of a new assessment was discussed by the assessments staff in January 1982, only to be pushed back because of the more live issues elsewhere in the Americas which needed urgent attention. Galtieri’s arrival in power was not rated a mention in either the Weekly Survey of Intelligence (WSI) or in a note, although the South American Department produced an assessment, sent to the JIC staff, of the changes that stressed the possibility that they would lead to a more forceful Argentine approach on the Falklands. The introduction and background sections of the July paper were obviously out of date but the opinion of all concerned was that the sections dealing with Argentine intentions and options, and the overall conclusions, remained valid. The Galtieri Government had

Alarm bells


taken over the positions of its predecessor. It was therefore decided, with FCO agreement, to leave any further analyses until after the next round of talks in New York at the end of February. Given the close attention paid in the July 1981 estimate to the close link between Argentine propensities for direct action and perceptions of the state of the negotiations, there were grounds for an immediate reassessment of the position once it became apparent that the negotiating process was in serious trouble.

The New York negotiations On 27 January 1982, the Argentine Foreign Ministry proposed a new negotiating agenda on a monthly basis and asked the British Government to have an answer ready by the time the two parties met in New York in February for their next scheduled round of talks. The objective was to be a transfer of sovereignty. The new negotiations must be concluded ‘within a reasonable period of time and without procrastination’. It proposed: in order to expedite matters, the establishment of a permanent negotiating commission, which will meet during the first week of every month, alternately, in each capital and will be charged with maintaining continuity and impetus in the negotiations, not allowing them to be relegated to desultory meetings without clear objectives or concrete results…. The commission, which was the only really new element in the proposal, would have one year’s duration. Either party, with prior notice, could discontinue it at any time. Its sole purpose was to transfer sovereignty of the Falklands and the Dependencies. The relevance of the islanders’ wishes was denied, although their interests could be considered, and attention was drawn to their dependence on services provided by Argentina. Williams understood this immediately as indicating that Anaya was now in the driving seat and had set a test period for progress, after which all options would be open. The Ambassador realised that it would be impossible to give Argentina what it wanted, but he also warned that no Argentine interlocutor would connive in British procrastination. Fearn’s annotation indicated that he saw little option other than ‘sitting it out and waiting to see if the Argentines really do anything.’ Officials also saw how the Argentine strategy challenged their own, of spinning out the dialogue for as long as possible, while hoping that the islanders would participate and eventually accept the need to explore the possibility of a settlement. Faced with the new Argentine position there seemed to be little option, if the islanders were to be kept on board, but to reassert Britain’s position on sovereignty and to deny the necessity for a strict deadline. There was no objection to the idea of working groups to examine particular aspects of the issue, a method that Britain had favoured in the past, and so it was hoped that agreement here might draw the sting from the Argentine proposal. Nonetheless, the tone of the Argentine demand led Carrington to appreciate that Britain’s options were narrowing and that the Defence Committee would need to address the issue. On the other

The Official history of the falklands campaign


hand, the time-scale envisaged in the Argentine proposal did not seem to suggest that the crisis was going to blow up immediately. The first priority was to get through the New York talks in February without great upset. That was not going to be easy. The old trick of reassuring the islanders that their wishes remained paramount while persuading the Argentines that the situation was not hopeless, so that neither group actually walked out, was becoming ever harder to perform. The islander representatives would be there to ensure that there was no substantive discussion on sovereignty though they would not wish to be blamed for any breakdown in the dialogue. They would ‘listen and report, not negotiate.’ To the Argentine team the line would be that as the two sides’ were so far apart there was no point in discussing sovereignty. Better to concentrate on practical matters, and resources and economic co-operation. This was a position that Argentina had always rejected. In such unpromising circumstances the talks were at first thought to have gone rather well. Nobody walked out and the Argentines seemed content to wait for a definitive answer on their proposed timetable. The Argentine delegation was unaware of the Junta’s timetable, and that is perhaps why they agreed to a positive joint communiqué: The meeting took place in a cordial and positive spirit. The two sides reaffirmed their resolve to find a solution to the sovereignty dispute and considered in detail an Argentine proposal for procedures to make better progress in this sense. They agreed to inform their Governments accordingly. The Junta was less than pleased with this statement. It appeared to tolerate continuing British procrastination. They therefore demanded that the Foreign Ministry issue a unilateral communiqué. When it was issued on 2 March it disclosed the scope of the negotiations, though they were supposed to be confidential, and stressed that their aim should be to recognise Argentine sovereignty and that this result must be achieved ‘within a time which at this advanced stage of the discussions will necessarily have to be short’. Argentina wanted Britain to adopt the proposed new ‘system’ for the negotiations ‘in toto’, as an effective step for the early solution of the dispute. However, should this not occur, ‘Argentina reserves the right to terminate the working of this mechanism and to choose freely the procedure which best accords with her interests.’

Alarm in Britain The year had begun with the Falklands in the ‘too difficult’ category for the Government. It was unwilling to face the political costs of pushing forward with a deal in spite of islander and parliamentary opposition or the financial costs of ensuring the prosperity and security of the colony. The result was that the FCO was left pursuing an increasingly fragile middle ground, desperately trying to avoid a major crisis with Argentina but with an increasingly weak hand to play. The Argentine Foreign Ministry’s statement of 2 March was a serious warning that all was not well. Although Costa Mendez denied to Ambassador Williams that the Argentine Government wished in any way to make threats, and there were some indications that the

Alarm bells


Foreign Ministry wanted to cool the atmosphere, it had always been understood that the first real hint of danger would be when the Junta started to disown its own Foreign Ministry. In addition the Argentine demand, that Britain approve the draft working paper, remained on the table. The natural response of the FCO was to point out that by going public in this way matters had been made even more difficult for any Falkland Island Councillors interested in engaging with Argentina, and must make it harder for Britain to explore any concessions. A message was sent to Ros from Luce, who had led the British delegation, deploring the breach of confidentiality and noting how much the statement, together with the comment in the Argentine press, ‘creates a more difficult and unhelpful climate for continuing the negotiating process.’ There was little choice but to repeat this line in Parliament. Councillors Blake and Cheek who had been at the talks managed to keep to their side of the bargain in maintaining the confidentiality of the talks, but the temperature in the Islands was soon rising. There were other indications. First, Captain Nick Barker on board Endurance had been picking up some worrying evidence of Argentine behaviour as he travelled around the South Atlantic, including some untoward activity on South Georgia. We will deal with this in detail in the next chapter. All that need be noted for now is that his reports might have reinforced concerns about a repeat performance of South Thule but they were not taken in London as portents of anything more dramatic, and tended to be linked to his campaign to save Endurance. Taken more seriously was an Argentine press campaign. Just before the New York talks, on 24 January 1982 in an article in La Prensa, Iglesias Rouco had suggested that if the Argentine conditions for the negotiations were not accepted by Britain there could be an immediate breaking-off of relations, with the possibility that the Junta might attempt to resolve the dispute militarily. This would be relatively simple, and might even enjoy American support. Similar articles appeared. All stressed just how intolerable British intransigence had become and the need for decisive action, possibly by force, to settle the matter once and for all.1 When they were picked up in a British newspaper,2 the relevant section of MoD’s clipping was annotated ‘Stand by your beds! “Action Stations” will shortly be announced.’ After the Argentine MFA statement on 2 March, an unnamed government spokesman, quoted by La Nacion, suggested that while plans existed for economic and diplomatic measures against Britain, armed force could be discounted ‘at the moment.’ La Prensa the next day also seemed to confirm that Argentine pressure would be reflected in a gradual cooling of diplomatic relations plus pressure on the Islands through cutting off services. In the same paper, however, Rouco claimed that Britain had no more than four months to acknowledge Argentine sovereignty, as the transfer had to be completed by the 150th Anniversary. He was suggesting direct military action between the middle and the end of the year, and still clung to the hope that the Americans would be supportive (possibly in return for joint naval facilities). In London, the communiqué and the bellicose press campaign were taken to have reinforced the need for a new estimate. This was discussed within the intelligence community on 9/10 March, but as the anticipated meeting of the Cabinet’s Defence Committee had been postponed again until the second half of April drafting did not pick up until the second half of March. The preliminary drafting conveyed the generally agreed view that the omens were not good. The anticipated message was that Argentina was now run by harder men than before who wanted a transfer of sovereignty by the end

The Official history of the falklands campaign


of the year. The Beagle Channel dispute had longer to run, as the Junta had avoided giving a positive answer to the Pope and the question was whether the next step might be to take the matter to the International Court of Justice.3 It was also known that the Argentine economy had its problems connected to internal security and trade unions and was still in decline. It had been turned round for a while by Martinez de Hoz but he had just ceased to be a minister. The best thing going for the economy was grain sales with the Soviet Union. It was also recognised that because Galtieri had retained his Army position he had in effect two voices in the Junta and this left less room for inter-service rivalry. The view of the MFA communiqué was that it was not that dramatic in itself, but part of an attempt to push the British into action. The Prime Minister’s minute of early March on the need for contingency planning, discussed below, which might have been expected to add a sense of urgency, does not appear to have reached any part of the intelligence community. The position was not helped here by the fact that one of the key analysts was under unusual pressure because of a family accident during the middle of March. While by this time the Argentine Navy’s pressure for more assertive action had been noted, the general view was that this would be balanced by the Army’s and Air Force’s desire to continue negotiations. The press comment, which had aroused concern, seemed to fit the overall sense of a campaign that was not intended to come to a climax for another six months. There were indications that the press comment had been inspired by the Argentine Naval High Command to put pressure on Britain. There was no guarantee, however, that they would get their way on tough action if a diplomatic offensive failed to yield results. They were far ahead of the other two services on this issue. The Navy taking a hard-line was hardly new, and MoD’s intelligence analysts did not see why Anaya should be any more successful in persuading his colleagues than his predecessors. This minute was copied widely in MoD. It was discussed with the appropriate Assessments Staff analysts who did not dissent. The failure to pick out the special relationship between Galtieri and Anaya, and the effect of this on the balance of power within the Junta, may have resulted in the analysts not fully appreciating why this time the Navy might be able to get its way. The JIC Assessments Staff conclusion was that the immediate threat to the Falklands was no greater than indicated in July 1981. Argentine patience was not yet exhausted. The best information available just before the New York talks stated that there would be no invasion unless the talks broke down and that no one service could act unilaterally in an invasion. No major military action was likely before the start of the southern summer in October. In fact this was a fair reflection of the state of Argentine thinking at the time. What had not been picked up, because planning was so tightly held, was that an actual invasion was under consideration. This idea was generally discounted. There was therefore little sense of urgency about the timing of a review of developments. So the press comment was set against assurances made to the US, as well as to the British Government, that Argentina continued to give priority to a negotiated settlement on sovereignty. There was evidence that some Argentines believed that they could exchange support from Washington on the Falklands in return for their backing of the Reagan administration’s Central American policy. While London did not think the perception accurate it was possible to see the dangers of the Americans getting thoroughly briefed by Buenos Aires while ignorant of British policy, especially if the issue did move to a major diplomatic forum, such as the General Assembly, later in the

Alarm bells


year. US Under-Secretary of State, Thomas Enders, was scheduled to visit Argentina in early March and he was briefed on British concerns before his departure in the hope that he could persuade his hosts not to raise tensions in the coming months. After the 2 March communiqué Luce, who had initially given Enders a more upbeat report on the New York talks, urged that this message be strengthened. There was in particular concern that the Junta appeared to believe that the US would turn a blind eye to any use of force. The briefing for him prepared by the US Embassy in Buenos Aires observed that the ‘Malvinas/Falklands and Beagle problems do not concern us directly’, but still emphasised the potential impact that they could have on the bilateral relationship with Argentina. The recent communiqué from the Junta was assessed as possibly to satisfy domestic opinion, though ‘we cannot be certain’, adding that ‘the local jingoes are speculating again about an armed Argentine landing in the Islands’. Enders reported back his impression that no ‘drastic’ action was being contemplated. In discussions, Argentine officials were ‘non-committal but not negative.’ There were also grounds for supposing that Argentina might not get its way in the General Assembly. The UN Committee of 24 had deferred consideration of the Falklands on an annual basis since 1976 because negotiations were continuing and this would be the first diplomatic port of call for Argentina. The Committee would then report to the Fourth Committee, which would then in turn report to the General Assembly. While there was no reason to doubt continuing substantial support for the Argentine position there were also a number of factors that could work against Argentina: the Junta’s poor reputation because of the level of ‘disappearances’ among its domestic opponents and Britain’s enhanced reputation because Zimbabwe and Belize had now been brought to independence. One relevant factor was the increasingly pro-American stance adopted by Argentina in relation to Central America that was causing irritation among the NonAligned Movement. This was not, however, an objection to Argentine policy with which Britain could make much play in its own lobbying efforts in the UN. It did raise the possibility that the Americans might be better placed than before to moderate Argentine policy on the Falklands. The prognosis was therefore at worst a steady deterioration in relations. The JIC analysis suggested that the risk was that if Britain continued to procrastinate in the negotiations, services to the Falklands might be cut, diplomatic relations might be broken and Argentina might be obliged to resort to force ‘between the middle and the end of the year’. The ‘diplomatic and secret reporting in recent weeks confirms that all elements of the Government apart from the Navy favour diplomatic action to solve the dispute and that the military option is not under active consideration at this time.’ There was nothing new in the Navy hard-line. ‘We have no reason to believe that the Navy have any prospect of either persuading the President or other Government members to adopt their proposed course of action or of going it alone.’ There was no need to review the July JIC paper. That could wait until a revision was due in April.

Contingency Planning None of this argued for a relaxed policy: only that there was time to prepare for the difficulties ahead. Policy-makers were also starting to take note, although not to the

The Official history of the falklands campaign


extent that much was done. The issue of contingency planning was revived in January after the La Prensa article of 24 January had been reported in the Observer on 31 January and picked up by Commander-in-Chief, Fleet, (CINCFLEET), Admiral Sir John Fieldhouse. He wondered about reinforcing the Royal Marine contingent in the Falklands and there seemed general uncertainty among the military as to what should be done if Argentina upped the ante. The FCO viewed this article as boding ill for New York but it still anticipated that the first Argentine step would be to withdraw services, despite noting that the military option was already popular with the Argentine public and press and so could not be excluded. Though MoD had conducted an analysis of Falklands options the previous summer, the fact that this had not penetrated the minds of senior officers was, in itself, an indication of the priority given to this issue. MoD was not keen to push ahead with a Joint Tasking Plan until the Defence Committee had met, but Fieldhouse remained unhappy about the inaction. This same article persuaded the Defence Attaché in Buenos Aires of the need for a report on the Argentine military threat. He also thought that Argentina might try to solve the problem once and for all in the latter part of the year. They might try to seize an outlying island but he saw the possibility of the outright seizure of the whole Falklands. As such an operation could cause casualties they might consider instead (or additionally) the airborne delivery of a small specialist force at Stanley followed by air or sea landing of marines, or else the clandestine delivery of an assault party in a scheduled LADE flight under cover. Hunt agreed that the clandestine assault would seem to be the most likely and had tightened up the immigration procedures at the airport accordingly. This was the most tangible local response to the increasing tension. When an Embassy official visited Stanley in mid-March he was struck by the number of armed marines greeting visitors. One senior islander expressed concern at the bad impression this created. It was, however, the Argentine communiqué that really caught London’s attention. On receiving the report from Williams, the Prime Minister minuted ‘we must make contingency plans.’ Ure had already reported on 5 March the view of the Cabinet Office that the Prime Minister wanted ‘the next OD [Defence and Oversea Policy Committee] paper on the Falklands to include Annexes on both civil and military contingency plans for counter-action against Argentina.’ It was Carrington’s view that the matter should go to OD as soon as there was a response from Argentina to the British position then being drafted. The Prime Minister wanted to know how quickly RN ships could be deployed. Other than Endurance, there was a guardship and frigate in the West Indies, undertaking trials, but they had no tanker support and could not reach the Falklands without access to ports on the South American coast. Similar problems would affect ships currently engaged in a NATO exercise off the Gulf of Mexico. Any reinforcements were thus at least twenty days away and RFA support would be needed. The Prime Minister’s minute was taken forward as a request to include something on the issue in the paper Carrington was then preparing for OD. The starting point for this work was that the previous, pessimistic analysis, that little could be done, still stood. Questions were asked about the minimum time in which a frigate could be deployed at a later date if a vessel had been earmarked, and whether it was still the case that an airlift was not practical. A note was prepared by MoD officials and passed on to Downing Street. It did not deal with the developing South Georgia situation, but instead followed the standard analysis of the dangers as had been set out the previous July by the JIC. The

Alarm bells


initial response by MoD was that there was insufficient reason to change the previous advice. The next potential naval deployment to the South Atlantic then under consideration was in Autumn 1983, eighteen months on. Anything earlier would sacrifice priority tasks. The only new suggestion was to introduce the possibility of a covert deployment of an SSN that could provide a degree of deterrence if made overt. On 19 March CINCFLEET was asked to look at options for a ‘mini-deployment’ to the Falklands in January 1983. Nott was shown the plans that day and judged them to be ‘very negative’, but nonetheless cleared them after meeting with the Naval Staff on 22 March.4 The FCO, in a paper to Luce, drew attention to ‘evidence from secret sources that, unless a satisfactory reply from HMG meeting Argentine conditions is received by the end of March at the latest, early action to withdraw Argentine services to the Islands may be taken’. The next day this was followed by a paper urging the need for advanced contingency planning on the withdrawal of services. Although, under agreements with Argentina, six months’ notice was to be given of any termination of the service, respect for this could not be assumed. The first draft paper on this contingency prepared by FCO went over familiar ground. There was no easy way to replace the air service, unless Chile was prepared to help. For any other country it would be necessary to extend the airfield, now put at £11 m at 1981 prices, and even then other Latin American countries would be unwilling to help. Flights from South Africa (described as ‘politically secure’) would require a runway extension at a cost of £16 m as well as a more substantial airport that could only be run with levels of expertise and resource unavailable in the Islands. The cost of a round trip to Chile would be £9,000 of which only a small amount could be recouped in fares. The prospect of getting Chile involved, envisaged by the Santiago Embassy, occasioned a sharp debate in the FCO. As this was a time of severe disagreement between Argentina and Chile there was reason to suppose that the Chileans might be disposed to help. But what might Chile want in return? A more sympathetic stance on the Beagle Channel, but Britain would be hard put to deliver the other ten members of the European Community to such a stance, and there was no disposition to take a high-profile position on a dispute from which Britain had only recently managed to extricate itself. A more sympathetic view on human rights might be possible, but ministers would be reluctant to argue that a point of principle be weakened to help resolve a practical difficulty. At the same time whatever temporary advantage was obtained from Chile could be lost if political circumstances changed. Even Chile had always supported the Argentine claim and when Ure had sounded them out the previous summer, they had not shown any interest in providing permanent facilities to Britain. However much there might be a short-term coincidence of interests over the long-term relations with Argentina were far more important to Chile than was Britain. Moreover Chile was well aware that it was militarily weaker than Argentina and it might be reluctant to become a pawn in this game. At the same time, even raising this option would be a major affront to the Argentines. It is of note, however, that it was probably fear of inciting a marriage of strategic convenience between London and Santiago that led Buenos Aires not to start by isolating the Islands but instead go straight to an occupation. To replace sea communications a commercial vessel would have to be chartered, but it would face the same political constraints if trying to get a service going with the

The Official history of the falklands campaign


mainland, while the return journey to South Africa or the UK could only be made about four times a year. The cost of a charter for the Atlantic crossing would be £8,000 per day. The service to St Helena cost £1.5 million per year and this would be even more expensive. All this effort would be to carry no more than 500 people in and out a year: if an air link was available the number of passengers carried would more than triple. A further problem was that fuel could not be carried on the same boat as passengers and general cargo. If Endurance were withdrawn MoD would have no requirement to replenish the diesel tanks. Extra medical services would also be required.5 So while on 25 March the Prime Minister agreed that officials should carry forward contingency planning for a sea service on an urgent basis, this was by no means a straightforward option. Turning to the military options, MoD repeated its well-established line. Argentina had some of the most efficient armed forces in South America. The Navy could boast an aircraft carrier and cruiser, four submarines, nine destroyers backed by amphibious ships, maritime patrol aircraft and offshore patrol vessels, and five marine battalions. It could mount a substantial naval or amphibious assault operation. The Navy had its own land and carrier based aircraft, while the Argentine Air Force had over 200 aircraft and Canberra bombers. Against this there was little that Endurance, the 42 Royal Marines plus the part-time Falkland Islands Defence Force could do. The problems of air reinforcement were as difficult as ever. Naval reinforcement would take time, especially if an operation of any scale was envisaged. The familiar options were examined, with the familiar conclusions. In a period of rising tension a SSN could be deployed to the region. If overtly, this could serve as a useful deterrent, but only pending the arrival of further naval reinforcements. A frigate could be deployed on a semi-permanent, deterrent basis, but this would require the use of two, to allow for maintenance and serviceability, plus RFAs in support. Once it was known that the force was on its way the initiative would still remain with the Argentines. Sending more men, for whatever contingency, would require amphibious assault craft and helicopter support, and a naval protection force, and the logistical demands would grow the longer it had to stay in position. For any permanent or semi-permanent reinforcement, a RM Commando group of 850 men including air defence capability of Blowpipe or Rapier as well as support from amphibious assault craft, helicopters, engineers and RN ships would be needed. Air support was desirable but only the Harrier could operate from Stanley airfield—deployment would pose formidable operational and logistical problems. Invincible and Hermes, if available, could provide Sea Harrier air cover and support helicopters but such deployment was costly. To deter a large scale invasion a balanced force would be required: Invincible or Hermes with a Landing Platform Dock (LPD) and Landing Ship Logistic (LSL), four destroyers/frigates, plus an SSN, supply ships in attendance and additional manpower, up to brigade strength, to reinforce the garrison. This force would be expensive, would be battling against time and its ‘despatch could well precipitate the very action it was intended to deter’: Argentine national pride would demand a maximal response. Their geographical advantage and the relative sophistication of their armed forces would put our own task group to a serious disadvantage, relying as it would on extended lines of communication.

Alarm bells


By the time this was sent to Downing Street, the risk of serious action was growing. A covering note made clear that ‘our scope for effective military action in response to whatever the Argentinians may do is extremely limited, and that almost anything we could do would be too late and/or extremely expensive.’ At the start of March British and Argentine perceptions of the likely schedule for the crisis were converging. On 9 March the Junta decided to reconsider the issue on 1 April; if Britain had not produced a response by then one would be demanded the following day. After another two weeks all the relevant documents would be published and the occasion of the UN’s Special Session on Disarmament would be used to denounce Britain. The full Argentine case would be put to the General Assembly in October. The British were working to the same timetable. The crunch would come in the autumn, probably after the next UN General Assembly meeting. It might take the form of an invasion, but it was more likely that there would be another seizure of one of the uninhabited islands of the Dependencies or else a severance of communications between Argentina and the Falklands. An intelligence assessment was being prepared, and a Defence Committee meeting organised for early April. Then some hard decisions might have to be taken. After the war the failure of the Defence Committee to address these issues was remarked upon for it had not met on the issue since 29 January 1981. Carrington had raised the need for OD to meet before the New York negotiations, and the date of 17 March had been pencilled in by the Secretariat. The meeting was however to be coupled with discussions on Northern Ireland and the Defence White Paper, and neither department was quite ready. Then Northern Ireland was deemed important enough for an OD meeting all to itself, on 26 March. Inquiries from the Secretariat to FCO until well into March suggested that a paper for discussion was not yet ready and the assumption was that the meeting would take place in April. As late as 26 March it was scheduled for 22 April. There was still no reason to suppose that these decisions might be so urgent that early April would turn out to be too late. The policy was still to play for time. As a response to the Argentine communiqué the British decided to express their disappointment about the official statements and the unofficial press reports, and to seek confirmation that discussions could only proceed without prejudice to either side’s position on sovereignty and without a background of threats. Buenos Aires was to be warned that by raising emotions, particularly in the Islands, they had made it harder rather than easier for Britain to move quickly. A draft was prepared on 5 March and sent to the Islands for clearance a few days later, where it was agreed by the Island Council on 16 March, a decision reported back the next day. The intention was then to send the message, but it was now the weekend and it was thought that this was a message best delivered on a working day. By this time South Georgia had intervened and it was thought best to wait before sending it. As it was not clear what Britain was going to say or do at any talks there had been no desire to rush. The assumption had been that the Argentine response to the letter would provide the best guide for a discussion at the Defence Committee. In a personal letter to Luce, sent on 19 March, Ambassador Williams argued that the Argentines had made a mistake by sabre-rattling so soon, because that had given Britain a moral advantage which could be used to delay a response. He still hoped, however, that the response should be ‘challenging rather than negative.’ To explain how it was that

The Official history of the falklands campaign


Britain could claim to be travelling in good faith when apparently so reluctant to arrive, he argued for a stress on the need to re-establish democracy. It was hard to make a commitment to a regime operating under a ‘state of emergency.’ This was better than just waiting for the islanders to change their minds, although he praised the role taken by the islander representatives at the talks and thought a useful signal might be sent all round if he made his own visit to Stanley during April. Meanwhile he was taking the line that Britain was not perturbed by press speculation about recourse to forceful measures—‘we know the current team to be much too intelligent to do anything so silly.’ By the time the letter, sent on 19 March, arrived at the FCO it could be annotated by the South American Department ‘overtaken by events.’


Britain was caught completely unprepared by the Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands on 2 April 1982 because the decision was not taken until 26 March when the Junta’s timetable was brought forward. This dramatic decision was the result of a sudden crisis over the unauthorised presence of Argentine personnel on South Georgia. The essential triviality of the South Georgia episode misled the British Government, and most spectators to the unfolding drama, for at the core of this dispute were issues of principle fundamental to the underlying Anglo-Argentine conflict in the South Atlantic. The requirement that Argentines must seek permission to enter territory and obtain the necessary documentation was a demand to acknowledge British sovereignty. Special white cards had been issued under the 1971 Communications Agreement for transfer between the Falklands and the mainland. They had effectively taken travel to and from the mainland outside of the sovereignty dispute although, as substitutes for a proper passport, they were a source of immense irritation to the islanders. It had always been the Argentine view, but not the British, that these should also apply to the Dependencies. In the Falklands the British authorities were in a position to monitor the performance of these arrangements. In the Dependencies there were no special arrangements for Argentine access that avoided the sovereignty issue while the lack of a permanent British presence created the temptation for the Argentines to ignore procedures. South Thule had already demonstrated Britain’s inability to do much about a deliberate flouting of its sovereignty over a completely uninhabited island. In South Georgia the presence of the British Antarctic Survey meant that it was less likely that an Argentine transgression would go unnoticed. As it happens the BAS position had itself looked to be increasingly delicate. While the Survey carried out legitimate and important scientific research, its presence had been seen since 1965 a means of asserting the British presence at Grytviken, given that the shore whaling stations had by then been closed. The National Environmental Research Council had then opened a scientific station and the Foreign Office paid a modest annual grant in recognition of the administrative functions performed. Almost as MoD was deciding to pay off Endurance in 1981, NERC was concluding that in the light of increased financial stringency it could no longer afford to sustain the BAS station at Grytviken. The FCO had immediately seen the danger of leaving the most significant of the Dependencies unattended. The compromise reached envisaged that the station would remain open, albeit with fewer personnel, and that it should be funded from the revenue

The Official history of the falklands campaign


received by the Falkland Islands Government for the sales of Dependencies stamps. This source of revenue was unlikely to be adequate over the long term, but for the moment this was an expedient solution to the problem. With hindsight, therefore, it can be seen that this was a natural flash-point. This apparently marginal piece of land, of very little intrinsic value, outside the natural line of vision of government, raised the sovereignty issue with great clarity the moment an Argentine citizen stepped ashore. There was also a high probability of escalation for on South Georgia the British presence was sufficient to be aware of any trespass but insufficient to do much about it without reinforcement.

Project Alpha In 1975 a director of an Edinburgh firm, Christian Salvesen Co., wrote to the FCO that his company owned two old whaling harbours on South Georgia and was trying to acquire two more from an Argentine who owned them. ‘It is a long shot, but I think that sometime in the future there may be use for these bases, either for fishing or for oil.’ He added ‘I hope that HMG will not absentmindedly hand it over to Argentina.’ In 1978, Mr. Constantino Davidoff who ran a private Argentine company, Georgias del Sur S.A., sought permission from Christian Salvesen to remove the equipment at the remnants of the whaling stations at Leith, Stromness and Husvik on South Georgia. The then Governor of the Falklands advised against allowing an Argentine national to become involved in this way. It would be difficult to remove any long-term Argentine presence from the island. The makings of another South Thule could be discerned. The Embassy in Buenos Aires had no intelligence to indicate that there was anything sinister about Davidoff but viewed him as an entrepreneur whose interests were entirely commercial. Having taken legal advice, the FCO decided that there was no basis to interfere, other than to insist on the laws of the Dependencies being observed. In 1980 Davidoff exercised his option to buy the equipment, for £105,000, and dispose of it. Nothing much was then heard from him until the end of 1981. In August 1981 Davidoff applied to use Antarctic transport ships of the Argentine Navy. This was not an unusual arrangement, but it was also not hard to see what was in it for the Navy. They would be able to make regular runs to South Georgia, under a legal contract, adding to their presence in the disputed territories while pointing to the possibilities of joint ventures with British companies in the South Atlantic. Even at this level everything was still above board. At another level here was an opportunity for those naval officers who wished to establish another base on the Dependencies on South Thule lines. This was Project Alpha. It was established, in September 1981, just after Davidoff first request for passage on a Naval Transport. The idea was to mingle military personnel with Davidoff’s workforce so that they would then be part of a ‘legal’ landing party on South Georgia. Later they would be joined by a group of Marines who would set up a permanent military base of some 14 men from April—just after Endurance was scheduled to depart the South Atlantic. By the time the British realised what had happened it would be too late for them to respond. Thereafter the Argentine presence would be asserted by broadcasts of weather and navigational reports.1

South Georgia


On 16 December Davidoff left Buenos Aires aboard Almirante Irizar, a Naval icebreaker of the Antarctic Squadron, captained by Captain Ceásar Trombetta. They arrived five days later and inspected the whaling stations in Stromness Bay. Given that Project Alpha involved an attempt to acquire sovereignty by subterfuge, the Argentines went about the business in a strange way, acting to encourage rather than calm British suspicions. The Navy apparently wanted to see what they could get away with, so the letter to the British Embassy providing details of Davidoff’s date of sailing was vague, arrived after his departure, and did not seek clearance for the Almirante Irizar. The icebreaker maintained radio silence en route and did not notify the Magistrate at King Edward Point, Grytviken on arrival. (The commander of the British Antarctica Survey base was designated the Magistrate to indicate crown authority. King Edward Point was the official point of entry where Customs and Immigration clearance was obtained.) Davidoff may have considered it a nuisance to go to Grytviken before Leith Harbour, especially as he was only stopping off for four hours. He might have assumed that in all probability nobody would notice. The late letter to the Embassy informed of his intended visit but not of his means of travel, although there was reference to using a launch to move along the coast. After the party had left, the leader of the BAS team, who was also the Magistrate, visited Leith on 23 December to find a wall that now carried the legend ‘Las Malvinas son Argentinas’, dated 20 December. On receiving this news Hunt, already suspicious of this enterprise, advised London to make a strong protest and start proceedings against Davidoff. The Foreign Office was more cautious, but agreed that Davidoff must respect the formalities in the future. The misdemeanour could be explained by the desire to avoid the extra journey to Grytviken. So stronger action was not considered advisable. This risked ‘provoking a most serious incident which could escalate and have an unforeseeable outcome’. On 4 January the British Ambassador was instructed to make a formal protest. Having at first denied all knowledge, the MFA later confirmed the visit. The Ambassador then lodged a formal complaint on 9 February. This had been a violation of British sovereignty. If a further attempt were made to land without proper authority, the British Government reserved the right to take whatever action necessary. Nine days later Argentina rejected this complaint.2 In late December HMS Endurance had entered the Argentine port of Ushuaia. It had been thought sensible that Endurance should use her last trip to look at the Argentine naval bases, which had not been visited for some time—in the case of Ushuaia not for fifteen years. From the Argentine perspective the timing was not propitious. The Almirante Irizar, having returned from South Georgia, was about to leave for South Thule, where it was to deposit some Marines (as part of Project Alpha). This was not the sort of information Captain Trombetta, commanding the Antarctic Squadron, was anxious to share with the British. Captain Nick Barker of Endurance thus noted that he was receiving a generally ‘cold’ reception, and that local personnel had been ordered ‘not to fraternise with the British.’ His suspicions were further aroused when Trombetta lied about the destination of the Almirante Irizar, for he soon tracked it sailing to South Thule instead of its Belgrano base. They would have been aroused further had he known about the Marines. Barker sent back a report, referring also to the observation by a ‘notoriously pro-British pilot’ that ‘something is very wrong with my Navy’ There was sufficient evidence, he judged, ‘to sound warning note particularly in light of forthcoming

The Official history of the falklands campaign


sovereignty talks.’ The report was widely circulated in London, but it had no great effect, as there was no evident consistency in the pattern of Argentine behaviour. The Endurance was welcomed at later port visits in Argentina and there were no reports of any actual preparations for direct military action. Barker next reported, on 1 February after his visit to Punta Arenas, that the Chilean Navy had confirmed frequently the belligerent and arrogant attitude of Argentina towards sovereignty issues, both towards Beagle Channel and the Falklands. Yet when Endurance called at Mar del Plata in Argentina for a two week self maintenance period from 4–22 February, it received the usual friendly reception, both from the local community and from Argentine Naval Officers. It was precisely because of the risk of awkward encounters, in the light of the imminent New York talks, that the MFA in Buenos Aires questioned the wisdom of Project Alpha. The new Junta was developing its own strategy for the Falklands, across which Alpha could cut. Another South Thule operation might have made sense to boost morale on the presumption that the big prize—of the Falklands—lay beyond Argentina’s grasp. But the Junta was after the big prize and South Georgia would be very much a second best. Alpha also risked alerting Britain, possibly to the point where it would reinforce its position on the Falklands, and so frustrate plans for a later invasion. For all these reasons Costa Mendez wanted the project deferred, and the Navy appeared to agree. Davidoff was told to postpone his next visit to South Georgia, at least until after the New York talks. The decision appears to have been ambiguous. If the Davidoff visit could go ahead in March, then Alpha had not necessarily been abandoned. Whatever the decisions taken at the top of the Government it seems that those who had originally developed the project decided that the opportunity provided by Davidoff’s next visit was simply irresistible. Once the New York talks were over the Argentine Navy agreed, without further consultation with the MFA, to provide Davidoff with a new transport. Before that, while attention was focused on New York, there was one curious incident. On 13 February a Panamanian registered yacht, Caiman, with an Argentine crew, but flying the Union Jack as well as the Panamanian and Belgian flags, was chanced upon at Leith. None on board spoke English but all were friendly. They had inspected Leith and Stromness whaling stations, where they appeared to have stolen food boxes and cooking utensils from BAS accommodation. The Magistrate ordered the yacht to proceed to Grytviken and stayed on board. The Yacht’s master, an Argentine bank employee called Adrian Marchessi, claimed an association with Davidoff. There was no paperwork but he seemed knowledgeable, confirming the details of Davidoff’s visit in December, and also reporting on two earlier irregular Argentine visits in 1971 and 1977. His task, he said, was to make an independent assessment and inspection, and to take back samples of salvageable materials. A broadcast from the Caiman to Buenos Aires was picked up in which the Master provided details of the BAS base and administration, and advised the quick confirmation of the contract. Davidoff later claimed that Marchessi was a commercial competitor, or else he may have been trying to sustain work on the contract while it was delayed for political reasons. Certainly Davidoff was under pressure to get the contract completed. On 23 February, he arrived at the British Embassy in Buenos Aires apologising for the trouble and seeking to repair relations. He reported that he intended to return to South Georgia on 10 March with a group of some 30 people, and would stay for six months, and would arrive on the

South Georgia


Bahia Buen Suceso or the Isla de Los Estados. He was told to comply with the appropriate formalities. No objections to a further visit were received from London or Stanley, although in the latter case this was because Hunt needed to consult with the Base Commander at Grytviken who was en route to South Georgia at the time. On 10 March the Embassy received a letter from Davidoff confirming that the Argentine Navy would take 41 men to South Georgia. The plan was that they would stay for four months. The next day they left with the Bahia Buen Suceso. The Embassy sought, unsuccessfully, to contact Davidoff to remind him of his obligations. Davidoff’s lawyer sent the Embassy some information, but this was incomplete as not all the team was listed nor were full details of the ship provided. The Embassy reminded the lawyer of the need to report to King Edward Point for entry purposes. It did not. Instead, once again the Argentine Navy travelled in radio silence and went straight to Leith, where the vessel arrived on 18 March and began to unload supplies. The legal formalities were undoubtedly anathema to the Argentine Navy. If they had been subtler, and not aroused British suspicions, then Project Alpha could have been implemented with ease. As it was the boat was spotted before it had left. The Magistrate had inspected Leith on 16 March and deposited a notice saying ‘British Antarctic Survey…Leith Field station…Unauthorised Entry Prohibited.’ On 18 March another BAS group en route to Leith to repair the new depot in the Customs House heard some Spanish communications. They arrived on 19 March to find the Bahia Buen Suceso in Leith Harbour and reported back to Grytviken. The information was immediately passed on to the Governor, who knew the ship as a regular visitor to Stanley bringing fuel supplies. The BAS field party heard shooting that evening and again in the morning, probably for reindeer (a protected species). In the morning they went to meet the intruders. They arrived at the site to find a reindeer being barbecued, about 50 men in the vicinity, some wearing civilian clothes and others in para-military Alpine type white uniforms, an Argentine flag flying from outside an adjacent switch tower, and the BAS notice defaced.3 Two from the BAS party went to the ship and asked for the Captain. They told him that his presence at Leith was illegal and that he should proceed to Grytviken. The Captain insisted that he had clearance from the Foreign Office and offered the BAS men food and accommodation on board, which was declined. As the BAS men left they noticed a powerful radio-transmitter and preparations for an electricity supply. The Customs House outer door had recently been smashed in and six of eight BAS food boxes had been opened and their contents were in disorder. On learning of this new intrusion Governor Rex Hunt’s response was immediate. He instructed BAS to return the next morning with a clear message for the ship’s Captain: You have landed illegally at Leith without obtaining clearance. You and your party must go back on board the Bahia Buen Suceso immediately and report to the base commander Grytviken for further instructions You must remove the Argentine flag from Leith You must not interfere with the British Antarctic Survey depot at Leith You must not alter or deface the notices at Leith No military personnel are allowed to land on South Georgia. No firearms are to be taken ashore.

The Official history of the falklands campaign


The BAS team were told that Davidoff was not on board but that he had sent presents (fruit and vegetables) for BAS. The Captain was advised that the ship should go to Grytviken to deliver these. The shore party (as Davidoff had indicated) apparently intended to remain 16 weeks and preparations for a long stay were evident. The team departed at 0815 after securing a cupboard and the internal door of Customs House with padlocks. The Argentine flag was lowered at about this time. Details were passed to HMS Endurance on the evening of 20 March.

The British response Even before this news Stanley was already starting to detect a disturbing pattern of Argentine activity. First there had been the communiqué. That had been followed in early March by some suspicious air activity. A visitor to Stanley found overflights by Argentine aircraft a frequent topic of conversation, with speculation that flights had been re-routed deliberately by the Argentine Air Force as a matter of course. Overflights of the Islands and the Dependencies were quite regular, and could be seen as an assertion of sovereignty as well as intelligence gathering. They seemed to be more frequent that March. In early March a Learjet transporting an Argentine officer to Stanley circled over the town, ostensibly because of undercarriage problems, and, when it eventually landed, appeared to have something that looked very much like a reconnaissance pod. On 6 March an unidentified aircraft overflew Stanley early in the morning and there was a further overflight on 8 March. The day in between, on 7 March, a landing by a C-130 at Stanley airport had ‘given people the jitters.’ This being a Sunday the control tower was not manned and it was only because of a local ham operator that there was any warning of its arrival. A contingent of Marines were there to meet it, but the incident demonstrated how the Argentine military might attempt an unannounced landing. When this incident was reported back to London, RAF engineers consulted judged this to be a genuine emergency landing, as fuel had been leaking, but questions were still raised about Argentine motives. The FCO observed to Stanley that the incident showed ‘how easily the Argentines could, if they wished, mount an attack on the Islands.’ Hunt had immediately assessed the new event as an Argentine attempt to establish a permanent presence on South Georgia. After all that had been said to Davidoff last time he had shown a blatant disregard for the agreed procedures. In the face of this provocation a resolute response was necessary. On his own authority Hunt had already told the landing party that they should leave. He now advised London that if they stayed Endurance should sail to South Georgia with a RM detachment, creating the option of removing the intruders and at least providing support for the BAS Base Commander. In this context he also noted that the Marines were due for roulement the next week at Montevideo and their replacements were due to leave Britain on 23 March. The signal from the Governor arrived in London at 1318 on 20 March. From Ambassador Williams in Buenos Aires came more cautious advice. He had spoken to Blanco in the Argentine MFA and impressed him with the gravity of the situation, warning ‘that swift action would be needed if a reaction on our side was not to be set in train.’ On this basis the Ambassador agreed there would be an advantage in sending Endurance to the scene, but, he suggested, ‘great restraint be used at least until it is clear

South Georgia


whether this is a deliberate challenge or just a piece of low-level bravura combined with Davidoff’s well-known fecklessness.’ These alternative views were weighed in London. Was another protest sufficient? Would it be satisfactory if the violation was now remedied by the formalities being observed by the Argentines at Grytviken or should the Base Commander order them to leave? Deliberations at the FCO continued through the afternoon. At 1630 a message was sent to Hunt, agreeing his instructions to the base commander and advising that further action was under consideration. He was also requested for details of the armaments on the ship that had landed the Argentine party and whether action such as the despatch of the Endurance was likely to leak. FCO Minister Richard Luce’s inclination, when he was contacted by telephone on the Saturday afternoon was to try to devise a formula that could legitimise the Argentine party’s presence.4 At 1755, with Jerry Wiggin, Minister of State at the Ministry of Defence, Luce decided that for the moment Endurance would stay in situ pending a reply from Hunt. This soon came, at 1813. The defence capability of the Argentine ship was nil, and there were no other forces in the area, but he was not promising secrecy. Radio hams could well pick up his conversations with the BAS. Furthermore, the journey to South Georgia would take Endurance two days and four hours. Luce thought the situation sufficiently serious to bring in Lord Carrington, who in turn contacted the Prime Minister. They were informed of the situation at 1955, as the Argentine Ambassador was summoned. Luce indicates that the Prime Minister was keen ‘to demonstrate that we were concerned, that Britain did mind about it, and we could not allow this sort of thing to happen’.5 The Buenos Aires Embassy told the Argentine MFA how seriously this incident was viewed and issued a threat: if the Bahia Buen Suceso did not leave, Britain would take any action deemed necessary. At a time when the negotiations between the two sides were at such a delicate stage, ‘it would be hard to understand if the Argentine government endorsed the incident’. The same message was given to the Argentine Chargé d’Affairs in London. The politicians were sensitive to letting the matter pass. Both Carrington and Luce had criticised the previous Government over the South Thule affair so they were very sensitive to the development of something similar on South Georgia. Ministers were nervous that if they paid no attention this time there could be a more serious misunderstanding later on. That evening the heads of the FCO’s South American Department and MoD’s DS5 met and then, at 2200, gained ministerial approval for Endurance to sail with the Royal Marines as decided by the Governor. This decision was relayed to Stanley by the FCO and to Endurance by CINCFLEET.6 Endurance duly sailed from Stanley in the afternoon of 21 March, having embarked its helicopters and brought its RM detachment to platoon strength. Barker also asked MoD to make alternative arrangements for roulement of the Falklands RM detachment (NP 8901) whose reliefs were due at Montevideo on 24 March. Endurance’s instructions were as much concerned with intelligence gathering as putting pressure on the Argentine party. The intention was not necessarily to eject the Argentines but to provide more options if attempts to resolve the incident proved difficult. For the moment there was to be no attempt at coercion. On the contrary, Barker was told to keep his destination confidential.

The Official history of the falklands campaign


As a covert move the despatch of Endurance was doomed from the start. Captain Adolfo A.Gaffoglio, the Argentine representative at Stanley, had picked up the rumours about South Georgia and reported back to Buenos Aires on the agitated state of the islanders, and also that, on 21 March Endurance had left the harbour with the Marines on board. The same day he discovered that the LADE office had been broken into and a British flag had been placed over the Argentine one. A message was written on his desk—in toothpaste—which read: ‘tit for tat, you buggers’. It took some consultation with a dictionary for Gaffoglio to appreciate fully the sentiment. This incident was not taken that seriously in Stanley, and only reported back to London on 23 March, but it was seized upon by the Argentines as a ‘parallel insult’ to their action. A formal complaint was made and assurances of a proper investigation requested. The culprits were not found, although Marines were suspected. As for the problem on South Georgia, the incident appears to have caught the Argentine MFA by surprise, as it had not been asked for permission for the Bahia Buen Suceso’s journey. Meanwhile Ambassador Ortiz de Rozas was away from London, where he had at any rate been spending little time, and so was not able to provide any useful advice. Costa Mendez wanted to play the matter down, denying any attempt to set up a new base but also the validity of the British complaint over entry procedures. This was reflected in the formal Argentine response, which also promised that the Bahia Buen Suceso would soon be leaving, and that the party was in no way official, without service personnel or military arms. Williams hoped that this would be enough to defuse the incident, even though there had been no apology from Argentina. From this the FCO appear to have got the impression that the Bahia Buen Suceso would be taking away the landing party, despite the evidence sent by the BAS team of preparations for a long stay. On this assumption the FCO were content that the matter could be closed. This turned out to be a crucial misapprehension. The JIC staff had not been consulted on the Saturday. When they met on Monday, 22 March, with the crisis apparently blowing over, they decided that this was a minor and localised incident that did not warrant an early assessment. Events that day tended to confirm this sanguine view. A BAS observation post had been established overlooking Stromness Bay early on 21 March. That evening (1900) they heard the siren of the Bahia Buen Suceso as she left, and the next morning, the 22 March, the Harbour was empty. There was no sign of the shore party although salvage equipment and many other items remained. This message was transmitted back to London via the Falklands. With the departure of the ship confirmed, Endurance was instructed to resume her normal duties. In fact 39 salvage workers had been left. The British wanted to mark the end of what they assumed to have been a wellmanaged mini-crisis. As rumours were rife in the Falklands, which meant that they would soon get back to London, the best way to achieve this was a communiqué. This would report that Argentine workers had landed without documentation in Leith but that the Argentine Government had given securities to the effect that they would be evacuated. The press statement reported that: HMG sought immediate clarification of this incident…. The Argentine Government have now informed us that the ship left for South Georgia on

South Georgia


21 March. We are awaiting confirmation of this from the Base Commander. This was more ambiguous than the previous draft which stated: The Argentine Government has since said that both the ship and the party will be leaving South Georgia soon. The supplementary press guidance noted that if they did not leave ‘we shall take whatever action is necessary.’ It was released at 1230 on 22 March. When Fearn saw Molteni, the Argentine Chargé d’Affairs, on 22 March the impression was reinforced, although Molteni said he was not sure whether ‘all personnel had left with the ship but assumed this to be the case.’ Because of this Williams was told that the press briefing around the statement would seek to keep the affair in context. ‘There is no question of an Argentine invasion!’ Molteni wanted the communiqué to include a paragraph to the effect that the Argentine ship had already departed, that it was not a warship but a naval transport vessel, without service personnel or weapons on board, helping with a legitimate commercial enterprise. When the communiqué was issued, without this amendment, on the evening of 22 May, this apparently angered the Argentine side. More seriously, either version left out the rather crucial fact that the workmen had not left and were not intending to do so. The result was that the issue was brought into the open immediately, before the crisis had in fact been resolved. The communiqué led to a strong reaction in the British media the next day. This in turn led to an Argentine communiqué that reported that the Bahia Buen Suceso had left Leith but added that it had disembarked the workers and material belonging to a commercial enterprise in South Georgia under a valid contract. After reporting that the harbour was empty on 22 March, the BAS observation post reported later that day that some Argentines were still at Leith. At least ten men had been seen. This disturbing news was confirmed when Williams visited the MFA hoping to hear better news. He was told instead that some salvage workers were still there. All he could do was insist that they should leave as well. But with the Bahia Buen Suceso gone that would now be very difficult. Williams could see the danger immediately. ‘I strongly recommend that if contractors men are still there, every effort is made to regularise their position retrospectively and to allow work to carry on. It would be wholly counterproductive to send them back here for heroes.’ He wanted the matter to be treated as ‘irregular behaviour by a business interest rather than something intergovernmental.’ Again contradictory advice came from Stanley. Hunt and Barker were together at the house of the Cable & Wireless operator, at a party for the officers of Endurance, when the news from South Georgia came through, and together in the kitchen they ‘concocted’ a response. First Hunt asserted that Davidoff was not a casual scrap-dealer and unless something was done about this incident more illegal landings would surely follow. To the BAS report he appended his view that Endurance should now be instructed to proceed with the removal of the Argentine personnel at Leith. Then Barker weighed in by recalling for London’s benefit ‘indications of collusion between Sr. Davidoff and the Argentine Navy,’ referring back to his signal of 8 January. He mentioned three occasions in recent weeks on which C-130 aircraft had overflown South Georgia. Furthermore he

The Official history of the falklands campaign


noted that before Bahia Buen Suceso had arrived at Leith it had observed strict radio silence. He had picked up a message from Naval headquarters in Buenos Aires congratulating the Bahia Buen Suceso on a successful operation, and directing her to return to Buenos Aires as soon as possible. This was clearly much more than a commercial operation and was the result of ‘considerable planning’. He challenged the FCO view that Davidoff was ‘just a commercial contractor failing to obtain the required authorisation and making an illegal landing.’ The incident, he believed, had ‘all the trappings of a cunning plot’: I do not wish to exaggerate this situation but Argentina has been flexing her muscles over the sovereignty of the Dependencies and it is well known that South Georgia could become important in the future. Therefore to use Davidoff as a scapegoat towards furthering aspiration was a good opportunity to test British reaction. The immediate FCO reaction was scribbled on the top of the incoming report—‘more Barkerisms.’ The second reaction was more circumspect. The news on radio silence and the congratulatory message, and now the evidence that, despite assurances, some workers were still there, was starting to make it hard to dismiss the incident as an unfortunate example of a reluctance to get papers stamped at Grytviken. Furthermore, there was yet another message, this time from Lord Buxton, a peer with a long interest in the Falklands, who was visiting Stanley. He had met Costa Mendez while in Buenos Aires a few weeks earlier. He reported on his meeting to the Embassy and later sent an account to Richard Luce. In a telegram sent to the FCO on 22 March7 he reported his impression that an ‘open attack was unlikely but that casual unopposed landings were probable.’ He urged that Davidoff’s contract be rescinded—‘although I understand that ship and men are now reported to have left Leith, may I urge that Endurance checks out thoroughly to confirm that no Argentines remain in South Georgia.’ It was, he suggested, ‘naïve to regard Davidoff as a casual scrap dealer and it is abundantly clear that every move has been carefully researched, planned and timed throughout… If our reaction is placatory and is not firm and final this time I predict that more unopposed illegal landings will follow and probably next time somewhere in the Falklands.’ All this added up to a difficult situation. The Argentine expedition was mischievous, but there was no easy way now to bring it to a conclusion. With the inaccurate estimate of only ten Argentines to be evacuated, removal by Endurance appeared to be an option. Luce agreed that preparations should be made for this. Detailed instructions were sent to Endurance, should approval be given, on how to remove the Argentines and their equipment: they were to be taken to the Falklands but the exercise should be as low-key as possible with minimum force and no opportunity provided to the Argentine Government to ‘over-dramatise’ the incident. Firearms were for self-defence rather than to compel the Argentines to withdraw. If there was any resistance the party would withdraw to ship and seek further guidance. Only as a last resort should the Argentine party be placed under confinement on board ship. Barker should also be prepared to hand them over to Bahia Buen Suceso, should that turn up.

South Georgia


If Endurance had moved to South Georgia expeditiously and carried out this instruction at once then it might just have been possible to confront Argentina with a fait accompli, which would have left them annoyed and caused a crisis of sorts in AngloArgentine relations, but would not necessarily have escalated further for the moment. Any hesitation, however, created opportunities for Argentine interference in the operation to the point where it could soon become too dangerous for the British to proceed. The grounds for hesitation were, unfortunately, impressive. The Embassy in Buenos Aires argued strongly for hesitation. Williams reported the surprise of Costa Mendez that ‘HMG was proceeding so rapidly to such very grave action.’ If the MFA lost control of the situation ‘harsh action will produce a harsh response.’ To this Williams added his own warning: ‘as seen from here, this spectacular reaction to a piece of trivial and low-level misbehaviour could well, in the current atmosphere do lasting damage to the whole structure of our future bilateral relations.’ The FCO replied that there was little choice to take action because, contrary to previous assurances, the men were still there. Endurance would arrive at Leith the next day, 24 March, to take the men on board and return them to Argentina via Stanley. ‘Our intention is to conduct this operation correctly, peacefully and in as low a key as possible. We hope that the Argentine Government will, if they are able to do so, advise the Argentine workmen at Leith to co-operate.’ More trouble was presaged by further information: ‘In view of the considerable public interest here ministers will be making a statement in Parliament today on the situation and on the action we are taking.’ There would, however, be no direct reference to Endurance’s role. Williams was told that ‘any lesser action than we are now taking would not be defensible to public and parliamentary opinion.’ It was no longer possible to develop options covertly or wait for better information. Everything now had to be done in the face of the media—one paper’s headline ran ‘Argentine Invasion Of South Georgia Islands’—and parliamentary interest. On 23 March Luce reported to the House of Commons: We were informed on 20 March by the Commander of the British Antarctic Survey based at Grytviken on South Georgia that a party of Argentines had landed at Leith nearby. The Base Commander informed the Argentine party that its presence was illegal as it had not obtained his prior authority for the landing. We immediately took the matter up with the Argentine authorities in Buenos Aires and the Argentine Embassy in London and, following our approach, the ship and most of the personnel left on 21 March. However, the base Commander has reported that a small number of men and some equipment remain. We are therefore making arrangements to ensure their early departure. He promised ‘firm action’ but he could be no more specific than to say that Endurance with a RM detachment was ‘in the area.’ Inevitably the issue of the Falklands more generally came up in questions. Luce reaffirmed that ‘the islanders’ wishes are paramount’ and that ‘it is the duty of this Government and of any British Government to defend and support the islanders to the best of their ability’.8 To the hawks in the Commons the statement was not impressive. Alan Clark’s diary describes MoD Minister

The Official history of the falklands campaign


Jerry Wiggins as giving ‘the show away immediately’ by describing the South Atlantic as ‘outside the NATO area’: In other words we (or at least the MoD) don’t give a toss. Half an hour later Richard [Luce] was almost swamped. At least thirty people on their feet—including Jim Callaghan—a rare intruder—and Denis Healey. Richard stuck to his brief. A few slices of pure FCO-speak—‘I much regret that some of the action which has been taken has not created a helpful atmosphere…’, and he repeated the Argentine claim that the whole operation was ‘commercial’, although having to admit that the ship which carried the ‘scrap dealers’ was a naval one! Clark reported the whips fussing, and the possibility of an adjournment debate raised. ‘We’ve got the whole thing opened now. Clearly the Labour Party are also indignant, and if she [Mrs Thatcher] doesn’t get the Argentines out by next week there will be a major disturbance.’9 Once again parliamentary activism had hardened the British stance without addressing the consequences. Later Williams would blame the ‘high tone we adopted in our notification and public announcement (on which this Embassy was not consulted) about measures being taken to remove the Argentine workmen’ that turned the Junta. Whatever his misgivings he dutifully passed on the message to the MFA about the imminent British action. Not surprisingly this did not go down well. The Ambassador suggested that Costa Mendez explore how the Bahia Buen Suceso might return to South Georgia to take the men and so render the journey of Endurance unnecessary, but the possibility of a low-key response by either side had been ruled out by the media attention. Costa Mendez observed: ‘It is all in the press today.’ Having set a course and given every indication of what it might be, to the point where it had begun to generate a strong reaction, London equivocated. Carrington decided that Endurance should proceed to Grytviken instead of Leith and await instructions while a compromise was worked out with Buenos Aires. When Endurance arrived at Grytviken on 24 March it was instructed not to enter, nor conduct any naval operations in the vicinity of Leith harbour. Ure was concerned that if the Argentines were taken off South Georgia they be treated courteously at Stanley and not subjected to any offensive demonstrations or molestation. The Foreign Secretary also warned the Prime Minister that the situation had developed to the point where we may ‘now face the prospect of an early confrontation with Argentina.’ At this point his plan was to send a message to Buenos Aires, agreeing to a Negotiating Commission, so long as it covered all aspects of and possible approaches to the dispute and was without prejudice to either side’s position on sovereignty, without any predetermined conclusions as to the outcome, and without any threats of action should they break down. Once a reply was received he intended to publish his text to prove the reasonableness of the British Government. As this was unlikely to satisfy Argentina there was a risk that they might move quickly to cut off the essential services to the Islands. The best response he judged to be the provision of a sea service probably at a cost comparable to that provided to St. Helena.

South Georgia


Worried that the situation was getting out of hand, Carrington decided to attempt a quick compromise. He sent a message to Costa Mendez: In view of the high emotional tone that this incident has created in the United Kingdom (as your Chargé d’Affairs has witnessed today in the Houses of Parliament), it is now essential for the Argentine personnel that still remains in South Georgia to be evacuated promptly. If the Argentine Government can order the immediate return of the Bahia Buen Suceso to Leith Harbour to carry out this action, the use of HMS Endurance will not be necessary. If this is not done, we would have no alternative but to proceed. We hope that the Argentine government will let us know as soon as possible when we can expect the Bahia Buen Suceso’s return. Our principal objective now is to avoid that this issue should gain political momentum. It is essential for us not to lose the vital political climate for our mutual efforts regarding the peaceful resolution of the Falkland dispute through negotiations. For this end, we must proceed cautiously and with prudence on this incident. This was sent via Argentina’s London Embassy late on 23 March and also via Williams. The Ambassador greeted the new instructions with some relief and passed them on to Costa Mendez at 2040, just before the latter was due to go into meeting with the military. The bottom line was still, however, that the men must leave. Williams thought that Costa Mendez was ‘trying to be helpful and sensible but is on a short rein with public opinion and the military.’ He wanted future talk to be less of ‘removal’ and more of ‘departure.’ There was further hope when Williams saw an exhausted Costa Mendez at 2230 and was able to tell him that Endurance was now going to Grytviken rather than Leith and that there was some time to devise a method to get Davidoff’s men away from Leith other than by Endurance. By this time, however, the die had been cast. When Costa Mendez joined the Junta on 23 March for its regular, weekly meeting, they considered a report on Luce’s parliamentary statement which had mentioned Endurance. The Junta decided to take action to protect the workers on South Georgia. The ice patrol ship the Bahia Paraiso had left Ushuaia on 18 March for South Thule just as the Bahia Buen Suceso was landing Davidoff’s men on South Georgia. This in itself is an indication of the implementation of Project Alpha, for the Bahia Paraiso’s task was to pick up Marines who had been deposited at the end of December by the Almirante Irizar. The Bahia Paraiso was now ordered to get the Marines to Leith and disembarked as rapidly as possible. It arrived at 2340 hours on 24 March (while Endurance was being held back in pursuit of a compromise). Lieutenant Alfredo Astiz and ten men were landed unopposed. Astiz was at that time wanted by Sweden and France for the murder of a girl and three nuns at a naval interrogation centre during the dirty war. That night he dined with three Frenchmen whose yacht, Cinq Pars Pour, had sailed into Grytviken the previous week, where they had been chastised by the base commander for shooting a reindeer, and who just sailed to Leith.10 At the same time two missile-carrying corvettes, the Granville and the Drummond, were ordered to position themselves between the Falkland Islands and South

The Official history of the falklands campaign


Georgia. No interception of Endurance was ordered, however. Lastly, the Junta requested plans for the occupation of the Islands to be brought forward.


If the more conciliatory British position had been adopted a few days earlier it might have worked, but it was now too late. More seriously it was now being adopted in response to a sense of developing weakness. Every analysis ever undertaken of the Falklands problem in the MoD had drawn attention to the poverty of the available military options, yet the initial response in this case had been to act as if a robust attitude was unproblematic. By the 24 March the confused signals from London to Buenos Aires had produced a reaction that was unlikely to be contained by diplomatic means. During that day evidence arrived in London indicating the consequences of taking a tough line without adequate back up. The Defence Attaché sent back from Buenos Aires a warning of the ‘sternest of reactions,’ with the possibility of an expedition to rescue the Davidoff Party if it were taken off by Endurance, even from Stanley, or else a tit-for-tat operation directed against the BAS team. Late that day the British realised that the Argentine Navy had ordered two corvettes and one tanker to patrol an area which would allow them to intercept Endurance on her return to the Falklands, and rescue any Argentines on board, and had good knowledge of British deployments in the area. It was known that Argentina had decided that the party should remain on South Georgia and not be moved, and also to delay any official response to the British proposal that Argentina should send a ship to evacuate civilians. Reports next day reinforced the sense of danger. Endurance reported the Bahia Paraiso at Leith harbour with working cargo. Three landing craft and a military helicopter had been seen. Barker suspected that Trombetta was embarked as his pennant was flying, and this was confirmed later in the day. After the Bahia Paraiso sailed from South Georgia during the night of 25/26 March, the British do not appear to have appreciated that marines had been landed. At the same time, having noted Barker’s presence, the Argentine group was now aware that they were being watched. By the morning of 25 March the FCO knew from Endurance about the Bahaia Paraiso’s arrival at Leith. More impact resulted from the intelligence that warships were at sea. Their precise instructions were not known, but it was not hard to envisage the difficulties that could result if they decided to prevent Endurance evacuating the workers or taking them back to Stanley, or mounting some retaliation against the BAS. The assessment from Buenos Aires, a copy of which was sent to Downing Street, warned of a confrontation on the high seas, or else a rescue mission for the workmen mounted on arrival at Stanley. Fearn observed that ‘unless this problem can be resolved by diplomatic

The Official history of the falklands campaign


action, there is a real risk of a military confrontation which we are in no position to win.’ He met Molteni who warned of the danger of Argentine nationals being taken away by a British warship and urged that the British accept the proposal for a Permanent Negotiating Commission. Fearn was aware that his Government’s agreed position would be of no help in calming Argentine opinion so he decided to leave Molteni with the impression that any reply depended on clearing up the impasse. Carrington’s presentation to the Cabinet provides a useful picture of the state of thinking at this time. Davidoff was described as an ‘agent provocateur for the Argentine Government.’ Sixty of his men had landed illegally. The Argentine Government was asked to ensure their departure. They agreed but ten were left (actually 39). Endurance could repatriate them but feelings were running high in Argentina and there was a risk that Endurance might be intercepted or of some ‘counter-action against the Falkland Islands themselves.’ Efforts were still being made to persuade the Argentine Government to organise the departure of the remaining ten, but if these failed a difficult policy decision would have to be made, although it was not stated what this could be. The Foreign Secretary did, however, warn that whatever happened there would be an adverse effect on the negotiations with Buenos Aires on the Falklands and that this could lead to the islanders’ links with the mainland being cut. Sustaining them might prove to be expensive. ‘If the Argentines thereafter threatened military action, Britain would face an almost impossible task in seeking to defend the Islands at such long range.’ Despite the evident limitations of Endurance in this situation the question of its future was raised but, with John Nott out of the country, not pursued. Two aspects of the developing situation were now apparent First, although the Government had been trying to deal with the question of South Georgia on its own terms, linkages with the fundamental Falklands problem were unavoidable. The developing suspicions between the two sides had governed the management of this crisis and limited their freedom of manoeuvre. A letter for Costa Mendez on getting the negotiations back on course had been drafted and circulated, but it was later decided that this was not an opportune moment to send it. Decisions could not be delayed for much longer, but they were daily becoming harder. Second, the disposition remained one of trying to find a resolution of this crisis on Britain’s terms, with the preference for a voluntary evacuation. While the pressure from Argentina was recognised to be growing it was still the domestic political pressure as felt in the House of Commons that was having the greatest impact. So while the FCO assured the Buenos Aires Embassy that it did not doubt the gravity of the situation nor was it underestimating the risk of an Argentine military response, one way or another the Argentine Government must find a way for them to be taken off: we do not want to box ourselves in by setting deadlines. But unless we have a clear understanding on a timetable for the men’s removal, we shall face the greatest difficulty in satisfying public and parliamentary feeling on this issue. Unfortunately Argentine attitudes were also hardening by the minute. The talk in Buenos Aires was now of a British ‘ultimatum’ and ‘gunboat diplomacy.’ Costa Mendez had told Williams that in the light of the publicity given to the potential role of Endurance in removing Davidoff’s men ‘there now seemed no way in which the Argentines could



remove the men… without appearing to have responded to threat.’ The only option for helping to manage both the immediate crisis and the longer-term conflict that had occurred to London was to send a special representative from either the Foreign Secretary or the Prime Minister. When Carrington asked for his views, Williams not only found this suggestion irritating (as it threatened to undermine his own position) but pointless. The alternative to direct confrontation, as far as Williams could judge, was to regularise the position of Davidoff’s men at Grytviken. Costa Mendez could be asked to get Davidoff to order his men to go to Grytviken and get their white cards stamped. Both sides would then have eaten words. The idea of using the cards in the Dependencies made Hunt nervous. Rumours were already circulating on the Falklands about the situation, with one Councillor proposing a public meeting. The islanders would object to the extension of the white card agreement as ‘this would imply recognition of Argentina’s right to enter the Dependencies without observing normal immigration regulations and would have implications for our sovereignty over South Georgia.’ The unlawful landing at Leith had rendered Davidoff’s men ‘prohibited immigrants under the Falkland Islands Immigration Ordinance of 1965 and, if they were now to turn up at Grytviken, islanders would expect base commander to instruct master of vessel to remove them forthwith in accordance with ordinance.’ Nonetheless, the FCO was now aware of the dangers associated with unenforceable demands and agreed to Williams’ proposal. The Argentine Government should be in no doubt that ‘we are committed to the defence of sovereignty in South Georgia as elsewhere’, but he was to attempt to find a way out of the impasse. He could tell Costa Mendez that if the men proceed to Grytviken, ‘permission and suitable documentation would there be issued for their immediate return to Leith to complete the demolition job on which they are embarked.’ Hunt was unimpressed. After all the offences committed by Davidoff and his men letting them go to Leith would ‘go down like a lead balloon with the islanders.’ Yet in the circumstances he had to agree that some compromise was needed. To avoid conceding too much he considered ‘it essential that, if Davidoff’s men are to go back to Leith, they must have proper documentation. We shall then have made our point.’ Proper documentation does not (repeat not) mean stamping of white cards. I am instructing base commander to ask for passports and, if produced, to stamp them with an entry permit in the normal way, for 16 weeks only. If they cannot produce passports, base commander will issue them with temporary certificates of identity, embossed with his magistrate’s seal, and bearing an entry permit for 16 weeks.’ When Williams informed Costa Mendez that Davidoff’s party would be furnished with the necessary documentation if they went to Grytviken he was told that President Galtieri would be consulted and that a reply could be expected by the evening of 26 March. None was ever received. On Friday 26 March 1982 at 1915 the Junta decided to order the occupation of the Falklands. Costa Mendez did not participate in the discussion but was told afterwards. With the Argentine press now thoroughly seized of the issue, and public opinion already in an unsettled mood because of economic privations, the Junta dare not back down on

The Official history of the falklands campaign


the particular question of South Georgia. On the more general question of the Falklands they could see a momentary opportunity to act on an issue that had long been a high priority. If they waited too long the moment could pass. They were heavily influenced here by reports of the parliamentary discussion on 23 March. They could see no prospect of the British acceding to their demands during the course of the negotiations and a serious risk that they might use the coming weeks to reinforce their position, relying on the South Georgia episode as a pretext. By invading immediately the Junta was apparently not so much intending to present the British with a fait accompli in the Falklands but to force a serious negotiation in circumstances favourable to Argentina, so that they would agree to the transfer of sovereignty legitimised through the UN. The Argentine Chiefs of Staff confirmed that an invasion could be mounted at once. The next question—once taken could the Islands be held—does not appear to have been asked. It was judged that the British would not attempt to retrieve the Islands. The operation was to be executed on the evening of 1 April at the earliest. It could be called off as late as 1800 on 31 March. The orders were given for a task force to sail from Puerto Belgrano on Sunday, 28 March, and move first into an intermediate area before turning towards the Islands. The rest of the fleet, including the carrier 25 de Mayo, would remain at a distance to protect the expedition. The exact purpose of the operation would be kept secret, even to the units directly involved, until the latest possible moment.

Realisation dawns The news on 27 March was gloomy. From Buenos Aires Williams reported that instead of his being summoned, as had been agreed, after the previous day’s meeting of the Military Committee Costa Mendez had gone straight to the MFA press room where (at 22.00 local time) he had released a public statement that: ‘a firm decision has been taken to give the men on South Georgia all necessary diplomatic protection…nor is this protection diplomatic only, since there is a navy ship called Bahia Paraiso in the area to provide any necessary protection’. All this was reported in that morning’s newspapers, as was the despatch of the corvettes Drummond and Granville. Faced with this, Williams acknowledged his ‘growing impression that Costa Mendez has been less than honest with me and that, in fact, the Argentines have been playing us along.’ This process may have continued for he did speak with Ros who told him that a message was now on its way and indicated that it could well be constructive. Williams stressed the urgency of a positive response. Reporting back he was unable to ‘discount the possibility that any action on our part to disturb the Argentine working party at Leith will be taken as a trigger for armed action by the Argentines.’ There was some knowledge of an Argentine naval exercise that had started on 24 March in an area well to the north of the Islands, and about 1500 miles from South Georgia. The units taking part in the exercise constituted an amphibious task force and consisted of an aircraft carrier, four destroyers and a landing ship. After 27 March, no evidence of exercise activity was detected though some ships remained at sea. It was also on 27 March that Defence Intelligence Staff brought to the attention of ministers a report that there were no Argentine submarines at Mar del Plata naval base. The previous day, Williams had assessed this as ‘not necessarily sinister,’ but on 27 March it started to look



like part of a pattern. Only much later was it appreciated that an Argentine submarine had sailed with marines embarked. On 28 March Williams was told firmly that Argentina insisted upon its sovereignty, and refused to remove the party in South Georgia: The British Government has reacted in terms which constitute a virtual ultimatum backed by the threat of military action in the form of despatch of the Naval warship Endurance and a requirement for the peremptorily immediate evacuation of the Argentine workers from the Island. This constituted: a disproportionate and provocative response aggravated for having received wide diffusion in the press which has had a negative effect on developments and which is not the responsibility of the Argentine government. There was no need for a solution because the workers were there on an agreed contract and with the necessary documentation. Williams noted to Costa Mendez the lack of a constructive response and the withdrawal of his own proposal, put the previous Wednesday. This proposal was now described as but one of several ideas. Williams recalled that Carrington had seized upon the idea to offer a concession, which was not easy for the Government, but this had now been knocked away. ‘I urged him to lose no time in devising another. It was, I said, now again his turn.’ Hunt reacted to the message from Costa Mendez by declaring himself ‘appalled’ at its ‘arrogance.’ It confirmed his ‘previous fears that the Argentine government are using Davidoff as a front to assert with a physical presence their sovereignty claim over South Georgia.’ Williams’s own assessment was that ‘the Argentines intend no move to resolve the dispute but rather to let matters ride while they build up their naval strength in the area and we remain in the dilemma of either taking or not taking action ourselves.’ While alarm bells were now ringing vigorously the focus was still on South Georgia. The Ambassador, still seeking a diplomatic way out, suggested that BAS officials could go to Leith to sort out the formalities. The idea of a special envoy mooted by London a few days earlier might also be worth reviving, so long as a decision could be taken on ‘what offer or proposal he would bring.’ Over that weekend it dawned on London just how serious matters had become. Nott recalls opening his red boxes on Saturday, 27 March, and immediately realising that the ‘South Georgia situation was worse than I had expected.’1 When the Prime Minister received the latest telegrams from Williams and Hunt late on 28 March she was sufficiently alarmed to contact the Foreign Secretary immediately and read to him extracts. She was concerned that he was going to be in Brussels for two days and then would be travelling on to Tel Aviv ‘without sorting this out.’ Carrington explained that US Secretary of State Alexander Haig had already been contacted to urge moderation and that Luce was to discuss all the options the next morning, and then ring them through to Brussels at lunch time. The Prime Minister not only saw few options but also that the crisis had turned into a dispute on sovereignty. Williams may now be agreeable to the

The Official history of the falklands campaign


idea of a special envoy but Thatcher could not see what the value would be. Carrington admitted that it ‘looked awfully feeble.’ To the Prime Minister a much more attractive option was to go to the International Court of Justice at the Hague. She had raised the idea that morning and Carrington had investigated it during the day. A submission could be made but would not be accepted if Argentina withheld consent. He was therefore edging towards going to the Court on the legality of Argentine behaviour on South Georgia rather than on sovereignty. To Thatcher that was where the challenge lay. The message from Costa Mendez was an open assertion of sovereignty and while she accepted that there was nothing new here, there seemed obvious advantages in daring Argentina to go to Court. The Foreign Secretary then warned that ‘We might get the wrong answer.’ This came as something of a revelation to the Prime Minister, the first time she became aware of any doubt at all surrounding the British case. She professed herself alarmed, ‘Because there is no earthly point in sweating blood over it if it’s not ours.’ Carrington explained that the problem lay with the vagaries of courts rather than the quality of the case. They decided to explore the opinions again. As the Prime Minister observed, at least with regard to the ICJ, ‘if we win or if we lose, at least we know where we are.’ She was now also coming to the conclusion that the whole effort had been deliberate. The Foreign Secretary judged it to have been calculated by the military with the MFA ignorant, taking advantage of the fact that ‘we don’t have any clout at all.’ It was therefore necessary to find some, remarked Thatcher, drawing attention to the danger of appearing powerless in front of Parliament. The two agreed that having got South Thule and now South Georgia the next in line would be the Falklands.

Bringing in Washington Carrington’s concern was that Britain was not only exposed militarily in the South Atlantic but also politically. Britain’s predicament was not one that it was going to be easy to explain to anyone else. From the UN, Ambassador Sir Anthony Parsons warned of the difficulties of trying to call the Security Council unless there was evidence of an Argentine invasion. ‘It would look ludicrous if we called the Council over the South Georgia incident. We would gain little sympathy for the proposition that Britain and Argentina could not settle a dispute about the illegal presence of ten scrap merchants on a virtually uninhabited island without resort to the Security Council.’ At the same time first attempts to get the Americans to play a constructive role were not encouraging. The crisis came during a transitional time in US-Argentine relations. Left over from the Carter Administration was a concern with the human rights record of Argentina. The Humphrey/Kennedy amendment involved an embargo on the sale of warlike equipment to Argentina, and there were only moves to repeal this in late 1981. Since the arrival of the Reagan Administration at the start of 1981 there had been contrary influences at work, convinced that the human rights record of Argentina was less important than its robust foreign policy. The US Ambassador to the UN, Jeane Kirkpatrick, had been working especially hard to court Buenos Aires so that common cause could be made against communist movements in Latin America. General Galtieri had made two visits to Washington, hoping to get the embargo lifted, or at least to get President Ronald Reagan



to turn a blind eye to its actual implementation. It may be that Galtieri had taken from these meetings more than he should, in that he had mistaken positive words about his country’s role in fighting communism in Central America to reflect a wider appreciation of Argentine aspirations. This developing relationship offered some potential American leverage over Argentina, but it also imposed its own limits, as the Americans would not want to put it in jeopardy. Certainly up to this point the Americans had shown complete indifference to the Falklands issue. Luce had tried to interest Thomas Enders, the senior State Department official concerned with Latin America at the time of the February talks, without much success. He had shown little interest. It was going to be hard to get the Americans to take this new crisis seriously. Contacts on the current crisis with US officials in both London and Washington had been made on 25 March as the situation began to get more dangerous. Nonetheless on 28 March Carrington had asked the US Secretary of State Alexander Haig to assist in finding a compromise. He reported on British efforts to resolve the dispute by peaceful negotiation, the apparent Argentine readiness to use force, and the sensitivity of the sovereignty issue in the UK. Following the ‘uncompromising and negative message’ from Costa Mendez there was now a risk that if Britain attempted to remove Davidoff’s men Argentina may retaliate. ‘I should be very grateful if you would consider taking this up with the Argentines, stressing the need to defuse the situation and find a solution that all can accept.’ One possibility, although this must even then have seemed rather forlorn, was that the US might provide a ship to transport the contractor’s party from South Georgia. ‘If we do not find a solution soon,’ Carrington wrote, ‘I fear the gravest consequences.’ The American response was less than encouraging. On 29 March, Walter Stoessel, the Deputy Secretary of State, asked Sir Nicholas Henderson, the British Ambassador to Washington, to see him. He had just met with the Argentine Ambassador and was counselling both the governments to exercise restraint. Stoessel said that the US would not take sides. He suggested that a British official might travel to Leith to authorise the Argentine presence. When asked if he could be sure that the Argentines would accept he said he would instruct his officials to find out. Stoessel had spoken to the Argentine Ambassador on similar lines, although he appeared unbriefed. Henderson was unimpressed at this neutral stance, asking Stoessel how much British neutrality might be appreciated if Puerto Rico was under threat. Carrington told Edward Streator, Minister at the US Embassy in London, that Britain had supported American policy over Sinai and El Salvador without enthusiasm and against its better judgement, but out of solidarity with its closest ally. The Government now expected a better response in return.2 This negative response left Carrington reluctant to bring the Americans too far into a resolution of the South Georgia incident, beyond asking them to press for Argentine restraint, lest Britain end up ‘with the Americans also exerting pressure on us to reach a solution which was politically unacceptable to us.’ Although Williams had eased his objections, Luce was wary about sending an emissary, in that he would probably be at best matched with either Ros or Costa Mendez, neither of whom was critical when the major decisions were being taken by the Junta. Luce was still very conscious of the likely parliamentary reaction to any public move to regularise the situation in South Georgia, in part because they would be reminiscent of the retrospective rationalisation of the position on South Thule. Another idea was that

The Official history of the falklands campaign


Luce himself might meet up with an Argentine official in New York or Mexico (where Luce was planning to visit) who would take ‘constructive proposals’ to find a way out of impasse. Captain Barker on board the Endurance proposed on 29 March that he attempt to defuse the situation by arranging a rendezvous with Captain Trombetta aboard the Bahia Paraiso, whom he knew well. If agreed the two of them could go to Leith on separate helicopters to arrange with Davidoff’s men their proper immigration documentation. Barker also proposed to make some points about the inability of the Argentine Navy to sustain their frigate force at sea in the face of a British SSN threat, as well as the weak Argentine claim to any sovereignty over South Georgia. One advantage of his proposal, he believed, was that if it was rebuffed then ‘it will be clear to everyone that this is a sovereignty issue involving the Navy using Davidoff as a front and that Costa Mendez’s statement has little or no substance.’ MoD replied that this constructive suggestion was welcomed but, London’s view had been that: ‘[the] proposed actions are likely to complicate delicate issue with small chance of success due to extent and high level of present political involvement’. Barker’s suggestion was, therefore, not approved. Later that day Barker reported that on his return to Grytviken he had been closed by the Bahia Paraiso with whom he exchanged pleasantries. On 30 March the situation was judged to be serious but not necessarily moving to a head. It was now sufficiently urgent to warrant a place on the OD agenda for 1 April, but still only item three. Williams’ latest report did not suggest a need to panic. The indications were that Argentina would not move unless Britain did, and there was an implication in Argentine statements that moving forward with negotiations on the main dispute could solve the problem. He also noted that major demonstrations were being planned by the Labour Unions against the Government’s economic austerity plans that afternoon and it was assumed by many in Buenos Aires that the Government was encouraging a degree of jingoism to displace the headlines. All the signs were of a distinct cooling. At present the Argentine Government have their tails up and believe that they have found a way of bullying us into conceding sovereignty. But they are not notable for staying power and may look considerably more bedraggled tomorrow.’ The expectation of a protracted test of political will rather than an immediate military engagement informed the Ambassador’s advice against coming forward with another conciliatory message as he had avoided conceding ground up to that point. So again he had concluded against a special envoy from London: not only was this not the time for him to be ‘superseded by an official junior to myself,’ but also such a move ‘will only convince the Argentines that I have been disowned and that they have us on the run not only on this incident but over conceding sovereignty.’ Better to let them stew for a couple of days. Yet Molteni had warned Fearn the previous day that there was now no solution to the South Georgia problem available on the lines previously proposed and that there was pressure from ‘die-hards’ to ‘capitalise on the South Georgia issue to resolve the whole Falklands issue by force.’ His remedy remained British acceptance of Argentine negotiating proposals, but he was told that politically this had now become impossible in London. As this implied a complete lack of diplomatic options, Carrington was getting nervous. For this reason he decided to send John Ure as an envoy, without delay. Meanwhile, for reasons discussed below, he was aware of media stories about British



submarines being sent. This, he feared, could give the wrong impression ‘that we are seeking a naval rather than a diplomatic solution.’ Argentina should not think ‘we had run out of ideas other than military ones.’ He took care to reassure Williams that he could explain to Costa Mendez that Ure was coming in support of the Ambassador but with constructive proposals. These would largely have taken the form of positive noises with regard to Argentine proposals on the negotiating process if not yet the ultimate destination. This fitted in with Williams’ own judgement that the only way out of the South Georgia impasse was some flexibility on the wider Falklands question. Williams put the idea to Costa Mendez late on 30 March. The Foreign Minister gave no reaction, except to say that he had no problems dealing with Williams, and he had been hoping for something more. He also drew attention to the Parliamentary statements of that day and reports of warship movements as discouraging a quick solution. Williams replied that there were also reports of Argentine movements and emphasised that the Ure mission was about new ideas rather than a new person. Costa Mendez then went off to see the President.


At this stage the British felt that the situation was tending towards a stalemate. In this they underestimated the dynamic the crisis had acquired. It was proving difficult to keep it contained within South Georgia, but if they could do so then there was an opportunity for Britain to send reinforcements in the hope of getting in a position to cope with the next stage of this crisis when it reached its climax. The same thought, of course, occurred in Buenos Aires. Any strengthening of Britain’s military capability had implications for Argentina’s grand plan for regaining sovereignty over the Falklands during 1982. Time was increasingly of the essence. Time, as a function of distance, had long dominated all considerations of Britain’s military options in the South Atlantic. Thinking on the defence of British sovereignty in the Falklands and the Dependencies had come to be organised around a set of increasingly standardised contingencies, from cutting off supplies through establishing a presence on an uninhabited island up to an occupation of the Islands. Other than the most trivial gesture by an Argentine group along Condor lines, the available military responses to all contingencies were governed by distance and the lack of local facilities. As a result Argentina was always likely to enjoy the initiative, completing its move long before the British could implement any counter-measures. A more credible local deterrent, in the form of substantial naval forces in the South Atlantic or a reinforced Island garrison would be extremely expensive, especially if it proved necessary to maintain these forces over time, and it would also incur substantial operational penalties elsewhere. During the Labour Government there had been occasional moments of tension when the inadequacy of these options became apparent. In the context of a general understanding, encouraged by Prime Minister Callaghan, that the Falklands had a capacity to cause trouble quite disproportionate to its size, FCO ministers often sought, and sometimes managed to obtain, some precautionary measure that would provide a degree of reassurance during difficult negotiating sessions. These precautions often were no more than a readiness to divert warships that might be in the region for other reasons, but in late 1977 a small group of frigates and an SSN had been deployed covertly. Such moves had no deterrent function and there was no evidence that they had any influence on Argentine behaviour. Indeed it was essential for this strategy that they remained covert so that the vessels could be released from South Atlantic duties as quickly as possible with the possibility of returning in the event of another looming emergency. Deterrence was provided by a quick riposte to any suggestion by an Argentine minister that force

Delayed Response


might be used, normally in the form of a private warning that there would be a vigorous response to any military action. Again it is hard to say whether this made much difference—it did not stop the base on South Thule but it may have provided ammunition to those in Buenos Aires opposed to any direct action against the Falklands. Unlike its predecessor, the Conservative Government had not been through any particularly stormy periods with Argentina. No emergency naval deployments had ever been requested let alone approved. Occasional statements had been made in public about Britain’s readiness to defend the Falklands, but there had been no private warnings to Buenos Aires. Ever since the collapse of the Ridley initiative a testing time had been anticipated, but discussions on how this might best be tackled had generated scant interest outside of the FCO, and few practical proposals on possible responses to sustained Argentine pressure. The FCO view since the summer of 1981 had been that if serious negotiations were not possible then the implications of Fortress Falklands had to be considered but so long as it seemed possible to string Argentina along then the decision could be delayed. At the start of March it seemed reasonable to assume that the moment had come and that difficult decisions would have to be taken. The unilateral Argentine communiqué provided the stimulus. The implications of the Junta disowning its own diplomats and setting a firm deadline for the return of the Malvinas were recognised at once. The meeting of senior FCO ministers and officials on 5 March had largely concentrated on diplomatic preparedness: urging Argentina to get the talks back on track and the Americans to use their influence to back this up; getting an assessment of the state of play in the UN and getting work started on a paper for the Defence Committee. At the end of this John Ure thought it appropriate to tell Lord Carrington about the 1977 deployment. This gained a certain dramatic force as a result of this timing and the unusual step of informing one administration about a hitherto confidential action by its predecessor. Carrington asked whether Argentina had known about the deployment: Ure said that it had not. It was therefore not immediately clear whether any useful precedent had been set in 1977 or not, and the Foreign Secretary saw no purpose in following it. Argentina was awaiting a response to its proposal: other than that there was no scheduled event, such as a negotiation that might break down, to provide a focus for precautionary deployments. In retrospect this was possibly the last time that forces might have been sent that would have given Britain sufficient options to prevent the Argentine action at the end of the month. But nobody, not even the Junta, was expecting any decisive action so early. The Government believed that it had time, at least until the summer and possibly the autumn, before Argentine pressure would begin to be felt. Consideration therefore began of the familiar options, and this was under way as the Government suddenly found itself confronting an unfolding crisis.

Assessing the crisis By 23 March 1982 it was clear that the South Georgia crisis risked getting out of hand. The dispute at this point was between those who believed that the landing of workmen was a minor transgression by an independent operator, possibly urged on by the

The Official history of the falklands campaign


Argentine Navy, and those, such as Captain Barker, who took this to be a deliberate plot to establish a presence. Either way this pointed to a problem over South Georgia rather than the Falklands. The best intelligence still appeared to deny any interest in an immediate invasion of the Falklands, and adherence to a longer time scale. By 25 March, with Argentine ships getting in position to respond to any action by Endurance to remove the workmen, it was possible to see how a serious military incident might occur, but the focus was still very much on South Georgia. The critical Argentine decision to set in motion the invasion of the Falklands was taken on 26 March. The British were aware at the time that the Junta had met that day and taken some important decisions but they did not know their content. There had not yet been a full intelligence appreciation of the latest events. The landing by Davidoff’s men was discussed fully by the Assessments Staff on 22 March. But at this time the affair seemed close to resolution and so it was judged as a minor localised incident. As no intelligence suggested any wider implications, it did not seem to warrant an early assessment. Over the next two days the incident became less minor and this led on 25 March to the preparation of a draft Immediate Assessment. At this point the established consensus started to show strain, for the new draft reflected the views of those who remained relaxed about the dispute, at least in the short-term. DIS by now was becoming more alert to the dangers inherent in the situation and felt that the draft was not strong enough, and so its publication was delayed until there was more information. The situation was reviewed again on 29 March at the Assessments Staff weekly meeting when it was agreed that the episode warranted inclusion in the weekly summary of incidents, and that a new draft would be discussed around 1 April. The timing was justified because there was apparently an impasse in prospect rather than a major confrontation. On 26 March, while waiting for Costa Mendez’s response, the South American department set down the options should this prove to be negative. The first was simply to get Endurance to clear the men and equipment from Leith. When considering what might happen if it was challenged by the Argentine Navy with the workers on board, it was reasonable to suppose that there would be no shots in this situation, but equally once an offer was made to transfer them to an Argentine ship and this was agreed they could then be taken right back to Leith. Leaving Endurance inactive while sending a task force to support it would demonstrate determination but ‘the MoD would not like this at all.’ This left accepting that nothing could be done, which would cause real trouble in Parliament, or to go to the Americans as a last resort. Ure’s instinct was that it would be better to try and fail with Endurance than not to try at all, as this would at least illustrate the position for home opinion. This was also Luce’s view, along with an urgent message to US Secretary of State Alexander Haig. So when Wiggin complained that Luce had countermanded a decision to permit Barker to fly his helicopter as appropriate, Luce said this was news to him. His only concern was that Barker not take provocative action. Endurance was eventually allowed to search the north coast of South Georgia using helicopters, under strict instructions not to be escalatory. Britain had no aircraft of its own in a position to provide aerial photography. The only possibility would be for a Nimrod to operate out of a Chilean airfield but there had been no approach to Chile and it was doubted that agreement would be forthcoming. Even then all that would be provided would be information about the whereabouts and composition of the Argentine naval squadron but no definite evidence of intention. Nor was there any

Delayed Response


American satellite imagery provided.1 There had been very little photography in the area over the relevant period as it was by no means a priority area for the US. MoD did get in contact with the Pentagon about gaining access to high-quality imagery but the only suitable satellites were covering the northern hemisphere and could not be diverted in less than seven or eight days. When the American satellite photography that was available was reviewed after the war it showed no revelations of any preparation for invasion of the Falkland Islands Washington might have been concerned with providing Britain with information on fellow members of OAS, or indeed of engaging in espionage against such a country. At any rate American estimates of the developing situation were no more prescient than the British. When the issue had been discussed with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in the first half of the 1970s the Agency took the view that it was ‘inconceivable’ that they would not have a useful period of warning that an invasion of the Falklands was being mounted. Yet during the first months of 1982 the CIA was also not paying much attention to the issue. It produced no reports on the problem, and the intelligence priorities with regard to Argentina concerned domestic strife and Soviet grain purchases. No one in the State Department was even conscious of a problem until the February negotiations with Argentina. American diplomatic reporting from Buenos Aires between mid-February and mid-March reflected a greater than normal sense of Argentine urgency about the Falklands issue and suggested that Galtieri was attaching a somewhat higher priority to it than his predecessor. Although there was evidence of disappointment with the British, there were no indications that the Argentines were expected to do more than shout ‘foul’ loudly and perhaps pursue the matter more rigorously through the UN. When Enders met Argentine officials on 8 March he had been given no specific indication by Ros of military action, but had received complaints about British ‘intransigence’ and a warning of the growing pressure on the Foreign Ministry ‘from various sources to solve the Malvinas problem’. Argentina preferred to negotiate—but not indefinitely. The American analysis was therefore close to Britain’s on the probability that before a ‘military solution’ was adopted there would be a diplomatic campaign, taking in the United Nations. Short items on the South Georgia incident were included in CIA National Intelligence Daily summaries on 26 and 31 March. They did not intimate any suggestion that Argentina might be about to invade the Falkland Islands. At most this was seen for something later in the year. On 31 March the US Embassy in Buenos Aires reported that: ‘the impression from contacts with the Argentine Navy was that no armed action is expected in that quarter for the time being at least’. The only likely trigger of armed action would be forceful action by Britain to remove the workmen. Otherwise there would probably be an impasse for some time to come. The Americans told the British, prior to the invasion, that the US had no intelligence on Argentine planning or on the timing of the Argentine decision to invade. The first intelligence report to reach London, which appeared to indicate hostile intent, was of a message to the Santa Fe from the Argentine force command sent on the afternoon of 28 March. The submarine was instructed to proceed to a specified area and then to carry out ‘reconnaissance of the beach and/or disembarkation.’ When the coordinates were plotted on a map it showed the submarine’s destination to be just east of Stanley. The information reached the MoD late afternoon the next day. It was seen by the Duty Commander who, in dealing with but one of well over a thousand messages

The Official history of the falklands campaign


received that day, judged it important enough to be sent to the relevant Desk Officer the next morning but he did not have time to plot the co-ordinates. This was only done first thing the next morning. The potential impact of this message was blunted by other intelligence, including a report from a briefing by the Argentine Navy Commander-in-Chief on 28 March, in which he had made it clear that he was still treating South Georgia separately from Falklands, and was only contemplating action against Falklands in the event of Argentine casualties on South Georgia. In this context all other indications about Argentine preparations, such as stepped up intelligence gathering on British shipping and aircraft movements or even the assembly of a substantial fleet with embarked troops, could appear as largely precautionary in nature. There was thus a widespread appreciation that a dangerous situation was developing by 30 March—but the focal point was presumed to be Endurance and South Georgia. Contingency planning was already under way as a result of the Prime Minister’s request of 9 March, but only on around 24 March did this exercise get inter-mingled with concerns raised by South Georgia. When Carrington wrote to members of the Defence Committee seeking authority to move civil contingency planning forward, he added, in a letter to Nott, that an immediate demonstration of support could be achieved by maintaining Endurance ‘on station in Falkland waters for the time being.’ If this were not done, he noted, ‘our position, both here and in the Islands, would become politically untenable.’ He now wanted the Defence Committee to look at the case for retention of Endurance for at least another year. The obstacles he faced were illustrated in a swift response from the Chief Secretary to the Treasury. Leon Brittan wrote to the Foreign Secretary declining any access to the Contingency Reserve for any new services to the Islands or for keeping Endurance going. Nott was at a NATO meeting in the United States, preoccupied by an imminent announcement on the future of the Trident nuclear deterrent and the need to gain alliance support for this system. In the context of the crisis it was agreed to defer Endurance’s departure for up to two months, and that on the Secretary of State’s return the withdrawal of Endurance from service might need to be re-considered. MoD remained seized of the maintenance and financial problems of retention and unconvinced of Endurance’s practical value in the light of the contemporaneous evidence of how little it could do by itself. The cost was £2.5 million for Endurance to be refitted and running costs of £2 million a year.

First actions The first actions taken resulting from the crisis were required to sustain the existing capabilities in the region. Because Endurance had to stay, RFA Fort Austin was prepared to sail on 29 March to replenish it, and as Endurance had been sent to South Georgia, extraordinary arrangements were required for the roulement of NP 8901. Forty Marines were due to arrive at Stanley on 29 March. An approach was made to the BAS that RRS John Biscoe, then in Montevideo harbour, could be used to transport the Marines from Montevideo, even though the ship was manned by civilians, unarmed and not under the Royal Navy. This it did on 23 March, as a result of which it was identified in the

Delayed Response


Argentine press as an ‘RN warship.’ On 25 March, in the light of the deteriorating situation, the Naval Attaché suggested that it might be prudent to retain both Marine detachments, effectively doubling the strength of the garrison, until the situation had clarified. This was later agreed with other measures on 29 March. On 26 March the first extra ships for possible deployment to the South Atlantic were earmarked by CINCFLEET. At the time a substantial number of ships were operating in the vicinity of Gibraltar as part of exercise SPRINGTRAIN, being presided over by Flag Officer First Flotilla (FOF1), Rear Admiral Sir John ‘Sandy’ Woodward. Serious political attention was not really given to getting extra military capabilities to the South Atlantic until the morning of 29 March. Early that morning the Prime Minister went to Northolt airport (to go to Brussels) and spoke again with Carrington. They agreed on the urgency of the situation, which led to a request for an investigation into the possibilities of getting some support to the South Atlantic. Given the delicacy of the moment they wanted this to be covert, which inevitably led to proposals to send an SSN. HMS Spartan, then acting in support of SPRINGTRAIN, was prepared for immediate deployment. Nott had also been worrying about the situation over the weekend. When he met with Leach on the morning of 29 March it was agreed that the frigates were to be put on standby and Nott also wanted the deployment of a nuclear submarine. None was really spare but it was agreed that Spartan could be readied in about three days. At this point the Prime Minister’s office contacted Nott’s to report the concerns of Thatcher and Carrington. It was also agreed that RFA Fort Austin should carry not only provisions for Endurance but stores should it be necessary to send frigates as well.2 The War Diary of Admiral Herbert, who later exercised operational command over Royal Navy submarines involved in the Falklands campaign, moaned that: ‘with twelve scrap iron merchants creating a stir in South Georgia it is difficult to believe that it is necessary to disrupt Spartan’s exercises with FOF1 in SPRINGTRAIN and send her to the South Atlantic as the MOD requires’. It was expected to sail on 31 March, although it did not actually leave until 1 April, after storing and loading torpedoes, to reach the Falklands by 11/12 April. Preparations were also made to send a second SSN, HMS Splendid, later. With pressure now building up to find any way of reinforcing the Falklands quickly, the established options were examined once again and reached the established conclusion: any attempt would be defeated by distance, aircraft capacity, unpredictable weather, and a lack of suitable destination or diversion airfields. Great risks would have to be taken just to get some 30 lightly equipped men to Stanley, without logistic support, on a single Hercules transport. There was parking room at Stanley for three Hercules but barely fuel for a return journey for one, if that, and this would take days to be made available. While more fuel could be delivered by sea, the parking area might collapse under the aircraft weight. Anything more would have to be sent by sea. The Naval Staff’s menu of options for further reinforcement was only marginally more encouraging. Relatively easy and quick additions to the force might come from sending a further 150 Royal Marines to Ascension Island to be picked up by Fort Austin en route to replenish Endurance. Two frigates, Broadsword and Yarmouth, with the tanker RFA Plumleaf, were also at Gibraltar about to leave for the Indian Ocean and could be diverted to the South Atlantic. The difficulty with these options was that they did not provide anything superior to available Argentine forces. If a larger force was to be

The Official history of the falklands campaign


sent then up to nine destroyers and frigates plus afloat support could be diverted from SPRINGTRAIN at short notice. Such a deployment carried the problems that had been rehearsed in all previous discussions. The Navy was reluctant to take ships away from their assigned tasks because of the cost and the problems that would be created with NATO. A more serious problem, in the context of the developing crisis, was that this was not a covert option. The departure of a force of this size would be bound to attract attention and it would still take another two to three weeks before it arrived in the South Atlantic. This risked provoking the response that Britain was now desperate to avoid. On arrival a superior Argentine force could well meet it. If any force was to be sent, therefore, the logic led naturally to a substantial, balanced task force, including at least one carrier, nuclear submarines and sufficient missile ships, escorts and RFA support. If it was to take a Commando Group of Royal Marines—800 men—then an LPD would also be needed. At least seven days would be required to assemble such a force. Fieldhouse, in Gibraltar observing SPRINGTRAIN, conferred with Woodward, and instructed him to make contingency arrangements for the various options for deployment of a surface force. Woodward was nominated as the Commander of any Task Group to be sent.3 On 30 March this still seemed too drastic and inappropriate a response to the crisis. Yet although the Government had not decided what to do over the longer-term, and this was indicated in ministerial statements in Parliament on 30 March, these same statements conveyed a sense that significant measures were in train. Davidoff’s men were ‘present illegally on British territory’ but that Argentine co-operation was sought in arranging for their departure, or else their position could ‘be regularised if they were to seek the necessary authorisation.’ Meanwhile, HMS Endurance was ordered to proceed to the area to be available to assist as necessary. She has been standing by since 24 March. On 25 March an Argentine vessel delivered further equipment to the group ashore. The Argentine Foreign Minister has said that the Argentine party in South Georgia will be given the full protection of the Argentine Government. Argentine warships are in the area. This had all created a situation which was ‘potentially dangerous.’ Because further escalation was in no one’s interest the Government judged it ‘right to pursue a diplomatic solution of this problem.’ It was announced that ‘the question of security in the Falklands area is being reviewed,’ although nothing was to be said ‘in public about our precautionary measures.’ Endurance would ‘remain on station for as long as necessary’. There was a hint that its long-term future might be reconsidered.4

Submarine deployments In the belief that the current impasse over South Georgia might have a number of days to run before either side felt it necessary to act, it was decided on 29 March that Splendid should be sent with Spartan, and so it was withdrawn from the North West approaches and returned to Faslane for topping up with stores and weapons. It also sailed on 1 April. Carrington wanted to send a third SSN. HMS Conqueror had been nominated, but the

Delayed Response


decision was deferred as MoD was concerned that this would result in severe operational penalties elsewhere. At the time there were only seven operational SSNs, and their normal tasks included gathering of intelligence on the Soviet fleet as well as safeguarding the Polaris ballistic missile-carrying submarines (SSBNs) that constituted the strategic deterrent. The Navy was already grumbling about the disruption caused to ‘an important counter-intruder operation’ by the allocation of Splendid and saw serious intelligence gathering tasks against Soviet Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) being put at risk. The rules of engagement for the SSN, sent on 1 April, stressed the importance of a covert passage to the South Atlantic and then surveillance of Argentine forces until otherwise directed. Minimum force was permitted in their own defence, or in the defence of Endurance or any other British vessels. If Endurance was told to stop by ‘potentially threatening forces’ it was to continue. If shots were then fired across her bow, the captain would be allowed to inform the Argentine forces that an SSN was in the area. If it was engaged the SSN was permitted ‘to return fire to the minimum extent necessary to prevent further attack.’ The two SSNs were supposed to be covert, as the objective was not to intimidate Argentina but ‘to help counter any aggressive Argentine naval moves.’ They could provide intelligence of Argentine ship movements and each would be armed with sufficient torpedoes to sink about four ships, should this prove necessary. Once they reached the South Atlantic their presence could be declared, at which point they would be a powerful deterrent to any attack on Endurance or to a seaborne invasion of any of the Islands. This would not be until well into April. Although the core concept was of a deployment that should in the first instance be covert, in order not to appear provocative, the desire to reassure Parliament and the press that firm action was being taken led to the deployment being leaked on 30 March. After making his statement Luce had met with Conservative MPs where, according to Nott he was ‘attacked’ by the Falkland Islands lobby ‘for the lack of any action by the government’: In reply he must have hinted that the government had taken some action. I am sure that he did not specify, but a number of Tory MPs rushed downstairs to speculate with the parliamentary press among others that the government had despatched a submarine. Next day this speculation was all over the press, and the despatch of Endurance to South Georgia to take off the Davidoff scrap dealers clearly provoked the Argentine Junta. The presence of Endurance was already causing more trouble than it was worth.5 Coincidentally, another SSN, HMS Superb, had also been withdrawn from SPRINGTRAIN and had sailed from Gibraltar on 26 March for an entirely different operational task. It was assumed in the press that this was the first SSN to be deployed and was now well on its way to the South Atlantic.6 Conforming to normal practice the MoD neither confirmed nor denied this inaccurate story. Superb returned to the Faslane base on 16 April. MoD Ministers and officials in London were not too displeased with the thought that Buenos Aires might get the impression that an SSN might reach the South Atlantic in a

The Official history of the falklands campaign


few days although the FCO were anxious. The diplomats’ fears were better founded. Rather than some immediate deterrent effect the intelligence from London seemed to confirm to the Junta that if they wanted to make a move they had a narrow window of opportunity during which to take decisive action. Here Admiral Anaya’s recollections from 1977 of the potential deterrent capability of an SSN once in place may have been relevant. Speculation about the meaning of the parliamentary statements and the SSNs, based on London’s morning newspapers of 31 March, as reported by Chargé d’Affairs Molteni, confirmed suspicions in Buenos Aires that the British had been taking a hard line throughout the crisis in order to reinforce the Falklands. In which case preparations for the immediate occupation of the Islands had been prudent. If, as later surmised, this had been the date when the fateful decision had actually been taken by the Junta then the publicity given to British military preparations could have been charged with provoking the act it was supposed to deter. In fact it did no more than confirm a decision already made.


Everything that had ever been written about the poverty of Britain’s military options in the South Atlantic was being validated. It was possible to assemble a task force but the ‘preparations could not be concealed and it would prove highly provocative and hence escalatory, unless the Argentines were preparing to invade the Falklands.’ Of this, the MoD told the Prime Minister, there was ‘at present no sign.’ The FCO briefing for an expected Defence Committee on 1 April conveyed a greater degree of urgency but no sense that an invasion was two days away. The FCO’s objectives for the meeting were to clarify that diplomatic options were being pursued on South Georgia, although ‘we have few cards to play,’ to get civil and military contingency planning in hand and to secure a decision to retain Endurance for at least one more year. The general perception that this particular crisis had some time to run before it came to a climax was changed suddenly and dramatically on the afternoon of 31 March. For the moment it was assumed that not much else could be done. On 30 March the focus was still on South Georgia when the Defence Operations Executive (DOE) held its first South Atlantic crisis meeting. As a result, the acting Chief of the Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Michael Beetham (Admiral Sir Terence Lewin, the Chief of the Defence Staff, was abroad), submitted a note to the Secretary of State as briefing for the Cabinet Defence Committee meeting on 1 April. This was wary, highlighting the difficulties. The meeting had potentially significant intelligence that a merchant ship was steaming towards the Falklands, capable of carrying a battalion sized force although only known to be carrying command personnel. It could arrive on Friday, 2 April. This information had the effect of switching attention decisively away from South Georgia to the Falklands and led to Barker being ordered back to Stanley before the Argentine ship (even though the distances meant that it was already too late for that decision). Captain Barker was told to prepare contingency plans for either re-embarking his shore party or leaving a minimum effective party behind on South Georgia to observe Argentine activity. Other options for reinforcement considered included sending Marines to Ascension to be picked up by Fort Austin, with perhaps the addition of an air defence detachment (Rapier or Blowpipe). Whereas Blowpipe could be transferred to Fort Austin, Rapier could not because it was too bulky. Over the longer term an air refuelling option might be developed. Stanley airfield’s facilities could be improved by providing air traffic control equipment and extra fuel in pillow tanks. These could be flown out to Gibraltar and then transported in RFA Appleleaf. Nothing in the Secretary of Defence’s brief indicated that

The Official history of the falklands campaign


the crisis had done much yet to knock MoD out of its standard line. It hoped for a political solution while urging the need for clarity ‘about the difficulties involved in reinforcement of the Falklands and our disadvantage vis-à-vis the Argentines.’ The Ministry was still keen to stress that Endurance was not a defence priority but the Ministry was ‘prepared to run on if someone else pays.’ The Chiefs of Staff were also still cautious. Two SSNs should be sufficient; surface forces if sent would probably be too little too late and if they had to stay would disrupt plans elsewhere. An aide memoire produced by the Acting Chief of Defence Staff had a defensive tone. If the armed forces were to be criticised for not doing more, it pointed to the extra options if air bases in Uruguay or Chile could be used, and the consequences of 25 years of a policy of disposing of overseas bases and running down out-of-area capabilities to take care of NATO commitments. While small-scale operations could still be mounted the Falklands was the most difficult case. Given the limitations of Britain’s position in the South Atlantic, Sir Michael even wondered whether reprisal actions might be taken closer to home, for example against Argentine airlines or shipping. It was at least clear by 31 March that the focus was now definitely on the Falklands as much as South Georgia. Evidence for this, in addition to the report of the Argentine transport vessel travelling towards the Falklands, were orders for the acquisition of intelligence on British ship movements, and an awareness that Argentine commanders were being briefed about British ships’ communications and being sent weather forecasts for the Falklands. While the focus had shifted the likely trigger remained the same, with great reliance placed on Anaya’s reported claim that military action against the Falklands would only be initiated if an Argentine was killed in the South Georgia incident. Another report at the same time raised the possibility of an occupation of one of the outlying islands rather than the Falklands itself. Having discussed these reports on 30 March, Luce concluded that ‘provided we take no further action against the men in South Georgia, the Argentines will make no further move themselves.’ At the same time it seemed as if the Argentine Navy ‘had the bit between its teeth’ and there was no reason to suppose that there would be a compromise. It was the combination of disturbing bits of intelligence and the more substantial evidence of a diplomatic impasse that led to an Immediate Assessment, the first published JIC report since the previous July, being issued at 1100 on 31 March 1982. This took the view that the Argentine Government had not contrived the crisis but now that there was an Argentine presence on South Georgia, the Junta appeared to be using the situation to speed up the opening of negotiations on the transfer of sovereignty. But the picture of the Junta presented was of confusion rather than decisiveness. The tenor of the estimate would not lead the reader to expect any immediate action, though it was hedged in acknowledging the Junta’s ‘wide range of options’ and the: possibility that, both because of the strength of Argentine public feeling on this issue and because of imperfect co-ordination and the confused counsel given by various Argentine officials and service advisers, the Junta might take some unexpected action. The main link between South Georgia and the Falklands would come if Argentina decided that it could use its tactical advantage in the current crisis to extract British

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concessions in the wider dispute. Meanwhile, the risk of an early military confrontation appeared to depend on whether there was more—in Argentine eyes—British provocation over South Georgia. The assessment was that ‘the Argentine Government does not wish to be the first to adopt forcible measures’ but it might do so ‘to rescue their nationals if Argentine civilians on South Georgia are arrested or removed from the Island.’ In those circumstances, of ‘highly provocative’ British action, the Junta might find ‘a pretext for an invasion of the Falkland Islands.’ The level of classification of this document meant that only the most senior members of the Government saw it. According to Mrs Thatcher it left her feeling ‘deeply uneasy’ but still not expecting an immediate invasion of the Falkland Islands themselves’.1 Carrington had returned from Brussels in the morning of 30 March and later that afternoon was on his way to Israel: That I would not have done so had I believed that British territory was about to be invaded, or had intelligence assessments pointed to that beyond doubt, is self-evident—although, of course, I remained in touch at all times and able to return in five hours’.2 The briefing available to Nott did not encourage him to push for more vigorous action. He was almost obliged to conclude that there were barely any viable options for a response, and that the Islands might not be retaken once lost. The more questions the Secretary of Defence had asked in the MoD the worse it seemed. When he suggested that the Marines might blow up the airfield he was told that they had no explosives. When he asked whether a battalion of the Parachute Regiment could be sent, he was told that this was impossible because there was no air-flight refuelling. Briefing notes prepared for the planned Defence Committee meeting the next day stressed the difficulties in reinforcement, the penalties already incurred by SSN deployments, and still the need for someone else to pay if Endurance was run on. The paper forwarded by the Acting Chief of Defence Staff had observed that to counter the full range of Argentine military options it would be necessary ‘to have a full naval task group in the area before the Argentinians take action.’ Though MoD was ready for a precautionary deployment, it would take 24 days before it would be ready for operations and would inevitably become public. Any presence for a prolonged period would make heavy demands on resources and would restrict Britain’s ability to meet other commitments. This in itself was a revision from an earlier draft, which stressed even more the harm to NATO commitments. A reaction to the prevailing caution was now starting to develop within MoD, reflected as concern that the Ministry ‘did itself no credit by magnifying administrative and exercise difficulties when asked by Ministers to mount a modest operation.’ The Assistant Chief of Defence Staff, (Personnel & Logistics) noted: ‘We must not drive Ministers into the position where they say to themselves what value are we getting for £13,000 M per year’. That evening the mood changed completely. An intelligence report indicated that the Argentine Task Force expected to be at their destination in the early hours of Friday 2 April and from the co-ordinates that destination could only be Stanley. John Nott went to the Commons to take the news to the Prime Minister. She later recalled: ‘I just say it was the worst…moment of my life.’ The grim implications of this were reinforced by a further report that the London Embassy had been ordered to destroy all documents. By 1900, other FCO and MoD Ministers and officials had joined the meeting. The Government had begun March recognising that matters could come to a head before the

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year was out: it ended March facing the prospect of an invasion before the week was out. As Nott recalled later: We knew four things: that an Argentine submarine had been deployed to the area around Port Stanley (we were subsequently to learn that its task was to reconnoitre the beaches); that the Argentine fleet, which had been on exercises, had broken up into smaller units and seemed to be reassembling for an invasion; that an army commander had been embarked separately on a merchant ship and seemed likely to be the commander of an amphibious force; and finally, that the Embassy had been ordered to destroy all its documents.3 According to Nott: Our initial conversation was somewhat unstructured, but mainly concerned itself with how we could react diplomatically. A message was prepared for Margaret Thatcher to send to President Reagan asking whether he was aware of the Signals intelligence that we had just received. David Omand [Nott’s Private Secretary] was sent to ensure that our intelligence material had been received by our US counterparts. At this early stage it had not. A message was prepared to send to our Ambassador in the United States, Sir Nicholas Henderson, and to the Governor of the Falkland Islands. The message from the Prime Minister to the American President, asked him to speak urgently to Galtieri to confirm that he would not authorise any landing, let alone any hostilities and reported that the UK ‘could not acquiesce’ in any invasion. It also contained a promise that Britain would ‘not do anything to escalate the situation.’ This inhibited any overt moves during the next couple of days. The alternative, of issuing a public warning, risked underlining the current weakness of the British position. At this stage there was no military representation. The First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Henry Leach, returned in the early evening of 31 March from a visit to a naval establishment at Portsmouth and read the briefs prepared for Nott on the Falklands developments. He read the intelligence report indicating ‘without equivocation that an Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands seemed likely in the early hours of 2 April’, yet the brief for Nott: consistently advised that further naval deployments were unnecessary and undesirable. Endurance would remain on station and be resupplied, two SSN’s were on he way; to deploy further units in circumstances which were potentially no more serious than on many previous occasions— indeed arguably less so in view of the forthcoming talks—would have damaging effects on our other commitments. He found the two documents ‘incompatible’. Here was ‘a clear, imminent threat to a British overseas territory… What the hell was the point in having a Navy if it was not

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used for this sort of thing? Even as I decided that the briefs were upside down I learned that my Secretary of State was being briefed from them at that very moment.’ Leach rushed round to the Commons, in full uniform, to find Nott. This prompted a famous incident when he failed to get past a policeman at the entrance to the lobby until he was rescued by one of the whips. When he arrived he found the ‘FCO pressing for the despatch of a third SSN and the Defence Secretary reluctant to initiate any further action.’ The Prime Minister’s instinct might have been to respond forcefully to Argentine aggression, but the difficulties were all too clear, with the Islands so far away, and it was arguable that the best option was to negotiate some sort of face saving deal. The gravamen of Leach’s advice was that whatever was done must not be half-hearted, for that was likely to result in a shambles. As it would not be possible to get to the South Atlantic to forestall an invasion it would be necessary to prepare to retrieve them. According to his own account, when asked his views, Leach drew attention to the likelihood of an imminent Argentine invasion, the implausibility of a defence and the lack of a timely deterrent force. He argued for sending every element of the fleet of any possible value. Even then he conceded that air cover would be a problem, while expressing optimism in the capabilities of Sea Harriers. This required a powerful force, not just a small squadron, with an amphibious capability and a full commando brigade. Not only should Invincible be sent but also Hermes (although it was then undergoing maintenance) and the appropriate number of escorts. The Prime Minister was unhappy to be reminded that the much more formidable aircraft carrier Ark Royal was no longer in service. The force could be put together by the weekend. When asked by Thatcher how long it would take to get to the Falklands, Leach replied three weeks. ‘Three days you mean’, said the Prime Minister. She still had much to learn about the distances at which military operations were likely to be fought and the time they would take. Leach’s conviction that a fleet able to look after itself if subjected to air and sea attack by Argentine forces would be ready to sail early the next week made a deep impression on the politicians present. Those whose memories went back to Suez in 1956, and the months it had then taken to assemble a force, had not assumed that the Navy could ever act so quickly. According to Leach’s own account, when asked by the Prime Minister if the Falklands could really be recaptured if invaded, he replied ‘we could and in my judgement (though it is not my business to say so) we should.’ The reason: Because if we do not, or if we pussyfoot in our actions and do not achieve complete success, in another few months we shall be living in a different country whose word counts for little.4 According to Nott, Leach’s assertions were met ‘by some scepticism among the rest of us.’ The Defence Secretary stayed back to talk to Thatcher after the meeting, reluctant to take Leach’s assurances at face value, and aware of the contrary advice in his briefings: If I had had confidence in Henry Leach’s judgement, no doubt my hesitation might have been partially dispelled. But I did not have such confidence—there had been a full year of misunderstanding between us. So I expressed my qualms to Margaret Thatcher about the viability of such an operation…. She said ‘I suppose you realise, John, that this is

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going to be the worst week of our lives.’ I responded, ‘Well, that may be so, but I imagine that each successive week will be worse than the last.’ …Nevertheless, we gave Henry Leach authority to make preparations for a task force.5 Leach needed the authority to stop everyone going on leave for Easter. He was told to begin to prepare the force, although no commitment was made as to whether or not it should sail. At about 2300, Leach returned from the Commons to MoD. He informed the Acting Chief of Defence Staff about the emergency meeting and its decision. As at this point it was predominately a naval operation it seemed appropriate that the First Sea Lord should oversee it. Whatever the reservations in the Army and Air Force, they were not pushed to the fore. In retrospect this was a critical point in the whole Falklands story. If the Prime Minister had stood up in the Commons on 3 April, following a successful Argentine invasion, unclear about what, if any, steps might be taken in response, her Government could have fallen. By being able to report that a task force was being prepared and ready to sail not only was she able to provide a rallying point for Parliament, hold on to the political initiative at home and avoid a damaging and possibly demoralising debate about alternative courses of action, but also began to recover some of the diplomatic ground lost the previous day.

1 April The next morning the JIC reported that an Argentine amphibious assault force was exercising north of the Falkland Islands and had been joined by a naval tanker. They had picked up references over the previous couple of days to a Marine Task Force Commander, a Marine Infantry Brigade and a further frigate and of Army and Air Force involvement. The Task Force was observing radio silence, but appeared to be subdivided into a landing force, transport group, protection group and a special operations group and was expecting to reach its destination in the early hours of 2 April. There were grounds for assuming that it could be close to Stanley, especially as there was also a report of a beach reconnaissance for an amphibious landing to be carried out by a submarine (three of Argentina’s four submarines had reportedly left the Mar del Plata naval base on 26 March). Argentine units had stepped up intelligence gathering on British shipping and aircraft movements and at least two Argentine aircraft had overflown the Falkland Islands on 30 March. Nonetheless, despite all this evidence and acknowledging that an assault could be launched the next day, JIC took the view that ‘there is still no intelligence suggesting that the Argentine Junta has taken a decision to invade the Falkland Islands’. This conclusion at this time was dubious. There was now plenty of evidence suggesting a decision—just none actually confirming one. During the day there was considerable activity in Whitehall as the task force started to be put together. The Chief of Defence Staff, Admiral Sir Terence Lewin, was in New Zealand, and attempting to return home as quickly as possible. The Chief of the General Staff, General Sir Edwin Bramall, travelled from Northern Ireland. Admiral Sir John Fieldhouse returned from Gibraltar. Nott held an early meeting with senior civilian and

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military personnel under the chairmanship of Sir Michael Beetham, prior to a Cabinet meeting at 0930. Later that morning the Defence Operations Executive would start to move ahead with the military planning. The matter was raised briefly at Cabinet, where the situation was described by the Prime Minister as being ‘very grave’. According to Nott: neither at that meeting nor at the subsequent meeting of OD, which concerned itself with our diplomatic proposals, did we reveal the intelligence information that had been received the night before. As was customary, signals intelligence of this kind (only revealed some nine months later in the Franks Report) was treated on a ‘need to know’ basis. At the Defence Committee meeting, the preference was still for a diplomatic solution if one could only be found and so there was to be no overt military activity, since they were now too late to forestall the invasion and might prejudice any last minute diplomatic efforts by the Americans or at the UN. The Prime Minister remained conscious of her promise to President Reagan, made as part of her effort to get the Americans to put diplomatic pressure on the Junta, not to escalate the crisis. The covert departure of the airfield enhancement and air defence units by air to Ascension was agreed, and also the diversion of the Fort Austin to pick them up on 6 April. The Defence Operations Executive met to take the necessary steps to implement these decisions, and also began to examine the requirements for the recapture of the Islands. These were put, in a note from Beetham to Nott, as a joint service Task Force employing ground forces up to a strength of two brigades. Not only would the force take time to assemble it would also need commercial as well as RN ships. One possible source of help was Chile. Chile was about to receive HMS Norfolk but senior officers in Santiago present for the handover were told that this could be delayed if the ship was needed for the current crisis. It would still take nine to ten days to get to South Georgia. By now Nott was of the view ‘that a task force was a viable proposal and had a good chance of success’ and so he had ‘much greater confidence than I had felt the night before, as I knew that all three Services had been involved in putting this advice together.’6 By the evening there was little hope of stopping the Argentine landing. Williams met Costa Mendez to be informed that the Argentine Government regarded the matter of South Georgia closed and saw no purpose in an emissary’s visit unless this were to discuss the transfer of sovereignty. He reiterated the Argentine Government’s desire for a peaceful solution and said that the Argentine representative would make a statement at the UN on the lack of progress of negotiations on the transfer of sovereignty. The Argentine Government sent a note to the British Government containing these same points that were given to the Ambassador. Though the tone of the note was blunt it did not contain an ultimatum. The JIC concluded that: though we still have no incontrovertible evidence that the Argentine Junta itself has taken the decision to invade the Falkland Islands and South Georgia we judge that such a decision must now have been taken. We believe that the Junta would be unlikely to delay an invasion and so allowing time for British naval deployments into the area. We consider

The Official history of the falklands campaign


that the Argentine forces are now ready and fully capable of carrying out a successful invasion of the Islands and could do so with little or no warning. We assess that an Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands and South Georgia is likely to take place within the next 24 hours. If an Argentine landing on South Georgia should precede a landing on the Falkland Islands and is opposed, the Argentine Government might well use that ‘use of force’ as a pretext for the invasion of the Falkland Islands. In Washington Ambassador Henderson had seen the Secretary of State, and referred to Thatcher’s message to Reagan. Henderson went on to give him an account in some detail of the military threat to the Falklands. Haig’s reaction, Henderson later recalled, was ‘electric’. Haig said that he had not been vouchsafed by his own staff of intelligence of the kind Henderson had given him. The first US intelligence comment on the crisis appeared in the US National Intelligence Daily on 31 March. It reported that the Junta had overruled a Foreign Ministry proposal—acceptable to the British—to legalise their status of the workmen on South Georgia, and that five warships and a submarine had been despatched to the area ‘to prevent any action by the 3 British ships in the area, only one of which is armed.’ The comment linked the Argentine action largely to an attempt to extend their ‘claims to offshore oil and fishing rights far into the South Atlantic and to prepare the way to make new claims in the Antarctic.’ The prognosis was that ‘if a peaceful solution cannot be found the Thatcher Government would probably try to eject the illegal Argentines. The United Kingdom however would have to augment its meagre naval forces in the area to resist a determined Argentinean attempt to stop them.’ There was thus no anticipation of a threat to the Falklands. Thomas Enders, who was also present at this meeting, was still unconvinced, recalling the assurance from Costa Mendez that the Argentines were not contemplating confrontation with Britain and the help they were giving the Americans in EI Salvador. Haig however agreed that the matter had to be taken up urgently with the Argentines, and undertook to do everything to ensure that Reagan sent off a message to the Argentine President forthwith. At this time the United States did appear to pick up an increase in Argentine radio traffic from varying branches of the Argentine Armed Forces, with an Amphibious Force serving as the main centre of focus7 On the evening of the 1 April the Prime Minister, Carrington (who arrived back from Israel at 2230)8 and Nott, now convinced that a task force could be sent, met and decided that troops should be put on immediate notice for deployment to the South Atlantic. Nott describes how Carrington ‘looked exhausted—he had had a difficult time with the Israelis in Jerusalem and was under quite some strain.’ It was agreed that he should speak with Haig only to be told that thus far Galtieri had not taken Reagan’s call: Further intelligence came in late the same evening that sections of the Argentine forces had been ordered to rendezvous at 0600 hours the next day at a particular point off the Falkland Islands. Peter Carrington, new to the crisis, didn’t hesitate to say that we had no option but to put the Fleet to sea. Leach was asked to join the group:

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He confirmed that the ships on exercise could be reprovisioned in Gibraltar and told to sail back to the UK, but turned south thereafter; such a deployment would not remain covert, because anyhow we needed Hermes and Invincible and other ships to sail from the UK. He said that if he had the authority to put the Fleet on alert, much of it could sail within three or four days. We were tremendously impressed. Early on Friday, 2 April, Leach issued a directive: ‘The task force is to be made ready and sailed’. It would set sail at the beginning of the next week, subject only to a Cabinet meeting the next day.9 Leach relates that after signalling Fieldhouse to sail the Task Force on the Monday, he rang him and was asked for more time to improve the preparations. He was not given any.10 The best hope for diplomacy still rested with the Americans who were now more seized of the matter. The American Ambassador in Buenos Aires passed a message from Reagan to Galtieri but the latter would not say what the Argentines were going to do. The Argentine President muttered some ‘mumbo-jumbo’, to use the State Department’s phrase, regarding the need for the British to talk about relinquishing sovereignty. It was, therefore, decided that Reagan should phone Galtieri. Unfortunately, Reagan had to undergo a medical checkup during the day and it was not until the evening that he was able to ring Galtieri. At first the latter refused to take the call. Then Haig saw the Argentine Ambassador at 1945 Washington time. Already too late, he warned that the British would respond if the action that was apparently planned by Argentina took place. Any Argentine use of force, he warned: Would reverse our cooperation in Central America and the hemisphere. The reaction of the American people will be overwhelming, we will have to side with the British, and US-Argentine relations will be back to the worst days. He expressed himself shocked that Galtieri would not take a call. The Argentine Ambassador Tackas seemed more interested in whether the US Ambassador had passed the information to his Government that Britain would respond forcefully. Soon word came through that Galtieri was ready for a call and it was made at 2030. Reagan urged the Argentines not to take action against the Falklands, and left Galtieri in no doubt about the consequences of such action upon US-Argentine relations. Reagan said the British would treat it as a casus belli. The American President was prepared to send VicePresident Bush immediately to Buenos Aires to assist in a solution. Galtieri was not responsive. He said there was no point in sending Bush when this was a matter of colonialism. That evening the Ambassador was having his birthday party with Vice-President Bush and Walter Stoessel as guests. Henderson later wrote how ‘Haig eventually rang during the party to explain the call had been to no avail’. The Americans were at least preparing to denounce the invasion. Henderson rang back to London, failing to find Carrington but eventually finding the Prime Minister at 0400 London time. There seemed few options left.11 He spoke to Haig again expressing gratitude for American support and urging the US to come out with a strong condemnation of the Argentine action if they were going to

The Official history of the falklands campaign


go through with the invasion the following morning. In fact the White House came out with a ‘weasely’ statement early on the morning of 2 April, upon which the State Department, apologising that the White House spokesman had been inadequately prepared, made clear the American stance. This was to deplore the use of force to resolve the dispute and to call on Argentina immediately to cease hostilities and to withdraw its military forces from the Falklands. Henderson presumed that the Americans were afraid of the impact of the crisis on relations between the US Government and the countries of Latin America and of the possible increase of Soviet influence. In its assessment of 1030 am on 2 April 1982, the JIC noted that Argentine military preparations for a possible invasion of the Falklands continued. All Argentine naval warships were at sea except one cruiser, two destroyers and a submarine. Argentine Air Force transport aircraft had left their base and headed south but the JIC did not know their present whereabouts. Press reports indicated they were being prepared to ferry troops to the south of Argentina. The amphibious Task Force, the JIC argued, could have divided into two elements, the transport group with the protection group having split from the landing force. All units still appeared to be observing radio silence but the JIC expected it to be broken to report any significant delay in their arrival time off Stanley, which it believed was planned for the morning of 2 April. The weather at that time was unlikely to be suitable for an amphibious landing. However, conditions could improve within 12 hours. An Argentine frigate with 40 Marines embarked had been detached to South Georgia with instructions to occupy the Islands and would arrive in the afternoon of 2 April. By the time the assessment was issued the invasion was well underway. In the South Atlantic, Barker had sailed from Grytviken, having landed all his Marines with rations for 14 days, and was sailing as fast as he could to Stanley, but the journey would take three days and an invasion was anticipated within two. The instructions issued to the Royal Marines on South Georgia was that they should maintain a British presence on the island, protect the BAS personnel at Grytviken, and continue to survey the Argentines at Leith. They were to stay under the command of Endurance. Hunt, with his defensive force of 75 Royal Marines, was also sent his first formal warning of ‘preparations for the assembling of a seaborne force which could be used to invade the Falklands.’ He was told, somewhat unhelpfully, that: We are, of course, aware in general terms of your plans for the defence of the seat of government and resistance to any kind of incursion should one take place. The conduct of any operation is, of course, entirely a matter for you and the forces under your command. But is there any additional guidance you wish to have relating to the disposition of the extra Royal Marine forces at your disposal or about specific rules of engagement?12 Two SSNs were at sea, along with Fort Austin. Woodward was preparing a task force. The scale of reinforcement was still only a Company Group of 200 men, with Special Boat Squadron (SBS) personnel on the third SSN, HMS Conqueror. But frigates and destroyers (plus auxiliaries) off Gibraltar were to sail immediately for the South Atlantic, and all three Commando Brigades were to be prepared to be ready to sail by 5 April. To get an immediate force to the area on Fort Austin, a Blowpipe troop, three Lynx helicopters, an Army SATCOM, and an SBS section were to be flown to Ascension

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Island. They were likely to arrive about 13 April. The crisis had become a military operation with a name taken from the codeword lists of the Central Staff— CORPORATE.


‘Contrary to what was said at the time,’ Mrs Thatcher recalled in her memoirs, ‘we had no intelligence until almost the last moment that Argentina was about to launch a fullscale invasion’.1 The extent of the surprise witnessed within the British Government at the start of April 1982 as sovereign territory was occupied by a foreign power raised the immediate question of why it was so complete. At the time a number of allegations were made about high quality information being available prior to the invasion which as a result of bureaucratic ineptitude or wilfulness were somehow ignored or discounted. Later allegations tended to shift blame from the failure to process information correctly to the inability to collect it in the first place. The implication of both sets of allegations is that Britain found itself at war in April 1982 as the result of an intelligence failure. These issues were addressed by a committee of Privy Counsellors, under the chairmanship of Lord Franks, who were asked by the Prime Minister in July 1982: To review the way in which the responsibilities of Government in relation to the Falkland Islands and their Dependencies were discharged in the period leading up to the Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands on 2 April 1982 taking account of all such factors in previous years as are relevant; and to report.2 In Volume Two I discuss the background to this report. Here I consider the two questions posed in the final chapter of the committee’s report, published in January 1983. First, could the Government have foreseen the invasion on 2 April? Secondly, could the Government have prevented that invasion? According to the Committee, and confirmed in this study, the Government received no firm evidence of an Argentine intention to invade prior to 31 March. That the evidence came so late in the day does not constitute an intelligence failure according to the report because the actual order to invade was probably not given until this time, and the report draws attention to the industrial unrest in Argentina on 30 March as possibly prompting this decision. ‘The invasion of the Falkland Islands on 2 April could not have been foreseen.’3 The Committee found it unsatisfactory that the Joint Intelligence Committee did not return to the issue after July 1981 until the invasion was imminent but, other than giving more weight to the press campaign, it gives no reason to suppose that there would have been grounds for a markedly different conclusion. With regard to policy the Committee queried the failure of the Cabinet’s Defence Committee to address the issue after January 1981, pointed to the unfortunate signals sent



by the announced decision to pay-off Endurance, wondered whether it was wise to hand the initiative over to Argentina in September 1981 with the decision not to pursue an educational campaign and criticises the lack of contingency plans. Again very little is offered to suggest that the outcome would have been particularly different had the Government been more alert to the dangers and more willing to discuss policy alternatives. It appeared to share the general Whitehall view that however the question was examined the alternatives were dire and without great expense it would have been hard to seize the initiative back from Argentina. The critical decisions were taken in Buenos Aires and there is a strong indication that they were shaped by largely local stimuli. Even in terms of the South Georgia episode the Committee found that the decision to send HMS Endurance in response to the discovery of the Argentine workmen was ‘reasonable’ and criticised the management of the ensuing crisis only in terms of a lack of military response to the first signs of hostile Argentine activity—the reports, on 24 and 25 March, that Argentine naval vessels might seek to intercept Endurance.4 Having considered all these matters, the Committee could not identify with confidence actions which by themselves could have prevented the Argentine invasion. On that basis it concluded that it: would not be justified in attaching any criticism or blame to the present Government for the Argentine Junta’s decision to commit its act of unprovoked aggression in the invasion of the Falkland Islands on 2 April 1982.5 In the parliamentary debate on the Franks report there was concern that the Government had been let off too lightly, that the danger signs of an impending Argentine invasion had been apparent for some time, and that a prudent government would have acted accordingly. The basis for an alternative analysis was provided in a scathing telegram sent back to London by Ambassador Williams as he packed up to leave Buenos Aires after the invasion. He gave no support to the idea that landing of the workmen at Leith Harbour had been deliberately staged to provide a justification for a subsequent invasion. It was, he suggested, ‘the British handling of the affair which developed the pretext and therefore put a definite date on the implementation of what had, until then, been a contingency plan without fixed date built into it.’ While accepting that Britain could not have maintained a disproportionate force against the indefinite possibility of this contingency planning being implemented, he did identify an accusation to which the Government was vulnerable: Knowing full well that current British policy with regard to the Islands could not lead to any satisfaction of Argentine aspirations and that the Argentines were becoming increasingly restive, we refused to face the fact that our encouragement of total intransigence from the islanders involved a physical risk to them, to counter which no adequate provision had been made or could have been made. Nor did we make adequately clear to the islanders the stark choice they faced. They were never really brought face to face with the full realities of their position.

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This analysis focused on the attempt of the British Government to satisfy at the same time the incompatible aspirations of the Argentine and the islanders, and the unwillingness to accept that at some point something would have to give. Either the resources would have to be found to develop and defend the Islands or else the political ground would have to be prepared for the transfer of sovereignty. That the issue was coming to a head was well understood during the first months of 1982. That it came to a head so quickly can be traced to the dynamics of the South Georgia crisis. Indeed it is arguable that the Government, under pressure from Argentina, was coming to appreciate the logic of the situation and drifting towards the only politically viable choice, which was to resist this pressure. A crisis would have come at some time but there might have been better preparation. The crucial issue, therefore, lies in an area that the Franks Committee described but did not evaluate—the quality of British crisis management during the second half of March.

The quality of hindsight The question of whether Argentine aggression was so unprovoked that Britain could not have deterred it except by the full compliance with Argentine demands is important not only for the purposes of assigning blame (which in any event is not the task of this study) but also for an understanding of the dynamics of the crisis. It can only be answered by a consideration of Argentine decision-making. Soon after the Argentine invasion, even as the intelligence agencies were adapting to the demands of the campaign to retake the Islands, they began pondering the question of why the Argentine action had caught them so much by surprise. The sense of embarrassment was aggravated by an awareness that on the eve of the invasion a report had just been delivered to Government on why the intelligence community had been caught by surprise in the past. This major report pointed to a tendency to assume that factors which weighed heavily in the formation of British policy, such as public opinion, a reluctance to use force and military balances of power, would be equally compelling constraints on countries ruled by one party or heavily under the influence of a single leader. These tendencies to ‘mirror image’ and ‘transfer judgement’ were evident in assessments of the Egyptian attack on Israel in October 1973 and the Iraqi invasion of Iran in 1980. An even more damaging trend was highlighted, described as ‘perservation’, that is an inclination for judgements made in the early stages of a developing situation to be allowed to affect later assessments and not revised in the light of new evidence. The author warned that while governments did not ‘drift’ into war, but would decide on hostilities and then engage in careful planning and preparation before a comparatively short period of deployment and mobilisation, they would also do all they could to deceive the intended target: It is, therefore, quite essential in dealing with a centrally controlled, oneparty state, to view its attitude to a crisis as a unified whole and to handle the intelligence on political and military developments together, and to understand, if possible, the developing outlook and policy of the potential aggressor in political/military terms, right from the beginning.



The JIC met on Thursday 4 March 1982 to consider the report and, in general discussion, judged itself alert to the lessons to be learnt. A copy reached the Prime Minister in the latter half of March 1982. This phenomenon of ‘perservation’ was fully illustrated through the Falklands case. After the start of the war, the author of this report was commissioned to study the Falklands case. The evidence available to him was not as complete as later material. He started with a report picked up by the BBC monitoring service on 2 April that the fleet had sailed south from Puerto Belgrano on 28 March, carrying on board a Marine infantry battalion, an amphibious command section, frogmen, and Argentine troops with the objective of staying near the Islands as an advance mobile force to support the operation. ‘On the evening of 1 April, from previously established positions, the fleet started advancing to the objectives that had been selected… The first marine infantry units landed yesterday at 2200 (local).’ It was known that the force had received detailed arrangements for its organisation and communications structure on 29 March. All this confirmed that this was an all-service operation, and not a rogue operation by the Argentine Navy, and that the force had been assembled just a few days before. There was also the evidence of the beach reconnaissance ordered of the submarine Santa Fe on 29 March. All this might have argued for the key decisions having been taken before 31 March. Yet there was evidence that the actual order for the invasion was not given until late on 1 April. By focusing on this date more emphasis was given to the actual order to invade rather than the decision in principle, and this made it possible to give credence to other evidence that the Junta was worried at the time by a series of industrial strikes. The later the decision date the greater the possible importance attached to the temptation to adopt a dramatic means to serve as an outlet for domestic discontent, with perhaps less weight being given to frustration with the British or concern with the possibility that the crisis might prompt Britain to send its own reinforcements or work out some deal with Chile. In playing down the initial decision to assemble a task force and draw up final plans, this analysis may have been influenced by a report, which was received in London on 30 March, and which we have seen to be extremely influential in shaping British perceptions during the 30/31 March. This described a briefing by Admiral Anaya two days earlier indicating that while Argentina had not provoked the South Georgia incident it now intended to take advantage to press her claim, and that if any Argentine workmen resisting British attempts to move them were killed, a force would then be landed on the Falkland Islands, possibly at Stanley. According to this analysis the Junta had certainly envisaged circumstances in which an invasion might be authorised, and preparations were being made, but this was still dependent upon an aggressive move by Britain with regard to South Georgia. It was only at the last minute, and in the light of the strikes at home, that an opportunistic decision was made to take advantage of this mobilised force to settle the Falklands issue once and for all. The later the Argentine decision to invade, also the less unreasonable the failure to pick it up in time. At least one reviewer of this report from outside the intelligence community but in MoD queried the value of the bald conclusion that the critical date was 31 March on the grounds that to focus on the Junta’s final decision was to miss the significance of a series of preceding decisions. He observed that the:

The Official history of the falklands campaign


evidence presented can alternatively be read without difficulty as suggesting plans moving forward over a number of weeks, accelerating perhaps because of the opportunity provided by the S Georgia incident, being covered by exercise play to reduce knowledge of the real intent, culminating in a ‘go’ decision from the Junta at the latest possible time to call off the landing if necessary to do so. The commissioned report was completed during the war and reviewed just after the Argentine surrender. Its conclusion chimed with the JIC’s own initial post-invasion judgement that: ‘the Argentine decision to order the Task Force to invade the Falklands was almost certainly not taken earlier than 28/29 March. The decision could have been taken as late as evening of 31 March, after Costa Mendez had received the British proposal; and according to a secret report he himself said it was not taken until 1900 hours (local time) on 1 April’. It is perhaps not surprising that the JIC accepted the conclusions of this report, and saw it as having done much of the spadework for Franks. The view communicated directly by the intelligence community to the Franks Committee was one that stressed that the final decision to invade, as distinct from planning an invasion, ‘was taken some time between 28 March and 1 April. We have one fairly well authenticated report, as we see it, which suggests that it was taken some time between 5 and 7 o’clock on the evening of 1 April.’ This was a view that Franks accepted. Yet by this time there was evidence that gave a much fuller picture of Argentine decision-making, putting the key decision in principle by the Junta on 26 March, before the industrial unrest, and in direct response to the stance taken by the British Government on the South Georgia crisis. As early as 3 April a report had been received which put the ‘time and date of the operation at least seven days in advance’ but had not been circulated because of its retrospective nature and undetermined reliability. Attention was only drawn to it when it was referred to in May in a CIA analysis. Most significant was an account, which appears to have been largely accurate, picking up the start of highlysecret invasion planning in January 1982 geared towards an operation from about July 1982, only to be brought forward by the South Georgia incident. The target date was then fixed a week in advance, although final authorisation depended upon a number of factors, including the weather. All the details had been kept secret, and because of this there had been few opportunities to consult on the political implications. The account reported warnings that there should be no English casualties. Other evidence from a variety of sources confirmed that the decision to invade the Falklands was taken some seven or eight days in advance. A considerable amount of later intelligence also pointed to 26 March as the date when the decision to invade was taken, from the statement by Costa Mendez the next day that the Argentine workmen would be given ‘any necessary protection,’ to evidence on the involvement of Army units on 27 March and other hasty preparations for an invasion. It was true that the final decision to invade was taken at 1900 on 1 April, a time that had some significance in that it indicated that Galtieri had waited until the decision was irrevocable before taking his call from President Reagan. But the focus on this particular moment was still misleading. It encouraged the view that the invasion went ahead despite every effort by Britain to avoid further provocation and in the light of domestic unrest.



Types of trouble The problem was not that politicians had been left oblivious to the possibility of tough action by Argentina, but that if this came the consensus view was, as Lord Carrington later recalled, that it would take the form of ‘a build up of tensions, an escalating situation, before any outright military adventure was tried by Argentina. It seemed reasonable then, and I still believe it was reasonable to suppose that we had a little time.’6 The Prime Minister had a similar view. When recording her concern at the news of the unilateral communiqué of early March, and asking for contingency plans, she was still not expecting anything like a full-scale invasion, which, according to her ‘our most recent intelligence assessment of Argentine intentions had discounted’.7 So even if a new assessment had been concluded during the first three weeks of March 1982, it might well have reached similar conclusions as in July 1981. This was the view taken at the time by DIS, to which the Assessments Staff analysts did not dissent. All Argentina watchers were aware that the Junta was taking a stronger line during February and into March, but the view was still that there was no greater immediate threat to the Falklands than indicated in the July 1981 assessment. Argentine patience did not yet appear to be exhausted. No intelligence received in the months prior to the invasion pointed directly to an imminent invasion. It was known that the Navy was taking a particularly tough line but the best intelligence suggested that no service would be able to prompt an invasion unilaterally and nothing would happen until the talks had irretrievably broken down. A similar view was taken of the press campaign. The more nationalistic comments appeared in one newspaper, La Prensa, and were the work of one journalist, and were not unusual in themselves, certainly not to the point where they could be taken as a clear indicator of the Argentine Government’s intentions rather than just an attempt to put extra pressure on British negotiators. There was nothing worse here than had been experienced before, for example during the crisis over the Shackleton Report. At the same time Argentina continued to re-assure the British—as well as the American— Government of an interest in a negotiated settlement on sovereignty. The schedule being followed by the Junta seemed to point to June 1982 as when it would be decided, if there had been no tangible progress towards a settlement, whether to proceed with a diplomatic offensive in international organisations. The period of greatest danger appeared to be the next (southern) summer, beginning in October. If there was a deadline it was probably January 1983, the 150th anniversary of the loss of the Malvinas to Britain. For the moment no Argentine source was suggesting that an invasion was part of current planning. There was never much doubt in all of this that Argentina had plans of some sort for an invasion of the Falklands. There had been evidence of this going back until at least 1976, and it was believed to be regularly updated. The Argentine Navy was supposed to be confident that it would be relatively easy to capture the Islands and that the main difficulties would arise with the actual occupation, possible British retaliation and the resistance of the islanders. The Argentine Army, however, had paid less attention to the matter and there was no evidence that the Air Force had ever taken it seriously. The British too, of course, had always assumed that an Argentine occupation of the Falklands would be a perfectly manageable task. The informed view was that this was unlikely, not only because the Argentine Navy was Anglophile or the risks were too high, but because

The Official history of the falklands campaign


it was unnecessary. If they wanted to cause trouble all Argentina had to do was to cut off the links. The islanders might be defiant but their outlook, bleak enough already, would be dire. It is now the view of many of the Falklanders who lived through those years that if Argentina had done nothing at all, the steady outflow of population would have eventually caused the fragile economic and social structure to collapse.8 The fate of the Falklands might well have eventually been decided through what the Governor in 1976 had called ‘euthanasia by generous compensation.’ As far as can be judged, the portrayals of Argentine views up to the South Georgia episode were generally accurate, except that there was no knowledge of the December 1981 decision to accelerate military planning or the convergent views of Anaya and Galtieri. The best intelligence by the middle of March 1982 was that the Foreign Ministry was looking to solve the dispute through promises of economic co-operation rather than force, but that if Britain did not agree to monthly meetings of the Anglo-Argentine ‘negotiating commission’ consideration would be given to retaliation by cutting either the air or shipping services to the Falklands. It was understood that matters could then escalate further. No later intelligence contradicted the accuracy of the general assessment of this period. Even with the benefit of hindsight after the war, the JIC took the view that stated that: The mood in Argentina, reflected in the Argentine media, was one of impatience at the slow progress towards achieving the claim and one of expectation that progress would be made during the year. The concept of combining negotiations with the threat or use of force to accelerate progress towards a solution was made increasingly familiar to the Argentine population through Argentine media.

Crisis management The intelligence failure if there was one, therefore, did not lie in a misapprehension of the Junta’s mood or its timetable, but in the likely strategy Argentina might adopt once its patience with futile negotiations had been exhausted, and the impact of South Georgia on the timetable. Once it is appreciated that the Junta’s decision was taken on the 26 March then it is not hard to find the trigger in the British demand for the removal of the workmen on South Georgia, highlighted in the Parliamentary statement of 23 March and reinforced by the movement of Endurance towards the island. It was when the crisis entered the public domain that it developed a new dynamic, which led in three days to an Argentine decision to invade. The intelligence community might have picked up evidence of this earlier than 31 March, but it could not have done so much earlier. Even if realisation had dawned a couple of days earlier little more could have been done in military terms. The time from Argentine decision to execution was not long enough to allow for any reinforcements to reach the South Atlantic from the UK. Nor without the sort of proof that could be on public display would this information necessarily have been of much help diplomatically. There was a problem at both the strategic and tactical levels. Britain opted at the start of the South Georgia crisis for a high-risk approach without, it would seem, a clear sense



of where it would lead. It was not so much that the significance of the Davidoff expedition was exaggerated, as left alone it probably would have led to a quasipermanent Argentine presence on British territory, but that action was taken on the basis of incomplete intelligence and without due regard for the local balance of power. At the strategic level, the Government had been left with limited options because of conscious decisions by successive governments not to expend defence resources on the South Atlantic. This meant that at a tactical level it was in no position to take on Argentine forces over an incident such as this. By managing to give the impression that it was nonetheless prepared to do so, the Government prompted Argentina to escalate, to a point where it could not keep up but was also not well placed to back down. First steps in the South Georgia crisis were taken without thinking through what the second and third steps might be. A strong position was taken without consideration of the problem of enforcement. On 20 March Endurance was sent to South Georgia as the only available means of enforcement, after all that had been said about its limited capabilities in numerous letters to concerned members of the public. The post-war discussion of Endurance concentrated on the implications of its announced withdrawal as part of the 1981 Defence Review, and the possible impact that this might have had on Argentine views of British resolve. Carrington, who had pressed Nott to reverse this decision because of the signals it sent, later concluded that: ‘How much it mattered remains debatable: on reflection, I doubt whether this proved a decisive point’.9 Franks noted an intelligence report in September 1981, which quoted an Argentine diplomatic view that the withdrawal of Endurance had been construed by the Argentines as a deliberate political gesture rather than an economy in Britain’s defence budget.10 Nevertheless, Thatcher later described Endurance as ‘a military irrelevance’, suggesting that: ‘it would neither deter or repel an invasion’.11 Yet it was to this military irrelevance that the Government turned, and in ignorance of the actual Argentine deployment on South Georgia. It may have been sent to South Georgia as a precaution and for intelligence gathering, but once it was cited in Parliament in a more robust context, then its presence was inevitably provocative. The Government had an understandable eye on parliamentary and islander opinion, and knew it would be condemned if it failed to stand up to an Argentine provocation. Unfortunately it lacked the wherewithal to sustain a resolute stance. As soon as the modalities of enforcement were considered caution set in. Every overt military step carried a risk of provocation. But it was too late to undo the initial provocation. Instead of seeing it through, while the Junta was still sorting out its response, there was a lapse into equivocation. By late March 1982 one way or another the Government was bound for humiliation: either a diplomatic retreat on South Georgia or some irresistible Argentine use of force. Three factors might have persuaded the Junta to call off the operation. The possibility that the United States would not approve this move, that significant resistance might have to be overcome, and that Britain had both the capacity and the will to retake the Islands. The British had attempted to mobilise the Americans but this was a last minute effort. Though it is interesting to speculate about whether Reagan would have been able to persuade Galtieri to desist from this action had he been able to get through before late on 1 April, it is also important to note that the British Government was initially unsure about the benefits of American interference on the grounds that this could lead to unwelcome pressure to compromise on sovereignty issues. Involving the Americans certainly limited

The Official history of the falklands campaign


British options as once this had been done it became difficult, given the promise the Prime Minister felt she had made to the President, to threaten the use of armed force at the same time. This appears to have had an extremely inhibiting effect and would have done so even if intelligence had provided a longer warning time. To persuade Buenos Aires of the possibility of resistance to an invasion or else of a reinvasion there would need to have been a keener sense of Argentine strategy. The persistence of the model of gradual escalation on Government thinking meant that, even with the growing sense of wading in ever deeper waters as the crisis over South Georgia began to get out of control, the danger was assumed to lie in an attempt to deny the Falklands communications with the mainland, or else an occupation of South Georgia. Occupying the Falklands was such a drastic step, so grave in its implications for both countries, that it was assumed to be at most the possible finale of a series of attempts to exert pressure on Britain to relinquish the Islands. As the lesser forms of pressure posed difficult enough problems for Britain there seemed to be little need for Argentina to overstep the line so far by such a crude violation of basic norms of international law, and certainly not before they had made every effort to demonstrate that alternative forms of pressure had been exhausted. If they were to take such a drastic step then the issue for Argentine strategists was not whether any resistance could be overcome, which was never in doubt, but whether this could be achieved without great bloodshed, at least on the British side. By the time they realised that the British were alert to the possibility of an invasion it was too late to turn back and the eventual operation clearly risked severe British military casualties. The Prime Minister observed on 3 April that: had I come to the House at that time and said that we had a problem on South Georgia with 10 people who had landed with a contract to remove a whaling station, and I had gone on to say that we should send HMS ‘Invincible’, I should have been accused of war mongering and sabre rattling.12 So a proportionate response—Endurance—was sent to deal with what appeared to be a small problem. The trouble with armed force, however, is that it has to be sized by reference to the capabilities of the opponent rather than the significance of the issue in dispute. A small response carried the message of resistance but not the means to see it through. Nott later wondered what would have happened ‘if a nuclear submarine had been on station and we had disclosed its presence?’ He finds it a ‘little hard to believe that, at that moment, we would have given it orders to sink approaching Argentine merchant ships in the area. Moreover, even if we had done so, it could hardly have prevented the landing of sufficient forces to overpower our Royal Marine contingent on the Islands.’13 This is true but knowledge of such a presence, or indeed of any other local preparedness to frustrate an invasion, or the extent of Britain’s readiness to send a task force, would probably have affected the Junta’s risk calculus. The speed and secrecy with which the decision to invade was implemented meant that there was no opportunity for any diplomatic or military warning to have an effect. Galtieri’s reluctance to talk to Reagan until it was too late indicated an awareness that some forms of pressure might prove to be irresistible. If the crisis had been forced out



into the open before the final invasion order had been issued then the Junta would have at least found itself in the uncomfortable position of having to justify a controversial decision in the full knowledge of the severe consequences that would ensue. If the Junta had known about the coming British response, which was decided upon just before the invasion of the Falklands was given the final go-ahead, there might have been some hesitation. Just as Britain misunderstood Argentina’s strategy, so was Argentina mistaken about what Britain was up to during the South Georgia crisis and how it might respond to an occupation. Given that the Argentine action did turn out to be remarkably counterproductive, then perhaps it was not unreasonable for the Government to make the jump from this being an unwise move for the Junta to make to being one that they certainly would not make. This may have followed the standard mistakes of mirror imaging and transfer of judgement, but alternative hypotheses would have been difficult to formulate, and would not necessarily have been more correct, given that these issues were by no means settled within the Junta. The problems with Falklands’ policy were not procedural but substantive. If there had been more meetings on the subject by the JIC or by a Cabinet Sub-Committee they would not necessarily have produced a different policy. The core of established policy was the avoidance of choice between unpalatable options and reliance on diplomacy to push back the day when this stance was no longer tenable. By late March 1982, the choice could no longer be avoided. That the effort to employ diplomatic talents to reconcile the irreconcilable was all but exhausted had been apparent the previous summer. Argentina knew what Britain was up to and was determined to force the choice. The FCO knew that Argentina knew and was urging the government to act before Argentina forced its hand. The policy failure lay in sticking with an incredible strategy to the point where initiative was ceded to Argentina. Perhaps even more it lay in ignoring the logic of this strategy as soon as it was put to the test in South Georgia. The fundamental problem was that for many years the only people who had attempted to reconcile the refusal to both appease and deter Argentina were the occasional ministers and officials who were handed the Falklands’ portfolio. Most policy suggestions seemed to err on the side of appeasement though not enough to gain Argentine acceptance while exciting a significant Parliamentary lobby. All the political incentives, therefore, pointed to prevarication through emollients to both the islanders and the Argentines. This met the requirements of domestic politics but provided no way out of the continuing conflict and resulted in a severe lack of options once the conflict went critical.


1 ORIGINS OF THE DISPUTE 1 When the new Constitution was drafted for the Falklands in 1985, its administrative link with these islands was broken as it was felt that they needed their own constitution and also to confirm the legal distinctiveness. On 3 October 1985 South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands (SGSSI) became a separate British Overseas Territory. 2 Rex Hunt, My Falkland Days (London: David & Charles, 1992), p. 131. 3 House of Commons, Fifth report from the Foreign Affairs Committee, Falkland Islands, Report with Annexes; together with the Proceedings of the Committee, Minutes of Evidence and Appendices, Vol. 1, 25 October 1984, para 22. This was notably less definite than the draft report discussed prior to the 1983 election, which gave support to prescription, although failed to be agreed after numerous amendments and counter-amendments by members of the committee. House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, Session 1982– 83, Minutes of the Proceedings, 11 May 1983. 4‘In brief, the United Kingdom title to the Falkland Islands is derived from early settlement, reinforced by formal claims in the name of the Crown and completed by effective occupation for nearly 150 years. The exercise of sovereignty by the United Kingdom over the Islands, has, furthermore, consistently been shown to accord with the freely expressed wishes of the people who form their permanent population.’ Memorandum by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, Session 1982–83, Minutes of Evidence, 10 November 1982. 5 For sources see Raphael Perl, The Falkland Islands Dispute in International Law and Politics: A Documentary Sourcebook (New York: Oceana, 1983); Lowell Gustafson, The Sovereignty Dispute over the Falkland (Malvinas) Islands (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988). For a history of the Islands reflecting the views of the Falklanders see Mary Cawkell, The History of the Falkland Islands, (London: Anthony Nelson, 2001), Graham Pascoe and Peter Pepper, The Falklands Saga (manuscript: July 2004). 6 Argentina claimed when protesting the British action in 1833 that the withdrawal in 1774 was the result of a secret understanding between Britain and Spain in 1770. The British replied that there was no documentary evidence of such an understanding. Gaston de Bernhardt in his 1911 memo also found no evidence but described the secret agreement as ‘generally credited.’ 7 Peter Beck, ‘The Anglo-Argentine Dispute Over Title to the Falkland Islands: Changing British Perceptions on Sovereignty since 1910,’ Millennium: Journal of International Studies, Vol. 12 No. 1 (Spring 1983), p. 18.



8 Julius Goebel, The Struggle for the Falkland Islands (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1927). On this period see Beck, ‘The Anglo-Argentine Dispute Over Title to the Falkland Islands’, pp. 14–15. 9 The acquisition and possession, undisturbed and uninterrupted, of a territory which was formerly under another State’s sovereignty or occupation, i.e. that was not terra nullius. 10 It has been noted that those trained in English Common Law tend to accept acquisitive prescription more often than those trained in Roman law, as practised in Argentina. Jeffrey Myhre, ‘Title to the Falklands-Malvinas Under International Law’, Millennium: Journal of International Studies, Vol. 12 No. 1 (Spring 1983), p. 34. The 1928 Palmas arbitration is taken as support for ‘acquisitive prescription’. 11 Daniel Gibran, The Falklands War: Britain Versus the Past in the South Atlantic (London: McFarland & Company, 1998), p. 40; Peter Beck, The Falkland Islands as an International Problem (London: Routledge, 1988), pp. 50–52 and Gustafson, The Sovereignty Dispute over the Falkland (Malvinas) Islands, pp. 27, 33–35. 12 Michael Charlton, The Little Platoon: Diplomacy and the Falklands Dispute (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1989), p. 5. 13 Roger Perkins, Operation Paraquat: The Battle for South Georgia (Chippenham: Picton Publishing, 1986), p. 17. 14 Professor James Fawcett, House of Commons, Foreign Affairs Committee, Falkland Islands, Minutes of Evidence, 17 January 1983, 546. 15 The Special Committee on the situation with regard to the implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples. 16 Beck, The Falkland Islands, p. 71. See also Alfredo Bruno Bologna, ‘Argentinian Claims to the Malvinas Under International Law’, Millennium: Journal of International Studies, Vol. 12 No. 1 (Spring 1983), pp. 39–30. 17 House of Commons, Fifth report from the Foreign Affairs Committee, Falkland Islands, Report with Annexes; together with the Proceedings of the Committee, Minutes of Evidence and Appendices

2 INCONSISTENT APPEASEMENT 1 Previous Polar Years had been in 1882–1883 and 1932–1933. 2 Michael Charlton, The Little Platoon, p. 11. 3 See Klaus Dodds, Pink Ice: Britain and the South Atlantic Empire, (London: I.B. Tauris, 2002), pp. 95–101.

3 COMMUNICATIONS AND CONDOMINIUMS 1 Official Record, House of Commons, 11 December 1968, cols. 424–434. 2 Official Record, House of Commons, 12 December 1968, cols. 608–614.



4 MIS-COMMUNICATION AND NON-COOPERATION 1 It was so sudden that Rowlands requested an investigation into this episode after a meeting in February 1976. 2 See Official Record Written Answers on 26 June 1974. Minister of State David Ennals answer to question from Sir Anthony Kershaw: ‘…if discussions are resumed representatives of the Islanders will be invited to join the United Kingdom delegation.’ 3 See, for example, ‘Falklands Deal by Jim,’ Sunday Express, 16 June 1974. 4 On 27 July Richard Luce MP wrote to the Daily Telegraph calling for a ministerial visit to the Falklands to reassure the islanders. Two days later he tabled a Parliamentary Question, as did Sir Bernard Braine on 30 July. 5 After Hopson’s death, the British Embassy in Buenos Aires later queried the extent to which they had been instructed to break off talks, indicating the ministerial desire to soften the blow had left a degree of ambiguity. 6 An exchange of notes on the supply and marketing in the Falkland Islands of Argentine Petroleum-based Products, dated 13 December 1974, required that the private east jetty, owned by the Falkland Islands Company, be made available to Argentine oil tankers. However, having at first agreed, the company objected, after signature of the agreement, because of the fire risk. This then led to the commissioning of a report, which supported the company’s view. The FCO decided that to fulfil HMG’s commitment a new jetty should be built. In 1978 the Argentine government offered to build a new jetty for £268 K using their Air Force construction unit. Subsequently the Argentines decided that their price was too low and in 1980 recosted the project at £1.6 m. They later offered to meet some £1.3 m of this cost themselves, leaving HMG to contribute £300 K. This offer was accepted in principle but the negotiations for a jetty agreement failed to make progress, mainly because of political factors (e.g. the question of flying of courtesy flags by Argentine civil shipping). 7 He also suggested the possible need for a ‘secret meeting on neutral ground’ between Ennals and Vignes in August. 8 The article was Hugh O’Shaughnessy, ‘Decision of on Falkland oil licenses expected,’ Financial Times, 3 April 1975. This article was largely concerned with the problems of issuing licenses to explore potential oil reserves in the light of the dispute. The final paragraph referred to lease-back only in passing as one of a number of options.

5 SHACKLETON 1 Until the early 1970s the Falklands had received an annual allocation of up to £50,000 to cover development needs in a programme administered in the FCO. In 1973 the terms of aid for Dependent Territories were reviewed and the Falklands were put on soft loan terms with effect from 1 April 1973. In June 1973 a five year development plan had been drawn up which identified a number of projects to be financed from the annual allocation to which an extra £50,000 for fencing subsidies was added. In 1976 the administration of the aid programme was transferred to the Ministry of Overseas Development and the Development Plan was formalised as the UK/FI loan 1973 for small capital projects. 2 It was completed in 1977 at a final cost of £6 million.



3 This led to an accusation from the more cynical islanders that the survey was no more than a pretext for a personal pilgrimage. 4 Colin Phipps, What Future for the Falklands? Fabian Tract 450, July 1977. 5 Economic Survey of the Falklands Islands vol. 2, p.4. 6 In 1975/6 the FIC owned 288,843 sheep (out of a total of 644,819) in the Falklands and 46% of the land. It controlled much of the local banking, commerce and shipping. 7 In 1976 there were 319 pupils attending government schools, at primary and junior secondary levels. The schools were staffed by 70 teachers, of whom 33 were itinerant for outlying areas. Two Argentine teachers gave lessons in Spanish for children and officials in Stanley. 23 children of secondary school age were being educated in the UK, Argentina and Uruguay. 8 Those projects that did go ahead suffered familiar problems. In 1977 a study team recommended that the Stanley-Darwin road should be built. The original plan was for a construction time from 1978 of 26 months at a cost of £915 K. In 1979 a shortage of labour, plant breakdowns and other difficulties resulted in the programme being rescheduled to seven years at a total cost of £ 1.377 m. Following the recommendation for education to be centralised in Stanley and boarding places be provided for settlement children, construction of a School Hostel commenced in late 1978 to an original completion date of June 1979. For a variety of reasons, including the financial collapse of the original contractors, this date slipped. At the time of the Argentine invasion the hostel had still not been completed. For progress reports on implementation see statement by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Overseas Development, Official Record, Commons, 16 December 1977, cols. 1233–5; Lord Goronwy-Roberts (FCO), Official Record, House of Lords, 22 June 1978, cols. 1526–1528. 9 A note in July anticipated costs of krill research and development at £1 million, general economic development at £1.5 million over a five year period and the cost of extending the airfield at £5 million (consultants were already assessing the cost of extension and construction). The survey itself would cost £50,000. This put a total potential cost of £7,550,000—or £1,510,000 per year over five years. 10 See for example Financial Times, 21 July 1976; The Times, 21 July 1976. 11 In addition the tourist season in the Falklands is short—November to end of March.

6 UNRELIABLE DEFENCE 1 The commitment to Belize was much more substantial than that to the Falklands. In the mid1970s it stood at one infantry battalion, with artillery support, Blowpipe, an SAS troop and RAF element. In the autumn of 1976 there was a comprehensive review of the Belize force level which led to recommendations to the Chiefs of Staff and then to Ministers, for a significant augmentation. Proposals for an extra infantry company to the three presently there, plus four Hunter aircraft, were held until information was available on the Guatemalan and Belizean positions. The force was designed to deter attack and, should this fail, to prevent the capture of significant amounts of territory and particularly the airport so that reinforcements could arrive from the UK. 2 By November 1977 this appears to have gone down to 30 and 70 respectively. 3 In a curious incident in June 1974, the LADE representative, Vice Comodoro Bloomer-Reeve, warned of a plan by Argentine extremists to mount a ‘symbolic reoccupation’ of the Falklands on ‘Malvinas Day’ (10 June) by landing an aircraft either at the airport or the race course. His government appeared unable or unwilling to prevent this. Bloomer-Reeve indicated that if the Marines took no provocative steps the aircraft would probably simply



return home. It was pointed out that such an escapade would not help bring local opinion round. In the event nothing happened. 4 Michael Frenchman, ‘The Falkland Islanders may be no more than pawns in a game Britain does not want to win,’ The Times, 19 January 1976. This article indicated a clear briefing from Shackleton’s team. 5 One problem was that the SS11 ASMs had—as a result of an oversight—never been declared in the past. 6 The Argentine Auxiliary Naval Services also provided fuel.

7 REAPPRAISAL 1 One was built in Barrow and began sea trials in April 1976. The other was built in Argentina, but was badly damaged in an August 1975 fire and had to be repaired with British help. In March 1976 there was £34.22 million still owed, to be paid over eight years from June 1977. The two were named the Hercules and Santisima Trinidad. 2 Ambassador Ashe accurately predicted the timing of this (March) in a meeting in Rowlands’ office in January 1976. 3 These changes arose from a report prepared by a select committee of the Legislative Council on possible constitutional changes, and submitted early in 1975. Previously the seats had been distributed on the basis of one each for East and West Falkland and two for Stanley. The new distribution was for four electoral areas- East Stanley, West Stanley, East Falkland and West Falkland—and two electoral divisions—Stanley and the ‘camp’. In the first election under the new system in 1977, the East Stanley seat was left uncontested. About 800 people voted in this election. The Privy Council eventually approved the changes on 9 March 1977. 4 The report was published as Economic Survey of the Falkland Islands (London: HMSO, 1976). 5 Michael Charlton, The Little Platoon, p. 54. 6 By this time the Company was owned by Coalite. Its annual report for 1978–9 noted that ‘the removal of uncertainties over external claims regarding sovereignty would greatly help’ the Company prospects. Annual Report and Accounts 1978–9, p. 8. Cited in Beck, The Falkland Islands, p. 115.

8 UNDETECTED DETERRENCE 1 Official Record, House of Commons, 1 February 1977, cols. 550–552. 2 A meeting was held in May to discuss this paper. It examined the prospects for the South Atlantic resources of fish, oil and krill. The fishing industry appeared parochial in its outlook and had shown no interest in operating in the South Atlantic. The same was true for krill. They were balanced, to some extent, by the oil industry who had a more global vision and were interested in any new fields. For a full assessment of the oil issue see Colin Phipps, What Future for the Falklands?, Fabian Tract 450, July 1977, chapter three. 3 Rowlands, interview, 3 November 1999. 4 Petrol, avgas, kerosene and butane came from the mainland, of which avgas was needed for the air service.



5 By 1982 the situation was different and better, though still far from ideal, as a result of the lease of bandwith on US communication satellites. 6 Interview with Lord Callaghan, 11 August 1999. See also James Callaghan, Time and Chance (London: Collins, 1987), p. 375. Owen, interview, 2 December 1999. See also Owen’s contribution to the Franks Report debate, Commons, Official Record, 25 January 1983, col. 818; David Owen, Time to Declare, (London: Michael Joseph, 1991) p. 350; Nigel West, The Secret War for the Falklands: The SAS, MI6, and the War Whitehall Nearly Lost (London, Little, Brown and Company, 1997), pp. 220–2, deals at some length with the question of whether the SSN, HMS Dreadnought, had been under orders to expose itself to Argentine vessels and concludes that it was not and did not. I have seen no suggestion in any official papers of such a move. 7 Denys Blakeway, Channel Four: the Falklands War, (London: Sidgwick & Jackson, 1992), pp. 7–8. A further suggestion that Anaya knew is found in Michael Charlton, The Little Platoon, p. 116. 8 House of Commons, Official Record, 30 March 1982, col. 168. 9 House of Commons, Official Record, 25 January 1983, col. 819. 10 Admiral Lord Lewin, ‘Send a gunboat—if there’s a fleet and a will to back it,’ Daily Telegraph, 22 February 1983. 11 Letter, Daily Telegraph, 23 February 1983. 12 The step, designed to provide the Task Force adequate time and room in which to engage vessels with hostile intent, would have to be effected very quickly by proclamation or order in council. MoD moved on from 25 to 50 miles. They were not involved until late on in the legal discussions, which remained focused on the earlier proposal of 25 miles.

9 MARKING TIME 1 Joint expert study groups on oil and fishing were proposed by Argentina and welcomed by Britain. 2 Hugh O’Shaughnessy, ‘Tougher U.K. line on Falklands,’ Financial Times, 23 March 1978, stressed the growing realisation of the economic potential of the Islands in Whitehall, and the reluctance of the Department of Energy to relinquish access to the area’s oil potential. It cited a Whitehall commentator: ‘Headlines in the popular press about a British sell-out of the Islands could not be wider of the mark.’ 3 Hugh O’Shaughnessy, ‘Argentinians take over British Islands,’ Observer, 7 May 1978. 4 See brief discussion in Lords, prompted by Lord Goronwy-Roberts’ cautious response to a question from Lord Carrington, Official Record, Lords, 10 May 1978, cols. 976–981; Dr Owen’s reply to Sir Bernard Braine, Official Record Commons, 12 May 1978. This stated somewhat disingenuously that ‘We understand their activities are solely in support of their Antarctic Research Programme.’ 5 There is also a suggestion that a failure to pay the required 10 percent into the ‘Argentine Navy’s widow’s and orphans’ benevolent fund’ did not help. Michael Charlton, The Little Platoon, p. 40.




1 The issue arose after the Commander-in-Chief of the Argentine Air Force felt that he had not received the treatment he expected during an informal visit to Britain in 1978, and it was being argued that he should at least see the Chief of Air Staff during a future visit. 2 Monk, then aged 60, had been born in Britain but moved to the Falklands, from where his mother came, in 1947. He had been the manager at San Carlos farm since 1968 and a member of the Legislative Council since 1971. 3 The other question with regard to the delegations was the participation of Ambassadors. The Argentine Ambassador to London, Sr Ortiz de Rozas, had been assumed to be likely to insinuate himself into talks, and on that basis, his British counterpart in Buenos Aires, Anthony Williams, was also going to attend. Then news came that the Argentine team would consist of Deputy Foreign Minister Cavándoli, Sr Bloomer-Reeve and Sr Oliveri Lopez. Although the Argentines appeared concerned that Ambassadors would be tarnished if the talks faced difficulties, the British still judged it advisable to have Williams available to keep the Embassy up to date and help liaison.

11 THE RISE OF LEASE-BACK 1 Every effort was made at the time and in subsequent years to keep this meeting secret. The Franks Committee were told of it but made no mention in their Report. The issue was handled at the time, after the initiative foundered, by a carefully constructed Parliamentary answer:

There has been one round of formal talks on the Falkland Islands dispute with the Argentine government in April 1980. In addition, in the frequent contacts which we have with the Argentine Government over the whole range of Anglo-Argentine relations many possible approaches to the solution of the Falkland Island dispute have been mentioned informally.

Somewhat awkwardly in the House of Lords, Lord Trefgarne, in genuine ignorance, denied that there had been talks following Ridley’s statement on 2 December 1980. An official in the South America Department explained the problem: If we were now to reveal that leaseback had been discussed with the Argentines before Mr Ridley’s visit to the Islands last November, the repercussions in Parliament and in the Islands would be very damaging. Suspicions of a ‘sell-out’ would be confirmed; islander confidence in our good faith, already tenuous, would be destroyed, and the prospects for continuing a formal dialogue with Argentina on the dispute with islander concurrence would be removed at least in the medium term. 2 Hunt claims in his memoirs that he was not kept informed by the FCO or allowed to comment on drafts before submissions to ministers. He reports that he did not know of the July 1980 decision to seek a solution based on lease-back. Hunt, My Falkland Days, pp. 76–7.



12 THE FALL OF LEASE-BACK 1 Earlier that year the FCO had turned down a proposal from the Councillors to provide financial support to the Falkland Islands Committee to set up an office in London. Hunt, My Falkland Days, pp. 104–5. 2 Ibid, p. 127. This is in contrast to the assessment of the Franks Report on lease-back that ‘Islander opinion appeared to be divided, with a substantial minority opposed to it and the majority undecided.’, p. 23. 3 Official Record, Commons, 2 December 1980, cols. 195–204. The Franks Committee was sufficiently impressed by the exchanges in the Commons that they reprinted them as an appendix to the report. Only one MP—Labour’s Frank Hooley—commented from the opposed direction, asking if the government was arguing that ‘the interests of 1,800 Falkland islanders take precedence over the interests of 55 million people in the United Kingdom.’ 4 Eventually Parliament decided, against government opposition, that the citizens of Gibraltar should have the right to register as British citizens because of their links with the European Community. 5 See the Home Secretary’s statement in Official Record, House of Commons, 28 January 1981, cols. 938/9.

13 MICAWBERISM 1 Hunt, My Falkland Days, p. 159. 2 By 1982, only 10 out of 56 miles of road had been completed. FIGAS (Falkland Islands Government Air Service) at the start of 1980 had two Beaver and one Islander aircraft which operated services to link outlying settlements. 3 One issue that had emerged during Ridley’s November 1980 visit was that the islanders were getting an inadequate rate of interest on their deposited savings, which amounted to about £2 million. It was not clear how far the government was responsible for this but the December 1980 OD meeting asked Howe to look at the possibility of raising commercial loans. The interest rates paid by the Government Savings Bank of the Falklands Islands Government were judged to be an internal matter although there were proposals to transform the bank into an institution, which would offer a wider range of normal commercial services. As for capital for development, it was clear that commercial institutions would not lend the Falklands even relatively small sums. Much of this stemmed from concern about the dispute, including the possibility of retaliation against the lenders’ larger mainland interests. The Government was unwilling to issue a guarantee as the contingent liabilities would make the control of public expenditure difficult. There was always the ‘dangerous precedent’ argument for other Dependent Territories. It would also require close involvement in the Falklands’ financial affairs. The best options appeared to be for the Falkland Islands Government to purchase any equipment on credit terms, with ECGD guarantees, or else to move administration of their reserves from Crown Agents to a merchant bank.

14 NO PLANS 1 On the campaign see Sunday Times, 1 November 1981.



2 John Nott, Here Today: Gone Tomorrow: Recollections of an errant politician, (London: Politico’s, 2002) pp. 254–5. 3 The two BAS ships RRS Bransfield and Biscoe were registered in the Falkland Islands and carried a blue ensign. They were not armed in any way. Running costs for 1981/2 were estimated to be £910,000 plus crews’ salaries of £610,000. They also lacked helicopters and so could not perform the reconnaissance functions of Endurance. It was noted in November that another advantage of Endurance was that circumstances could be envisaged ‘in which we wished to remove an Argentine unauthorised landing party (possibly from an off-shore island or the Falklands themselves) and this could be undertaken safely and efficiently by Endurance.’

15 ALARM BELLS 1‘Enough?’, Siete Dias, 3 February 1982: La Prensa, 7 February 1982; Editorial, ‘The Tough Approach,’ Buenos Aires Herald, 9 February 1982. 2 John Rettle, ‘Falklands raid hint by Argentine army,’ The Guardian, 25 February 1982. 3 Chile had accepted Papal mediation in December 1980 almost immediately. Argentina had refused to do so and was now denying the next stage of submission to the ICJ.Chile was planning to make a unilateral submission at the end of 1982. In principle this meant that the two sides were on a collision course, which might help Britain, but more likely there would be a continuing impasse in which case the Falklands would loom larger on the Argentine agenda. 4 Nott, Here Today: Gone Tomorrow p. 251. 5 It was reported the previous year that of the 127 patients referred to Argentina in last 3.5 years perhaps 125 would not have suffered unduly if the emergency service had not been available. One child would probably have died.

16 SOUTH GEORGIA 1 In addition to the book I wrote with Virginia Gamba, Signals of War, (London: Faber, 1989) there are a number of sources for this, including Jimmy Burns, The Land That Lost its Heroes: The Falklands, The Post-War and Alfonsin, (London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 1987), p. 43; Simon Jenkins, “Britain’s Pearl Harbor”, The Sunday Times, (22 March 1987), p. 45; Oscar Cardoso, Ricardo Kirschbaum and Eduardo van der Kooy, Falklands: The Secret Plot, (London: Preston Editions, 1983), pp. 62–6. 2 On 25 March 1982, Davidoff submitted to the Embassy his own version of events. He claimed that the contract was signed on 19 September 1979; reported to the Falklands on 27 August 1980, including that it would continue in force until 31 March 1983. On 11 December he notified the Embassy that he would be using a ship of the Argentine Antarctic Group’ to take 7/8 men to carry out survey. 3 According to one source, infiltrated on board, pretending to be scientists, were members of an Argentine naval special forces unit. Nick van der Bijl, Nine Battles to Stanley, (London: Leo Cooper, 1999), p. 8. 4 Michael Charlton, The Little Platoon, p. 184; Franks, para 169. 5 Hastings and Jenkins, The Battle for the Falklands, p. 55; Luce in The Little Platoon, p. 185. The Franks Report that the decision to send Endurance was taken by ‘Foreign and



Commonwealth and Defence Ministers’. However the committee received evidence of the Prime Minister’s participation. 6 Richard Hill, Lewin of Greenwich: the Authorised biography of Admiral of the Fleet Lord Lewin, (London: Cassell & Co. 2000), is vague on the involvement of CDS but suggests that at least he endorsed the decision., p. 353 7 Buxton, an open critic of the decision to cut Endurance, had been granted the opportunity to sail on the ship in February and March. He was Chairman of Anglia Television, and his daughter was to spend time on South Georgia making a wildlife documentary. Prior to his visit, Buxton had met with Luce and proposed that the ‘wishes of the Islanders’ should not be paramount, but rather the national interest as a whole. ‘It is even more absurd with the Falklands to regard them as a separate country where the population is hardly bigger than Wells-next-the-Sea on the Norfolk coast. Would anyone suggest that the future needs of the British people in the region could not be imposed and defended because the people of Wells might object? It is both tragic and ridiculous to treat them as another country.’ Buxton’s view was that the islanders would accept the imposition—but not the surrender—of a wider British national interest, which he saw as being bound up with the exploitation of Antarctica. The first report of Buxton’s meeting had him ‘convinced that no wild actions were likely to be taken by the Argentines while the present government was in charge.’ Costa Mendez had specifically discounted the possibility of an invasion. A note from Fearn indicated that he intended to take the report to New York to show Luce there. 8 Official Record, House of Commons, March 23, 1982, cols. 798–801. 9 Alan Clark, Diaries: Into Politics, (London: Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 2000), p. 306. 10 Nick van der Bijl, Nine Battles to Stanley, p. 10. According to van der Bijl, the marines were naval technicians.

17 CRISIS 1 Nott, Here Today: Gone Tomorrow, p. 252 2 Peter Carrington, Reflect on Things Past: The Memoirs of Lord Carrington (London: Collins, 1988), p. 366.

18 DELAYED RESPONSE 1 The Economist claimed on 10 April 1982, that the build up of Argentine forces was noted by American satellites and passed on to Britain. ‘A failure of intelligence’, The Economist, 10 April 1982, p. 27. 2 Nott, Here Today: Gone Tomorrow, p. 252. 3 From SPRINGTRAIN—HMS Antrim, Glamorgan, Glasgow, Coventry, Brilliant, Arrow and RFA Tidespring, Appleleaf and Fort Austin (already en route); Additional—HMS Invincible, Fearless, Sheffield, Alacrity, Antelope, Ardent and RFA Pearleaf and Brambleleaf. 4 Official Report (Commons), 30 March 1982, cols. 163–170; (Lords), Cols. 1276–1281. 5 Nott, Here Today: Gone Tomorrow, pp. 256–7. 6 Daily Telegraph, 31 March 1982. According to West, The Secret War for the Falklands, the story on Superb was planted by ‘a submariner at MoD.’ (p. 36).



19 THE WORST MOMENT 1 Thatcher, The Downing Street Years, (London: Harper Collins, 1993), pp. 178–179. 2 Carrington, Reflect on Things Past, p. 367. 3 Nott, Here Today: Gone Tomorrow, p. 257. 4 Admiral of the Fleet Sir Henry Leach, Endure No Makeshifts, (London: Leo Cooper, 1993), pp. 209–211; The Falklands Witness Seminar, (Strategic and Combat Studies Institute: The Occasional no. 46, 2004), p. 18. 5 Nott, Here Today: Gone Tomorrow, pp. 258–9. 6 Ibid, p. 259. 7 See Alexander Haig, Caveat (London: Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 1984), p. 263. 8 Carrington had gone to Israel because he was seen to be anti-Israel and had already put the trip off before. 9 Nott, Here Today: Gone Tomorrow, 260–1. 10 Leach, Endure No Makeshifts, p. 213. 11 Nicholas Henderson, Mandarin: The Diaries of an Ambassador, 1969–1982, (London: Weindenfeld & Nicholson, 1994), p. 449. 12 Hunt, in his memoir, gives no indication of having seen this. Hunt, My Falkland Days, p. 199.

20 CONCLUSION 1 See Margaret Thatcher, The Downing Street Years, pp. 173, 176–177 and Carrington, Reflect on Things Past, pp. 362–363, 370. 2 Report of a Committee of Privy Counsellors, Falkland Islands Review, January 1983, cmnd 878 (hereinafter referred to as The Franks Report), para 1. 3 Ibid, para 266. 4 Ibid, para 332. 5 Ibid, para 339. 6 Carrington, Reflect on Things Past, pp. 357–358. 7 Thatcher, The Downing Street Years, pp. 177–178. 8 Colin Phipps, What Future for the Falklands?, Fabian Tract 450, July 1977, estimated that this could happen if the population fell much below 1500. 9 Carrington, Reflect on Things Past, pp. 360–361. 10 Falkland Island Review: Report of a Committee of Privy Counsellors, Cmnd 8787(London: HMSO, 1983), p. 34. 11 Thatcher, The Downing Street Years, p. 177. 12 Official Record, 3 April 1982. 13 Nott, Here Today: Gone Tomorrow, pp. 254–5.


Beck, Peter, ‘The Anglo-Argentine Dispute Over Title to the Falkland Islands: Changing British Perceptions on Sovereignty since 1910,’ Millennium: Journal of International Studies, Vol. 12 No. 1 (Spring 1983). Beck, Peter, The Falkland Islands as an International Problem (London: Routledge, 1988). Blakeway, Denys, Channel Four: the Falklands War, (London: Sidgwick & Jackson, 1992). Bologna, Alfredo Bruno ‘Argentinian Claims to the Malvinas Under International Law’, Millennium: Journal of International Studies, Vol. 12 No. 1 (Spring 1983). Burns, Jimmy The Land That Lost its Heroes: The Falklands, The Post-War and Alfonsin, (London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 1987). Callaghan, James, Time and Chance (London: Collins, 1987). Cardoso, Oscar Ricardo Kirschbaum and Eduardo van der Kooy, Falklands: The Secret Plot, (London: Preston Editions, 1983). Carrington, Peter Reflect on Things Past: The Memoirs of Lord Carrington (London: Collins, 1988). Cawkell, Mary The History of the Falkland Islands, (London: Anthony Nelson, 2001). Charlton, Michael, The Little Platoon: Diplomacy and the Falklands Dispute (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1989). Clark, Alan Diaries: Into Politics, (London: Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 2000). Freedman, Lawrence and Virginia Gamba-Stonehouse, Signals of War, (London: Faber, 1989). Gibran, Daniel The Falklands War: Britain Versus the Past in the South Atlantic (London: McFarland & Company, 1998). Goebel, Julius The Struggle for the Falkland Islands (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1927). Gustafson, Lowell The Sovereignty Dispute over the Falkland (Malvinas) Islands (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988). Haig, Alexander, Caveat (London: Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 1984). Hastings, Max and Simon Jenkins, The Battle for the Falklands, (London: Michael Josephs, 1983). Henderson, Nicholas Mandarin: The Diaries of an Ambassador, 1969–1982, (London: Weindenfeld & Nicholson, 1994). Hill, Richard Lewin of Greenwich: the Authorised biography of Admiral of the Fleet Lord Lewin, (London: Cassell & Co. 2000). Hunt, Rex My Falkland Days (London: David & Charles, 1992). Leach, Admiral of the Fleet Sir Henry Endure No Makeshifts, (London: Leo Cooper, 1993). Myhre, Jeffrey, ‘Title to the Falklands-Malvinas Under International Law’, Millennium: Journal of International Studies, Vol. 12 No. 1 (Spring 1983). Nott, John, Here Today: Gone Tomorrow: Recollections of an Errant Politician, (London: Politico’s, 2002). Owen, David, Time to Declare, (London: Michael Joseph, 1991).



Perkins, Roger, Operation Paraquat: The Battle for South Georgia (Chippenham: Picton Publishing, 1986). Perl, Raphael The Falkland Islands Dispute in International Law and Politics: A Documentary Sourcebook (New York: Oceana, 1983). Phipps, Colin What Future for the Falklands?, Fabian Tract 450, July 1977. Thatcher, Margaret The Downing Street Years, (London: Harper Collins, 1993). van der Bijl, Nick Nine Battles to Stanley, (London: Leo Cooper, 1999). West, Nigel The Secret War for the Falklands: The SAS, MI6, and the War Whitehall Nearly Lost (London, Little, Brown and Company, 1997).


Aaland 103 absentee landlords 21 Acapulco 5 Admiralty 4, 8 Admiralty Board 143, 144 Aerolineas Argentinas 141 AFNE (Allied Forces Northern Europe) 67 air service 8, 47, 62, 83, 90, 99, 110, 141; temporary airstrip 29, 58; authorisation of permanent airfield 42, 58–9; Argentine withdrawal of flights 140; need for contingency plans 142, 151, 164; see also LADE aircraft: Argentine overflights 54, 174, 178 aircraft carriers: British sales to Argentina 149–50 airfield: proposal for extension 29, 47–8, 49, 53, 74, 125, 150; defence concerns 57; contingency plans for enhancement 205, 211 Alginate Industries Ltd 75 Allara, Captain 70, 80, 93, 94, 149–50 Almirante Irizar 170, 171, 183 Almirante Storni 54, 55 Americans: in population of Falklands 2 Amery, Julian 32, 129 Anaya, Admiral Jorge 85–6, 153, 157, 160, 202, 205, 220 Anglo-Spanish Treaty 1604 4 Angola 66 Antarctic Treaty (1961) 19, 77, 93, 97, 140 Antarctic Treaty meeting, Paris 70 Antarctica 19, 100, 107, 140, 146; see also British Antarctic survey (BAS); British Antarctic Territory anti-colonialism: UN 15, 30, 37;



and principle of self-determination 18 Arab-Israeli War (1973) 40, 219 Argentina: claim to sovereignty of Falklands 2, 3, 9, 10–11, 99, 125; invasion of Falkland Islands (1982) 2, 168, 215; inheritance of Spanish territorial rights 6–7, 9–10; attempt to assert claims during Second World War 13–14; objection to self-determination for Falkland Islanders 15, 141; importance of Malvinas to 17–18; promotion of Malvinas issue in 1960s 20, 24; idea for ‘hearts and minds’ campaign by 22–3, 24, 141; nationalism 29, 30; economic problems 42, 141, 160; and Falklands’ prospects for development 43, 52; political situation in mid-1970s 44; reactions to Shackleton 44–6, 50, 52, 53; importance of Britain’s relations with 49–50; military initiative and capability 62, 63; hardening of opinion from 1981 151, 153, 159–60; preparations for invasion of Falklands 187, 196, 214; intention to invade Falklands 216–17, 222–3; order for invasion of Falklands 220; strategy of invasion 225–6, 226–7; see also Buenos Aires Argentine Air Force 108, 165, 174, 223; LADE 108; involvement in Juntas 119, 120, 153, 160; officer’s house in Stanley 140; preparations for invasion of Falklands 214 Argentine Antarctic Programme 92 Argentine Army 78, 82, 223; involvement in Juntas 119, 153, 160 Argentine National Oil Company 80 Argentine nationals: population of Falklands 2; rights issues regarding Falklands 72, 75, 106, 117 Argentine Navy 140, 165, 192, 196; planning for occupation of Falklands (1977) 78, 81, 82, 91; influence in Juntas 119, 120, 122, 153, 160; pressure for assertive action (1982) 160, 162, 205; and Davidoff’s project in South Georgia 169–70, 172, 173, 178, 196; confidence over occupation of Falklands 222–3 Argentine press 79, 128, 131, 132, 134; campaign highlighting British intransigence 159, 160, 162, 187, 222 Argentine task force 207–8, 210 Ark Royal 59, 62, 84, 209 arms sales: from Britain to Argentina 66–7, 70, 79, 92–3, 102–3, 149–50; from Britain to Brazil 146; US embargo on sales to Argentina 190, 191 Ascension Island 48, 58, 59, 83, 149, 201, 204–5, 211



Ashe, David 39, 44, 55 Astiz, Alfredo 183 Austria 150 Bader, Douglas 103 Bahia Buen Suceso 172, 173, 175–6, 176–7, 178, 179, 181, 183 Bahia Paraiso 183, 184, 188, 192 banking services 47 Barings 11 Barker, Captain Nicholas 145–6, 159, 171, 176, 178–9, 192, 196, 204, 215 Beagle Channel dispute 80–1, 90, 91, 92, 95, 96, 114, 138, 164, 171; Vatican-led negotiations 105, 121, 153, 159–60 Beauchêne Island 12 Beetham, Sir Michael 204, 205, 210–11, 211 Belize 19, 56, 60, 84, 155, 161 Benn, Tony 81 Bernhardt, Gaston de 10 Blanco, Ambassador 141, 175 Bloomer-Reeve, Commandante 114, 117 Bolivia 10 Bougainville, Antoine de 4 Braine, Bernard 129 Bramall, Sir Edwin 210 Bransfield, Edward 12 Brazil 32, 58, 62, 97; joint training exercises with RN 78, 96, 98; offer to buy HMS Endurance 146, 148 Britain: claim to Falkland Islands 2–3, 4, 5–6, 8–9, 15–16; control of Falklands since 1833 2, 10–11; refusal to concede sovereignty 5, 79, 90; disputing of Argentines’ claim of sovereignty 10; declaration of Falkland Islands as Crown Colony (1843) 11; claims on Island Dependencies 13, 14; influential minority interest in Falklands 17; importance of relations with Argentina 20–1, 49–50; encouragement of Argentine ‘hearts and minds’ campaign 22–3, 24, 141; concerns over international standing 38; Argentina’s severing of relations with (1976) 46; tax income from Falkland Islands Company 49; tumultuous period following Wilson’s resignation 68–9; deterioration of economic conditions 69; Falkland Islanders’ need for reassurance from 136–7, 141; claim to Antarctica territory 140; danger of procrastination by 161–2; unpreparedness for Argentine invasion of Falklands 168, 196, 216–17; unclear approach to South Georgia crisis 194, 196, 224; crisis management in second half of March 1982 218–21; see also London; United Kingdom British Antarctic Survey (BAS):



presence in South Georgia 13, 81, 89, 115, 168–9; ships 60, 62, 147; South Thule project 77; threatened cuts to 141; and Project Alpha activities, South Georgia 170, 173–4, 175, 177, 180–1, 189 British Antarctic Territory 13, 59–60, 76 British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) 141, 155, 219 British Dependent Territories: citizenship issues 133 British Guiana see Guyana British Honduras see Belize British nationals: population of Falklands 2 British Petroleum 80 British press 79, 115, 145; Lord Lewin’s article 86–7; report on issue of South Thule 92; coverage of Ridley’s visit to Falklands 128, 129; rumours of impending British military action (1982) 159, 160, 162; briefing on ‘end of mini-crisis’ on South Georgia 177–8 British public opinion 112, 119, 219 British Shipbuilders 92, 93, 103 British task force: covert deployment (1977) 78, 79, 83–8, 89, 195; discussions in 1978 95; deterrence needs 149; risk of provocation in preparations 204, 225; Leach’s arguments for sending 209–10; assembling of 210–11, 215 Brittan, Leon 151, 199 Brussels 189 Buenos Aires: Republic 5, 6; brief capture by British (1806) 6; and Argentine occupation of Falkland Islands (1820) 7, 10; British Embassy 16, 131, 169, 170, 172–3, 175, 180, 188; flights from 48; Rowlands’ visit, February 1977 75; Williams’ meeting with Cavándoli 120; Ridley’s visit (November 1980) 121–2; British Defence and Naval Attachés 155, 156, 162, 184; American intelligence from 198; US Embassy 198, 213 Bush, George 214 Buxton, Lord 146, 179 Byron, Commodore John 5 Cabinet: and lease-back negotiations 121, 130–1, 132; meeting on deployment of task force 211; see also Defence Committee;



Overseas Policy and Defence (OPD) Committee Cabinet Office 163 Caiman (yacht) 172 Callaghan, James: involvement in negotiations 33, 34–5, 36, 38, 39, 40, 41, 56, 60, 67–8; and Shackleton’s survey of Falkland Islands 43, 44, 45, 46, 48; as Prime Minister 68–9, 73, 77, 95, 181, 194; and deliberations over task force 84, 85, 86, 98; during Thatcher Government 181 Camilion, Sr (Foreign Minster) 137, 139, 151 Caribbean 96, 155 Carrington, Peter, 6th Baron 86, 99, 101, 115, 128, 133; and lease-back proposals 103, 104, 105, 120, 124, 131, 135, 137; and agreement put before Defence Committee 111–12; meeting with Pastor (September 1980) 114, 118–19, 119; Ridley’s report of Cavándoli meeting 118–19; meeting with Camilion at UN General Assembly (1981) 138–9, 151; response to Nott’s defence review 144, 224; suggestion to reinstate HMS Endurance 147; responses to new Argentine agenda (1982) 157, 163, 166, 195; concerns over South Georgia 175–6, 181–2, 185, 189, 190, 193, 199; investigation of ICJ option 189–90; approaches to USA for help 191, 191–2; and naval deployment in response to South Georgia crisis 200, 202, 212–13; recalling of escalating situation 206, 222 Cary, Anthony, third Viscount Falkland 4 Castex, Sr Arauz 44, 45, 65 Cavándoli, (Argentine Deputy Foreign Minister) 101–2, 102, 123; at April 1980 talks 106–9; secret meeting with Ridley (September 1980) 113, 114, 115, 117–18, 119, 124, 134; and negotiations on lease-back 120, 121, 122, 131, 132 Cayman Islands 133 Central America: CIG monitoring of 155; Reagan’s policy and US-Argentine relations 161, 191, 213 Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) 197, 198, 221 Chalfont, Lord 26–7, 33, 67 Channel Islands 80 Chile 5, 10, 58, 67, 136, 154; encroachments on Dependencies 14, 76; claims in Antarctica 19, 100; flights to 62, 142, 164; concerns over human rights record of 70; and Beagle Channel dispute 80–1, 90, 91, 92, 105, 138, 164, 171; Argentine action against 81, 82, 171; and arms sales 103, 150; as possible source of help with airfields 197, 205, 211, 220 Chileans: in population of Falklands 2 Churchill, Winston 13, 19 CINCFLEET 162, 163, 176, 200



citizenship: see also nationality citizenship issues 117 Clark, Alan 181 Clayton, S.W. 6 ‘Cod War’ (Britain and Iceland) 69, 80 Cold War 66 colonialism 18, 153, 214 Commodoro 127 communications 29, 47, 59; assessment in face of Argentine threat (1977) 83; concerns in July 1981 assessment 151–2; contingency planning (1982) 164–5, 166 Communications Agreement 1971 23, 28–9, 140, 168 condominium initiative 22, 30–2, 33–5, 44, 80, 100, 103 Conservative Government: low priority of Falklands issue 105, 143, 155, 195 Conservative Party: victory in general election (1979) 99; attitude to arms sales 102; Foreign Affairs Committee 129–30 continental shelf 79–80, 90, 93; economic resources 22–3, 90; potential for oil discoveries 22–3, 32, 54, 81; outline agreement following April 1980 talks 112 Cook, Captian James 12, 76 CORPORATE (operation) 215 Costa Mendez, Nicanor 153, 158, 172, 192, 193, 196, 211; responses to South Georgia crisis 176, 179, 180, 181, 183, 185, 212; statement on Argentine mission to South Georgia 188, 190, 191, 221 Crosland, Anthony 69, 73, 74, 77, 78, 82 Cuba 66, 155 Current Intelligence Groups (CIGs) 154, 155 Customs and Immigration 170 Cyprus 33 The Daily Telegraph 128 Darwin 47, 75, 141 Davidoff, Constantino 169–70; expedition to South Georgia 170, 172–4, 187, 201, 224; differing views about 178–9, 185, 189 Davies, Captain John 4 Deception Island 14, 76 defence: contracts see arms sales; Churchill’s concerns and review of 19; concerns during Wilson government37, 38, 40; indefensibility of Falkland Islands 37, 124; discussions on military options (1975) 56, 57–8, 63–4; option of ‘Fortress Falklands’ 104; contingency planning for Argentine use of force 148–9, 150, 162–7, 209;



Britain’s reluctance to fund improvements in Falklands 151–2; sovereignty issues 194 Defence Committee: discussions on condominium 33–4; deliberations on Shackleton’s report 48, 53; endorsement of lease-back policy 68; discussions on sending task force 84, 89, 96; encouragement of arms sales 102; and Thatcher’s priorities 104, 105; debates on lease-back proposals 111–12, 115, 120, 121, 122, 130, 133; approval of Ridley’s proposed secret meeting 113; verbal report following Carrington-Pastor meeting (1980) 119; urgent discussion in September 1981 137–9; and debates on future of HMS Endurance 147; faced with new Argentine agenda (1982) 157, 159, 166, 167, 195; failure to address South Atlantic crisis 166, 217; meeting of 1 April 1982 204, 206, 211 Defence Intelligence Service (DIS) 155, 156, 188, 196, 222 Defence Operational Planning Staff 62 Defence Operations Executive (DOE) 204, 211 Defence and Overseas Policy Committee (OD) 163, 165, 192, 211 Defence Review 1974–5 60 Defence Review 1981 143–4, 148, 224 Defence Sales Organisation 67, 102, 103, 146, 149 Department of Energy 81, 104, 147 deterrence: covert task force 84–6, 195; contingency planning for Argentine use of force (1981) 148–9; Britain’s military options in South Atlantic 194 development: and co-operation with Argentina 43, 52, 73; Shackleton’s views 48–9; islanders’ demands 90, 141; outline agreement following April 1980 talks 112 ‘disappeared’ people (Argentina) 100, 161 Dozo, General Lami 153 Duncan, Silas 7 Dundee, Perth and London Securities (DP & L) 36–7 Duomer Islands 13 East Falkland 1, 4, 9 Eastern bloc shipping 81, 82 economic co-operation 65, 70, 73, 100, 117, 142; Rowlands’ discussions with islanders 75; discussions in 1977 79–80; Argentine efforts with Falkland Islanders 108 Economic and Fiscal Survey (Shackleton) 43, 44, 46–52 economy: problems of Falkland Islands 21, 42, 125, 150; and Britain’s interest in Falklands 22–3, 55; question over viability of Falklands 42–3, 48–9, 52, 142;



importance of wool prices to islanders 47; warning of Britain’s inability to bail islanders out 151 Edmonds, Robin 19 education: idea for public campaign in Falklands 137, 138, 139, 217 Egmont, Lord 5 E1 Salvador 155, 191, 212 Ellis, Sir Ron 102 Enders, Thomas 161, 191, 198, 212 Ennals, David 37, 38, 39, 42 European Economic Community (EEC) 37–8, 65, 71, 104, 140, 164 exclusion zones 86, 87 Falkland, Viscount see Cary, Anthony, third Viscount Falkland Falkland Islanders: desire to remain British 3, 18, 21, 30, 34, 52, 111–12; and issue of self-determination 14–16, 21, 22, 107, 141; and problem of Argentine claim to sovereignty 18, 129, 137, 142; seen as colonists by Argentina 20; paramountcy of wishes of 21, 39, 129, 131, 136, 157, 181; small size of community 21, 42, 46–7, 125; Britain’s idea of Argentine ‘hearts and minds’ campaign 22–3, 141; distrust of Argentina 22, 28, 110, 128, 130, 140; interests addressed in draft Treaty (1967) 24–5; suspicions of negotiations 25–6, 27, 36, 74, 101, 108, 134; and proposal for condominium 31, 34, 35; importance of British identity and way of life 47, 125, 126, 128; considerations in lease-back initiative 72–3, 104, 122, 124–5, 132, 136; Rowlands’ perception of 75, 90; anxieties over Dependencies 94, 107, 185; Ridley’s desire to involve in talks 105–6, 109, 115–16, 118; hard liners’ opposition to co-operation with Argentines 110–11, 125, 128, 139; in lease-back proposals at Ridley-Cavándoli meeting (September 1980) 116, 117, 118, 122, 123; Ridley’s personal and political difficulties with 124–5, 137; Ridley’s meeting with in Stanley 126–7; Hunt’s analysis of opinions 128–9; issues of nationality 133; hardening of opinion after 1981 elections 140–2, 153; at New York talks, February 1982 157; Britain’s failure to clarify choice faced by 218; view of eventual collapse of Falklands 223 Falkland Islands: climate and terrain 1; Johnson’s description 1; population and economy 2, 7, 21, 42, 46, 47, 125; problem of disputes over ownership 2–3; origins of dispute 3–8; strategic importance 5, 18; quality of claims 8–10; prescription of British claim 10–12; question of economic viability 42–3, 48–9, 52, 142;



Shackleton’s description of 46; Britain’s postponement of constitutional changes 69–70, 74; Massera’s plan for forcible occupation 78; briefing note for new Conservative government 99–100; elections, October 1981 135, 137, 140; switching of focus to during South Georgia crisis 204, 205, 206; likelihood of Argentine invasion of 212; see also Malvinas Falkland Islands Broadcasting Service 141 Falkland Islands Committee 34, 36–7, 40, 47–8, 58, 75, 79, 125, 126, 129, 133, 136 Falkland Islands Company 18, 26, 28, 34, 36–7, 47, 49, 70, 75, 89, 90 Falkland Islands Council: idea of public education campaign involving 137, 138; newly elected (from October 1981 140, 141, 142; reaction to withdrawal of HMS Endurance 145; effect of Junta’s new hard line in 1982 158–9; agreement to draft British response to Argentine communiqé 166 Falkland Islands Defence Force 57, 165 Falkland Islands Dependencies 2–3, 20, 55, 71, 140; history of sovereignty claims 12–14; and issue of Antarctic territorial claims 19; implications of settlement with Argentina 21–2; concept of condominium 31; scientific research 54, 59, 91; threats of Argentine operation against (1976) 60, 76–7, 78, 82, 99; and lease-back proposals 72, 73; proposal for transfer of sovereignty to Argentina 76, 79, 80, 89, 90, 104; talks on co-administration of maritime zones 93–4, 96–7; Falkland Islanders’ anxieties over 94, 107, 185; Argentine threat of seizure of (1982) 166, 205; implications of Project Alpha 170; defence concerns 194; see also Sandwich Islands; South Georgia Falkland Islands Executive Council 25, 28, 32, 34, 40, 43, 69, 89, 125, 126, 130, 132, 134, 136 Falkland Islands Joint Councils 30, 75, 94, 108 Falkland Islands lobby 75, 90, 130, 203 Falkland Islands Sheep Owners Association 37 Falkland Sound 4 Falklands War (2 April–14 June 1982) 3 farming: absentee landlords 21; opposition to joint ventures with Argentines 110; and issue of Argentine rights of land in Falklands 117; see also sheep farming Faslane 202 Fearn, Robin 139, 157, 177, 185, 193 Fieldhouse, Admiral Sir John 162, 163, 176, 200, 201, 210 Financial Times 39 Finland 103 First World War 2, 152 fisheries 41, 79–80, 80, 89, 98



fishing: agreement on rights (1790) 6; Falklands’ dependency on Argentina 48; and need for co-operation between Falklands and Argentina 50, 53, 97, 106, 107, 109, 110; Soviet activity in Falklands area 66; ‘Cod War’ between Britain and Iceland 69, 80; Argentine intercepting of vessels 81, 99, 140; outline agreement following April 1980 talks 112 flag-flying: in concept of condominium 31; in early lease-back initiative 72, 75; Argentine encampment on South Thule 77; in Ridley’s lease-back proposals 116, 123, 125; Argentine landing at Leith, South Georgia 173, 174; British message in LADE office 176 Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO): discussion on South Orkneys (1910) 13; paper on British case for Falklands (1981) 15–16; Latin American Department 19, 38, 66, 82; strategies of persuasion 31; and issue of oil resources 40, 81; reactions to Shackleton Report 48, 49, 51; discussions on military options (1970s) 58, 96, 98; and debates over Endurance 60, 61, 143, 144, 145, 146; view on South Thule issue 77, 91, 95; view on negotiations in autumn 1977 82; Labour’s management of task force 86, 87; Ridley’s special responsibility 99; South American Department 100–1, 103, 120, 148, 156, 176, 196–7; and defence sales 102–3; view on islander involvement in 1980 talks 105; exasperation at islanders 111; brief to Ridley for visit to Falkland Islands 124–5; view after Ridley’s visit to Falklands 130; and retreat from lease-back initiative 134, 135, 135–6; assessment of Hunt’s report for 1981 142; inability to persuade others to resolve dispute 143; response to Nott’s defence review 144; view on arms sales to Argentina (1981) 150; response to Junta’s new hard line in 1982 158, 162, 163–4, 195; deliberations over South Georgia crisis 169, 170–1, 175–6, 177, 195, 204; underestimation of South Georgia problem 177, 178–9, 180, 181; pressure for removal of Argentines from South Georgia 186; briefing for Defence Committee of 1 April 1982 204 ‘Fortress Falklands’ option 100, 104, 130, 195 France: settlement of Port Louis (1764) 4, 9; competition for naval contracts with Argentina 92 Franks Committee report 86, 211, 216–17, 218, 221, 224 Fuchs, Sir Vivien 146 fuel: inadequate facilities for supply in Falklands 59, 108;



Falkland Islands’ reserves 83, 99; MoD concerns regarding Falklands 149, 152 Gaffoglio, Captain Adolfo A. 176 Galtieri, General Leopoldo 153, 156, 160, 187, 191, 198, 208; Reagan’s diplomatic efforts with 212, 213, 214, 221, 225, 226 Gamma Island 14 Geneva: talks on scientific co-operation (December 1978) 93; Ridley’s secret meeting with Cavándoli 115–18, 119, 120; talks scheduled for December 1981 142 geodynamics research 54–5 geopolitical issues 66 George III, King of Great Britain 5, 6, 12 Georgias del Sur S.A. (company) 169 Germany see West Germany Gibraltar 15, 39, 60, 78, 85, 86, 104, 133; ships deployed to South Atlantic from 200, 215 Gilbert, John 78 Gomez, Esteban 3 Goose Green 46, 75 Goronwy-Roberts, Lord 35 Governor of Falkland Islands: in constitution of Falklands 69; description of atmosphere in 1977 74; in lease-back proposals (September 1980) 116; report for 1981 140–1; see also Hunt, Sir Rex Graham Island Peninsula 12, 13 Griffiths, Professor 40 Grytviken: unauthorised landing of Argentines 168–9, 170, 172, 173, 175, 179, 185, 186; arrival of HMS Endurance 181, 192, 215 Guatemala 19, 155 Gulf of Mexico 163 ‘gunboat diplomacy’ 186 Guyana 19, 155 Guzzeti, Admiral 68 Haig, Alexander 189, 191, 197, 212, 213, 214 Harding, Bill 113 Hart, Judith 42 Hawkins, Sir Richard 4 Healey, Denis 181 Henderson, Sir Nicholas 191, 208, 212, 214 hijack: Operation Condor 20, 57 HMS Endurance 57–8, 59–61, 63, 83, 85, 95, 96; Shackleton’s expedition 45, 54, 55; and problem of South Thule 77, 91, 92; discussions over future of 97–8, 144, 151, 202;



proposal for withdrawal of 141, 143–7, 148, 152, 164–5, 169, 217, 224; Argentine threat against (1982) 159, 184–5, 188; in contingency planning 163, 165, 208; and Project Alpha events 170, 171, 174, 177; and debates over involvement in South Georgia crisis 175, 178, 179, 180, 181, 185, 196, 197, 217; proposal for retention of 199, 204; deployment to South Georgia 200, 201, 201–2, 202, 208, 224, 224–5, 226 HMS Protector 56, 57, 59 Home Office 133 Hong Kong 60, 72, 129 Hope Bay incident 19 Hopson, Sir Donald 34, 35 House of Commons 27, 144, 185–6; Select Committee on ownership of Falklands 2, 3; Public Accounts Committee 48; debate on Franks report 86; concerns about Ridley’s visit to Falklands 128, 129, 130; statement on action to resolve South Georgia problem 180–1, 223–4 House of Lords 128, 129, 130, 144–5 Howe, Geoffrey (Chancellor of the Exchequer) 104 human rights: abuses by Argentine Junta 70, 71, 80, 92, 94, 100, 140, 190; concern over Chile’s record 70 Hunt, Sir Rex 105, 114, 120, 135, 215; on islanders’ opinions 110, 111, 125, 126, 128–9, 132, 133, 136, 137, 145, 186–7; optimistism about viability of Islands 142; response to threat of Argentine invasion 162; response to Davidoff incident 170, 173–4, 174–5, 178, 189 Husvik, South Georgia 169 hydro-carbons 80 hydrographic research 59, 60, 144 Iceland 69, 80 identification zone 87, 88 IMF (International Monetary Fund) 66, 69 immigration: revision of British laws 133; white card travel documentation 168, 185, 187, 192; Falkland Islands Immigration Ordinance (1965) 186 intelligence: role of HMS Endurance 176, 184–5, 224–5; Argentine monitoring of British movements 198–9, 202, 205, 210; US view on threat to Falklands 198, 212; on Argentine activity just before invasion 204, 207–8, 211; British failures in 216, 218–19, 223–4; on time of Argentine decision to invade 221; see also Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC); Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) International Court of Justice (ICJ) 3, 11, 14, 16, 80, 160, 189–90 International Geophysical Year 19



international law: implications of proposed exclusion zone 87; Argentine violation of 225 Iran: Iraqi ivasion (1980) 219 Israel see Arab-Israeli War Italy 92 Jewett, Colonel Daniel 7 Johnson, Samuel 1, 5 Johnston, Russell 129 Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) 40–1, 76, 154, 227; assessments of South Thule situation 78, 91–2; assessments of negotiations, October 1977 82, 83; assessment of Falklands situation in 1979 105; assessment of Argentine threat (July 1981) 137, 138, 144, 148–9, 151, 160, 163; assessments of Argentine intentions (1982) 155–6, 160, 161–2, 177; Immediate Assessment (March 1982) 205–6; report on progress of Argentine task force 210, 211–12; assessment of Argentine military preparations (April 1982) 214; post-invasion judgement 220–1 Joint Tasking Plan 162 Junta from 1976 70, 71, 71–2, 86 Junta from 1979 105, 106, 119, 122, 136 Junta from 1981 139, 142, 196; decision to prioritise resolution of Falklands dispute 153–4, 206; new negotiating agenda for New York talks (1982) 156–7; response to joint communiqué 157–8; disownment of Foreign Ministry 158, 171–2, 195, 212; and Beagle Channel dispute 159–60; and ‘disappearances’ among domestic opponents 161; decision to invade Falklands 168, 183, 187, 196, 202, 210, 212, 220–1, 223–4, 226 kelpers (seaweed gatherers) 2, 46, 141 King Edward Point 170, 173 Kirkpatrick, Jeane 190–1 krill industries 89 Labour Government: proposal to withdraw Endurance from Antarctic 60–1; promotion of arms sales to Argentina 67; crisis management 86; precautionary measures regarding Falklands 194–5 Labour Party 92, 102, 136, 181 Labour Unions (Argentina) 192 LADE (Lineas Aéreas del Estado) 108, 110, 125, 151, 162, 176 languages 31, 116 Larsen, Captain Carl Anton 13 Latin American countries: support of Argentina 20; air links 83, 164;



US cause against communist movements 190–1 Latin American Current Intelligence Group (LACIG) 154 Laurie Island, South Orkneys 13 Leach, Admiral Sir Henry 200, 208–10, 213 lease-back initiatives: original proposals 38–41; revival of in 1976 67–8, 71, 72, 75, 76; Argentine problem with duration 80, 119–20, 123; brief to new Conservative government 100–1; raised again in 1979 103, 104; outline agreement following April 1980 talks 112; proposals at Ridley-Cavándoli meeting (September 1980) 113, 115–18; Pastor’s view at meeting with Carrington 119; Ridley’s visit to obtain formal agreement (November 1980) 124–9; Argentine press reaction to Ridley’s proposals 128, 131, 132; hostile reception in Parliament 129–30; retreat from 130–2, 153; freeze in negotiations from early 1981 134 Legislative Council (LegCo) 69, 124 Leith, South Georgia 169, 170, 192, 197, 215; unlawful landing of Bahia Paraiso 173–4, 177, 178, 179, 183, 184, 186–7, 217 Leon (Spanish ship) 12 Lewin, Admiral Sir Terence 86–7, 87–8, 93, 204, 210 Lexington (US warship) 7, 8 Lima 37; meeting of Anglo-Argentine working groups (1978) 90–1, 93, 95 Lineas Aéreas del Estado see LADE Lombardo, Admiral Juan Jose 85–6 London: Argentine-British talks (1973) 29–30; Carlton Gardens meeting (June 1981) 136, 137; invitation to new Falkland Councillors 138; Argentine Ambassador 141, 182; Argentine-Naval Mission 150 Louis XV, King of France 4 Luce, Richard 139–40, 146, 158, 161, 163, 167, 191; responses to South Georgia crisis 175–6, 179, 180–1, 183, 189, 192, 197, 205 McBride, John 5 Magellan, Ferdinand 3 Malvinas 5, 17–18, 20, 24, 116; Spain’s rule of 6, 9; Argentina’s reactivation of sovereignty negotiations (1982) 154, 222; 150th anniversary of Argentine loss of 222; see also Falkland Islands Mar del Plata 95, 171, 188, 210 Marchessi, Adrian 172 maritime zones: discussions in 1977 89–90, 91, 104; discussions in 1978 93–4, 96–7; outline agreement following April 1980 talks 112, 115;



see also territorial waters Martinez de Hoz (Argentine Minister) 160 Mason, Roy 60, 63 Massera, Admiral 55, 78, 81, 82, 105 Melchior Archipelago 14 Memorandum of Understanding 1968 25–6, 29 Memorandum of Understanding 1976 67 Mestivier, Juan 8 Micawberism 139 military options: discussions during 1975 56–9; British contingency plans (1976) 62–4; discussions during 1978 95–8; considerations of new Thatcher government 105, 194; Argentine contingency planning (1981) 148–9, 150, 154, 166; defence and deterrence needs 149; in face of South Georgia crisis 204, 205 Ministry of Defence (MoD): debates and concerns during Labour Government 37, 39, 56, 57, 63, 66, 67, 78, 80, 91; and issue of Endurance 60, 61, 83–4, 98, 143, 145, 146, 164–5, 169, 205; and rules of engagement for covert task force 87, 88; discussions in 1978 95–6, 96, 97; and arms sales 102, 149; responses to Argentine military threat (1981) 148–9, 150, 162, 163; monitoring of Argentine military capability 155, 160, 198; analysis of military options (1982) 165–6, 204, 205, 206; and South Georgia crisis 181, 192, 197; and naval deployment in response to crisis 202, 207 Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Argentina) 120, 122, 131–2, 136, 158, 160; and South Georgia crisis 171–2, 175, 175–6, 176, 178, 180, 190, 198, 212 Ministry of Overseas Development 42, 48, 49, 50 Molteni (Argentine Chargé d’Affaires) 177–8, 185, 193, 203 Monk, Adrian 105–6, 108, 109, 109–10 Montes, (Argentine Foreign Minister) 94 Montevideo 175, 176, 199 Moody, Lieutenant Richard 8 Moody Brook Camp 152 MPLA (Movimento Popular de Libertaçao de Angola) 66 Mulley, Fred 61, 96, 98, 102, 143 La Nacion 159 Napoleon I Bonaparte 6 National Environment Research Council (NERC) 54, 147, 168–9 national identity: importance of Malvinas to Argentines 17–18, 20; Falkland Islanders 47 nationality: in concept of condominium 31; and citizenship issues for Falkland Islanders 117, 133, 141; new laws introduced by Thatcher government 117, 126, 132–3; and Falkland islanders’ right of settlement in UK 126, 133



Nationality Bill 132–3, 141 NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) 66, 93, 163, 181, 199, 201; British commitments to 59, 60, 144, 147, 205, 207 naval contracts 71, 92–3 naval deployments: contingency planning (1982) 165; Britain’s military options in South Atlantic 194; first actions of British response to crisis 199–202; Argentine preparations for invasion 214–15 naval presence: suggestion of military collaboration 136; Argentine bases 171; Argentine exercise in March 1982 188 navigation rights agreement (1790) 6 Navy Department 144 Netherlands 92 New Hebrides 31, 32 New World 4 New York: Rowlands’ meeting with Quijano (Feb. 1976) 65, 69; discussions in December 1977 82; talks in March 1979 94–5, 105; talks in April 1980 105, 106–9, 135; talks in February 1982 156–8, 172 Nicaragua 155 North Atlantic Treaty Organization see NATO Northern Ireland 166 Northern Ireland Office 102 Norway: relationship with Spitzbergen 103 Nott, John 185, 189, 203; Review of South Atlantic naval presence 143–4, 224; and suggestion to reinstate Endurance 147, 199; clearing of ‘mini-deployment’ plans 163; and naval deployment in response to South Georgia crisis 200; attempts to push for vigorous action 206; breaking of news to Thatcher about Argentine task force 207; and Leach’s advice on sending task force 208–9; and preparations for task force 210–11, 211, 212–13, 226 nuclear submarines (SSN) 37, 63, 84–5; rules of engagement for 202–3; deployment of to South Georgia 205, 208 OAS (Organization of American States) 20, 197 Observer 162 Ogden, Eric 142 oil: as factor in value of Falklands to Britain 18, 22–3, 39–40, 50; potential of continental shelf 22–3, 32, 54, 81; price rises in 1970s 40, 42;



attempts to promote co-operation between Falklands and Argentina 44, 53, 65, 80, 106, 109, 110, 112, 136; Falklands’ dependency on Argentina 48; and implications of lease-back 104, 123 Oldfield, Sir Maurice 85 Omand, David 207–8 Onslow, Captain J.J. 8, 46 OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) 40 Operation Condor (1966) 20, 57, 194 Ortiz de Rozas, Ambassador 113, 119, 132, 176 Overseas Development Agency 58 Overseas Policy and Defence (OPD) Committee 31, 38, 41 Owen, David 74, 82; and deployment of covert task force 83, 84, 85, 86, 86–7, 87–8, 95; views on arms sales to Argentina 92, 102, 103; discussions in 1978 94, 95, 96–7; desire to retain Endurance 97–8 Pacific Ocean 5 Panama 5, 172 Paraguay 10 Paris: Callaghan’s meeting with Castex 45; Antarctic Treaty meeting 70; Ridley’s informal meeting with Ros (June 1981) 136 Parker (Governor of Falkland Islands) 90 Parliamentary Select Committee on Foreign Affairs 105 Parsons, Sir Anthony 101, 190 Pastor (Argentine Foreign Minister) 101, 104, 105, 114, 118–19, 119 Patagonia 1 Permanent Negotiating Commission (proposal) 156, 185 Peron, Isabel 44 Peron, General Juan 18–19, 32, 34, 44 ‘perservation’ 219 Peru 5 petroleum products 36 Pincher, Chapman 103 Pinedo, Done José Maria 8 political issues: Shackleton report 51; presentation of lease-back to islanders 118, 119, 123, 124–5, 135; Britain’s predicament in South Atlantic 190, 218, 227; Thatcher’s avoidance of damage to Government 210 Port Egmont 5, 8, 9, 10, 11 Port Louis 4, 8, 11 Portugal 4 postage stamps: issues from Dependencies 140, 169; contribution to Islands’ economy 142 Powell, George 12 La Prensa 128, 159, 162, 222



Prentice, Reg 48 press see Argentine press; British press Project Alpha 169–74 Public Records Office 16 Puerto Belgrano 187, 219 Puerto de Soledad (Port Louis) 4, 6, 7 Puerto Rico 191 Quijano, Sr 65 Ramsay, Alf 20 Reagan, Ronald 161, 190, 191, 211; Thatcher’s message about Argentine task force 207, 208, 212; diplomatic efforts with Galtieri 212, 213, 214, 221, 225, 226 res nullius (belonging to no one) 9, 11 resources: need for economic co-operation 22, 51; South Atlantic 41; issues as seen by Ridley 107–8; in Ridley’s lease-back proposals 113, 126; Falkland Islanders’ concerns 124–5; potential in Antarctica 140; see also fisheries; oil RFA Fort Austin 200, 201, 204–5, 211, 215 Rhodesia 104, 105, 153; see also Zimbabwe settlement Richard, Ivor 37–8 Ridley, Nicholas 99, 100, 101, 111; meeting with Cavándoli (June 1979) 101–2, 102, 103; desire to involve islanders in talks 105, 109; at April 1980 talks 106–9; secret meeting with Cavándoli (September 1980) 113, 117–18, 134; after secret meeting with Cavándoli 118–19, 120, 121–2, 122; visit to Falklands in November 1980 121–2, 123, 124–9; difficulties with islanders 124–5, 126–7, 137; anxieties after visit to Falklands 131, 132, 134; pledge to help islanders on immigration matter 133; informal meeting with Ros (June 1981) 136, 137; attempts to rescue lease-back negotiations 137, 195; departure from FCO 139; and arms sales to Argentina (1981) 150 Rio de Janeiro 42, 48, 90, 94, 148 Rio-Tinto Zinc (RTZ) 43 River Plate 9 roads 47, 141 Robledo, Sr 44 Roché, Antonio de la 12 Rockall 80 Rome:



negotiations in 1977 80 Rome Postal Convention 10 Ros, Enrique 136, 137, 158, 188, 192 Rouco, Iglesias 159 Rowlands, Ted 33, 52–3, 65, 69, 70, 72, 124, 136; visit to Falklands in February 1977 73, 74–5, 76, 78, 79; New York talks, December 1977 82, 85, 86, 89–90; negotiations over Dependencies 91, 93–4 Royal Engineers 58 Royal Fleet Auxiliaries (RFAs) 59, 62, 84, 165 Royal Marines: sent to Stanley after Hope Bay incident 19; deployed in Falklands in mid-1960s and 1970s 56–8, 61, 98, 117, 152; question of new barracks for 141, 152; in contingency planning 148, 149, 162, 163, 165; and plan to remove intruders from South Georgia 175, 176, 181; reinforcements in response to South Georgia crisis 200, 201, 204–5, 215 Royal Navy: Task Force 317.5 78, 86; rules of engagement for mission of 87–8; and Nott’s defence review 144, 145; reinforcements in reponse to South Georgia crisis 201; problems in assembling task force 209 Royal Yacht Britannia 60, 144 RRS John Biscoe 19, 62, 91, 200 RRS Shackleton 62, 65; incident of skirmish with Argentines 54–6, 58, 65, 67, 74, 82 RSS Bransfield 62, 91, 92 Ruda, Josè Marìa 15 Ruiz Punete, Don Felipe 5 St Helena 182 Saint Lawrence Convention 1790 6, 9 San Carlos penal colony 8 satellite photography 197 SATO (South Atlantic Treaty Organization): idea of 66 Saunders Island, West Falkland 5 Scientific Co-operation Agreement 107 scientific research: RRS Shackleton 54–5; task of HMS Endurance 59; Argentine base on South Thule 77, 91–2; negotiations for Anglo-Argentine co-operation 93–4, 94–5, 107; NERC station 168–9; see also British Antarctic Survey (BAS); Economic and Fiscal Survey Scotland 113 Scott, Peter 146 sealers: settlement on South Georgia 12–13



Sebald van der Weert 4 Second World War 11, 13 Secret Intelligence Service 85 self-determination: principle of 15, 16, 18; and debates on Falklands issue 21, 22, 23, 50, 69, 107 Seven Years War (1756–1763) 4 Shackleton, Lord Eddie 43, 44–5, 46, 54; Report 46–53, 69, 70, 71, 73, 74, 152, 222 Shackleton, Sir Ernest Henry 43 sheep farming 47 Shelton, William 130 Shersby, Michael 142, 147 shipbuilding see naval contracts Shore, Peter 128, 129 Sinclair, Sir Ian 11 Slacum, George W. 7 Smith, William 12 South Africa 66 South America: CIG monitoring of 155 South Atlantic: resources 41; idea of naval collaboration 136; Review of naval presence in 143–4 South Atlantic Treaty Organization see SATO South Georgia 1, 43, 59, 167; claims for possession of 12–13; British Antarctic Survey 13, 81, 89, 168–9; defence concerns during Labour Government 55, 60; in Ridley’s lease-back proposal 100, 115; Argentina’s reactivation of sovereignty negotiations (1982) 154; Argentine untoward activity in 1982 159; episode of unauthorised Argentines on Grytviken 168–9; Davidoff and Project Alpha 169–74, 174–5, 184, 201; Argentina’s refusal to back down over 187, 188, 220; British deliberations on defence reinforcements 194, 204–5; likelihood of Argentine invasion of 212 South Orkney Islands 12, 13 South Sandwich Islands 1, 2, 13, 14, 55, 76, 77, 79, 115, 154 South Shetland Islands 12, 13, 76 South Thule 76, 96, 140, 159, 171, 176, 183, 192, 195; Argentine activities on 77–8, 79, 81, 82, 91–2, 95, 146, 168, 184, 190; discussions and proposal for co-operation 93, 94, 107 sovereignty issues 41, 52, 65; Argentine pressures 20, 89–90, 142, 211; lease- back initiative 38, 41, 72; revival of talks in 1976 70, 89–90; discussions during Rowlands’ visit, February 1977 74–5, 76; British discussions on strategy (1977) 79–81; Owen’s concerns 82; South Thule 93, 168;



Geneva talks on maritime zones 94; in briefings for new Conservative government 99–100, 100–1; idea of sovereignty freeze 106; discussed at New York talks, April 1980 107; Falkland Island Dependencies 107, 192; outline agreement following April 1980 talks 112; in Ridley’s lease-back proposals 116–17, 126; Junta’s decision to reactivate negotiations (1982) 154, 156–7, 159–60; Argentine permissions for travel on British territory 168, 185; and South Georgia crisis 171, 173–4, 188, 189, 190; Britain’s standardised contingencies 194 ‘sovereignty umbrella’ 36, 68, 75, 94 Soviet Union 66, 85, 160; shipping 81 Spain: claim for ownership of Falklands 4, 5, 9; rule of Falkland Islands (Malvinas) 6, 9; withdrawal from Falklands (1811) 6; and issue of Gibraltar 104 Spanish language 116 Special Air Service (SAS) 58 Spitzbergen 103 SPRINGTRAIN (exercise) 200, 201 Stanley 54, 59, 63, 91, 98, 110, 152; population 2, 46; Argentine pilot’s proclamation of sovereignty 20; issue of airfield 28–9, 29, 58–9; inadequacy of roads 47; Falkland Islands Defence Force volunteers 57; Ridley’s visit 125, 126–7; building of house for Argentine Air Force officer 140; increased deployment of marines 162, 163; suspicious air activity over 174; deployment of Argentine naval forces in port area 207, 210 State Oil Company see YPF Stewart, Michael 26, 27 Stoessel, Walter 191, 214 Straits of Magellan 1, 4 Strathcona, Lord 103 Streator, Edward 191 Stromness, South Georgia 169, 170, 177 Strong, Captain John 4 submarines: Argentine 97, 188, 198, 219; British 193, 202–3; see also nuclear submarines (SSN) Succession of States doctrine 9 Sudan 31 Suez crisis (1956) 149, 209 Sweden: and Aaland 103



Tackas (Argentine Ambassador to USA) 213–14 taxes 47 terra nullius 14 territorial waters 54, 79–80; and Beagle Channel dispute 80–1; plans in event of Argentine invasion 87–8; see also maritime zones Thatcher, Margaret: victory in general election (1979) 99; early attitude towards Falklands issue 105; anxieties about Falklands after Ridley’s visit 130; and debates on future of HMS Endurance 143, 145, 146, 224; refusal to send message to new Junta 153; minute on need for contingency planning 160, 163, 165, 199, 222; initial caution over South Georgia crisis 175, 181, 182, 226; alarm over South Georgia crisis 189–90, 200, 206, 211; communications with Reagan about crisis 207, 208, 212, 225; reaction to news of Argentine task force 207, 208; and plans for British task force 209, 210, 212–13; recalling of surprise at Argentine invasion 216, 222 Tierra del Fuego 19, 117 The Times 128, 146 tourism: Shackleton’s recommendations 48, 52 trade: Lord Egmont’s view on importance of Falkland Islands 5; UK with Argentina and Falklands 50; Falkland Islanders’ views on co-operation with Argentina 108; in Ridley’s lease-back proposals 125 Treasury 66, 146, 150 Treaty of Madrid 1670 4 Treaty of Tordesillas 1494 4 Treaty of Utrecht 1713 4 Trefgarne, Lord 144–5 Trident nuclear deterrent 144, 199 Trinidad 56, 86 Trombetta, Captain Ceásar 170, 171, 184, 192 UN Conference on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) 32, 54 United Kingdom (UK): Falklands’ economic relationship with 47; Falkland Islanders’ right of settlement in 126, 133; see also Britain; London United Nations (UN) 12, 18, 27, 38, 99, 114, 211; General Assembly Resolutions 14, 14–15, 20, 24, 30, 68, 71; Committee of Twenty-Four on Decolonisation 15, 37, 154, 161; Charter on self-determination 16, 19, 24; Argentina’s garnering of support from 20, 30, 154, 211; General Assembly meetings 44, 106, 118–19, 138–9, 154;



Argentine appeal for peacekeeping force on Falklands 78; guarantee in lease-back proposal 123, 126; Special Session on Disarmament 166; Security Council 190 United Provinces of Rio de la Plata (Argentina) 6–7 United States of America (USA) 67, 71, 85; clash with Argentine Republic over Falklands 7, 10; analysis supporting Argentine claim (1927) 10; surveys of continental shelf 81; Argentine claims of support from 159, 161; Britain’s attempts garner support from 190–2; relations with Argentina 190–1, 213–14; indifference to Falklands issue 191, 197–8; intelligence on Argentine threat to Falklands 198, 212; diplomatic efforts towards solution to crisis 211, 212, 213–14, 225; possibility of disapproval of Argentine invasion 225 Ure, John 135–6, 136, 147, 163, 193, 195, 196 Uruguay 10, 58, 62, 142, 205 US National Intelligence Daily 212 Ushuaia 54, 171, 183 ‘usucaption’ 11 uti possidetis (Succession of States) 9, 10 Varley, Eric 93 Vatican: and negotiations over Beagle Channel dispute 105, 121, 153, 159–60 Veinticinco de Mayo (aircraft carrier) 149, 187 Venezuela 19, 155 Venice 115 Vernet, Louis 7, 10, 21 Vespucci, Amerigo 3 Vickers 150 Videla, President 118 Vignes, Sr 34, 35–6, 37, 39, 41, 44, 55 Viola, President-designate 118 Vosper 71, 79 Warsaw Pact 155 Washington 191, 197 weather stations 79 Weekly Survey of Intelligence (WSI) 156 Welfare: first recorded landing on Falklands 4 Wellington, Duke of 7, 10 West Africa 97 West Falkland 1, 4, 5, 9, 46 West Germany: defence contracts with Argentina 92, 93, 102, 103 whaling industry, South Georgia 1, 13, 168; and Salvesen Company’s harbours 169, 170 Whitelaw, Sir William 133



Wiggin, Jerry 175, 181, 197 Williams, Anthony 113, 114, 136; communications with Cavándoli on lease-back proposal 120, 121, 122, 131–2; warnings after freeze in lease-back negotiations 134, 135, 139; view of Argentine agenda for New York talks (1982) 157, 158; against harsh action over South Georgia 167, 178, 180, 182, 185, 192–3, 193; responses to Davidoff incident 171, 175; realisation of need for response to Argentine threat 188, 189; telegram to London after invasion of Falklands 217–18 Wilson, Harold 33, 39, 58, 68 Woodward, Rear Admiral Sir John ‘Sandy’ 200, 201, 215 wool: beginning of exports 7; prices 42, 47 World Cup 1966 20 World Cup 1978 91 YPF (State Oil Company) 36, 70, 81, 108, 110 Zimbabwe settlement 106, 161