The Falklands War of 1982 liberated not just those islands, but the home islands too. It is the story of staunch heroes, who won more than they could imagine they would.
It had to be done. It was war, there was slaughter, but sometimes war has to be done. It is hard to describe to today’s generation how the war and the victory changed Britain and revived Britain, because of how fundamental that change was. The focus though was the Falkland Islands and their people.
So whatever the revolutionary change that the war made at home, it was at base exactly as it seemed – a liberation of those islands, a limb of the British nation, from a foreign invader, a liberation wrought by the heroism and iron determination of British sailors, soldiers and airmen doing what they do best. It was war for what war is meant to be for, and they fought it and won it well. Theirs is the glory here, and those of us in Britain then abed shall think ourselves accursed we were not there – all the verses and quotes and clichés are weak indeed in comparison to the reality of the relentless battle by flesh and blood over bogs and hills to drive back an enemy dug in on our hills, but that they did, in mere weeks – two and a half months from the invasion and the islands were liberated. If only all wars were so brief and victorious.
Looking back, it is unimaginable that much of the press was against the war but those newspapers failed and the patriotic ones throve. We emerged a very different country.
When the Argentines invaded, they attacked a nation which had lost faith in itself, where the dissolution of empire had sapped the vitality out of the soul of the nation, and decades of socialist impositions had smashed the economy to spin Britain into a spiral of apparently irrecoverable decline. Three years before, Margaret Thatcher began to reverse it only for an oil crisis and the necessary destruction of dead industry to cause a massive recession. The Argentines attacked a nation with no confidence in itself, knowing that the establishment would surrender. They wanted to. Had it not been for Margaret Thatcher and Sir Henry Leach, the First Sea Lord, that would have been an end.
The decision made, it was the men who sailed those thousands of miles over the unquiet ocean who rescued the islands and their whole nation.
The Argentines attacked a dying, timid land: they surrendered to a resurgent, confident major world power.
- The Battle for the Falklands by Max Hastings and Simon Jenkins
- Across and Angry Sea – The SAS in the Falklands War by Cedric Delves