Thirty years ago today the first move took place in the game of brinkmanship which rapidly escalated into the Falklands War. The Argentinian naval ship, ‘Bahia Buen Suceso’ Landed a group of Marines on the remote island of South Georgia where they proceeded to raise the Argentinian flag.
In reality it had started six years earlier when Argentinian Marines occupied Thule Island in the South Sandwich Islands. No action was taken by either the Labour government in their later years, 1976-79 or the Conservatives in their early years, 1979-1982. This inaction lulled the Argentine military into thinking that the UK had given up on the South Atlantic islands.
The Falkland War should not have arrived out of the blue, in fact it didn’t but the UK government were not prepared for anything on the scale of what happened.
By 1982 the Conservative government had been in office about two years, it was beginning to implement some not exactly popular policies, it was trying to make big savings in government expenditure and it saw that one easy route to financial savings was massive cutbacks to the Armed Services, especially the Royal Navy.
The Falkland’s War began with, on one side, an unpopular government seeking military glory, losing and then being overthrown and on the other, an unpopular government trying to avoid conflict but winning and building greatly on that victory.
With her strong stand against Argentina Mrs Thatcher is seen as the architect of the victory, what must not be forgotten is that the cuts that her government made, and planned to make, to the Armed Services played its part in boosting Argentinian belief that the UK would not respond militarily.
Let us hope that her Tory successor in Number 10 has not forgotten that!