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Fight for the Falklands: Twenty years on
Introduction
My war story
Guide to the conflict

'I saw Sir Galahad burn'
Falklands map
The first day

The Argentine military's lost cause
My war story


Sir John Nott
Carlos Escude
Mark Shurben-Browne
Ruben Rada
Sir Rex Hunt
General Menendez
Jose Luis Ferreira
Bob Mullen
Augusto Bedacarratz
Sir Rex Hunt was Governor of the Falkland Islands at the time of the Argentine invasion.

When I was formally sworn in as governor, the chief secretary said the Falklands was a tranquil and absorbing place. It was anything else but tranquil in 1982.

But I liked the islands as soon as I got there. The people were friendly. I felt very much at home.

There had been deliberate neglect of the islands.

The advice I was given before I went out was to win the confidence of the islanders, because they were very suspicious of the Foreign Office.

What was left unsaid, but was quite clear, was they wanted me to win the confidence of the islanders so that they could sell them down the river to Argentina, because the Foreign Office regarded it as an anachronism.

But in my first dispatch I said: "There is no way we will convince these islanders that they will be better off as part of Argentina".

Argentina never had a proper claim to the Falkland Islands. Their claim was spurious from the very beginning.

My first intimation of an impending invasion didn't come until Thursday 1 April at 3.30pm when this top secret telegram came from the Foreign Office

It was couched in typical Whitehall jargon: "We have apparently reliable evidence that an Argentine task force could be assembling off Stanley at dawn tomorrow. You will wish to make your dispositions accordingly."

My assistant remarked: "Well they might have said goodbye and the best of British".

Valuable possessions

I decided Government House would be the operational headquarters for the Royal Marines.

After I had sent my wife and son to a safer house, I told the domestic staff to go away and just take their few most valuable possessions. Nanny, our housekeeper, got her priorities right.

Off she went with a picture of the Queen under one arm and a bottle of gin under the other.

From five to six the next morning until dawn, which was 6.35, it was a very fierce fire fight. I was under my desk with my assistant. I had to make a conscious effort to think through the noise.

People say "weren't you frightened?" I think I would have been but I was stunned of all emotions because of the noise.

I had a little handgun and I was going to use it if they got as far as my office.

At about 6.35, the firing subsided and (Royal Marine Major) Mike Norman popped his head round the door and said: "We've repulsed the bastards".

Injured

I could hear some groaning and I said "Mike, we'd better get our injured in," and he said: "They're not ours, they're theirs."

That was when I realised how close they were. There were three of them who had been shot in my wife's vegetable garden just 15 yards from where I was.

I knew I would have to give in sometime. My one anxiety was how many lives I had to lose before I gave in, and had we done enough to resist to get the response from Britain that we needed?

If I had known Maggie Thatcher as well then as I know her now I would not have had that anxiety.

I got the admiral in charge of the task force to come to me and he urged me to give the order to lay down arms.

He said otherwise I would be held responsible for any further casualties.

I did point out that it is the people who start the shooting that are to blame. But I did take his point. It was an overwhelmingly superior force.

[At 1230, the governor, wearing his plumed governor's hat, went to the town hall in Stanley to meet the Argentine general commanding the invasion]

"There was this rather miserable little general, sallow faced, coming towards me with a fixed smile on his face. I really felt the anger surge then and I thought: "This is just the rape of the Falkland Islands."

I refused to shake hands with him and said: "You have landed unlawfully on British territory and I order you to remove yourself and your troops forthwith."

He said: "We have taken back what is rightfully ours and we shall stay forever."

I had to get out by 4.30 that afternoon. We were flown to Montevideo.

[Back in Britain] I didn't know anything more than the general public about what was going on. I was never invited into any of the confidential briefings at the Foreign Office. It was ridiculous.

When I went back the Falklands it was very emotional.

The islanders insisted on grabbing me by the hand and putting their arms around me. They will forever be grateful for the sacrifices people made.

Was [the war] worth it? Yes, undoubtedly so. Just look at the poor Argentines now and look at the prosperous islanders. They have done tremendously well since then.

All sorts of things have happened that couldn't have happened had it not been for Galtieri's folly.

We still have a lot of friends out there.

During the occupation we were sitting [in Britain] looking at the television to see how the islanders were getting on.

That formed a bond between us and the islanders which I think will last until we die.