BBC Home
Explore the BBC
Search ON THIS DAY by date
Front Page |  Years |  Themes |  Witness
About This Site | Text Only
1982: Battle for the Falklands
The loss of HMS Coventry and the container ship Atlantic Conveyer was a major blow to the British in their fight to regain the Falklands.

Both sank after being hit by Argentine Exocet missiles on 25 May 1982. Thirty-one men died in the attacks and thousands of tons of stores, as well as 10 helicopters, were also lost.

The sinking of these ships - and of HMS Sheffield earlier in the month - stunned a British public which viewed the Royal Navy as invincible.

The conflict eventually claimed 900 lives before the Argentine surrender on 14 June 1982.

The Falklands land war was without doubt the most intense and vicious conflict that the UK has fought since the end of WW2.

The fighting was close up bayonet level fighting and the number of casualties were substantial.

The sights and smells of death that permeated the killing ground is an experience that you can never forget - I certainly havenżt
Rob, UK
What is not commonly known is the mental cost of the war. A large number of my former brothers in arms suffer from the acute mental illness; post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). So much so that the number of Falkland War suicide casualties now outweighs the numbers lost in the fighting.

Also a large number of Falkland veterans failed to come to terms with what they had done and witnessed "down south" as the islands are known to the veterans' community, and spiralled downwards out of control.

They now inhabit the doorways and refuges of the homeless.

There is a similar story to be told in Argentina.

From a personal perspective, part of me remains on a distant mountain battlefield forever. The sights and smells of death that permeated the killing ground is an experience that you can never forget. I certainly haven't.

People say that you need to return to the source of the problem to deal with it. I have returned to the Falklands countless times over the past 23 years.

For the first few years I went back there each time my head hit a pillow. Iżm a lot better now thanks to the work of the Falklands Medal Association and in particular Denzil Connick and Rick Jolly who did so much to arrange a veterans pilgrimage back to the islands two years ago.
Rob, 45 Commando Royal Marines, UK

Sleep well my brothers, we will never forget you.

My brother Ricky Ringham was serving on HMS Hermes when it went to the Falklands. Ii remember going to Portsmouth to welcome the ship back. It was amazing and I am truly proud of my brother Ricky who passed away in 1996.
Samantha Ringham, UK

I was serving with the Royal Army Pay Corps attached to The 1st Battallion Welsh Guards and on board the Sir Galahad when it was bombed in 1982.

I was fortunate enough to escape injury and helped many injured mates of the ship onto life rafts using the nets thrown over the side.

In fact, you can see me hanging on to the net in the picture the BBC have used of the ship.

My enduring memory of the event was how quickly it happened, and how many people were injured or killed.

I also must pay a great tribute to the helicopter pilots who hovered in the smoke to dropping a line to us on the life raft and dragging us away from danger.

I stayed on the Islands until July 1982 helping guard the area and taking prisoners abck to Argentina on Canberra.

Unfortunately, I never got a chance to say farewell to my mates who were buried at Bluff Cove because I volunteered to do guard duty on the day of the service so that a Welsh Guardsman could be relieved to attend the service.

I would one day like to go back, but realise this would be difficult as it is such a long way.

The time spent in Port Stanley was worth it, if only to see the welcome relief on the faces of the Islanders whom we had set free.
Paul Ackerman, UK

I was 17 when I went to the Falklands on HMS Avenger. We saw lots of action but the one that stands out the most was an Excocet attack on our ship 25th May.

I could actually see the missile heading straight for us at about two miles. We hit it and destroyed it with a 4.5 shell. Two Argentine skyhawk A4s then attacked dropping bombs but none of them hit.

One pilot was so low the plane hit a wave and it just catapulted it and it exploded.
Martin Carroll, UK

I was a 19-year-old crew member of the Canberra, just completing a 90-day world cruise.

We slowed down passing Gibraltar and took on some very important Navy officers, all very hush-hush.

A week later we had refitted in Southampton and set sail for the South Atlantic.

One week I was a cabin steward, the next I was training to fire a GPMG and other assorted weapons.
Tony, USA, British ex-pat

I was serving on board HMS Hermes at the time and I remember seeing HMS Sheffield burning on the horizon.

It was a horrific sight and it drove home to me personally that this was for real - it scared me!

We picked up survivors from Sheffield and one of them was my class leader in HMS Pembroke. I will never forget seeing him standing the sick-bay queue. I said hello, but he did not recognise me. He had a big gash in his head.
Mike Tracey, UK

When we invaded the Falklands (or Malvinas as we know them) I remember the unheralded sense of nationalism that spread through Buenos Aires.

It emanated from the newspapers, TV and even from our teachers' mouths.

In hindsight, it seems only logical that our corrupted and decadent dictatorship was trying to hold on to power by any means possible. It was total madness.
Diego, Argentina

I was a 13-year-old Marine cadet at the time. Our families and friends all worked in the shipyard that built HMS Sheffield and HMS Ardent.

Our town had emotional ties with the sailors and the ships.

One of my friends brothers was lost on HMS Ardent and we all felt the loss.

Attending a memorial service for the lost was one of the most moving occasions I have ever experienced. The last post is a very very sad sound to have to hear.
John A, USA, British ex-pat

As an Argentinian former navy officer and former crew [member] of the General Belgrano I was surprise by the torpedo not because of the magnitude of what was going on but by the lack of common sense by a democratic government in the pursuit of a war that was not in the interest of their constituents and against a military government in place for internal historical concerns.
Alvaro Isla, USA/Argentina

I was on the harbour side as HMS Hermes [the Falklands taskforce flagship] docked at the end of the campaign.

I was only 11 years old then, so trying to spot my father on deck over the heads of the roaring crowd of families and friends wasn't easy. Finally we spotted him - he was standing rigidly to attention on the edge of the flight deck, that is until the moment when he spotted us in the crowd and jumped for joy.

British troops prepare to leave for the Falklands Islands
I'll never forget this day as long as I live - nice one Dad
Bart Hulley, UK
Unfortunately for the chap next to him, my father's gleeful physical expression involved throwing his arms up faster than a speeding missile: his right hand connected with his colleagues face with such velocity that bones cracked.

Poor bloke, I can't remember whether it was his jaw or cheek that was broken, but he'd been to war and back only to be injured by a member of the Royal Navy at the last possible moment of the campaign.

I'll never forget this day as long as I live. Nice one Dad.
Bart Hulley, UK

At the time of the Falklands conflict, I was in Norway with a band - four Englishmen and an Argentinian!

It ws really weird, because when the war hotted up and people started getting killed, we all, naturally, following the events with growing sadness.

Our countrymen were dying, and Luis's (the Argentinian) as well.

We had a few emotional exchanges of views, and the day the Argies surrendered, we took Luis out for a meal and some wine. Needless to say we all got stinking drunk and tried to comfort Luis, who was understandably very upset, especially as he came from an Argentinian military family.

Like I said, it was weird.

The Norwegian press got wind of the fact that there was an Anglo-Argentinian band in their city.

We were interviewed by Norwegian journalists, who also thought the situation was a bit surreal!
Alexander Benckendorff, Denmark

I was nine-years-old when the Falklands conflict was going on. My dad was on HMS Invincible. One day, walking to school, a friend told me Invincible has been blown up.

Some children at my school lost their dad on HMS Sheffield

I decided my Mum would probably tell me if there really was anything to worry about, so went to school as usual. I worried about it a bit during the day.

When I got home and asked Mum about it, she told me it had been an Argentine propaganda picture showing Invincible "on fire" - really just a poorly made fake photo. My friend must have misunderstood the news story.

Some children at my school lost their dad on HMS Sheffield, so I count myself very lucky to still have my dad around. He returned with HMS Invincible (both unharmed) a few months after the conflict finished.
Jayne Grant, UK

My dad was missing for 24 hours after HMS Coventry was sunk. Luckily he survived but I was too young to really understand. Twenty years later and dad has only just talked to me about it.

The Iraq war has bought back many memories. My heart goes out to the servicemen and their families. And not forgetting the people of Iraq! I'm lucky to have my dad today.
Lisa Fazackerley, England

I was at school in Buenos Aires when the Argentines invaded. They thought that at long last their islands had been re-united with the nation, so you can imagine the problems I had when the Task Force set sail.

No-one believed Maggie would do it and I had to leave the country soon after for safety!
Mark Knowles, England

I feel a huge shame about that stupid war and all the hate that came after it
Maria, Argentina
It was autumn in Buenos Aires - there was little truth we knew about the war since there was no press freedom at all with the military government in Argentina.

My best friend's father is a surgeon, so he was taken to the islands. I will never forget the pain we all went through, not having any news of our loved ones...

We went to war with untrained 18-year-old kids that had no idea what they were doing, no proper clothing, no food. My father listened to short wave BBC on the radio. As an Argentine, I feel a huge shame about that stupid war and all the hate that came after it.
Maria, Argentina

At the time of the Falklands war, although a member of HMS Hermes ship's company, I had actually been on holiday in France when the falklands were invaded and consequently missed the ships departure by some 14 hours.

On the Hermes' return I was very nervous when actually going back on board and uncertain of the response I would get from my shipmates.

I needn't have worried because as soon as I walked into the mess all the lads burst into song with a Bonnie Tyler hit "I was lost in France in love".

It's the small things in life you tend to remember and I will never forget that day!
Andy Dillon, UK

I was a member of the RAF at the time of the Falklands war. Up to that point, I had always thought that my colleagues were intelligent, fair-minded people, and that if it ever came to a war it would have to be a just war in order for it to be supported.

But as soon as the conflict began people's attitudes changed and any questioning or doubts were fiercely opposed. The few of us that did want to discuss the war without all the jingoist aggression had to do so secretively.

I thought it a shame that there could never be an end to war so long as so many continue to be eager to take part just for the purpose, as one colleague said "to get a medal".
Jack, UK

I was 13 at the time of the Falklands war. I was in the Herne Bay detachment of the Kent Army Cadet Force and remember that we were unable to have shooting practice as we were told all the ammunition was required for the Falklands.

I used to sit in front of the news every night and watch as our forces, with no help from any of our so-called allies in NATO, fought to regain our islands.

Seeing the Royal Marines raise the British flag over Port Stanley was a moment of youthful pride - but it wasn't until I was older that I understood the cost of that campaign.
Kevin Breidenbach, Chicago, US and London, UK

 E-mail this story to a friend

HMS Sheffield burns after being hit by an Argentine missile
HMS Sheffield was sunk by an Argentine missile on 4 May 1982

350 people died when the British sunk Argentine cruiser General Belgrano on 1 May 1982
The Argentine Navy also suffered heavy losses
Paul Ackerman was aboard the Sir Galahad when it was bombed

Witness Stories

Web Links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Search ON THIS DAY by date

^^ back to top
Front Page |  Years |  Themes |  Witness
©MMVIII | News Sources | Privacy & Cookies Policy