Falkland Islands Defence Force

The Falkland Islands Defence Force (FIDF) is the locally maintained volunteer defence unit in the Falkland Islands, a British Overseas Territory. The FIDF works alongside the military units supplied by the United Kingdom to ensure the security of the islands.

Falkland Islands Defence Force
Badge of the Falkland Islands Defence Force
Active1892–1920 (as the Falkland Islands Volunteer Corps)
Country Falkland Islands
 United Kingdom
TypeMilitary reserve force
RoleLight Infantry with additional roles[1]
SizePlatoon to Company-strength unit[2][1]
2 Permanent Staff Personnel
~40 to 100 Primary Reserve Personnel[nb 1]
~100 Secondary Reserve Personnel[4]
Garrison/HQPort Stanley
Motto(s)Faithful In Defence[5]
Anniversaries13 December
WebsiteOfficial Website
Commanding OfficerMajor Justin McPhee[6]



In 1847, Lieutenant Richard Clement Moody, Governor of the Falkland Islands, formed the Falklands' militia force, consisting of two infantry platoons, and a combined mounted and artillery unit.[7] A volunteer unit was reformed in 1854, during the Crimean War, to guard against possible aggression by the Russian Empire.[8]

In 1892, a steamer owned by one of the belligerents involved in the Chilean Civil War docked at Port Stanley.[9] Ostensibly there to carry out repairs to its engines, the presence onboard of 200 armed soldiers was considered a security threat, and Governor Sir Roger Goldsworthy therefore ordered that an armed volunteer force be formed. The first draft of men of the Falkland Islands Volunteer Corps were sworn in at a ceremony at the Falkland Government House, in June 1892.[7]

World War I

Members of the force on horseback in 1914.

During the First World War, members of the Volunteer Corps were mobilised to man military outposts around the Islands, while 36 Falklanders enlisted in the British armed forces, 10 of whom subsequently lost their lives during the war.[8] In 1919 the Falkland Island Volunteer Corps were stood down and were subsequently renamed as the Falkland Islands Defence Force on 13 December 1920.[7][9]

During the First World War the Volunteers were issued the General Service Corps cap badge. This was used into the 1930s on dress uniforms.[10]


In 1931 on the recommendation of Captain C.E.C Ransome Royal Marines visiting the island on HMS Danae the Defence Force adopted Royal Marine Blue Dress Uniforms for ceremonial duties. This style of uniform is still in use today.[10]

World War II

The FIDF was mobilised again during the Second World War, manning defensive outposts around the Islands. At this time, a mounted rifles unit was raised.[7]

On 27 September 1939, thirty-three men arrived from Argentina in a group called the "Tabaris Highlanders." Gathered from the Anglo-Argentine community, they were supposed to defend the islands from a German attack. Six of these volunteers were rejected on medical and other grounds and returned to Buenos Aires almost immediately. The "commanding officer," a Major Morrough, was one of those rejected. The remainder were enrolled in the Falkland Islands Defence Force, with Ronald Campbell made sergeant as commander and Thomas Dawson Sanderson made corporal. Many were rugby players, including Sanderson, who was president of a rugby club.[11]

The men left the Islands on 8 December 1939, once the immediate danger of attack from German raiders was judged to have receded. During this time the Highlanders dug out gun pits, embankments, and other protection from a possible German naval attack. Twenty-two of them applied from Stanley to join the British Forces.[11]

During the war, around 150 islanders joined the British armed forces, of which 26 were killed in action.[7] In June 1946 a section of the FIDF took part in the Victory Parade in London.[7]

After the end of the war, the presence of Royal Marines as part of the Islands' defence led to the FIDF adopting drill styles.[10] On 28 September 1966,[12] 19 members of an Argentine extremist group staged a symbolic invasion of the Islands by landing a DC-4 on Stanley Racecourse,[13] in one of the first significant hijacking incidents; the extremist group called this action Operation Condor. There, they took four islanders hostage. The FIDF, alongside the Royal Marines, contained the situation and the group surrendered without casualties.[3] Following this, the FIDF was on heightened alert until February 1967.[7]

Falklands War

A parade led by a detachment of the Falkland Islands Defence Force in 2007.

On 1 April 1982, alongside the Royal Marines party, the FIDF was mobilised to defend the Islands from the Argentine invasion. Many of its members lived in remote settlements so given the limited notice of its approximately 120 men some 32 turned out.[14] The following day, Sir Rex Hunt ordered them to surrender. The Argentines confiscated all of the FIDF's equipment and declared them to be an illegal organisation. For the duration of the war, some members of the FIDF were kept under house arrest at Fox Bay until the Argentine surrender. The FIDF was reformed in 1983.[7][3]

Terry Peck, a former member of the Defence Force, spied on Argentine forces in Stanley, then escaped to become a scout for the 3rd Battalion, Parachute Regiment, with which he fought at the Battle of Mount Longdon.[15]

On 28 April 2021, a new motto "Faithful in Defence" was awarded to the FIDF following approval by the Queen.[16]


Minister of State for the Armed Forces Mark Lancaster with Major Peter Biggs in 2016.

The Falkland Islands Defence Force meet once a week for training, with various extended training weekends throughout the year. Soldiers of the Falkland Islands Defence Force conduct training patrols with soldiers from the British garrison on the islands as well as acting as "enemy" forces against British soldiers in training exercises.[17]

FIDF soldiers also provide search and rescue and mountain rescue services across the islands.[7][18] They have been trained by the Royal Navy to operate Oerlikon 20 mm cannons and conduct boarding operations of vessels to fulfill a fisheries protection role for the Falkland Islands Government.[1][7][18] As of 2022, the Falkland Islands sovereignty and fisheries patrol vessel is the MV Pharos SG, which assists in policing the exclusive economic zone around the islands as well as around South Georgia and the Sandwich Islands.[19] She will be replaced in 2023 by the MV Lilibet, named in honour of the late Queen Elizabeth II, and leased to the Falklands Government by Seagull Maritime Limited for fifteen years.[20] Civilian-crewed, the vessel is a Damen Stan 5009 patrol ship with a range of 2,900 nautical miles, a maximum speed of 29.5 knots and a crew of up to 28 persons.[21]

Major Peter Biggs[22][9] served with the FIDF for 35 years and was the Commanding Officer from 2002 to 2016.[6][3] Justin McPhee was selected as the next commanding officer of the FIDF in 2018.[6]

In 2019 Major Justin McPhee became the first FIDF Officer to complete the Intermediate Command & Staff Course (Land Reserves) at the UK Defence Academy alongside UK regular and reserve soldiers and international students.[23][9]


Equipment includes:

Former equipment
  • Steyr AUG assault rifle - uniquely used by the FIDF among British forces,[26] this was replaced by the L85A2 in 2019.[24]
  • Steyr AUG HBAR (Heavy-Barreled Automatic Rifle) light support weapon,[26] this was replaced by the L86 in 2019.[24]


A parade by detachments from (right to left) the Royal Navy, the Parachute Regiment, and the Falkland Islands Defence Force, on 14 June 2013

The Falkland Islands Defence Force today is funded entirely by the Falkland Islands government and has an annual budget of £400,000.[3]


The FIDF is organised as a light infantry company with additional roles, though, as of 2022, it was reported to be closer to platoon-strength with 40 personnel.[2] It is manned entirely by the local population, based on British Army doctrine, training and operations. New recruits go through a 12-week training program.[28] In an agreement with the British Ministry of Defence, a Royal Marines Warrant Officer Class 2 is seconded to the Force as a Permanent Staff Instructor.[7][1]


Cap badge

FIDF cap badge

The cap badge is the badge of the FIDF cast in metal. It shows the escutcheon party per bend, with a Sea Lion in the lower half, and the rear end of an old sail ship in the upper half, surrounded by the slogan "Desire the Right". This badge was formerly the Coat of arms of the Falkland Islands from 1925–1948.[29]

Stable belt



The ranks of the FIDF are the same as those used in the British Army/Royal Marines. Rank slides has the badge of Rank and wording on bottom of 'FALKLAND ISLANDS'[30]

Rank group General/flag officers Senior officers Junior officers Officer cadet
Falkland Islands Defence Force
Major Captain Lieutenant Second lieutenant
Field Uniform rank slides
Rank group Senior NCOs Junior NCOs Enlisted
Falkland Islands Defence Force

No insignia
Warrant officer class 2
(Permanent Staff Instructor)
Colour sergeant Sergeant Corporal Lance corporal Private
Field Uniform rank slides


See also


  1. The force had around 70 members in 2010.[3] Reported to be 40 personnel in 2022[2]


  1. Cooper, Tim (18 December 2017). "Everything You Need To Know About British Forces In The Falklands". Forces Network. Retrieved 11 May 2017.
  2. "Small but mighty: Meet the 40-strong Falklands army". Forces.net. Retrieved 7 January 2023.
  3. Fletcher, Martin (6 March 2010). "Falklands Defence Force better equipped than ever, says commanding officer". The Times. Archived from the original on 27 February 2022. Retrieved 23 July 2011.
  4. Tossini, J. Vitor (4 March 2021). "The Falkland Islands Defence Force – The oldest land unit of the British Overseas Territories".
  5. Falkland Islands Government. "The Falkland Islands Defence Force – a brief history". Archived from the original on 24 August 2020. Retrieved 24 August 2020. A reception was held at Government House on the 28th April to celebrate the formal approval of a new motto [...] Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, had approved the motto "Faithful in Defence."
  6. Merco Press (26 October 2018). "Falkland appoints new Officer Commanding the Islands' Defense Force". Merco Press. Retrieved 7 February 2019.
  7. Falkland Islands Government. "The Falkland Islands Defence Force – a brief history". Archived from the original on 9 February 2019. Retrieved 7 February 2019.
  8. Falkland Islands Information Portal. "Falkland Islands Defence Force: 150 years of Voluntary Service". Archived from the original on 27 April 2006. Retrieved 19 June 2006.
  9. Falkland Islands Government. "The Falkland Islands Defence Force – a brief history". Archived from the original on 24 August 2020. Retrieved 24 August 2020.
  10. Falkland Islands Government. "The Falkland Islands Defence Force – a brief history". Retrieved 19 June 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  11. "TABARIS HIGHLANDERS (1939)". Dictionary of Falklands Biography 1592-1981. Archived from the original on 2 December 2008. Retrieved 10 September 2009.
  12. Ranter, Harro. "ASN Aircraft accident Douglas DC-4 LV-AGG Port Stanley". aviation-safety.net.
  13. "Pat Whitney: Falkland Islander who evacuated children". The Times. 9 July 2008. Retrieved 4 September 2022.
  14. "History". Falkland Islands Defence Force. 11 February 2021.
  15. "Obituary: Terry Peck". The Daily Telegraph. 6 January 2007. Retrieved 13 October 2019.
  16. Merco Press. "Falkland Islands Defence Force: New motto approved". en.mercopress.com.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  17. "View from the Falklands: The other British isles". Prospect Magazine. 11 April 2017. Retrieved 13 October 2019.
  18. Falkland Islands Government. "The Role of The FIDF". Retrieved 7 February 2019.
  19. "Krill surveys in South Georgia conducted by fishery patrol MV Pharos SG". MercoPress.
  20. "Falklands new fisheries patrol vessel name: "Lilibet" in honor of Queen Elizabeth". MercoPress.
  21. "Stan Patrol 5009" (PDF). Retrieved 19 December 2022.
  22. BBC News (18 February 2010). "'We always feel threatened by Argentina'". BBC News. Retrieved 11 May 2017.
  23. "Falkland Island Defence Force attend Intermediate Command and Staff Course". Defence Academy of the United Kingdom. Retrieved 23 September 2020.
  24. "Falkland Islands Defence Force". www.facebook.com. 8 March 2019. Archived from the original on 26 February 2022.
  25. "Falkland Islands Defence Force". www.facebook.com. 17 August 2019. Archived from the original on 26 February 2022.
  26. "Special Forces (Land) (Falkland Islands), Amphibious and special forces". Jane's Amphibious and Special Forces. 25 November 2010. Archived from the original on 15 August 2011. Retrieved 28 May 2018.
  27. "Small but mighty: Meet the 40-strong Falklands army" via www.youtube.com.
  28. Smithson, Hannah (30 September 2013). "Falkland Islands Defence Force new recruits start training". Retrieved 7 February 2019.
  29. Mathieson, Ian (2003). "Falkland Islands/Islas Malvinas". Americas Review 2003-2004. Kogan Page. pp. 316–321. ISBN 9780749440640. Retrieved 1 February 2013.
  30. "FIDF changes uniform while remembering the past". Penguin News. 18 September 2020.
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