Occupation of the Falkland Islands

The occupation of the Falkland Islands and South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands (Spanish: Gobernación Militar de las Islas Malvinas, Georgias del Sur y Sandwich del Sur "Military Administration of the Malvinas, South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands") was the short-lived Argentine occupation of a group of British islands in the South Atlantic whose sovereignty has long been disputed by Argentina. Until their invasion on 2 April 1982 by the Argentine military junta, they had been governed by the United Kingdom since it re-established control over them in 1833.

Military Administration of the Malvinas, South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands[lower-alpha 1]
Gobernación Militar de las Islas Malvinas, Georgias del Sur y Sandwich del Sur
April – June 1982
Anthem: Himno Nacional Argentino
StatusMilitary occupation by Argentina
CapitalPuerto Argentino (Stanley)
Common languagesSpanish (official)
English (de facto)
GovernmentMilitary dictatorship
President of Argentina 
Leopoldo Galtieri
Military Commander 
 2 April 1982
Oswaldo Jorge Garcia
 3 April – 14 June 1982
Mario Menéndez
Historical eraFalklands War
2 April 1982
14 June 1982
 Official dissolution
15 May 1985
CurrencyPeso (ARL)
ISO 3166 codeFK
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Falkland Islands
Falkland Islands
Today part of Falkland Islands
 South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands

The invasion and subsequent occupation signalled the start of the Falklands War, which resulted in the islands' returning to British control on 14 June 1982.


The Falkland Islands (Spanish: Islas Malvinas) had been under British administration since January 1833, when the United Kingdom re-established sovereignty over the islands which, at that time, housed an Argentine settlement. Argentina has claimed the Falklands as part of its territory ever since.

The UK first claimed South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands in 1843, and incorporated them as Falkland Islands Dependencies in 1908. The Argentine Fishing Company had an operation on South Georgia in the early 20th century, and Argentina had claimed sovereignty over South Georgia since 1927 and the South Sandwich Islands since 1938.[2] In November 1976, Argentina landed and occupied the uninhabited island of Southern Thule in the South Sandwich group, which had been in a British possession since the 18th century.[3]


In the early hours of 2 April 1982, in the wake of violent anti-government riots in Buenos Aires, the military junta, which ruled Argentina, launched an invasion of the Falkland Islands. Faced with overwhelming Argentine force, Rex Hunt (British Governor of the Islands) surrendered to Admiral Carlos Büsser (the Argentine amphibious force commander) at 9.15am. The next day, Argentina sent troops to capture and occupy South Georgia and the uninhabited South Sandwich Islands.

Argentina had claimed the islands were part of the then federal territory of Tierra del Fuego and South Atlantic islands. On 3 April 1982, the junta issued a decree which separated the islands from the jurisdiction of Tierra del Fuego and named Brigadier General Mario Menéndez as the 'Military Governor of the Malvinas, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands'.[4]

74 days of occupation

A message issued by the Argentine Military Governor during the occupation warning the islanders against attempts to sabotage Argentine military equipment.
Argentina's occupation of the Falkland Islands in 1982

On the first day of the occupation, Governor Hunt and officials from the Foreign Office were removed from the islands by the Argentine forces and sent to Montevideo, Uruguay. Argentine troops took over control of the Falkland Islands Broadcasting Studio when Patrick Watts was live on air.[5]

Argentina used Spanish while on the islands, including the use of Puerto Argentino, the Argentine name for Port Stanley. Vehicles were told to drive on the right, with painted arrows on the road indicating the direction of traffic. Street signs and traffic signs were changed accordingly, including the use of the metric system. The Argentinian captain Barry Melbourne Hussey, who was chosen for a position in the administration due to his knowledge and experience of English, asserted safety as a major concern, during discussions with the Falkland Islanders: "Which would you prefer, that our eighteen-year-old conscripts, with their big lorries, should try to drive on the left, or that you, with your little vehicles, change to the right?".[6] However, outside Stanley, most roads were single track anyway and some islanders refused to observe the new rule and continued to drive on the left.[7] Other acts of civil disobedience included Reg Silvey (lighthouse keeper and ham radio enthusiast) broadcasting clandestine radio messages throughout the occupation.[8]

According to Port Stanley resident John Pole Evans, Argentine Air Force Pucarás conducted napalm bombings on 21 April near Stanley as a show of force that coincided with General Cristino Nicolaides's[9] visit as commander of the Argentine Army's 1st Corps: "We knew what sort of damage they could do, because during April whilst we were still in our homes, they'd bombed the Tussac Island in the harbour with napalm and it burned for a couple of days. This was like a warning of what they were capable of—that they could destroy the settlement if they wanted to. For them it was probably just some sort of target practice."[10][11]

Residents considered critical of the Argentines were expelled from the islands. This included Bill Luxton[12] whose family had been resident in the Falklands since the 1840s and the editor of the Falkland Islands Times David Colville.[13] This proved embarrassing in the international press and so 14 residents of Stanley considered to be potential troublemakers were imprisoned and were sent to Fox Bay East and placed under house arrest.[14]

During the occupation, 114 inhabitants of Goose Green were imprisoned in the social hall until released by the British following the Battle of Goose Green. Lieutenant-Colonel Ítalo Piaggi, the Commanding Officer of the Argentine 12th Infantry Regiment, claimed that the lockdown in Goose Green was to protect the locals from attack by enraged Argentine Air Force personnel.[15]

According to local farm manager Eric Goss: "Sanitation in the hall was grim. We ran out of water on the third day, the toilets were blocked and there was some dysentery. We persuaded the Argentinians to bring sea water in barrels for the toilets; an old chap, Mike Robson, did sterling work keeping them going. Two young men, Bob McLeod and Ray Robson, both radio hams, found an old broken radio, part of the club equipment, in a junk cupboard. They made this work and we listened each evening to the B.B.C. World Service; the others made noise at the windows to cover the crackling of the broadcast and we were never discovered."[16]

According to Brook Hardcastle, the general manager of the Falkland Island Company (FIC) based at Goose Green: "After the first week the Argentines let two women go out each day to the galley in the cookhouse, where all the men would normally eat together. They were allowed to cook up a big meal, with bread and cakes, and bring it down to the hall. Considering we were all cramped together in a small place everybody got on very well. People were generally good-natured."[17]

The Argentine military expelled 52 schoolchildren from Stanley and turned the playground of the school into a compound for drilling troops.[18] The Argentine peso replaced the Falkland Islands pound and stamps were overfranked with an Islas Malvinas postcode.[18]

Treatment of islanders

The Argentine military police arrived on the islands with detailed files on many islanders. One of their first actions was to arrest and deport noted critics of links to Argentina including David Colville,[18] as well as Bill Luxton and his family.[19] Such deportations proved internationally embarrassing, as Bill Luxton gave numerous interviews on his deportation, and subsequently detainees were imprisoned at Fox Bay.[19]

Major Patricio Dowling, an Argentine of Irish origin, became the chief of police. He frequently overstepped his authority, ignoring instructions to treat the islanders with respect, and quickly became known throughout the islands for his tendency to resort to violence. Dowling imposed a regime of arbitrary house searches, arrests and questioning. His actions came to the attention of Comodoro Carlos Bloomer-Reeve who recommended to Brigadier-General Menéndez that he be removed and he was subsequently sent back to the mainland in disgrace.[19]

According to police sergeant Anton Livermore: "The Argentinian military police moved into the station and I got on fairly well with them, professionally all the time and personally when their officers were not present. They were very good really and kept strict discipline among their own army people but Major Dowling was a problem and eventually there came an incident which led to my finishing working in uniform. They sent me, under armed threat, to arrest a civilian and I refused to do it again, only to help out of uniform with that type of problem. They didn't like that answer and threatened me, Monsignor Spraggon sorted that out: I have a lot to thank Monsignor for."[20]

Captain Miguel Ángel Romano, a reservist had been sent to Port Stanley to help take charge of the 181st Military Police Company during the Argentine occupation. According to local resident Patrick Watts: "He took appropriate action against conscripts caught stealing from unoccupied dwellings and tried to help the civilian community as far as his rank would allow."[21]

Comodoro Carlos Bloomer-Reeve, chief of the Secretariat of the new occupation forces,[22] in conjunction with Major Barry Hussey were instrumental in avoiding conflict with the Argentine military. Bloomer-Reeve had previously lived on the islands between 1975 and 1976, when he ran the LADE operation in Stanley and had great affection for the islanders.[19]

Doctor Alison Bleaney, with her husband, Michael, was kept busy in Stanley hospital, with little rest. She was involved in arranging the Argentine surrender on 14 June and discovered that her baby was of great help in getting past the sentries guarding Government House. "I found that I could negotiate with angry Argie soldiers much more effectively when breastfeeding Emma! I always took her with me in a sling on my front when I wished to speak with senior officials, as the sentries' guns would be lowered when they spotted her".[23]

There was no widespread abuse of the population. After the war it was found that even the islanders' personal food supplies and stocks of alcohol were untouched, and Brigadier-General Menéndez, the Argentine governor of the Islands, had made it clear from the start that he would not engage in any combat in Stanley itself.[24] However, in the last day of battle, Private Santiago Carrizo of the 3rd Regiment described how a platoon commander ordered them to take up positions in the houses and "if a Kelper resists, shoot him", though the entire company did nothing of the kind.[25]

There was also no wholesale confiscation of private property during the occupation, but had the islanders refused to sell, the goods in question would have been taken anyway.[6] However, Argentine officers did steal civilian property at Goose Green following the detention of the civilian population, although they severely punished any conscripts that did the same.[19]


On 22 April, the British task force arrived in Falklands waters; three days later British troops recaptured South Georgia.[26] Following over a month of fierce naval and air battles, the British landed on 21 May, and a land campaign followed until Governor Mario Menéndez surrendered to Major General Jeremy Moore on 14 June in Stanley.[27]

At around 1100 local time on 14 June the fighting for Port Stanley suddenly ended with Patrick Watts recalling: "Argentine guns which had been inflicting considerable casualties on British Troops on Mount Longdon ceased firing while British artillery which for the previous 3 days and nights had incessantly bombarded the outskirts of Stanley in their attempts to silence the Argentine weaponry suddenly closed down as well. It was as if someone somewhere had flicked a switch at a pre-appointed time! Snowflakes were gently falling; the roads were icy and it was bitterly cold as thousands of young Argentine soldiers abandoned the mountains, ridges, hills and valleys which they had occupied for the preceding 73 days, and walked disconsolately and dispiritedly into Stanley, resigned to their defeat and looking for shelter, warmth and food. Still fully armed they proceeded to occupy public buildings such as the Town Hall, Post Office and Gymnasium and commercial warehouses in an effort to escape from the cold."[21]

Local fireman Lewis Clifton describes how the infrastructures of Port Stanley broke under the strain of accommodating and processing thousands of cold, weary, hungry British soldiers and Argentine prisoners of war: "The place just couldn't take it. There was only sporadic electricity and water and the sanitation system collapsed. The streets were ankle-deep in human waste. The stench was awful, really awful, and we were all suffering from what we called Galtieri's revenge. He lost the war but left us ill."[28]

Water was scarce, since Port Stanley's main pumping station had been damaged by British naval gunfire during the final battles, with many Argentine soldiers suffering from diarrhea because of Liver Fluke Disease (found in sheep and contaminated water), forced to relieve themselves in bathtubs and the back streets of Stanley in the face of sudden violent bowel movement and with toilets no longer working.[29]

On the night of 16 June, with not enough British guarding Argentinian POWs, a riot broke out which ended with the disgruntled Argentinians setting fire to the Globe Store. However a company from 2 PARA rushed to the area and order was restored.[30] The Port Stanley fire brigade was assisted by an Argentinian fire-fighting team provided by Captain Miguel Ángel Romano (second-in-command of the 181st Military Police Company) who prevented the fires from spreading across the town.[21]

Claims that the Argentine soldiers had behaved like savages throughout the occupation were investigated with British war correspondents Patrick Joseph Bishop and John Witherow writing: "They had certainly been responsible for smashing up the solid old post office, and the backstreets of the town were littered with excrement. But although fourteen local men were taken from their homes during the occupation and sent to West Falkland where they were put under house arrest, few inhabitants were ill-treated. It was an uncomfortable rather than brutal regime ... There were stories of looting and soldiers defecating in houses but on closer examination this tended to be troops stealing buns from the deep-freeze or sleeping in beds with muddy boots. Some valuables and souvenirs were stolen and houses vandalized but the details of the outrages were vague. Most of the serious damage was done by the British shelling."[31]

On 20 June, British forces landed on the South Sandwich Islands and Southern Thule where 10 Argentines handed over their station.[32] 649 Argentines, 255 Britons and 3 Falkland Islanders died during the war.


The Argentine Administration officially continued to exist until 15 May 1985 when it was dissolved by President Raúl Alfonsín. Since then, Argentina has claimed the islands are part of Tierra del Fuego (then an Argentine National Territory) which became a fully-fledged province of Argentina in 1990.[33]

See also


  1. The Argentine government refers to the Falkland Islands as Malvinas Islands in both English and Spanish.[1]


  1. "National Day of Affirmation of Argentina's Rights over the Malvinas, South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands, including the surrounding maritime areas". Cancillería Argentina.
  2. "South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands". World Statesmen. Retrieved 1 March 2010.
  3. "Dispute over Argentinian Scientific Base on Southern Thule Island - Further Negotiations over Falkland Islands". Keesing's Record of World Events. July 1978. Retrieved 1 March 2010.
  4. "Comunicado De La Junta Militar N°10". Military junta of Argentina (in Spanish). malvinasonline.com. 3 April 1982. Archived from the original on April 8, 2009. Retrieved 1 March 2010.
  5. Falkland Islands Radio Station invaded by Argentine soldiers on YouTube
  6. Middlebrook, p.44
  7. Tobar, Hector (1 April 2002). "'82 Falklands Conflict Left a Legacy of Tragedy, Hope". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 1 March 2010.
  8. "Falkland's 1982 civilian hero and life-long radio ham dies in England". MercoPress. 18 March 2019. Retrieved 14 April 2022.
  9. "Cabe acotar que justo antes de la visita de los Comandantes fue a la isla el general Nicolaides y pasó la noche allí. Fue a visitar la Brigada de Infantería Mecanizada X perteneciente al Cuerpo de Ejército a su mando, y conversó con el general Jofre y conmigo. Visitó las unidades en sus emplazamientos, conversó con los jefes, etcétera." "Malvinas: Testimonio de Su Gobernador, Mario Benjamín Menéndez, Carlos M. Túrolo", Page 100, Editorial Sudamericana, 1983
  10. Hugh McManners, Forgotten Voices of the Falklands: The Real Story of the Falklands War, Random House, 2008
  11. "This afternoon the Pucaras again bombed the Tussac Islands in Port William. Savage flames cover the ground while a huge pall of dense smoke rises hundreds of feet into the air. God knows what all this is doing to the wildlife out there. It is being said, though it is difficult to find evidence to support it, that the Argentine dead still being recovered from the invasion, and the deaths from exposure, are being put on the islands so that no trace remains of their losses, which during the invasion period were far heavier than admitted." 74 Days: An Islander's Diary of the Falklands Occupation, John Smith, p. 83, Century, 1984
  12. "Weeping Falklanders Beg To Go Back Home". The Modesto Bee. Associated Press. 16 April 1982. Retrieved 20 March 2011.
  13. "'We've been invaded'". Retrieved 2020-10-26.
  14. Graham Bound (15 September 2006). Falkland Islanders at War. Pen & Sword Books. pp. 113–. ISBN 978-1-78159-717-0.
  15. Making Their Dispositions Accordingly: Civilian Experiences of the 1982 Falklands War
  16. Operation Corporate: The Falklands War, Martin Middlebrook, p. 169, Viking, 1985
  17. Speaking Out: Untold Stories from the Falklands War, Michael Bilton, Peter Kosminsky, pp. 257-258, Andre Deutsch, 1989
  18. David Colville (2000). "Invasion and Occupation - The Story of a Stanley Resident". falklands.info. Archived from the original on 29 October 2010. Retrieved 1 March 2010.
  19. Bound, Graham (2006). Falkland Islanders at war. Pen and Sword Books Limited. ISBN 1-84415-429-7.
  20. Operation Corporate: The Falklands War, Martin Middlebrook, p. 171, Viking, 1985
  21. Democracy restored to the Falkland Islands
  22. Freedman, Lawrence (2005). Official History of the Falklands Campaign. Routledge. p. 104. ISBN 978-0-415-41911-6.
  23. Falklands Poignant Personal Memories
  24. Middlebrook, p.43
  25. Hastings, Max; Jenkins, Simon. The Battle For The Falklands. p. 307.
  26. "Marines land in South Georgia". BBC News. 25 April 1982. Retrieved 1 March 2010.
  27. "Ceasefire agreed in Falklands". BBC News. 14 June 1982. Retrieved 1 March 2010.
  28. The Falklands invasion, by those who were there
  29. "British naval gunfire had destroyed the roof of Port Stanley's water pumping station, causing the valves, filters and pipes to freeze up and split." The Scars of Wars, Hugh McManners, p. 315, HarperCollins, 1993
  30. "On the night of 16 June, with too few servicemen to guard too many prisoners, a riot broke out which ended in the prisoners setting fire to the Globe Store where, ironically, all their clothing, cigarettes and other goodies were stored. However a company group from 2 PARA were soon deployed to the area and order was restored." The British Army in the Falklands, John W. Stanier, H.M. Stationery Office, 1983
  31. The Winter War: The Falklands, Patrick Joseph Bishop, John Witherow, p.143, Quartet Books, 1982
  32. "Britain invades another island". Sydney Morning Herald. 21 June 1982. Retrieved 1 March 2010.
  33. "Argentina again claims Falklands". Sun Journal. 27 April 1990. Retrieved 1 March 2010.


  • Middlebrook, Martin (2003). The Argentine Fight For The Falklands. ISBN 0-85052-978-6.

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