Today is the 3rd January 2014 – 181 years since a small, outnumbered, British force in HMS Clio ejected a trespassing garrison and its accompanying ship-of-war from the British Falkland Islands.
For a relatively minor event the circumstances are well-known. Buenos Aires had revealed its pretensions to the Falkland Islands in its gazetted Decree of 1829 which promptly set off an exchange of letters between Britain’s representative, Woodbine Parish, and the Foreign Office in London. As a result, Parish presented a diplomatic protest to the Government in Buenos Aires pointing out that the archipelago was claimed by Britain and that Buenos Aires would not be permitted to act upon their pretension.
Buenos Aires did not listen however and, in late 1832, sent an armed garrison to Port Louis in an attempt to impose their control over the Falklands. Before that garrison had sailed however, Britain lodged a further protest reminding the Buenos Airean Government of the warning from 1829 but Buenos Aires remained deaf.
Once on the Falklands the garrison raised the Argentine flag and its officer asserted his authority before being promptly murdered by his own troops. Order was restored just in time for the arrival of HMS Clio on January 2nd, 1833. Commander Onslow politely requested that the garrison remove both its flag and itself, but seeing some reluctance to obey the instruction, Onslow ordered that the Argentine flag be lowered, folded with due ceremony and returned to the commander of Argentina’s ship-of-war. With the flag went a polite message to say that it had been “.. found in the territory of His Majesty.”
Argentina’s forces left without further protest and no fight. Nothing more than small police action to remove a group of trespassers from the Falkland Islands. Certainly not the last time that such action would be necessary.
Surprising then that every year Argentina writes to the United Nations and issues a press release complaining of another; “.. anniversary of the illegal occupation of the Malvinas Islands by the United Kingdom.” Surprising that they place such emphasis on such a minor event. No mention of 1829 however, and no mention of the British claim which can be traced back to 1593 – a mere 223 years before what is now Argentina declared itself independent of Spain – and fully 270 years before Argentina became fully recognised as a country in its own right. Yet the anniversary is now marked every year without fail.
Perhaps they are right, perhaps we too should place more emphasis on the action of Commander Onslow in ejecting a superior force from the Falklands without even a single shot being fired. Perhaps we should mark, clearly, the first time that Argentina attempted to take by force something that it had never owned.
So, with that in mind, Happy Anniversary.