The Falklands’ “Winston Churchill”

8 Apr

Falkland Islanders mourned Margaret Thatcher on Monday, revering her as “our Winston Churchill” after the 1982 invasion by Argentine forces, while many Argentines bitterly recalled her role in defending the South Atlantic territory.

Flags flew at half-staff on the Falklands after news of Thatcher’s death aged 87. margaret-thatcher-falklands-jan-1983

Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister when Argentina sent an invasion force to seize the Falklands in April 1982. PM Thatcher’s immediate reaction was to fight back. ” … for the first time for many years, British sovereign territory has been invaded by a foreign power. …The Government have now decided that a large task force will sail as soon as all preparations are complete. HMS Invincible will be in the lead and will leave port on Monday. …

The people of the Falkland Islands, like the people of the United Kingdom, are an island race. Their way of life is British; their allegiance is to the Crown. They are few in number, but they have the right to live in peace, to choose their own way of life and to determine their own allegiance. It is the wish of the British people and the duty of Her Majesty’s Government to do everything that we can to uphold that right. That will be our hope and our endeavour..”

The Falklands War lasted only 74 days before the British Task Force forced the surrender of the Argentine forces dug in on the Falklands; but not before the loss of over 900 lives including those of three Islanders.

In many ways the War defined Thatchers period as Prime Minister and earned here the name “Iron Lady.’

Her resolve was unflinching; even when pushed by the US President to find a diplomatic solution; “I didn’t lose some of my best ships and some of my finest lives, to leave quietly under a ceasefire without the Argentines withdrawing… I’m not handing over the island now … I can’t lose the lives and blood of our soldiers to hand the islands over to a contact group. It’s not possible… This is democracy and our island,..”

Islander Tim Miller, 60, recalled the 1982 conflict. “For me, she was for the Falklands what Winston Churchill was to Great Britain in 1940. She was the right person in the right place at the right time and did the right thing.”

However Thatcher’s death stirred up angry memories in Argentina. Jose Raschella, 48, said: “I hope God can forgive her because I can’t. The pain that she left our country can’t be erased, we’ll never forget all that pain.” On Twitter, left-leaning political groups celebrated the demise of a “war criminal.”

Carlos Grillo, a 63-year-old shop owner in Buenos Aires, said he had mixed feelings. “I hated her at that time, so I can’t be impartial. I can’t say ‘I’m sorry, I’m not sorry.”

In Buenos Aires, while most people were pleased or indifferent about Thatcher’s death, Alcides Francesco expressed some admiration for the British leader. “She was an English patriot. If we’d had several Margaret Thatchers here, the Falkland Islands would be ours.”

The Argentine government made no official comment.

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2 Responses to “The Falklands’ “Winston Churchill””

  1. Fernando April 12, 2013 at 10:41 pm #

    La Señora Thatcher uso la guerra para aumentar su popularidad en franca caida en Inglaterra, como todo politico queria y debia mantener su poder, antes de esto, habia efectuado recortes en el atlantico sur y encima comercializaba con la Dictadura militar Argentina, pero hay que ir a la misma Inglaterra para saber el conflicto social que la señora Thatcher provoco con sus inhumanas reformas economicas que aun hoy no cerro. Como decia la nota…aprovecho su momento y estuvo en el lugar justo. Es facil para estos politicos mandar gente a la muerte mientras ellos estan ocupados en sus comodos sillones y abrigados, mientras que soldados Ingleses y Argentinos se mataban. Al final…todos tenemos el mismo destino.

    • Junius April 12, 2013 at 11:19 pm #

      Did she know Argentina was going to invade the Falklands ? Or was it just luck on her part – coming at just the right time to support her ailing term in office? You people do talk some rubbish. What was Galtieri going to do if he won?? Play it all down? Thatcher’s win didn’t do her any harm politically – but losing would have destroyed her. As it destroyed Galtieri.

      Such are the fortunes of war. Argentina shouldn’t have started one.

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