Falklands War: where are the Falkland Islands, what was Argentina conflict, why did it start - and casualties

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As it’s revealed the conflict risks becoming a ‘forgotten war’, here is everything you need to know

As the 40th anniversary of the Falklands War was observed this weekend (2 April), a survey conducted by Help for Heroes revealed the conflict risks becoming a “forgotten war”, suggesting many people are “clueless” about its details

One in four younger people have never heard of the fierce battle with Argentina over the islands, the survey indicated.

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Only 4% of more than 2,100 adults polled to mark the 40th anniversary were able to answer questions correctly.

Half of those aged 18-34 said they did not know when the war was fought, and one in 10 of that age group believed the UK invaded the islands, leading to the war, while a similar number thought the Falklands are in the English Channel.

The charity said its research suggested that the sacrifice of those who stepped up to serve their country is in danger of being forgotten as years pass.

So what exactly did happen, and why is it still important 40 years on?

Here is everything you need to know about it.

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Where are the Falkland Islands?

The Falkland Islands are situated roughly 300 miles from the eastern Argentinian coast in the southern Atlantic Ocean.

An archipelago - a collection of islands - the Falklands comprise of East Falkland, West Falkland, and 776 smaller islands.

About 3,200 people live on the Falklands, with locally elected politicians responsible for all matters other than defence and foreign affairs.

The Falkland Islands government stresses that it funds its own activities without any recourse to the UK taxpayer, and provides a base for the UK’s armed forces as well as opportunities for UK companies to take part in major capital projects.

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What happened?

(Image: NationalWorld)(Image: NationalWorld)
(Image: NationalWorld) | NationalWorld

Argentina and the United Kingdom have argued over which country the Falklands Islands belongs to since the 1800s, amidst controversy over the Falklands' discovery and subsequent colonisation by Europeans.

At various times, the islands have had French, Spanish, and Argentine settlements, and in the 1760s and 1770s, the British set up a town which nearly led to a war with Spain, which had a nearby town.

When Argentina became a separate country from Spain in 1817, it set up a colony on the islands; an American warship later destroyed the Argentine town, and the British took the islands again in 1833.

Britain and Argentina had been in longstanding negotiations over the status of the islands when the South American nation’s military dictatorship launched an invasion on 2 April 1982, hoping to bolster its position at home.

It prompted a war that lasted for 74 days.

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Britain rallied in defence, with a taskforce setting sail three days after the invasion - the conflict would eventually involve almost 26,000 armed forces and 3,000 civilian crew.

Several weeks of intense fighting followed and Argentine forces surrendered on 14 June 1982, a date that has since been known in the Falkland Islands as Liberation Day and is a national holiday.

The discredited military regime finally relinquished power over the islands a year later.

While the two nations have made continued efforts in recent years to improve relations, there is still resentment at British control of the islands and anger at the military leaders who started the fight.

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The last of the Falklands’ landmines left over from the war weren’t cleared until 2020 (Photo: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)The last of the Falklands’ landmines left over from the war weren’t cleared until 2020 (Photo: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)
The last of the Falklands’ landmines left over from the war weren’t cleared until 2020 (Photo: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images) | Getty Images

Argentina claims Britain has illegally occupied the islands since 1833. Britain disputes that and says Argentina is ignoring the wishes of the 3,000 residents who wish to remain British.

It contends that the Falklands are now a self-governing overseas territory rather than a colony.

Leona Roberts, a Falkland Islands Legislative Assembly Member, said the relationship with Argentina is not good as “they continue to do everything they can to hinder our economic growth, to prevent us having good relationships with other countries” and “essentially refuse to acknowledge that Falkland Islanders exist”.

“If we don’t have a right to self-determination and to take the political stance of our truth, then who does?”

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A Falkland Islands government spokesman said: “Falkland Islanders continue to be profoundly grateful for the strong support that the UK Government continues to provide, in acknowledging our right to self-determination and our choice to remain a UK Overseas Territory.

“Today, the Falkland Islands is a forward-looking community, with a strong sense of culture and heritage.”

How many people died?

The conflict took the lives of 649 Argentines — many of them raw or ill-equipped soldiers.

The British forces suffered 255 losses, 775 were wounded, and 115 were captured.

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Since the Falklands War the only conflict in which British troops have suffered greater losses is Afghanistan.

Three Falkland Island civilians were killed by friendly fire when British forces shelled the islands.

How does it relate to Ukraine?

British troops arriving in the Falklands Islands during the Falklands War (Photo: Fox Photos/Getty Images)British troops arriving in the Falklands Islands during the Falklands War (Photo: Fox Photos/Getty Images)
British troops arriving in the Falklands Islands during the Falklands War (Photo: Fox Photos/Getty Images) | Getty Images

The invasion of Ukraine is felt deeply by the people of the Falkland Islands, Roberts said, adding: “It is something that has resonated deeply with our community.

“We have felt so much empathy for the people of Ukraine in just understanding what it feels like to be invaded and to go through such a dreadful experience – although the scale is monumentally different.”

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How was Prince Andrew involved?

The Duke of York said he returned from the Falklands War “a changed man” in a piece of writing posted to his ex-wife’s Instagram account.

Andrew, who reached a multimillion-pound out-of-court settlement in a civil sexual assault case a few weeks ago, wrote more than 700 words about his experience in the Falklands.

The Queen’s son flew missions as a Sea King helicopter pilot during the conflict.

Andrew’s reflection appeared in three posts – which were removed after about two hours – on the Instagram account of Sarah, Duchess of York.

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Beneath the last post, it said it was “written by HRH The Duke of York” before the “HRH” was deleted.

The Queen stripped Andrew of his honorary military roles in January and he gave up his HRH style in a dramatic fallout from his civil sex case.

Andrew’s account began: “As I sit here at my desk on this cold crisp spring morning thinking back to April 1982 I’ve tried to think what was going through my mind as we sailed out of Portsmouth lining the flight deck of HMS INVINCIBLE.”

The 62-year-old concluded: “So whilst I think back to a day when a young man went to war, full of bravado, I returned a changed man.

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Andrew also recalled being shot at, writing: “I was flying and saw a chaff shell fired from one of our ships that passed not that far in front of us.

He has spoken about being shot at before – in his infamous Newsnight interview, given to defend himself against Virginia Giuffre’s accusations and to explain his friendship with the late convicted paedophile, Jeffrey Epstein.

Addressing a claim he was sweating heavily during an alleged night out with Guiffre, Andrew told Emily Maitlis in 2019: “I didn’t sweat at the time because I had suffered what I would describe as an overdose of adrenaline in the Falklands War when I was shot at and I simply... it was almost impossible for me to sweat.”

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