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An Argentinian soldier on the main East Falkland Island 11 days after his countrymen had seized control
An empire strikes back

An empire strikes back

An Argentinian soldier on the main East Falkland Island 11 days after his countrymen had seized control

During the Falklands War, soldiers and photographers on both sides recorded their experiences on film. This is the conflict through their eyes

Forty years ago, on 2 April 1982, Argentina launched an invasion of the Falklands Islands, a British overseas territory, 300 miles off the coast of the South American country. Argentinians had long claimed the islands as their own and, after years of diplomatic negotiations between the countries, their ruling military junta took matters not their own hands.

Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government, like the regime in Buenos Aires, was unpopular and under pressure. Three days after Argentinian troops arrived in Stanley, the Falkland Islands’ capital, Britain dispatched a naval task force to the South Atlantic. War was never officially declared but both countries declared the area a war zone.

And very soon it became a real conflict. On 2 May, the Argentinian cruiser General Belgrano was sunk by a British submarine, killing more than 300 crew. After that, Argentinian ships remained in port. Two days later HMS Sheffield was hit by a missile and 20 lives were lost.

British forces landed on the Falklands on 21 May and began their advance on Stanley, with 5,000 Argentinian troops dug in against them. Argentinian planes sank further British supply vessels but many of their pilots were shot down too. The British attack on the heavily defended Stanley began on 11 June and three days later the Argentinian forces surrendered. In six weeks, 255 British servicemen, 649 Argentinians and three civilian females had been killed.

The Falklands war is an anniversary we wanted to mark with images, not words. By bringing together images taken by soldiers and photographers on both sides of the conflict, this essay lets us see, forty years on, what they saw.

The small garrison of British Marines stationed in Stanley surrender to the Argentinians in April 1982

The 30-year-old HMS Hermes was one of two aircraft carriers in the hastily assembled British naval task force that sailed the 8,000 miles to the Falklands. On the journey, the military personnel on board enjoyed some downtime
After a two-week pause at Ascension Island, Royal Marines of 40 Commando are transported in landing craft to reembark on the P&O liner Canberra for the voyage to the Falklands
The passenger ferry Norland had only weeks before been operating between Hull and Rotterdam. On 20 May 1982, it was about to land members of the 2nd Battalion, Parachute Regiment at San Carlos to begin the land offensive
Argentinian soldiers arrive in Stanley in mid-April to bolster their occupying forces. By the beginning of May there were around 13,000 Argentinian personnel on the islands, although many were young and poorly trained
Argentine soldiers from Batallon de Infanteria Marina 5 (5 BIM) queue for a meal at a field kitchen on Mount Tumbledown. This photograph was one of many confiscated from Argentine prisoners by 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines Intelligence Section. The British forces took the hill on 14 June
42 Commando, Royal Marines, during their attacks on Mount Harriet near Stanley on 11 June
Walking wounded of the Scots Guards move toward a Scout helicopter for evacuation from the hostilities
Argentinian marines as battle rages
Argentinian air force Skyhawk jets in formation.
A Wessex helicopter hovers over HMS Antelope as it burns and sinks in Ajax Bay
HMS Sheffield is hit by an Argentinian Exocet missile, killing 20 of the 281 crew members. HMS Arrow alongside provides firefighting capabilities
Survivors from the burning Sir Galahad are brought ashore at Bluff Cove
General Belgrano sinks after being hit by a missile launched by the nuclear submarine HMS Conqueror, (below). 323 people lost their lives
British soldiers capture and blindfold an Argentinian during the advance on Stanley which brought an end to the conflict
Some of the 11,000-plus Argentinians who were taken prisoner during the war prepare to hand in their weapons after the surrender. All were later released

Photographs by the Imperial War Museum: Alistair Campbell-Royal Marines Official photographer, Ronald Hudson (SGT) British Army Official Photographer, Paul Haley SoldierMagazine, and PA Images, AP Images, SIPA/Shutterstock, Getty Images

This piece appears in Anniversary, the new edition of Tortoise Quarterly, our short book of long stories. If you were lucky enough to grab a Founding Membership back in the early days of Tortoise, you will have received your copy in glorious, old-fashioned print. If not, then keep an eye out for a physical copy in our shop.