Falklands/Malvinas: War, Media and Society- History and Legacy’
University of Manchester 25/26 April 2019
Report by Andy Grainger, BCMH
This Conference was organised by BCMH member Alex Clarke of Kings, assisted by Louise Clare. BCMH sponsorship enabled the event to run for two days rather than one. In his closing remarks Alex explained that the idea for the Conference had been fostered at a BCMH New Researcher event where the two had met. As a result of the Conference we have enrolled a number of new members.
In my view our investment was very worthwhile.
The programme included 27 speakers in four panels and three keynotes. They included journalists, academics, young researchers and veterans from General / Commodore to private. A number of Falkland Islanders were present as well as some who had been or were native to Argentina.
Highlights (these are very personal) included:
- Brig Julian Thompson and Commodore Michael Clapp doing a double act presentation on planning the amphibious landing.
- Jeremy Larken who had commanded HMS Fearless showing his filmed addresses to the ship’s company and videos of the landings in San Carlos.
- A young researcher, Jade White, spoke about H Jones, supported sympathetically by one of the company commanders during questions,
- The Ops Officer of 1/7 GR talked about the inadvertent media propaganda campaign around the Gurkhas when a routine media photo of them sharpening their kukris at Church Crookham led ultimately to Argentine requests in the UN for Nepal to recall its knife wielding mercenaries from this colonial campaign.
- The Navigating Officer of HMS Conqueror talking about the voyage south, the naval campaign and the sinking of the Belgrano.
- Lawrence Freedman talking about writing the Official History.
- Steve Badsey on the Govt handling of the media.
- Leonie Roberts of the Falklands Islands Council, aged 10 in 1982 spoke about the impact of the war on the Islands. Her lack of trust in the Argentines – or Argentina was apparent and echoed indirectly by Grace Robertson who spoke on the political and economic impacts of oil exploration around the Falklands before the war.
- John Beales talked about a group memoir of 3 Para on Mount Longden to counter allegations of war crimes made in some earlier memoirs.
The main realisation for me was the complete improvisation on the British side. It reminded me of Gallipoli, the only difference being that the Falklands worked and Gallipoli didn't. The Falklands could so easily have gone the same way - or not at all. The initial view of Thatcher and Nott was that there was nothing Britain could do to recover the islands after the Argentine invasion but four days later a task force sailed, shambolically loaded and not complete but it committed the UK and demonstrated resolve. Ironically the junta had intended to withdraw their forces following the invasion and await the outcome of an international conference to resolve their claim but then found they could not withdraw because the invasion was so popular at home that withdrawal was simply not an option.
The Conference was a very worthwhile event - the first conference I have attended where senior officers have been present as well as junior ranks.
The range of papers was very varied and included coverage by journalists, veterans and academics of how the war was perceived both now and at the time.
One area which was not examined and which would seem relevant for a cultural historian would seem to be the impact of the war on the psyche of the British public and the armed forces. We know that Mrs Thatcher (deeply unpopular in 1982) was re-elected in 1983 with direct social and economic effects that we are still working through. What impacts might there have been on the armed forces and the country if we had done nothing or we had despatched the task force and been defeated.
All one can say is that things would have been different and that the impact of even a ‘small’ war can have very far-reaching effects.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We would like to thank you all very much for attending the ‘Falklands/Malvinas: War, Media and Society- History and Legacy’ conference held at the University of Manchester on 25th & 26th April 2019.
We are currently in the process of writing up the conference proceedings, as well as wrapping up the paperwork, the former we will send out to you in due course - the latter we will keep to ourselves!
The keen interest expressed in joining the Falklands/Malvinas Network means that we are pleased to announce that we will be setting one up very soon, hopefully with plans for a publication for the fortieth anniversary - thank you for bearing with us, this has understandably become a very busy period for us and we apologise for the time its taking.
Thank you to all who presented and attended the conference once again.
Louise and Alex.
Image copyright IWM
The Type 42 destroyer HMS SHEFFIELD on fire after being struck by an AM.39 Exocet missile fired from an Argentine aircraft from a distance of 6 miles.