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On April 2nd 1982 the Argentinians invaded the Falkland Islands, a tiny British outpost in the South Atlantic, 8,000 miles from the UK. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher decided to send a naval taskforce to liberate the islands. Senior officers who served in the campaign, such as Major-General Julian Thompson reveal how appalling weather, overstretched British air defences; poor communications and even incompetence sometimes stacked the odds heavily against the British.
But their very personal accounts also reveal how professionalism and sheer courage overcame these problems. By explaining the hair-raising realities of individual battles, this film sheds new light on a remarkable victory.
British Royal Marines and Paratroopers, who fought in the land campaign to retake the islands, tell of the harsh conditions and brutal realities of hand-to-hand combat with Argentinian forces.
The documentary also reveals familiar parallels with current government cuts in the UK’s defence spending. In 1982 Defence Minister John Nott was on the brink of scrapping Britain’s amphibious warfare capabilities. If the Argentinians had invaded just eight weeks later, the ships and equipment needed for the naval operation would already have been decommissioned.
The film includes shocking accounts of British warships destroyed by Argentinian bombs, men burnt alive, bombs crashing through the decks of ships, night attacks up mountainous slopes, and merciless hand-to-hand fighting, all made worse by serious shortages of helicopters, and unsuitable equipment. We know that the war was a major turning point in Britain’s late 20th century history. But the balance between success and failure in the Falklands was much closer than we have ever imagined.
Critics: “A cracking documentary, combining vivid archive footage, excellent interviews with square-jawed former soldiers and some worrying insights into the future of the islands.
The story will be familiar to many and yet there were still plenty of fresh details….The programme’s thesis that Britain came remarkably close to defeat in the Falklands was powerfully made. Six ships were hit by bombs which did not detonate. Had they done so, the campaign might have been stopped in its tracks.” Ian Hollingshead, Daily Telegraph
- Episode Title : The Great Falklands Gamble
- Format : 1 x 60'
- Production company : Quickfire Media
- Year of production : 2012
- Commissioning channels : Channel 5