DEATH OF A SINGULAR NAVAL WARRIOR—SANDY WOODWARD WHO COMMANDED THE TASK FORCE THAT WON BACK THE FALKLANDS IN 1982
I followed the whole Falkland’s campaign obsessively from my thatched cottage in Ireland—a decidedly primitive structure made entirely from local materials, but wonderfully evocative and romantic.
The cottage boasted TV at the time—all of two channels—but the truly compelling coverage seemed to come by radio at night; and it had the added advantage that the rats, who were gnawing through the ceiling above me, were temporarily silenced. My rats were nothing if not BBC fans—and fascinated by the Falklands conflict. I killed them all eventually, but clearly we shared some tastes.
The task of defeating the Argentinians was a mission impossible according to U.S. military experts at the time. The Argentinians—who had seized the island--were well dug in and air support from the Argentine mainland was relatively close. Their troops on the island outnumbered the British nearly four to one. Their excellent air force was locally superior in numbers. In contrast, the British faced appalling logistic difficulties because they had to come some ungodly distance—over 8,000 miles—from the UK.
It was a war that the British could easily have lost—and, arguably, should have lost. They suffered a number of serious setbacks, but thanks to a great commander, Sir John ‘Sandy’ Woodward, and quite remarkable fortitude, they won. It was a close-run thing primarily because of British naval losses from air attacks which created formidable logistical headaches. These included the loss of most of their heavy lift helicopters when the container ship, the Atlantic Conveyor, was sunk by Argentine missiles.
One CH-47 Chinook survived because it happened to be airborne at the time. Despite lacking spares and all sorts of supposedly essential supporting gear, it went on to: carry some 1,500 troops, 95 casualties, 650 POWs and 550 tons of cargo. That said, mostly the British troops, once landed, just walked. The weather, as normal in the Falklands, was foul—cold, wet, and windy.
Where the infantry were concerned, though some Argentinian units fought hard, the British—outnumbered though they were—outfought the Argentinians at every turn in a series of classic military actions. British special forces were also involved to singular effect.
CASUALTIES: The conflict lasted 74 days. 649 Argentinians were killed and 255 British. 3 Falklands islanders also died.
British Sea Harriers, despite being stationed out of range of Argentine aircraft—which limited their time on station—and facing superior numbers of faster high performance fighters, shot down an astonishing 20 Argentine aircraft. They also provided ground support. Two Harriers were lost to ground fire and two to accidents. None were lost to hostile aircraft.
By any standards, that has to be considered a truly remarkable performance.