“Falklands 82: Stories From The South Atlantic,” BFBS podcasts series
The extraordinary and emotive stories of people who lived in the Falkland Islands and those who were there on the ground, in the air, and at sea during the 1982 deadly conflict are being told in an exclusive BFBS podcast. The audio series ‘Falklands 82: Stories From The South Atlantic’ marks 40 years since Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands.
BFBS has spoken to people such as the islanders whose lives were suddenly thrown into chaos after the invasion on 2 April 1982 and military leaders such as Major General Julian Thompson who, at the time, led 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines, as well as Patrick Watts of the Falkland Islands Broadcasting Station who famously refused to broadcast while a gun was pointed to his head.
In the podcast, Patrick relives that terrifying moment which happened after armed Argentine forces stormed the local radio station and demanded that the broadcaster play instructions for the Islanders and the Argentine national anthem.
The Falklands are a British Overseas Territory but sovereignty has long been disputed by the Islands’ nearest neighbor, Argentina. It was in April 1982 that the dispute over the Islands escalated into a bloody and brutal military conflict.
Using a mix of present-day interviews and archive audio, ‘Falklands 82: Stories From The South Atlantic ‘ allows listeners to discover what happened during the conflict, not from a dusty history book but from those who were there and whose retelling of these memories feel as vivid as though they were being told 40 years ago.
In episode one, Islanders reveal what it felt like to go from knowing in the back of their head that the Falkland Islands might be invaded one day but never giving it too much thought, to hearing over the radio from Governor Sir Rex Hunt that he expects “To have to declare a state of emergency, perhaps before dawn tomorrow.”
It was an invasion the Islanders, whose lives up until this point had been peaceful, never thought they would see, as explained by one resident, Rodney Lee. He said: “The Argentine problem was always there but we never had to deal with it as people living on the farm.
”So we didn’t think too much about it but then obviously the day before they invaded, it was pretty obvious they were going to invade.
“There was always the threat that they were going to. The odd airplane came in and stuff like that. It’s hard to explain how sheltered a life we had but other people dealt with that sort of thing, so we didn’t have to think too much about it. ”
In March 1982, Keith Mills was one of a small number of Royal Marines already stationed in the Falklands. The 22-year-old Lieutenant was commanding a detachment of Marines on the Antarctic patrol vessel HMS Endurance when they were sent to the tiny island of South Georgia to sort out a problem with some Argentine scrap metal workers who were being uncooperative in getting their passports stamped and had raised the Argentine flag.
‘Falklands 82: Stories from the South Atlantic’ is a new exclusive #Falklands40 BFBS podcast!
We chat to those involved in the Falklands Conflict and to the islanders themselves who were there.
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Lt Mills and his men set up their base with the British Antarctic Survey scientists who lived there. A month later, on April 3, Lt Mills and his men defended South Georgia when Argentine naval forces seized control of Grytviken, the largest settlement.
Speaking on the podcast, Lt (Retd) Mills said he was as clueless about the invasion as anyone else and it did not feel real, saying: “It was like watching a movie and I remember Pete Leach, my Sergeant Major and I, having a sort of quick chat about it and we thought well there’s nothing most of the men can do at this moment in time.
”So they all went off to bed and [we] stayed listening to this radio and of course, Rex Hunt came on later that evening and declared a state of emergency.
“Well, I’d only ever seen that on films before… and you’re still thinking, surely not, surely this isn’t going to happen?
”And then about four or five o’clock in the morning Patrick Watts came on and said‘ the Argentine Fleet has now been sighted off Cape Pembroke and there are landing craft approaching and then you could hear firing in the background and the next thing I know, everything goes off air.
“I looked at Pete Leach and he looked at me and we said ‘holy s ***.”
There is still a British military presence on the Islands 40 years after the Falklands Conflict. Some 1,000 servicemen and women from the Royal Navy, British Army and Royal Air Force are based there to demonstrate the UK’s continued commitment to security in the region.
Released weekly and presented by BFBS the Forces Station broadcaster Ben Coley, ‘Falklands 82: Stories From The South Atlantic’ will take you on a journey from invasion to liberation and beyond.
This original podcast from BFBS is Produced by Ben Coley, Jess Bracey, Jade Callaway, Gini Carlin, Sean Harper and Tim Humphries. It was Sound Designed by Joe Carden and Edited by Josella Waldron.
With thanks to Falkland Islands Radio Service for Patrick Watts archive material.