‘If the Falklands were invaded, I’d like to think Britain would do same again’

British troops on the Falklands in 1982.

British troops on the Falklands in 1982.

It is incredible to think that it was more than 30 years ago that many of us sat glued to the television news and watched the Falklands Conflict unfold.

The names still trip off the tongue of anyone over the age of 40:
‘Bomb Alley’. Goose Green. Mount Tumbledown. Bluff Cove and Fitzroy. Port Stanley. Mirage fighter jets. Exocet missiles.

The Sun’s ‘Gotcha’ headline, the of the sinking General Belgrano, the explosions onboard HMS Sheffield and the blazing Sir Galahad are etched in our memories.

This was 1982. There was no internet, no social media and no mobile telephones.

It was the first time that a major conflict involving British forces had been played out through nightly TV news bulletins – the colour images (for those who had colour televisions) bringing the horrors of war into our living rooms like never before.

During the months of April, May and June, the country held its breath for what seemed a very risky undertaking – i.e. sending a task force 8,000 miles away for a scrap on the aggressor’s doorstep.

Only afterwards did we learn what a close-run thing it was, just how much of a gamble it had been and how ill-prepared for war our Armed Forces actually were.

The conflict lasted only 74 days but resulted in the deaths of 649 Argentine military personnel, 255 British military personnel and three Falkland Islanders.

Caught up in the euphoria of a remarkable, improbable victory voters returned Maggie’s government to power and the rest, as they say, is history.

Three decades after Argentine forces on the Falklands surrendered the country’s government is again ratcheting up the tension.

Most Argentines regard the islands, which they refer to as Las Malvinas, as belonging to Argentina and their recovery is even enshrined in the country’s constitution.

It was tub-thumping by Argentine politicians in recent years which prompted the referendum that took place in the Falklands over the last two days.

The result may have been entirely predictable but it was nevertheless important that voters went through the motions.

When Falkland Islanders voted on whether or not to remain a British overseas territory, they were demonstrating democracy in action.

They were telling the rest of the world that the majority of people on that group of islands in the South Atlantic want to remain British.

In voting yes they also gave a ‘hands off’ warning to the Argentine government.

According to Argentine President Cristian Fernandez de Kirchner, of course, the wishes of those inhabitants are irrelevant and the referendum is a pointless exercise.

For her government this is a purely ‘territorial issue’ and thus they often dust off ancient manuscripts to claim that Argentina inherited the islands from the Spanish crown in the 18th Century.

The British government denies this is the case and claims it had long had a settlement on the islands prior to 1767 and has never relinquished sovereignty.

Interestingly, even Spain with the rock of Gibraltar irritatingly close, refuses to support the Argentine cause.

Whatever the complex truth, the people of the Falklands have spoken and, in the time-honoured tradition of self-determination, that should be game, set and match as far as the international community is concerned.

If the Islanders want to remain British then that’s certainly good enough for me, it’s probably good enough for the British people and it should be ammunition enough for the Foreign Office to tell the Argentines to bugger off once and for all.

I can imagine what Maggie would have said the day after such a referendum.

People can say what they like about Margaret Thatcher’s economic policies but when it came to Britain’s standing on the world stage the fact is we haven’t been taken anything like as seriously since she left Downing Street.

Her handling of the Falklands Conflict, her refusal to negotiate, to back down or to consider the possibility of defeat showed the mettle of a great Prime Minister in the mould of Winston Churchill.

What a shame her successors have all been vacillating, pale imitations of the kind of statesmanlike figures this country desperately needs.

Some will argue Maggie went to war to help her win the General Election but if you read accounts of the time you’ll see she went to war because her generation thought that standing up to a dictator was the right thing to do.

Given the effects of the global economic downturn and the every-day worries we all have the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands may seem a fairly low priority at present.

What’s more, given the fact that the Royal Navy doesn’t currently possess an aircraft carrier worthy of the name, it is a matter of some debate as to what would happen if lightning struck twice.

I fervently hope history does not repeat itself. However, I’d like to think that if push came to shove this country would defend its overseas territories just as it did 30 years ago.

I’ll leave the final word on this issue to Eric Barbour, of Waterhayes, who I interviewed last year on the 30th anniversary of the invasion of the Falkland Islands.

Eric, who was a 26-year-old with 42 Commando Royal Marines in 1982 and part of the Falklands Task Force, is unequivocal.

He said: “We saw it very much as our country protecting what was ours and protecting people who did not want their home to become part of Argentina.

“If there was another invasion I think we would be totally justified in defending the islands again.”

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How can we get excited about ‘plastic Brits’ in Team GB?

In just over two weeks’ time, amid much pomp and ceremony, the ‘Greatest Show On Earth’ will commence.

Love it or hate it, you’ll find it hard to avoid the London Olympics – especially as there is a three-line whip for the national media to attempt to brainwash us into thinking we actually care about handball, weightlifting and synchronised swimming.

It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience. So say the volunteer zombies speaking the gospel according to the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG).

I should hope so, given the fact that the Games is costing £11 billion (About four times what they said it would back when London was successful in its bid).

I certainly wouldn’t want British taxpayers having to stump up that sort of money every four years.

We’d be doing a Greece/Spain/Italy (insert as appropriate) before you know it.

Never mind. It’s not as if that £11 billion could have been spent on anything more important, is it?

Like improving the NHS or saving 20,000 Army jobs…

No, much better to spend £11 billion on a two and a half-week vanity exercise which will do nowt but regenerate a deprived bit of the capital and has created legions of non-jobs.

Let’s forget, for a moment, the fact that the Olympics is a massive corporate monster.

Let’s turn a blind eye to the over-zealous security measures which led to armed police surrounding a bag containing an electronic cigarette and bully-boys wrestling small children off their bicycles if they get too close to the Olympic Torch parade.

Let’s set aside the bizarre ticketing arrangements and pretend that we buy into this idea that London 2012 is an event for the whole nation.

Let’s kid ourselves into thinking that there will indeed be a huge surge in the numbers of children playing sport as a result of watching Greco-Roman wrestling and other things which can, at best, be described as niche.

Let’s set aside the questionable selection process which has led to a world number one-ranked athlete being left out of Team GB because his face doesn’t fit while a former drug-cheat is given the green light.

But I would suggest there’s still a problem with giving Team GB your whole-hearted support later this month.

You see, quite a few of our athletes aren’t actually, er… British at all.

In the same way that Kevin Pietersen (KP) and Jonathan Trott, of our all-conquering test cricket team aren’t technically English.

Or, seeing as how we all love tennis for a nanosecond, the way Canadian Greg Rusedski was Britain’s number one not so long ago. Other sports, such as rugby union, are just as guilty, of course.

Yes, Team GB has ‘borrowed’ quite a few of its athletes from other nations.

This has led to the accusation that we are fielding ‘plastic Brits’ – one which I find hard to disagree with.

It will certainly be interesting listening to the commentators trying to whip up a bit of patriotic ferver when our league of nations of adopted runners, jumpers, cyclists and wrestlers do their thing.

We have, in no particular order: the not very British-sounding Olga Butkevych – a Ukrainian wrestler; 400-metre runners Michael Bingham and Shana Cox from the U.S. – along with hurdler Tiffany Porter; Yamile Aldama, representing us in the triple jump, is from Cuba; cyclist Philip Hindes is from Germany; and last, but by no means least, long jumper Shara Proctor is from the Caribbean island of Anguilla (which I had to look up). Meanwhile, the British handball team has almost 20 foreign-born players. Ten of Team GB’s basketball players were born overseas while nine of ‘our’ volleyball team were.

Team GB chief Andy Hunt has emphatically denied there are any ‘plastic Brits’.

Well he would, wouldn’t he?

He said: “Everyone who will compete for Team GB has a British passport and has fulfilled all the eligibility criteria and I’m totally satisfied around that.”

But how can we truly get behind the notion of Team GB when we know full well that many of its competitors are only here by dint of marriage or because they give our slim medal hopes a boost?

You see, when KP or Trotty score a century for England I don’t quite feel the warm glow I get when Englishmen Alistair Cook or Ian Bell achieve the same feat.

So I know exactly how I’ll feel if American Tiffany Porter – laughably named captain of our athletics team – makes it on to the podium.

None of this is new, of course. Eighties throw-back yours truly well remembers the furore over bear-footed South African Zola Bud wearing the red, white and blue.

Frankly, this sort of thing is a nonsense.

It makes a mockery of international sport and renders the medals table meaningless.

Personally, I’d rather see inferior athletes born and bred in this country competing at the highest level of whatever sport it may be rather than foreigners shipped in as a way of massaging our standing and justifying the largesse of our Olympics extravaganza.

If Britain can’t produce top class athletes across the various sporting disciplines then I would suggest it is the bodies in charge of those sports in this country who need to take a long, hard look at themselves.

The answer surely isn’t to turn Team GB into some sort of foreign legion flying flags of convenience in the hope that it brings in a few more golds, silvers and bronzes.

Read my Personally Speaking columns every Tuesday in The Sentinel