Sunday, June 17, 2007

The United Kingdom honors its heroes 

Today is the 25th anniversary of the United Kingdom's victory over Argentina in defense of the Falkland Islands. I am delighted to report that during my walkabout London this afternoon I stumbled across the dignified celebration of that triumph and can provide you, our loyal readers, with exclusive coverage (mainstream media coverage here and here).

The spring of 1982 was a barren time for the West. The capitalist economy was in a shambles, the Soviet Union was resurgent, America had not yet recovered from the indignities of the Ford and Carter years, and Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher had not yet established themselves as the great leaders we now know they were. The Falklands War was therefore quite possibly the most essentially rejuvenating foreign policy moment between Israel's recovery of its hostages in Uganda in 1976 and the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Finally the West had stood up to a tin-pot dictator and given him his comeupance.

Anyway, I had walked west from my hotel (the Renaissance Chancery Court on High Holborn Street, if you must know) to Hyde Park, stopped at Speaker's Corner to listen to Muslim and Christian preachers hector each other, crossed the park, briefly toyed with buying a shirt at Harrod's, and then strolled east past Wellington Arch to Buckingham Palace. There I came upon an assembled crowd, and quickly learned that I was about 20 minutes early for the celebration of the victory in the Falklands War. The parade was to come down The Mall from Admiralty Arch and past the reviewing stand on the Queen Victoria Memorial in front of the palace. My perch was to the left and rear of the Memorial:

Queen Victoria Memorial

Various motor arcades arrived, and I saw a woman in a bright red dress that I later learned was The Rt Hon The Baroness Thatcher. I did get a picture of Prince Charles:


There were numerous bands, but unfortunately the various locals in my area were unable to identify them by regiment or even service. The first band led the sailors:

The Royal Navy on parade past the Queen Victoria Memorial

The Royal Navy

Then the veterans, wearing civilian clothes and their service decorations:

Veterans of the Falklands War

Were this an American parade, the crowd would have cheered and clapped the passing veterans. Not here. The people watched the veterans march by very quietly. My first thought was that the British had indeed lost their pride in their military as is occasionally rumored on right-wing blogs. Then I looked into the faces of the people around me and saw only respect and admiration and pride. The British honor their heroes differently than Americans, but honor them they do.

Can anybody identify this unit? Love the pith helmets.


And, of course, the Queen's Guards:

The Queen's Guards on parade

The Army (I presume -- please correct in the comments if I am wrong):


The Royal Air Force, on parade...

The RAF on parade

...and overhead (almost 50 different aircraft flew over during the parade):


After the parade, Prince Charles, Prime Minister Blair, and Lady Thatcher came down from the reviewing stand and greeted the soldiers, marines, sailors and air men. I snuck a couple of shots of all three of them through a fence:

Prince Charles, Margaret Thatcher, and Tony Blair

Prince Charles and Tony Blair at the Falklands anniversary

After the formal review Lady Thatcher, who was not moving quickly, waded into the gathered veterans and disappeared for a moment. Then they all burst into a military-sounding "hip-hip" sort of cheer in her honor. It was really quite moving. She then emerged again and specifically greeted a veteran in a wheel chair:


After the parade I wandered up The Mall and took pictures of Admiralty Arch and Buckingham Palace from the middle of the parade route.

Admiralty Arch from The Mall

Buckingham Palace from The Mall

Along the way I fell into a conversation with a veteran of that small war, a former Royal Marine. The Falklands veterans are all in their mid-forties, about my age. He said that he had been a miserable 18 year-old at the time, cold and wet and without any of the high-tech fabrics that we equip soldiers with today. When the war began, he said, they all thought it would settle. He said they had leave on Ascension Island on the way down and had a great time in the sun. Then, on May 4, 1982, the Argentinians essentially destroyed the HMS Sheffield with a French-made Exocet missile, and they knew the war was on for good.

I forked over five pounds for "official commemorative publication" (available here, along with an unbelievable array of "Falklands25" merchandise), 175 pages of articles and photographs on the war. The book includes a forward from Margaret Thatcher. She reminds us of the importance of national memory:

Twenty-five years ago, far away in a quiet corner of the South Atlantic, 8,000 miles from home, British territory and British people were suddenly and forcibly seized.

There were many around the world who thought that our country would have neither the will nor the ability to raise the Union Flag once again over the Falkland Islands. They said that the resources required would be too great, that the distance was too far, and that as the weeks passed the resolve of ourpeople would falter. But as in other times of crisis, Britain was to prove the doubters wrong.

The spirit of our nation, quietly dormant in times of peace, once again showed itself to be indomitable in times of war. Our sense of what was right, our sense of what was fair, and our understanding that the aggressor must never be allowed to prevail now drove us forward.

At such times of crisis we call upon the men and women of our Armed Forces to be the instruments of our natinoal will. We never doubted that they would fail to give of their very best, nor fail to give of their all. Over those two and a half months our Task Force demonstrated that finely tuned professionalism and steadfast determination, which made our Services admired around the world.

Twenty-five years on, the memories for some will have faded. For those of a younger generation born after, Falkland Sound, San Carlos Water, Goose Green, Bluff Cove, Mount Harriet and Tumbledown, to name but a few, bring back no personal remembrances. But for those who fought in the South Atlantic, and especially for those whose loved ones did not return but whose spirits rest forever in the earth and int he waters for which they sacrificed all, the memories will never dim.

The members of our Task Force restored our nation's spirit, they restored our nation's standing, and they gave us back our nation's sense of pride and purpose. We remember them. We thank them. We salute them.

This reminds me that after the Sheffield sinking in May 1982 I sent a letter to Margaret Thatcher, addressed to 10 Downing Street, offering my best wishes and encouraging her to "send those Argie bastards to their watery graves," more or less. Some weeks later I did receive a reply back from one of her deputies on the most imperial stationary I had ever seen: "The Prime Minister appreciates your support."

I told this story to a taxi driver this afternoon, and suggested that the Argentinians had picked the wrong prime minister. His answer, "they picked the wrong country, mate."

Finally, sartorial patriotism:

Making the Union Jack look good

There will always be an England.


By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Jun 17, 08:39:00 PM:

White pith Helmets, high collar--Royal Marines

A Anderson
USMC 1961-1965  

By Blogger Purple Avenger, at Sun Jun 17, 09:09:00 PM:

There will always be an England.

I wouldn't make book on that given current demographics. In fact, I think there's a decent chance we have to ask them for the launch keys for their nukes within the next 40 years.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Jun 17, 09:40:00 PM:

Argentina stuck its neck out and got its pride cut off  

By Blogger Christopher Chambers, at Sun Jun 17, 09:41:00 PM:

Yep Royal Marines in the white helmets...same blokes who set the White House on fire in 1814.

Yep--did you check the photo of that girl? England will be brown in ten years.

As for the Falklands War, what's with all the quasi right wing mythology? It was a pissing contest between ex-Peronists and the Thatcher Nazis for godssakes! I don't think Argentina was in the Axis of Evil LOL Indeed, last I checked, under the OAS treaty and the Monroe Doctrine, we should have bombed the Limey invasion fleet (if you want to call one V/STOL carrier and a couple of destroyers a "fleet"). Like everyhting in the Reagen-Thatcher era, it was so much theatrics. Indeed, the vets who suffered frostbite, war wounds and post traumatic stress were subject to the same insouciance from the right wing govts (of BOTH countries, i might add) as ours shows at Walter reed, etc etc.
Let's be honest--the islands really belong to Argentina for all intents and purposes. The Brits stole it because they could. In 1776 and 1812 (and indeed well into the 19th century) they pretty much felt they coulod do that to us if they felt like it). That kind of blithe arrogance is endemic to some folks, so I can see how many over here would share the Limey romanticization of this footnote, bullcrap little "war."  

By Blogger Fire, at Sun Jun 17, 10:46:00 PM:


I envy you that you're in the UK without me :(

Someday I'll get the chance to tour that country.

great pics!

Be safe!


By Blogger Gordon Smith, at Sun Jun 17, 11:53:00 PM:

Great reportage, Hawk. Thanks for bringing us along!  

By Blogger fmfnavydoc, at Mon Jun 18, 12:07:00 AM:

One other item to point out - in the photos of Baroness Thatcher and Tony Blair is another veteran of the war - Prince Andrew, who flew helos during the conflict. (He is the RN Captain with the Blue sash on his uniform).  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Jun 18, 12:18:00 AM:

I was in my last year of duty at RAF Mildenhall when that fracas began. There was a lot of anguish over Thatcher doing that, but it was generally agreed that the Argentine generals couldn't be allowed to get away with it.

That was back in the days when the BBC was a bit more even-handed. I recall the dignity they gave the announcements of daily operations -- and the losses suffered. Probably wouldn't be that way now. Can't remember whether it was BBC or ITN but one of the networks had some footage of demonstrations in Buenos Aires that included some obviously Brit ex-pats openly indicating cheering for the Brit side.

The Argentines were not that good of a military force and it didn't take long after the the main force landed that the show was pretty much over. The SAS and SBS made all that happen, though, through their prep work. From what I heard they didn't bother much with coordinating their ops; some of them ended up in fire fights with each other.  

By Blogger Gary Rosen, at Mon Jun 18, 12:37:00 AM:

Chambers is all pissy about England fighting Argentina because Argentina is known for courageously harboring Nazi, I mean anti-Zionist, war criminals.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Jun 18, 01:42:00 AM:

No there won't be an England. There will be the Islamic Republic of Britain.

There have been a number of articles published about the Falklands, apparently the BBC was up to it's old tricks, giving the Argentines military information about countermeasures to the Exocets, efficacy of bombing the ships, and so on.

They did their level best to insure British defeat, and openly rooted for the Argentines during the conflict.

Chambers loves the Argentines as noted because they harbored Nazis and because they were a brutal dictatorship using military force against the West. No contest for a Leftie.

But no, England is finished. I'm surprised they had a last hurrah, for the Falklands Vets, but yeah Britain is finished.  

By Blogger Theo Spark, at Mon Jun 18, 07:02:00 AM:

Great pictures. Hope you enjoyed your day  

By Blogger allen, at Mon Jun 18, 09:01:00 AM:

theo spark,

For those who have not been introduced, Theo Spark hosts one of the all round most captivating sites on the www coming out of the UK and the EU. Comprehension is helped if one is a Brit, but the sheer exuberance of Theo's work can be enjoyed by one and all.

Thanks, Theo! And I do love those totties.

Theo Spark


By Blogger Theo Spark, at Mon Jun 18, 09:59:00 AM:

It is a pleasure. Glad you like the totty. I will be doing more US related stuff as the Presidential Race develops.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Jun 18, 10:45:00 AM:

Bird of paradise is full of poo, argentina didnt exist until long after we had kicked the french of the Islands. The White House was also burnt by Light Infantry from Cornwall, my regiment and proud of it!
Maybe we will be brown soon but we woill have a history that goes back byond 1000 years and doesnt include killing the natives for their land!  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Jun 18, 10:46:00 AM:

Apologies it was the knob below bird of paradise, divvy chambers!  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Jun 18, 10:59:00 AM:

I was in the Navy at Pensacola NAS during the Falklands War, going thru Air Crewman's Candidate School on my way becoming a SAR aircrewman on ASW helicopters. Two UK ships, the HMS Londonderry and HMS Fearless made a port call after leaving the Falklands area during the conflict. Many of us volunteered to act as litter barers to bring the most severely wounded Royal Navy and Royal Marine personnel ashore to our hospitals. Many of the badly burned were apparently transferred to the Army Burn Center in Texas. I took a tour of the Fearless with some Royal Marines and noticed that she was peppered with dinner plate sized holes made by the 20mm cannons from Argentine Mirage jets which straffed her. I was shocked that enemy jets could get that close to her, then I noticed that Fearless was still equipped with hand cranked Borfors quad 40mm AA guns of WWII vintage. At the time US Navy ships had the radar aimed and computer controlled Phallanx CIWS cannon system which would have pulverised any jets that got within 3 miles of one of our ships.
Anyway, we were all very happy to help the Royal Navy look after their wounded and burned and host them at our base. Many of us were itching to fight on the side of the UK as well. For those of you who are Brits reading these comments, you should know that our Navy had special briefings to us on why were weren't sailing for the Falklands with you, so strong was the desire to go to your aid. We were informed that it would not look good for the US and UK to gang up on Argentina, that the UK had the forces do the job itself, that were giving the UK anything and everything it asked for in terms of military aid, and that if things went badly we would intervene on the side of the UK.

There was a symposium on the Falklands war and US involvement that might be of interest to readers. It can be found here;


By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Jun 18, 11:59:00 AM:

"The Army"
Indeed. The dark red berets of the Parachute Regiment to be precise.  

By Blogger GreenmanTim, at Mon Jun 18, 12:49:00 PM:

TH, today is the 192nd Anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo. Are the Brits commemorating that in any way that you have seen?  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Jun 18, 01:38:00 PM:

Love England, Love It Love It! I have been fortunate to visit about a dozen times, and lived in London for 2 years. One look at those photos and it is easy to see why American's line up 20 deep every day to watch the changing of the guard at the Palace, or the Horse Guard's parade.

We Americans say we disdain pomp and ceremony, but it is actually a guilty indulgence when we can enjoy it away from home. And the Brits do it so well.

I too am jealous that you are over there and I am stuck in hot, humid Atlanta. Have a lovely time!  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Jun 18, 02:07:00 PM:

Mr Chambers, you are a moron. From your lack of knowledge of the British fleet (two carriers were sent, HMS Hermes and HMS Invincible, only one of which was a VSTOL carrier) to your lack of grasp on the history of the Falklands (Britain took them because we found them first, they were uninhabited when they were discovered) you have clearly shown what an absolute mong you really are.

Nice article TigerHawk.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Jun 18, 05:02:00 PM:

The bandsmen appear to be the Irish Guards - you can tell from the buttons being in groups of four - the Irish Guards are the 4th Guards Regiment. It isn't clear on this picture as much as it is on your flickr set.


By Blogger Purple Avenger, at Mon Jun 18, 05:37:00 PM:

and doesnt include killing the natives for their land!

I suspect the Scotts might have a different view of that.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Jun 18, 05:48:00 PM:

The Guards musicians are from the Scots and Welsh Guards - just thought I'd clear that one up!  

By Blogger GreenmanTim, at Mon Jun 18, 06:47:00 PM:

With the exception of any First Peoples reading this whose ancestors were, indeed, first in a given territory, all the rest of us are products of the dispossession of one cultural group by another. Nobody else gets a pass, so it isn't worth quibbling about whether the British Empire was any different in this regard. All you Picts, Ju/'hoansi, Aboriginal Australians, Ainu and uncontacted Amazonian tribes out there, though, take a bow!  

By Blogger Thomas, at Mon Jun 18, 07:12:00 PM:

Hey, Tim:

"we woill have a history that goes back byond 1000 years and doesnt include killing the natives for their land!"

So the Saxons took over from the Britons all peaceful-like?

Anyway, the vast majority of the "killing the natives for their land" in America was done by loyal subjects of Their Britannic Majesties, long before one of their Kraut successors fouled things up so much that we decided to go it alone. Not that I've got any more problem with that than GreenmanTim does. The settlers of Jamestown encountered a world where the rules of the game were tribe against tribe, up to and occasionally including extermination. It was the Powhatans' bad luck that they were a little slow in realizing that this latest tribe with the big boats were unusually good at that kind of thing, tried to wipe the newcomers out, and -- after making a pretty decent run at doing just that, killing up to half the settlers -- getting clobbered.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Jun 18, 07:14:00 PM:

The picture labelled 'The Army' must be signallers or some such - no infantry regiment would look that sloppy. The ones with maroon berets will be the signallersa/whatever who are attached to the Para regiments: I can't imagine actual Paras would want to march with that shower.  

By Blogger Gary Rosen, at Tue Jun 19, 02:34:00 AM:

"Mr. Chambers, you are a moron"

Other late-breaking news flashes:

Sun rises in the East

Pope revealed to be Catholic

Bear spotted shitting in the woods  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue Jun 19, 08:24:00 AM:

"Britain took them because we found them first, they were uninhabited when they were discovered) "

Discovered in 1520 by Esteban Gómez, who was sailing with Magallanes. But if you say that he was Brittish I trust you...

The British army finally took the Malvinas in the early XIX century after Spanish occupation, and after some failed French and a Brittish attacks, when Argentina was independent.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Wed Jun 20, 09:55:00 AM:

I'm a Yank who was working at Point Lepreau, a nuke in Canada, during the last days of construction and pre-operational testing when the Falklands War happened.

The papers and other media did a daily countdown (eerily like the one used by Lord Mountbatten before India/Pakistan independence) until the arrival of the RN forces. Locally, everyone was confident that it would be a quick capitulation w/o losses.

I stated to my Canadian co-workers that it would be tougher than they thought, as the Argentinian air force had A-4 Skyhawks and their air force went back to Hans Rudel. I predicted that the RN ships would use the waters between the islands, as that was the only real shelter available. That, I said, would offer the A-4s the chance to come over one island mass, sprint across the water to deliver their ordnance, and then disappear into the ground clutter of the other island.

I said the RN would take losses if the A-4s could hit anything and that, if they had guided anti-ship munitions, it could get very bad.

I was derided then, but when it happened much as I had predicted, I was thoroughly ostracized.

The lesson I learned from that was that making unpopular predictions was a dangerous pastime, especially if they ever turn out to be correct.  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Wed Jun 20, 06:59:00 PM:

I'm always saddened and disappointed when some European tries to bring up our old conflicts with the Native Americans in a disparaging way... who do you think started that little tussle? That famous episode of giving away blankets infected with smallpox? British. Destruction of native empires in order to steal their wealth? Spaniards. Interbreeding Africans and natives into a nifty new slave race and then working them to death in the sugarcane fields, on purpose, because replacing them was cheap? French.

And all that land that we supposedly stole from the peace-loving Indians was ceded or purchased from France, Spain, Britain, Russia, and Mexico. Meaning that if anyone stole it from the peace-loving Indians, it was France, Spain, Britain, and Russia. (I'll concede that Mexico might qualify as a native nation, but if they'd wanted to keep their land they shouldn't have broken a peace treaty and fired on US troops)

"and doesnt include killing the natives for their land!

I suspect the Scotts might have a different view of that."

Don't forget the Welsh and the Irish. And Indians. And Iroquois. And Aborigines. And Afghans. And all those other quaint little peoples that Britain, er, 'colonized.'

Study more history, wankers.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Jun 21, 08:33:00 AM:

Dawnfire82 -

With some trepidation, I'd like to offer a few quibbles with your post.

First, I think the deliberate genocidal sale of smallpox-infected blankets is an urban legend, though hardly urban. Europeans included amongst them enough smallpox carriers that no such vector was necessary. Many of the South American native populations had virtually identical reactions to the prolonged proximity of Europeans w/o any blankets involved. (See, for example, "Guns, Germs, and Steel")

Second, if one applies current and historical US law, a buyer of an item, such as a car, can never have a more legitimate title than the one who sold it. Thus have many stolen items later been returned to their rightful owners who bought them from thieves in all innocence. Can one apply that concept or treatment to the Louisiana Purchase? That is, if it had been stolen from indigenous owners, could it not be argued that the US has no better right to own it than the ones who stole it from them?

Third, your Mexico assertion is seriously flawed. The settlement of the Mexican province now known as Texas took off after Mexican authorities offered an invitation to Americans who would take an oath of allegiance to Mexico and convert to the state religion (Catholicism). This was accepted but, nonetheless, Texas revolted in 1836 and then in 1845 and joined the US. Note that Mexico never accepted the legality of Texas independence because the signatory (Santa Ana) was a prisoner and signed under duress.

The US tried to buy California and other land at least twice in the mid-1800s but Mexico refused to sell. President Polk campaigned and was elected on a platform that specifically called for the "reoccupation of Oregon and the reannexation of Texas"! The US sought a war with Mexico for Manifest Destiny to allow the US to expand to the Pacific. The US even sent armed forces into Texas before it "joined" the US. Eventually, one provocation worked, and the M-A War was on.  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Thu Jun 21, 08:11:00 PM:

Quibbles accepted, but I counter-quibble.

1. I have read that the small pox thing was only a legend, but I've also read otherwise. After a few moments checking, it seems that the general academic position is "we don't really know."


But it fit nicely in my list.

2. While applying domestic US law to the course of civilizations makes for a nifty talking point, it's a bit silly. Following the same logic would find justification for removing every society which moved in its history to dominate the lands of others, including the entire Arab world outside the peninsula proper, Japan, Australia etc. back to wherever they came from. Which would, interestingly, end up displacing others. For an example, visit Israel.

3. You left out the part about how a military dictatorship seized control of Mexico, suspended the constitution, imprisoned the Texan delegation sent to try to compromise, (aka Stephen F. Austin) kicked Texans off their land and took their weapons, and bloodily suppressed other revolts around Mexico before finally getting around to marching on the Texicans. The original 13 colonies of the US revolted for less. And the 'legality' angle is a bunch of crap. The Mexican government of the time was itself illegally established, and the Texans gave Santa Anna more choice than he gave the prisoners from Goliad. They could have just executed his ass and triggered a power struggle in Mexico. And in the days leading up to the M-A War, Mexico was looking for a fight. Mexicans who opposed open conflict with the United States, like President de Herrera, were viewed as traitors and when he considered peaceful negotiations over the annexation of Texas he was deposed as a traitor. Trust me, I know a little about Texas history, being a native son and all. I just thought I'd spare everyone a lecture.

Mexico invades Texas. Mexico loses, signs peace treaty. Mexico renounces peace treaty. Texas joins US. Mexico threatens to invade, against the urgings of Britain and France. US sends troops to border. Mexico crosses border (which they insist isn't really the border) and attacks US troops which, according to the treaty Mexico signed and renounced, is US territory. Mexico then gets its ass kicked in one of the more one-sided wars of history and cedes large swathes of territory.

Key points: Mexico renounced peace treaty it signed. Mexico refuses peaceful settlement and threatens to invade, against urgings of world's great powers. Mexico invades. Mexico loses.

Chalking that conflict up, like I've heard it done before, as a bunch of land-hungry gringos enacting manifest destiny by force of arms and purposefully triggering a war of aggression against their poor little southern neighbors is revisionist garbage. I'm sure Howard Zinn is responsible.  

By Blogger Christopher Chambers, at Thu Jun 21, 11:40:00 PM:

Jeez Dawnfire, now that you explained this thing about Texas, it makes perfect FRIGGIN sense...how can we have been so blind?! That illegal Mexican government brought it on itself!

And the second wave/invasion has started and we have to do something about it and stop the clown in the White House who's allowing them to...er...ooops...that George Bush...our...hero...ohmygod...I'm so conflicted...lol  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Fri Jun 22, 02:48:00 PM:

Yes, there will always be an England. Wonderful story, TH.  

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By Anonymous vanzare apartamente cluj, at Tue Jun 22, 07:55:00 AM:

England really knows how to organize special celebrations like this 25th anniversary of the United Kingdom's victory over Argentina. Love the pictures  

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