Whose Interests Did the 1982 Falklands Conflict Serve?

With the current Russia – Ukraine conflict raising many questions about the UK government’s actions it may be appropriate to revisit previous conflicts to examine what happened and whose interests were being served.

Paul Cardin, Royal Navy veteran of the Falklands Conflict, has for the past 40 years been questioning the decisions made, and why, in the action areas around the islands.

The Falklands Conflict was a 72-day undeclared war between Argentina and the United Kingdom which began on 2 April 1982.  The conflict was over two British dependent territories in the South Atlantic: the Falkland Islands and its territorial dependency, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands.

As a Leading Radio Operator during the Conflict, Cardin saw all the messages that were being passed between ships and CINCFLEET HQ in Northwood, UK, and was ideally placed to know what was going on as the events unfolded around him.

“At the time, some serious questions were forming in my mind about the circumstances of the invasion, the lightning-fast creation of a huge task force, and what exactly could have been going on behind the scenes to pressurise Margaret Thatcher into organising such a powerful military response so quickly,” Cardin wrote in The Light Paper.

Read more: The Light Issue 18 February 2022, pg 10

During the Conflict, Cardin was based on HMS Yarmouth in San Carlos Bay known colloquially as “Bomb Alley.”  He kept a daily diary which provides a useful and ‘up close and personal’ timeline of events as they unfolded.

“HMS Yarmouth was a busy ship, but also a very lucky ship.  My diary tells how we rescued the captain and survivors from the stricken HMS Sheffield, the entire crew from HMS Ardent and later stood by to assist our shipmates on HMS Glamorgan following the land-based Exocet attack,” Cardin told Wirral Globe.

Thatcher’s justification for the war was the need to support the right of self-determination of the Falklanders.  But Cardin believes the Falklands Conflict was contrived to boost Margaret Thatcher’s waning popularity.

Cardin has 12 questions regarding the Falklands Conflict that he explores in his book ‘Return to Bomb Alley 1982: The Falklands Deception‘, one of them being:

“Why was it never reported by the BBC and UK media that 90 per cent of Falkland Islands land, including the vast sheep farms, was owned by absentee landlords, residents in the UK, and that Falkland Islanders were actually working tenants? So, just how ‘paramount’ were the islanders’ interests, as claimed by Margaret Thatcher?”

To add to the intrigue, Cardin has recently discovered that a director of the Falkland Islands Company (“FIC”) at the time of the Conflict was Margaret Thatcher’s husband, Denis.

“[Denis Thatcher’s] interests were being addressed and the absentee landlords’ interests were being addressed but this was never talked about, it was never reported by the BBC or media,” Cardin told Sonia Poulton during a recent interview.

All incoming telegrams were embargoed with no public access until 2052. “We have to ask: What have they got to hide?” Cardin said.

Paul Cardin meets Sonia Poulton, 10 April 2022 (13 mins)

If the video above is removed from YouTube you can watch it on Brand New Tube HERE ( start at timestamp 48:22 mins)

Further resources:

The Falklands Islands Company

In 1978 the Coalite Group merged with the Charringtons Coke distribution company and with this they acquired FIC. FIC remained a subsidiary of Coalite until 1997, according to The Independent.

According to his Wikipedia page, Denis Thatcher became managing director of his family’s firm Atlas in 1947 and chairman in 1951. He sold Atlas to Castrol in 1965 and sat on Castrol’s board after Burmah Oil took over Castrol in 1966. He retired from Burmah in 1975. Burmah-Castrol was purchased by London-based multinational BP in 2000.

letter from John Whitfield published in the Sunderland Echo in 2016 summarised his understanding of the Falkland Islands as “privately owned islands.”  At the time of the Falklands Conflict the Islands were owned by the Coalite Group of companies, Whitfield wrote. “Both Coalite and Charrington companies were involved in the fuel/oil industry and by sheer coincidence, a well-known chairman of another well-known oil company was none other than Mr. Denis Thatcher.”

The History of the Falklands Campaign

To understand FIC’s influence in the Falkland Islands we searched Laurence Freedman’s ‘The Official History of the Falklands Campaign Vol 1’ which discusses the build-up to the Conflict.  Below we have copied some relevant extracts with page numbers inserted at the end of each paragraph, in square brackets, should you wish to read them in context:

The issue of an outright Argentine purchase of the Islands or of the holdings of the Falkland Islands Company was often raised, even at times by islanders (who could see the material advantages of being bought off), but it was never pursued. [pg.15]

[In 1968] an all-party Falklands Islands Emergency Committee was established, under the chairmanship of a director of the Falklands Islands Company. MPs deplored the very idea of negotiating with Argentina and editorials warned of betrayal. The future of the Falklands Islands was now a matter of domestic British politics. [pg.21]

Self-sufficiency [of the Falkland Islands] was becoming more expensive and it was not only the British Government that was reluctant to bear the costs. In December 1970 the Falkland Islands Company announced that the monthly sea service from Darwin to Montevideo would be withdrawn in a year’s time. If the logic of the situation was pushing the islanders into its welcoming arms, Argentina’s inability to sustain a charm offensive produced the opposite reaction. A distinctly unfriendly welcome by the local press when three islanders visited Argentina in November led to their abrupt departure. By the start of 1971 the Argentines appeared to be dragging their Communications and Condominiums 23 feet, while soundings in the Islands during the spring revealed the prevalent assumption that any overtures from Buenos Aires were a prelude for an eventual take-over. [pg.23]

[In 1974] the reluctance of London to take a lead had created an opportunity for the Falkland Islands Committee. Flushed by its success in blocking the condominium proposal it now came forward with ever more ambitious plans for the Island’s development. In this it was largely promoting the interests of the Falkland Islands Company, who feared that closer ties with Argentina would threaten its own monopolistic position. [pg. 31]

The Falklands Islands Company owned approximately half the Islands and produced about half the annual wool crop, with assets in the mid-1970s of some £2.5 million. In July 1972, when it was acquired by Dundee, Perth and London Securities Ltd. (DP & L), as a wholly-owned subsidiary, the Directors became concerned that it might be sold off because of its lack of profitability, possibly even to an Argentine company. The Falklands Islands Committee had in fact been revived in 1972 largely in response to a fear that the assets would be sold to Argentina … If the Falkland Islands Company sought to sell its assets to Argentine interests, the local management would undoubtedly appeal to the [British] parent company while the Executive Council would never agree to issue a landholding license to an Argentine company. [pg. 31]

[In 1975] while consultations [on the condominium hypothesis taking place between the Governor and the Executive Council] were supposedly confidential, within no time at all—possibly even on the same day—the Falklands Islands Committee in London was being alerted to what was afoot. The route was via the Stanley Manager of the Falkland Island Company. Parliamentary questions were tabled, which produced the customary assurances about islander wishes being paramount, and their possible membership of any negotiating team. [pg. 29]

[In 1976, the Argentines] resubmitted the proposal for an eight-year joint administration prior to a transfer, a list of safeguards for the islanders and a request that Argentine business interests be allowed to acquire a majority shareholding in the Falklands Islands Company. The islanders were moving in the opposite direction. [pg. 76]

[Minister of State, Ted] Rowlands also picked up that they were wary about the Falklands lobby in London as being too much in the pocket of the Falklands Islands Company, about which they showed increasing disillusionment. There was discussion at this time with OD concerning the possibility of ‘a take-over of the Company by—perhaps—the Falkland Islands Government, with a view to running it for the greater benefit to the Islanders. [pg. 77]

During negotiations in 1977, “the British focus was now veering definitely away from lease-back, which remained the main fall-back position, towards the retention of British sovereignty over the Falkland Islands themselves and their 3-mile territorial sea, in return for ceding to Argentina sovereignty over the Dependencies combined with major concessions over the local maritime resources.” [pg. 68]

A 1950 Order of Council extended the ‘boundaries’ of the Falkland Islands to include an area of continental shelf bounded by the 100 fathom line. This did not cover the Dependencies where the UK had not claimed continental shelf rights. At that time the Islands’ territorial sea was only three miles, sufficient for inshore fishing and the development of an alginate industry from seaweed. A 200 miles limit for the fishery and continental shelf borders might be difficult to justify. This would be a claim to resources of an area so far from the United Kingdom. [pg. 68]

Perhaps British Petroleum could then form a consortium with the Argentine National Oil Company for the purposes of preliminary oil exploration …Economic concessions could jeopardise the future prosperity of the Islands and even Britain. If, as claimed, there was a 10% chance of finding hydro-carbons in the Falklands’ continental shelf there was reason to be cautious about abandoning them [pg. 69]

A further indication of Argentine thinking was its authorisation of a speculative seismic survey by an American company of the continental shelf around the Falkland Islands. [pg.69]

There was not much chance of stopping the American investigations, and if they came up with interesting finds, then that could strengthen Britain’s negotiating hand. By and large, it was supposed, the more likely it was that oil was present, the greater the possibility for some sort of deal. The Secretary of State for Energy, Tony Benn, was keen that Britain did not lose out to American companies in working with Argentina. He proposed in August [1977] that a joint venture between a British oil company and YPF [Argentine State Oil Company] be discussed at the first opportunity, although the FCO believed that this would just lead to Argentine demands to discuss sovereignty in parallel. [pg.69]

During the course of 1978 there was active discussion of military options. As always the concern was that the gap between what Argentina wanted and Britain was prepared to give could lead at some point to a major incident. [pg. 81]

After the general election on 3 May 1979 Margaret Thatcher took over from Jim Callaghan as Prime Minister. Lord Carrington became Foreign Secretary and Nicholas Ridley took over from Ted Rowlands as Minister of State in the FCO with special responsibility for the Falkland Islands. [pg. 85]

Read more: The Official History of the Falklands Campaign Vol 1, Laurence Freedman, 2007

The significance of the Coalite Group in the Islands was recognised by the House of Lords in a written question submitted in 1989. Lord Kennet requested:

“Whether they intend that the Department of Trade and Industry should give routine consideration to the possible takeover of Coalite given the position of that firm in the political economy of the Falkland Islands.” (emphasis our own)

In a recent discussion with the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies (“RUSI”) Falkland Islander Suki Cameron briefly sets the scene with the run up to the Argentine invasion of the Islands in 1982 and an overview of the situation in the Islands since then.

In 1979, Nicholas Ridley’s proposal for a leaseback solution was not supported by Islanders, Cameron said, “neither by parliament who supported Islanders wishes and their right to self-determination.”

“Soon after this time the British Nationality Act was introduced which removed the right of full British citizenship from Falkland Islanders and this caused great concern both in the islands and amongst our supporters in the UK. Various petitions were presented to No.10 including one by myself in 1981.  

“These events along with the announcement of defence cuts which would have removed HMS Endurance as our guardship all encouraged the government of Argentina into believing that the islands were there for the taking.  Luckily this proved not to be the case although at a huge price. And the sacrifices made for our freedom will never be forgotten.”

RUSI: The Falklands Campaign 1982 – Its Origins, War and Diplomacy, 21 April 2022
Whose Interests Did the 1982 Falklands Conflict Serve?