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  Battle Atlas of the Falklands War 1982



Brtish forces in San Carlos Bay

on to 4. South Georgia invasion


Summary of Early Falklands History

1. 1592 - British sighting by Capt Davis
2. 1600 - Plotted by Dutchman Sebald de Weert
3. 1690 - British landing by Capt Strong
4. 1764 - First French settlement by de Bougainville
5. 1765 - British landing by Capt Byron
7. 1767 - French settlement handed over to Spanish control
8. 1770 - Spain expelled British colonists
9. 1771 - Britain allowed to return, but Spain reserved right to sovereignty
10. 1774 - British colony abandoned
1820 - Recently-independent Argentina took possession
1831 - US declared the island "free of government"
1833 - Britain took possession from Argentina
14. 1842 - Britain declared colonial administration

Argentina - continued to claim Falklands/Malvinas

First European Sightings and Landings - Claims for the first sightings of these uninhabited islands included the Italian Amerigo Vespucci in 1502 and the expedition of Portugese-born Ferdinand Magellan in 1520. Thereafter three firsts are generally accepted - Capt John Davis made the first British sighting in 1592, Dutchman Sebald de Weert first accurately plotted the westerly Jason Islands in 1600, and the first British landing was made in 1690 on the north coast by Capt John Strong who named Falkland Sound after Lord Falkland of the Admiralty.

Spanish Control - The 1713 Treaty of Utrecht confirmed Spain's continued control of her traditional territories in the Americas, including the offshore islands, but by now the French, many from St. Malo were visiting the islands from which they received the name Les Iles Malouines, subsequently the Spanish Islas Malvinas. In the 1740's, Admiral Lord Anson, back from his voyage around the world recommended them as a naval base because of their strategic position near Cape Horn.

French and British Settlement - The first settlement was established in 1764 at Port Louis in Berkeley Sound by the French under Antoine de Bougainville, who claimed the colony in the name of the King of France, a step which brought strong protests from allied Spain. Next year British Captain John Byron arrived to survey the north coast, went ashore on Saunders Island off West Falkland and in turn claimed the islands for Britain, naming Port Egmont before sailing away. Captain John McBride followed him there in 1766 to set up a permanent colony, and that same year tried to eject the French from Port Louis, but unknown to both of them, de Bougainville had already sold out to Spain.

Spanish Colony - De Bougainville formally handed over the French colony in 1767 and Port Louis was renamed Puerto Soledad. A Spanish governor was appointed under the Captain-General of mainland Buenos Aires, but both the British on West Falkland and Spanish on East Falkland carried on until 1769 when each tried to get the other to leave. In 1770, on orders from Buenos Aires, five Spanish ships with 1,400 troops arrived and the small marine garrison at Port Egmont was forced to leave in a move which nearly led to war between the two countries. After intensive negotiations Spain agreed in 1771 to Britain returning to Port Egmont, but reserved the right to sovereignty. She also claimed Britain had secretly agreed to pull out and indeed the settlement was abandoned three years later in 1774. Until the early 19th century, the Falklands remained the Spanish colony of Islas Malvinas.

Argentine Claim and Possession - Following independence from Spain in 1816, the future state of Argentina laid claim to the previous colonial territories, and in 1820 sent a frigate to take possession of the Falklands. In 1826, Louis Vernet of French origin established himself and a number of colonists at Puerto Soledad to develop fishing, farming and trade, and as governor from 1828 attempted to control the widespread sealing. Waking up to developments, Britain's consul general in Buenos Aires protested in 1829 against the appointment of a governor and re-asserted old claims to sovereignty.

United States and British Involvement - In 1831, after arresting American sealers accused of poaching, Louis Vernet sailed in one of them for Buenos Aires where the captain was to stand trial. In reprisal, the US warship "Lexington" arrived off Puerto Soledad, destroyed the fortifications, arrested some of the people and declared the islands free of government before sailing away. Argentina and the United States argued furiously over each other's high-handed behaviour, and next year a new governor was appointed but then murdered by rebellious colonists. As Argentine forces attempted to restore order, Royal Navy warships "Clio" and "Tyne" under the command of Captain Onslow arrived in early 1833, forced them to leave and claimed the Falklands for Britain. Argentina protested strongly, but the British Government maintained that all rights to sovereignty were retained during the 1770 negotiations with Spain.

British Colonisation - Britain later started to settle the islands and formally declared a colonial administration in 1842, although Argentina continued to press her claim and from the 1960's on, with increasing vigour. Stanley was established in 1845. By this time, Britain's right to ownership rested mainly on her peaceful and continuous possession over a long period of time, and when serious negotiations began, they became dominated by the islander's desire to remain British.

Argentine Claims - After a period of Argentine lobbying, the United Nations passed Resolution 2065 in 1965 specifying the Falklands/Malvinas as a colonial problem, and calling on Britain and Argentina to find a peaceful solution. Talks continued on and off for the next seventeen years under both British Labour and Conservative Governments. Britain initially appeared flexible over the question of sovereignty, and by 1971 the Argentines were agreeing to concentrate on economic development and support, but thereafter, both side's position hardened. The Argentines would accept nothing less than full sovereignty and in late 1980 the islanders rejected the one remaining solution of lease-back for a fixed period. On the road to war, Argentina set up a scientific base on Southern Thule in the South Sandwich Islands in 1976 and stayed put, and in 1982 her forces found themselves about to land on South Georgia and to invade and hold the Falklands themselves.


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revised 31/5/13