The Irish in Falkland / Malvinas Islands
Much of the material in this first article was researched by Edmundo Murray
Falkland/Malvinas according to Bougainville’s “Voyage autour du monde” 1771)
In “La France et l’Argentine, hier”
The Falkland Islands (in Spanish, Islas Malvinas) are an archipelago in the South Atlantic, about 600 kilometres off the coast of Argentina. The islands were first occupied in 1764 by the French, who handed over their settlement to the Spanish naval flotilla on 1 April 1767. British ousted the French settlers, and the French sold their claim to Spain. In 1820 Argentina claimed sovereignty as Spain’s successor and have disputed Britain’s claim to the islands since 1833. There may have been Irishmen among the crew of John Davies’s ship the Desire when he discovered the Islands in 1592, or in the Welfare of John Strong, the first man to land on the Falklands / Malvinas in 1690. But if so, we have no record of their names.
The first recorded Irish visitor was Commander William Farmer, born in Youghal, County Cork in 1732, who commanded the sloop Swift in West Falkland (Gran Malvina) waters in 1770, and who was obliged to evacuate Port Egmont by a much larger Spanish force. The next Irish name in Falklands / Malvinas history is that of William Dickson of Dublin who was storekeeper for Louis Vernet’s colonists, and was entrusted with the care of the British flag by Captain Onslow after he landed at Port Louis in 1833. Dickson was among those murdered by those gauchos who were led by Antonio Rivera, on 26 August 1833.
The first Falklands / Malvinas census, that taken by Lt. Governor Richard Moody in 1842 noted five colonists born in Ireland. But the Irish population was to increase sharply with the arrival of the military pensioners in 1849. A large proportion of Queen Victoria’s army came from Ireland, and the 1851 census counts seventy-four persons of the Irish nation: fifteen were military pensioners, and most of the rest were their wives and children.
Colonel Richard Moody
Governor and Military Commander of the Falkland Islands
During the late 1840s, the second official in the Islands was the IrishMagistrate, William Henry Moore, who had left his practice (and his wife) in Belturbet, County Cavan, and armed with a testimonial signed by many of the Dublin legal establishment, arrived in Port Louis in March 1845. Moore was a caricature provincial lawyer: argumentative, self important, on the make, and a heavy drinker.
He argued violently with the first two governors, Moody and Rennie, and the former reported to London on 25 June 1846: “there are many Irishmen here, Mr. Moore is an Irishman, and the observation has been made that we have a ‘Daniel O’Connell’ among us.” Moore eventually returned to London on leave in 1849, and in a remarkable ‘own-goal’, was discovered offering legal advice to a company in dispute with the Colonial Office. He was sacked, and disappeared from view in a minor post in the Customs revenue service.
Port Stanley from the Harbour Edge
Since the late 1830s, Irish settlers began sheep-farming in the Falkland / Malvinas Islands. Among others, Thomas [Devil] Murray (b. 1854) owned a large flock which he sold a few years later to purchase land in South America. Most of these Irish were Catholics, but there were other Catholics in the islands, including: English; Chilean; French; and other nationalities.
A fundamental part of the life of Irish-Catholic islanders was the presence of priests among them. The islands were (and still are) jurisdiction of Propaganda Fide in Rome. In 1857 the Falkland Catholics wrote to Cardinal Wiseman, archbishop of Westminster, and to Cardinal Alessandro Barnabo, Secretary of Propaganda Fide, to ask for a priest to attend their souls. The archbishop of Buenos Aires, Dr. Mariano J. Escalada, requested Anthony Fahy O.P. (1805-1871) to find a solution for the islanders, and he proposed that a priest from Buenos Aires visit them once every seven years. That same year, Fr. Lawrence Kirwan visited the islands and organized a committee to build a Catholic chapel and to obtain land for a Catholic cemetery. Among the committee members were P.D. Lynch, Thomas Havers, Cristopher Murray, and Patrick Maguire. In 1861, land was acquired to build a Catholic chapel.
In 1865 Fr. Patrick J. Dillon (1842-1889) visited the islands. At that time there were about 200 Catholics, and they had no priest. Fr. Dillon spent a few months among them, and administered the sacraments.
In 1872 Fr. William Walsh made a short visit to the islands, and before the end of the year he was gone on his way to his diocese of Brisbane in Australia.
St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Port Stanley
Fr. James Foran was the first resident priest, and was fundamental in establishing a Catholic position in the islands. He arrived in October 1875 and, after receiving permission from ecclesiastical authorities, from 1880 to 1886 he spent half the year on the islands and the other half on the South American mainland.
On 15 June 1873, the ‘Stella Maris’ chapel in Port Stanley had been completed by the islanders, and later Fr. Foran moved it to a better location.
Fr. Foran also started a school for Catholic children in the islands.
When Fr. Foran finally left the islands in April 1886 he travelled direct to Buenos Aires and eventually returned to England.
After 1888, the Catholics of the Falkland / Malvinas Islands were attended by the Salesian Fathers, beginning with Fr. Patrick J. Diamond, who arrived on 19 April 1888 in Port Stanley, together with Mgr. José Fagnano.
Fr. Diamond was able to continue with the work commenced by Fr. Foran. Fr. Diamond built the parish priest house and directed the children’s school. He also baptized sub conditione over twenty-five Protestant adults.
Fr. Diamond was followed in 1890 by Fr. Patrick O’Grady, who had been in Argentina since 1884. Fr. O’Grady replaced the old chapel with a new building, which opened in 1899.
Other chaplains were Fr. Mignone, who remained in the islands until 1937, and Irish-born Fathers Drumm and Kelly.
In addition, other priests assisted the resident clergy, including Mgr. Santiago M. Ussher in 1930, the Passionists Fr. Domingo Moore and Fr. Santiago Deane, and the Pallotine Fr. Celestino Butterly. The Salesian sisters Hijas de María Auxiliadora, among them Sister Mary Jane Ussher, established a mission in the islands and remained there for many years.
However, the Irishman who made the greatest impact on the history of the Islands was certainly Lowther Brandon, a Church of Ireland (Protestant) clergyman from County Carlow who became Colonial Chaplain in 1877. A man of faith and drive, he was remarkable for tackling the social problems of Stanley in a series of practical steps. He founded the first savings bank, established abstinence societies to combat drunkenness, and launched the Falklands Islands Magazine, which he type set and printed himself.
He rode tirelessly around his broad parish, dragging after him a pack horse (carguero) laden with his magic lantern for shows to the camp settlements. Brandon also served as Inspector of the Government Schools and was a constant advocate of better teaching for children in ‘the camp’. He returned to Ireland in 1907, and died in Slaney, County Wicklow during 1933.
Another Irishman in a senior government post was Doctor Samuel Hamilton from Dublin, who arrived in the islands in 1879 and served there for twenty-five years, returning to Ireland to retire.
Prominent explorers who visited the Islands included Captain Francis Crozier, from Banbridge, County Down, who commanded one of the ships (Terror) on the Antarctic expedition of 1841-3; as well as Sir Ernest Shackleton, born in Athy, County Kildare, who visited Stanley on numerous occasions on his way to Antarctica or returning.
Another explorer, the Irish yachtsman Conor O’Brien called at Stanley and his boat remained in use in Falklands / Malvinas waters until she was returned to the Irish Maritime museum.
Captain Francis Crozier
HMS Erebus (left) and HMS Terror
Sir Ernest Shackleton
Two British governors came from Ireland, Thomas Fitzgerald Callaghan from 1877 to 1880; and Sir Cosmo Haskard, who served from 1964 to 1970, and then retired to Ireland. A third governor, Sir James O’Grady (1931 - 1935), was the son of an Irish family living in England. He started life as a jobbing carpenter, moved into trade union politics, was sent on a diplomatic mission to Bolshevik Russia and was finally appointed as a colonial governor; first to one of the Australian states, and then to the Falkland/Malvinas Islands.
Sir Cosmo Haskard KCMG, OBE
Sir James O’Grady KCMG
During the opening decades of the twentieth century, the conflict between Argentina and England for the control of the Falkland / Malvinas Islands gained a wider awareness among the Irish community in Buenos Aires and other Argentine provinces. The controversial and nationalistically opinionated Fianna newspaper never missed an opportunity to attack Britain’s occupation of the islands. The integration process of Irish Argentines to a larger and wider society signified that most of them felt that their loyalty was towards Argentina rather than Britain.
Miguel L. Fitzgerald (b. 1926) perhaps best epitomized that general Irish-Argentine attitude, when twice flying from the mainland to the islands in 1964 and 1968. On both occasions he landed near Stanley, raised the Argentine flag and with accompanying journalists tried (unsuccessfully) to interview British authorities. Nothing was achieved by these individual actions, but they do reveal the increasing nationalistic feelings of the Irish Argentines towards the adopted country of their forefathers.
In August 1966, another Irish Argentine, Eduardo F. McLoughlin (b. 1918) a former Air Force officer, was appointed Argentine ambassador to Britain; he would remain in London until 1970. Following Argentine policy, McLoughlin interfered with a British plan to hand sovereignty over to Falkland / Malvinas islanders before 1982, which would have opened the way to a pacific settlement of the conflict.
Miguel L. FitzGerald Eduardo F. McLoughlin
The Falkland/Malvinas War (2 April - 14 June 1982) began when the Argentine military junta sent warships to land a party of scrap dealers on South Georgia with the intention of reclaiming the Falkland / Malvinas Islands.
A full scale military invasion followed.
Attempts by the UN, the USA, and Peru to secure a peaceful resolution to the conflict failed.
Britain dispatched a task force comprising some thirty warships, two aircraft carriers, assorted fleet auxiliaries, the Canberra (a requisitioned passenger liner), ‘Ro-Ro’ ferries, and container ships to recover the islands.
The ten-week conflict claimed the lives of nearly 1,000 British and Argentine servicemen and civilians, and ceased with the surrender of the Argentine forces on 14 June.
The British victory contributed to the downfall of the Argentine military dictatorship.
Argentina officially declared a cessation of hostilities in 1989.
The first Argentines land and attack Moody Brook barracks, 2 April 1982
Royal Marines captured in Port Stanley by Argentine troops, 2 April 1982
‘The Empire Strikes Back’
Task Force units of Britain’s ‘Royal Navy’ sailing to the South Atlantic
Irish and Irish-Argentine soldiers were among those who fought in both sides of the war.
Translation was one particularly skilled service rendered by many Irish Argentines during the Falkland / Malvinas War.
Private Ronnie Quinn translated intercepted British military communications, and Private Miguel Savage facilitated talks with the Falkland Islanders after the surrender, onboard the Canberra.
The Argentine who caused
most fear was the “sinister and dangerous” head of military intelligence,
Major Patricio Dowling, who personified “the Argentine terror machine”. He
had detailed personal dossiers on Islanders and carried out arbitrary house
searches and arrests. In one incident at Neil and Glenda Watson’s Long
Island Farm, Dowling pointed a weapon at their young daughter Lisa and
repeatedly ordered her to stand up. Lisa repeatedly said no and continued
sucking her thumb, until Dowling gave up.
Comodoro Carlos Bloomer Reeve of the Argentine Air Force, described as “the acceptable face of Argentina”, was a man of “humanity and bravery” who did a great deal to protect Falkland Islanders from the excesses of his Argentine compatriots, in what he regarded as a misguided adventure. He was amiable, always smiling, not politically driven, having previously lived with his family and made friends with Falkland Islanders in 1975 – 1976, when he commanded the Argentine Air Force passenger service to the Falklands. His 1982 task was to organise an interim military administration, helped by naval Captain Barry Melbourne Hussey, “a man of humane principles” who worked to help Islanders. Orders were that Islanders were to be regarded as Argentine citizens and treated well.
Comodoro Carlos Bloomer Reeve
In these two officers, “Islanders had gained powerful friends who, though Argentines, proved that fundamental decency could survive when all other strands of civilised behaviour were unravelling.”
The Falkland / Malvinas War was a turning point for the identity of most Irish Argentines. After decades of being ‘ingleses’ and living voluntarily isolated in their own country, Irish Argentines finally began to feel truly Argentine.
The Falkland / Malvinas Islands have long been a source of friction between Argentina and Britain. The tension escalated on 19 March 1982, when a group of Argentine scrap-metal dealers hired by Argentine businessman, Constantino Davidoff, to dismantle an old whaling base, raised the Argentine flag on South Georgia Island, an uninhabited island 1,287 kilometres northeast of the Falklands / Malvinas. This event ultimately led to the Argentine invasion of the Falklands / Malvinas on 2 April 1982, code-named ‘Operation Rosario’.
In November 1979, Constantino Davidoff, a Buenos Aires based scrap metal dealer, gained a contract to dismantle one of the old whaling stations on South Georgia. Descended from a Jewish-Russian family who settled in Argentina after the First World War; Davidoff had become a self-made multi-millionaire after decades of hard work, starting at 8 years of age when his father died.
Davidoff was about to decommission a Norwegian whaling station on the island of South Georgia, to sell as scrap metal and secure his financial future; but, Davidoff’s plan in South Georgia did not proceed ‘smoothly’.
Because of crude political ‘manouvering’ – on both sides of the conflict – Davidoff’s expedition to South Georgia was used as an excuse to escalate a historical conflict over the ownership of Falkand Islands, still known as the ‘Malvinas’ in Argentina.
Constantino Davidoff’s subsequent actions have raised questions about his links to the Argentine military and can certainly been seen as the precursor to Argentina’s invasion. The ‘excuse’, as it were.
Davidoff didn’t do anything about his contract until December 1981, when – without the permission of the British authorities administering South Georgia – he sailed to the Island to ‘assess’ the work that needed doing.
His visit caused Britain to protest to Argentina’s Government, which denied any knowledge of what Davidoff was up to.
In February 1982, Argentina rejected Britain’s protest, although Davidoff did apologise to the British Embassy in Buenos Aires.
In March 1982, Davidoff informed the British Embassy that he intended to send a small party of workers to South Georgia to start work on the old whaling station. The Embassy gave permission only on the understanding that the workmen report to the British authority at Grytviken on their arrival. Despite this, on March 19th, Davidoff’s workers arrived off Leith Harbour in an Argentine naval vessel, the Bahia Buen Suceso, and landed with a group of Argentine navy personnel on South Georgia. Shots were fired and the Argentine flag raised.
Two weeks later, the Falklands War was in full swing.
The war lasted 74 days, approximately a thousand people died and the war had long-term political consequences: Britain’s hard-fought victory consolidated Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s position of power. The crushing defeat of Argentina was the beginning of the end for the military junta in Buenos Aires.
For Constantino Davidoff the war changed everything. After he was blamed and lost the millions he invested in South Georgia, depression confined him to bed and he went bankrupt.
Davidoff lost everything. He lost his wife, money, ships, and aircraft.
Since 1982 Davidoff has been consumed in an effort to clear his name and earn enough money to support his family. The now retired scrap-dealer who had a small but important role in world history, is still working every day.
“You know, they say that people are supposed to work 30 years of their lives. I have worked for 60 years. I do not have the energy to continue much longer.”
It is only the thought of revenge keeps the old man going.
Lieutenant Commander Alfredo Astiz commanded a special team of fifteen Tactical Divers Group frogmen, dubbed los lagartos (the lizards), which carried out the first act of aggression in what developed into the Falklands War. On March 19, 1982 they landed on South Georgia, under the guise of workers of the Argentine scrap metal dealer Constantino Davidoff. Officially they were to scrap three derelict whaling stations at Leith Harbour which had been purchased by their employer in 1979. They dressed up in uniform and raised the Argentine flag in full view of a British Antarctic Survey party.
Lieutenant-Commander Alfredo Astiz
Astiz’s ‘Alpha Group’ in Leith
The next day, March 20, the local head of the British Antarctic Survey handed Astiz a note transcribed from a radio message by the Governor of the Falklands. The note told Astiz to take down his flag and leave. Astiz took down the flag, but did not leave.
Later that day, HMS Endurance, the British navy’s ice patrol ship, was dispatched from Port Stanley on the Falkland Islands to Grytviken, the main British Antarctic Survey base on South Georgia, with 22 Royal Marines ordered to evict Astiz.
The HMS Endurance arrived on March 23, a few hours before a number of Argentine marines landed near Grytviken.
Britain’s 22 Royal Marines on South Georgia, ordered to evict Astiz
More Argentine marines arrived over the following days, and there was an armed clash at Grytviken; the ‘Battle of Grytviken’.
Shortly before the Argentine landings on the Falklands, the Bahía Paraíso and the Endurance were playing a ‘cat-and-mouse game’ around South Georgia, until 31 March, when the ships lost track of each other.
The British plan was that if the Argentine forces showed any hostile intentions, then Acting Lieutenant Keith Mills, the most senior officer of the Royal Marines party, would take command.
On 2 April, Captain Alfredo Astiz, a veteran of Argentina’s ‘Dirty War’, whose extradition was requested by France for human rights violations, announced to the Argentine party in Leith that Argentina had taken over the Falklands.
Meanwhile, the Argentine navy ordered the corvette ARA Guerrico to join the Bahía Paraíso, equipped with two helicopters (an Army Puma and a navy Alouette III ) and carrying 40 marines, along with Astiz team at Leith. The aim was the capture of Grytviken. The Argentine force would be called Grupo de Tareas 60.1 (Task Force 60.1), under the command of Captain Trombetta, on board Bahía Paraíso.
After learning of the fall of Stanley, Acting-Lieutenant Mills took urgent measures: his British Royal Marines fortified the beach at King Edward Point, near the entrance of the bay with wire and landmines, and prepared defences around the British Antarctic Survey buildings.
The Endurance, some miles offshore, would provide communication between the small British detachment and London. The new rules of engagement authorized Mills to “fire in self defence, after warning”. A later statement from the British government instructed the marines to “not resist beyond the point where lives might be lost to no avail.”
Lt. Keith Mills DSC , commanding the Royal Marines at South Georgia, allegedly replied, “sod that, I'll make their eyes water”, a remark that became famous.
On the other side, the Argentine plans for 2 April in South Georgia were thwarted by poor weather. These plans consisted in the landing of Astiz’s Argentine special forces on Hope Point, near Grytviken, to secure the arrival of the bulk of the land forces, carried by helicopter. The Guerrico would provide naval fire support outside the bay. But the arrival of the Argentine corvette was delayed by a storm, so a new course of action was decided for the next day.
According to the new plan, the first landing would be led by Guerrico’s Alouette helicopter, followed by three waves of marines on a Puma from Bahia Paraiso.
After sending a radio message demanding that the British surrender, Trombetta would order the Guerrico to make a thrust into Grytviken harbor, right in front of King Edward point.
The Argentine rules of engagement authorized the corvette to fire her weapons only at request of the landing parties.
Astiz’s men would remain in the rearguard on board the Bahia Paraiso. All the Argentine forces involved should avoid enemy casualties as long as possible. Official British historian Lawrence Freedman believes that Trombetta made these provisions thinking he was dealing only with the British Antarctic Survey team.
Guerrico’s Aérospatiale Alouette III helicopter
At 7:30 A.M., as the weather improved, Bahia Paraiso demanded the surrender of Grytviken. The message intimated that Rex Hunt had surrendered not only the Falklands, but also its dependencies, which was untrue.
Lt Mills ‘copied’, and forwarded the message to HMS Endurance, with the intention of buying time. At the same time, he invited the B.A.S. personnel to take cover inside the local church. By then, the Argentine ‘Alouette’ helicopter was overflying Grytviken and the Guerrico was making her first entrance into the cove.
According to Mayorga, Captain Carlos Alfonso, commander of the Guerrico, hesitated whether or not to expose the corvette in such narrow waters. Mayorga also supports Freedman’s speculation about Trombetta’s wrong assumptions regarding British military presence around the harbour, citing an official report. Trombetta also had some reservations about the combat readiness of the warship, since she had been in dry dock just days before departing from her home base at Puerto Belgrano.
The Argentine Air Force ‘Puma’ helicopter landed a first group of 15 Argentine marines on King Edward point at 11:41 AM, on the opposite side from Shackleton House, where the Royal Marines were entrenched. By then, the Guerrico knew that the general area of deployment of the British Royal Marines was on the northern shore of the cove’s mouth.
The second wave of Argentine marines took off from Bahia Paraiso deck on board the ‘Puma’ at 11:47 AM.
The commander of the Argentine group already inland, Lt Luna, requested via the Guerrico—he had no direct communication with Bahia Paraiso—that the second wave should be equipped with 60 mm mortars, but the party was already in flight. The landing was to take place to the east of Luna’s position, well within the view of the British detachment.
The Argentine helicopter was spotted by Mills and his British marines, and it was met by intense automatic fire.
The Argentine pilot was able to cross the bay, and crash-landed the helicopter on the southern bank of the bay. Two men were killed and four wounded.
At the same time, Luna’s troops started their march towards Shackleton House, but the British marines pinned them down with heavy gunfire. Therefore, Luna asked the Guerrico for fire support.
Argentine ‘Puma’ helicopter crash-landed below Brown Mountain
The Argentine corvette then carried out her second thrust into the cove, and at 11:55 AM opened fire.
The commander of Guerrico was disgusted when his 20 mm guns jammed after the first shot, and the 40 mm mounting jammed after firing just six rounds. The 100 mm gun became useless after the first shot. Completely exposed, the warship had no other choice but to go ahead in order to put about.
At 11:59, the corvette Guerrico was hit by British small arms fire and 84 mm Carl Gustav anti-tank shells.
84mm Carl-Gustav Rocket Launcher
According to Mills, his party opened fire from a distance of 550 metres. The shooting killed one Argentine seaman and injured five others; damaged the ship’s electrical cables, the 40 mm gun, one ‘Exocet’ missile-launcher, and the 100 mm gun mounting. All Argentine sources acknowledge that more than 200 small arms rounds hit the corvette.
In the meantime, Lt. Busson’s ‘Alouette’ helicopter had been ferrying more Argentine Marines ashore, out of range of the British weapons.
While the battered Guerrico steered out of the bay, the Argentine troops resumed their exchange of fire with Mills’ British marines.
Once she was out of range of the British troops, Guerrico opened fire with her 100mm main gun, now back in service. This convinced Lt. Mills that ‘the game was up’ for the British, and he then ordered his British marines to cease-fire. This happened at 12:48 PM according to Mayorga.
Lt. Mills approached the Argentine positions waving a white coat, and surrendered, “after achieving his aim of compelling the Argentine troops to use military force.”
Mills and his men were taken in custody by Astiz’s group, who had been left in reserve during the battle.
HMS Endurance dispatched one of her Wasp helicopters to Cumberland Bay. The British aircraft landed there, and spotted an Argentine corvette and a transport ship inside the cove … but observed no signs of fighting.
The Endurance remained in South Georgia waters until 5 April.
The Argentine corvette Guerrico, which had lost 50% of her firepower due to combat damage, left Grytviken along with Bahia Paraiso at 3:15 PM of 4 April, bound for Rio Grande. She spent three days in dry dock for repairs. The British marines were disarmed and taken on board the Bahia Paraiso, ferried to Rio Grande and then airlifted to Montevideo in Uruguay.
British Marine, Andrew Michael Lee, later said he and the other British prisoners were treated well and there was a feeling of respect between the two sides: “They bore us no malice. They did understand the job we did. They were Marines, like ourselves.”
The British marines eventually returned to the United Kingdom on 20 April.
Some British Antarctic Survey members working in remote areas, continued their activities undeterred until the British reconquest of the Falkland Islands.
Wildlife film maker Cindy Buxton and her assistant were evacuated by a helicopter from HMS Endurance on 30 April. She would later reveal that Royal Navy personnel had given her and Annie Price a pistol, and that both female journalists had been trained how to use the weapon.
The Argentine Navy left a detachment of 55 marines on the island. The 39 Argentine scrap metal workers also remained in Leith. South Georgia was retaken by British forces on 25 April 1982, during ‘Operation Paraquet’.
abandoned whaling station, South Georgia Island
Lieutenant Keith Mills DSC
Royal Marine Commando
This Argentine action at South Georgia led to a full-scale war with Britain, which ended with Argentina’s surrender on 14 June 1982.
In the end, more than one thousand Argentines, and two hundred and fifty British, lost their lives during the short but bitter conflict.
Many Irish-Argentines fought in this war, either as professional soldiers or as conscripts. Similarly, on the British side, there were also numerous soldiers who were either Irish-born, or of Irish descent.
It is not possible to ascertain the actual number of Argentine troops of Irish ancestry who participated in the war, but merely focusing on those with Irish surnames would suggest that their representation among the troops was broadly proportionate to the estimated number of Argentines of Irish descent in the general population (approximately one in a hundred).
Irish Fighting the Irish in the Malvinas
By Mícheál DubhGhaill
On many tragic occasions in history, the Irish have fought and killed each other while serving in the Irish regiments of both the opposing armies … i.e. Spanish vs English; French vs English; French vs Spanish; Yanks vs Confederates; South African Boers vs British; etc, etc.
The Irish attraction to British military service is an ongoing tradition, despite centuries of political strife and sectarian divisions.
The age-old tendency of Irishmen to enlist in Britain’s army has ensured that Irishmen fighting under other flags would eventually encounter their countrymen.
It seems this also occurred during the Falkland / Malvinas War, during 1982 …
There were several Irish surnames amongst the British killed in the Falklands / Malvinas campaign, which indicates a significantly large number of Irish must have been serving in the British forces at that time, as there would be many more Irish with the British military in the South Atlantic who were not amongst those listed as ‘killed in action’.
However, the British do not acknowledge any ‘Irish’ contribution to their campaign in the Falkland / Malvinas Islands …
of Irish-Argentine Veterans
of the Falklands / Malvinas War (1982)
The Argentine Military Cemetery on East Falkland, where 237 soldiers were buried. Most of the graves are unidentified.
Individual accounts from soldiers who fought in wars can give new insights into the conduct of a war and the execution of military strategy and thereby serve as a valuable tool for the military historian. Below, the testimonies of three Irish-Argentine soldiers who fought in the war are presented, each of which portrayed the first-hand experiences of a particular category of participant: a senior officer; a newly-commissioned officer; and a conscript.
Brigadier-General Eugenio Dalton
Brigadier-General Eugenio Dalton is a grandson of Thomas Dalton of General López, Santa Fe in the province of Buenos Aires (born in 1843 in Ireland, died in 1925 in Córdoba, Argentina) and Ellen McGann. He joined the Argentine military academy in 1953 and graduated in 1956 as Sub-Lieutenant of the infantry army. In 1974, Major Dalton obtained the title of Staff Officer. Between 1977 and 1978, he attended a course at the Academy of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Germany, together with Commandant (Major) Colm Mangan who, in 2000, was promoted to Lieutenant-General and appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Irish defence forces.
In early 1981, at the age of forty-eight and having attained the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel, he was appointed Chief of the Operations Division of the III-X Command of the Mechanised Infantry Brigade, based in the city of La Plata, in the province of Buenos Aires. The command's mission was to prepare officers and conscripts of the units and sub-units to carry out conventional operations who could be deployed on regional missions. After the Falkland / Malvinas Islands war, Major Dalton returned to his original command and continued his military career. He was promoted to Colonel in 1982, and promoted to Brigadier-General in 1987. In December 1989, he retired from the army. Following his retirement, he acted as an advisor to the Argentine Senate on national defence issues until 2005.
A Senior Officer’s Story: The War in the words of Eugenio Dalton …
“In April 1982, the brigade was training the conscripts who had recently begun their year of compulsory military service. We were fully engaged with this activity and were ‘surprised’ by the events of 2 April 1982 [the initial landing of the Argentine forces in the Falklands / Malvinas]. On 9 April, the brigade was ordered to prepare for airlift to the Falklands / Malvinas. All elements of the brigade, including conscripts from the previous year who had been drafted, were called up to go to the Falklands / Malvinas, except for the Tenth Mechanised Artillery Group, whose armaments were obsolete.
“The higher rungs of the brigade, of which I was part, were the first to go on 11 April. We took personal equipment, including enough ammunition for a day’s combat. At 19:00 hours we landed at the airport in Port Stanley / Puerto Argentino. The deployment of the whole brigade was completed on 16 April.
“The field kitchens, water carriers, trailers and light vehicles essential for the preparation and distribution of rations, some jeeps and ammunition for fifteen days of fighting were loaded aboard the ship Formosa and arrived in Port Stanley / Puerto Argentino on 21 April.
“Already from 2 April, General Benjamín Menéndez, commander of the Argentine troops and military governor of the Falklands / Malvinas, together with his entourage, including the commander of the Ninth Infantry Brigade, General Daher and his staff, had deployed units to defend the Argentine positions: the Twenty-Fifth Infantry Regiment in the airport area; one of his companies from the Ninth Infantry Brigade in Darwin; the Fifth Marine Battalion in Sapper Hill, Tumbledown and Williams; the Eighth Regiment Infantry and the Ninth Squadron of Engineers in the Fox Bay area. The Air Force with their ‘Pucara’ combat aircraft was based in Port Stanley / Puerto Argentino under the command of Brigadier Luis Castellanos.
‘Pucara’ ground-attack aircraft of the Argentine Air Force
“On 12 April, the commander of the Tenth Mechanized Infantry Brigade, General Oscar Jofre, took over as commander of ground troops in the Falklands / Malvinas. I was part of his staff, and, as the most senior officer, was appointed Chief of the Division III-Operations (G3). It fell to our division to carry out studies and to propose a course of action. The order for the commencement of operations was made on 15 April.
“On 24 April, with the arrival of the Third Infantry Brigade and other troops to the islands, it was decided to divide the islands into two sectors. One of the sectors included the Puerto Argentino / Stanley area, the Fressinet peninsula and Port Louis (the Puerto Argentino / Stanley group). The other sector included Darwin, Goose Greens, Port Howard and Fox Bay.
“The command post of the army’s Puerto Argentino / Stanley Group was initially installed at Moody Brook, once the headquarters of the Royal Marines, which was later destroyed by the British during aerial bombardment. Before the attacks, the command post had been moved to Stanley House in Port Stanley / Puerto Argentino.
Moody Brook barracks
“The battle for the Falklands / Malvinas can be split into two phases: the first between 1 and 20 May, which was predominantly aerial, and the second from 21 May to 14 June, which was mainly terrestrial. In the first stage, we had no alternative but to play a game of “wait-and-see” for the British air and naval actions. We reacted from our positions with the modest means at our disposal to neutralise the British attacks, and waited for the Argentine Air Force based in the mainland to strike at the British fleet.
HMS Hermes with ‘Sea Harriers’ onboard
British navy ‘Sea Harriers’
Argentine Navy ‘Super Étendard’ fighter-bombers, refueling en route to attack British targets in the Falkland / Malvinas Islands
“In the second phase, we fought against the British attack insofar as we could, given that we were faced with their superiority, isolation, lack of resources, difficult terrain, poor weather conditions and the aerial attacks we were subjected to throughout the campaign.
British Paratroopers Attacking
“If I were to explain the list of tasks we carried out during the campaign, it would be a very extensive list indeed, but I can attest that the commander of the Port Stanley / Puerto Argentino Group worked extremely hard, with very little rest or relaxation, and, in my case, from the operations tactical centre, mindful of anything that could happen in the area of operations.
“On 14 June, the ceasefire happened and the Argentine forces surrendered. On 17 June, I was transferred by helicopter with other prisoners of war from Port Stanley / Puerto Argentino to a disused refrigeration plant at Ajax Bay, where we stayed until 30 June, when we boarded the ship St. Edmund which was docked in Berkeley Sound. On 13 June, we were told that the ship would be sailing to the mainland and on 14 June, we landed in Puerto Madryn in the province of Chubut.”
“At all times we received considerate treatment by the British forces.”
Colonel Leandro Luis Villegas
Colonel Leandro Luis Villegas is the grandson of Santiago Farrell, who managed the estancia of Siete Arboles in General López, in the province of Santa Fe, Argentina, on behalf of an Irish-descended landowner, Patricio Cunningham (1861-1947). Farrell’s parents had emigrated from Ireland and settled in Venado Tuerto, Santa Fe. Colonel Villegas graduated from the National Military Academy in December 1981 as a Sub-Lieutenant of the Armoured Engineers and, in January 1982, was posted to his first unit, the Ninth Company of Engineers, based in Sarmiento in Chubut.
A newly-Commissioned Officer’s Story: the War in the words of Leandro Villega …
“After finishing instruction on the basic training course for the recent intake of conscripts, we met on 25 March with our head officer, Major Minorini Lima. We were asked to take an oath to not divulge to anyone what he was going to say to us. He gave us the order to prepare our unit to join with the Twenty-Fifth Infantry Regiment, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Seineldin, to partake in the invasion of the Falklands / Malvinas.
Argentine infantry patrolling in the Falklands / Malvinas
“Naturally we were surprised by the news. Immediately we began preparations to go to Comodoro Rivadavia and then fly to the Falklands / Malvinas. We landed in Port Stanley / Puerto Argentino on 2 April at approximately 08:45 hours.
“We stayed at the airport until late afternoon, where we were given orders to board the ship ‘Isla de los Estados’ to be taken to Fox Bay. On boarding the ship, we received the news of the death of Lieutenant Giacchino, the first Argentine fatality in the war. On the journey to Fox Bay East, I shared part of the trip with Lieutenant Estebes, who disembarked at Goose Green. He would later lose his life there, in a battle with the Second British parachute regiment.
ARA Isla de los Estados
2 PARA, Goose Green
“My role in my unit was Chief of Combat Engineers section. On arrival in Fox Bay East, we set up positions on the southwestern part, covering a large beach side village of two kilometres in length. We immediately set about shoring up our positions until 1 May, when we first came under attack. Our position was persistently shelled by the frigates. Thank God we did not suffer serious casualties. As an engineering company, a key part of our job was laying mines along our front line and giving advice to other infantry units on how to install them.
HMS Plymouth hit by four bombs on 8 June at San Carlos Water
‘An interesting story is how the soldiers built pseudo-weapons (for example, anti-aircraft guns) by using the wheels of scrap cars and sewer pipes that civilians had in their garages. The activity was undertaken at night to avoid being observed. It annoyed me as, at the time, I didn’t think they would be useful. But time showed me otherwise, as on many occasions they drew enemy fire. After the war, the British were very surprised that some of coastal defences comprised pseudo-weapons.
“As a younger officer I was proud to carry the flag of the unit. The flag was about to be burned before surrendering, but I took the decision to hide it in my spare underwear. Following our release as prisoners of war and repatriation to Argentina on the ship, the Norland, I discovered it and removed it on landing in the mainland.
“Our treatment as prisoners of war was humane but tough, but as I was twenty-one years old and a professional soldier, it did not affect me that greatly. The great disappointment was not being able to retain the islands and the great loss in human life.”
Argentine captured by British soldiers
Argentine Prisoners of War
Carlos Connell was born in Berisso near La Plata, in the province of Buenos Aires. He is the son of Carlos Esteban Connell, of Irish descent, and Nelida Arun, of Syrian-Lebanese descent. His grandfather, Thomas Connell, and grandmother, Maria Luisa MacAdden, moved to Berisso from Capitán Sarmiento, one of the principle areas of Irish settlement in the province of Buenos Aires. Following graduation from high school in 1980, Connell carried out his civic responsibilities and entered training with the Seventh Mechanised Infantry Regiment in the city of La Plata. Conscription was not abolished in Argentina until 1994, under the presidency of Carlos Menem. He finished his compulsory military service at the end of 1981 and was just about to start a university degree in engineering, when he was called up for service following the outbreak of war in the South Atlantic. He should have been exempt from further service, but because the latest batch of conscripts had not been fully trained, the previous year’s intake was recalled.
On his return from the war, Carlos helped found a veterans centre in La Plata, known as the Centro de Ex-Combatientes Islas Malvinas (CECIM), which assists veterans in finding jobs, accessing state services and securing affordable housing. CECIM is also active on the human rights front by searching for military commanders who mistreated common soldiers. Some officers have already been indicted for such crimes.
A Conscript’s Story: the War in the words of Carlos Connell …
“On Thursday 13 April 1982, we left La Plata for the Falklands / Malvinas, arriving three days later. I was immediately posted to Mount Longdon, a location of strategic importance, northwest of Port Stanley. I spent the whole war there, until 12 June, when we retreated after heavy fighting. We continued fighting until the final surrender of 14 June, after which we were repatriated to Argentina by the British ship Continental Canberra.
“From my impression, the landscape of the Falklands / Malvinas is similar to Ireland, particularly the rock types and the vegetation, but maybe the elevations are not as high as those of Ireland. Mount Longdon is a small rocky outcrop, about 150 metres above sea level, located at twelve to fourteen kilometres towards the northwest of Port Stanley / Puerto Argentino.
“I was a member of Company B of the Seventh Infantry Regiment, and we were supported by a group of the Tenth Regiment of Engineers and an anti-aircraft group of the Fifth Marine Battalion. In total, there were three hundred and ten troops stationed there. Our aim was to form part of a defensive cordon around Port Stanley / Puerto Argentino, the only really important city of the islands.
“The seventy days we spent on Mount Longdon were very challenging. We lived in small tents which accommodated two soldiers. With each passing day, the situation got worse. As the winter wore on, our provisions began to run out. We received more and more British naval bombardment, and we had no change of clothing. Our clothing was usually damp. It really weakened us. To add to the misery, many soldiers were mistreated by their superiors. We had no running water: we had to resort to drinking water from the pools that formed between the rocks. We didn’t have good communication with our families, and our weapons were not great and in some cases inoperable.
“Against this background, on 11 June, the engagement with the British troops took place on Mount Longdon. We were attacked by the Third British parachute regiment at nightfall as we were going to bed. The battle started on the west where we were based, and we fought in hand-to-hand combat with the British troops.
Scots Guards attacking
“It was a tough night. We fought from about 21:00 until the following morning. There were many casualties on both sides. Met by fierce resistance, the British troops pulled back from the western sector of Mount Longdon to re-group.
British combined arms attack
“Following the battle of Mount Longdon, there was a major shift in British strategy. From there on in, the British resorted to artillery attacks by land, sea and air. Our regiment and other Argentine regiments were incessantly bombarded from land, sea and air. Amusingly, we were told to avoid using surnames like mine, for fear that the enemy thought we had taken British prisoners. I was lucky enough to return unscathed.
Killed in Action - Argentine infantry
“In May 2007, on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the war, I went back to the Falklands / Malvinas with a group of eight other Argentine veterans. I had a strong desire to revisit the scene of the battles, and I felt a strong sense of belonging to the islands. Accompanied by a TV crew we toured Port Stanley / Puerto Argentino, where we visited the Argentine war cemetery and other landmarks.”
Argentine war graves in the Falkland / Malvinas Islands
Two of those on the islands during the 1982 Falklands / Malvinas War were Andy Brownlee and Ronnie Quinn. Andy is from Belfast and had just moved to live on the islands. Ronnie is from Buenos Aires, of Irish extraction, and had been conscripted into the Argentine army.
Andy and Ronnie both spoke to Buenos Aires-based, Irish journalist, Paul Byrne about the war and its effect on them.
RTÉ Radio - Raidió Teilifís Éireann – podcast …
Andy Brownlee in a DIY store in Port Stanley
Andy Brownlee leading the Falklands Defence Forces anniversary parade
Port Stanley 2 April 2012
Young Ronnie on the evening before Falklands conflict departure
visiting the Falklands / Malvinas Battlefields and War Graves during 2012
Ronnie Quinn with Micheal O Muircheartaigh
during the Hurling All Stars tour of Argentina 2009
In January 2000 Miguel Savage, an Irish-Argentine veteran of the Falklands / Malvinas War returned to the former positions of the Argentine army above Moody Brook (west of Port Stanley), where he was stationed in June 1982.
Miguel remembers, “The base of the machine gun was surrounded by lethal craters. Nobody could have survived here. We found two 105-mm cannons. It's amazing that one of them was carried by hand by six conscripts and myself four kilometres upwards Moody Brook. We did it in four days. Now they lie there like old dinosaur skeletons”
Britain’s Annual ‘Remembrance Sunday’
Every year, ‘Remembrance Sunday’ (the Sunday closed to the 11th of November) is celebrated in the Falkland Islands capital, Port Stanley with a religious service at Christ Church Cathedral, followed by a veterans’ march to the Cross of Sacrifice, the Memorial to all those who have laid down their lives for Britain during war, where a public service of remembrance and thanksgiving is held. The customary two minutes of silence is signalled by the firing of artillery, manned by members of the local Falkland Islands Defence Force (British army reservists).
Falklands Liberation Day
To mark the anniversary of the liberation of the Falkland Islands from Argentine occupation in 1982, the elected government of the Islands has made 14 June a Public Holiday. A ‘thanksgiving service’ is held in Port Stanley’s Christ Church Cathedral.
Christ Church Cathedral
This is followed by a parade, which includes: members of the Royal Navy; the Falkland Islands Defence Force; British Army; and Royal Air Force. The Royal British Legion and Associations and Youth Groups also attend, as well as veterans of the 1982 war.
At 11.00am a ceremony is held at the Liberation Monument in front of the Secretariat building. After prayers the British Governor of the Falklands lays a wreath. Wreaths are also laid by a Member of the Legislative Assembly, senior military officers; veterans associations; and by veterans’ relatives; and others wishing to do so.
People attending the Liberation Day ceremonies usually wear their military medals and decorations.
A public reception hosted by the Falkland Islands Government, is held in the Town Hall afterwards.
British Veterans return for to the Falklands / Malvinas for wreath-laying ceremony
Malvinas Day / Día de Malvinas
‘Day of the Veterans and Fallen of the Malvinas War’ (Día del Veterano de Guerra y de los Caídos en la Guerra de las Malvinas), is a Public Holiday in Argentina, celebrated each year on the 2nd of April. The holiday is a tribute to Argentina's soldiers killed in the Falklands / Malvinas War (Guerra de las Malvinas), which began with the Argentine occupation of the islands on 2 April 1982. A total of 649 Argentines, 633 military and 16 civilian, lost their lives during the 74-day occupation.
Malvinas veterans’ annual commemoration parade in Argentina
The cremated remains of Fernando Juan Casado, an Argentine flag, and his sword being presented to his family, long after the Falklands / Malvinas War
Fernando Casado and his BMK 62 Canberra bomber were shot down on 13 June 1982, the day before the end of the conflict, but his remains were not found until 1986, and were returned to Argentina by the British in 2008.
This last Argentine Air Force mission was conducted by two Canberra bombers escorted by two Mirage III fighters. The aircraft departed from Rio Gallegos to bomb Port Harriet House at 21:30 hours, but only one of the bombers returned. Fernando Casado’s companion on the ill-fated Canberra was Roberto Pastrán, who managed to eject and parachute to safety, and was captured by the British. The Canberra was shot down by a ‘Sea Dart’ missile from HMS Exeter in FitzRoy. The following day Argentine forces surrendered in Port Stanley.
Falklands / Malvinas War Memorial
Plaza San Martín, Buenos Aires
Falklands / Malvinas War Memorial
Plaza San Martín, Buenos Aires
“Lest We forget”