Argentine Forces land on South Georgia
The 19th of March 1982 AD
Before March 1982 only a few British people had heard of South Georgia: maybe those who love poring over maps; those who had an interest in Shackleton ’s voyages; and a few involved with scientific work in the Antarctic. But after the invasion of the islands by Argentine forces suddenly South Georgia was thrust into the limelight.
As with the Falkland Islands so with South Georgia, sovereignty was disputed (and still is) between Britain and Argentina: a London merchant was the first to see South Georgia in the 17th century; James Cook was the first to set a landing party ashore; and the British had claimed the uninhabited land and administered it since the mid-19th century in principle and since 1908 in more practical terms. Argentina had via a fishing company been the first to exploit the area commercially in 1904, though under licence from the British.
The landing on March 19 was a less than glorious affair. The Argentine naval transport Bahia Buen Suceso dropped off a party of 41 ‘scrap metal workers’ in civilian clothes, purportedly working for Constantino Davidoff, an Argentine scrap metal dealer who had bought the rights to three ancient whaling stations at Leith on South Georgia back in 1979. Once ashore the party donned uniforms and ran their national flag up at the uninhabited spot, the first act of aggression in the Falklands War.
Shortly afterwards more Argentine troops landed. The British government was taken by surprise (though warnings from various sources including the Captain of the patrol ship HMS Endurance had been given), and did not release news of the act for two days, dashing round trying to find out what was going on and how to avoid conflict – and ridicule.
At the start of April the Argentines (suddenly ‘Argies’ in the tabloid press) took the rest of the territory, just after they took the Falklands on April 2 . The occupation was, however, short-lived, Royal Marines taking back the islands on April 25 and 26, with only brief resistance from the invaders.
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