ROBERT Gordon, a former Ambassador to Burma then to Vietnam was the British Embassy press secretary in Santiago, Chile in 1982 with a ringside seat of the Falklands conflict. He gave his audience an overall view, explaining that Argentina had recently experienced a major economic downturn which made its ruler, General Galtieri very unpopular. He and the Navy Chief Admiral Anaya proposed to restore the junta’s fortunes by seizing the Malvinas (their name for the Falklands). They thought that Britain had lost interest in the Falklands and would only make a token gesture to regain them. But they misread Margaret Thatcher, although she too was unpopular for her measures to cure an arthritic British economy, she was a strong believer in the right of self-determination for the Falkland islanders. Despite many in America thinking Britain would lose, President Regan came in on Britain’s side.

The conflict started when some Argentine scrap-merchants raised the Argentine flag in South Georgia. This persuaded Admiral Anaya to bring forward the plans to occupy the Falklands. The tiny resident force of 50 Royal Marines put up some armed resistance around Government House in an effort to protect the Governor Rex Hunt but it was soon all over. Within two days a Royal Naval task force including two aircraft carriers, six submarines, 60 other warships and 46 merchant ships set off for the South Atlantic.

After a number of questions and comments Robert was warmly thanked, then joined his audience for an enjoyable lunch.

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