Falkland Islands Defence Force
On the 1st of April 1982 the Falkland Islands Defence Force was mobilised by the then Governor Mr. Rex Hunt to join the Royal Marines of Naval Party 8901 in response to the reports of an imminent Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands.
Below is a the roll call of those men of the Defence Force who turned out to do their duty and defend their country.
Again these men, on Sunday April 1st 2007, exactly 25 years ago to the day they were "mobilised", but this time not to bear arms but parade through the streets of Stanley to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the 'callout' and to honour the British Forces and civilians of whom many made the ultimate sacrifice whilst Liberating the Falkland Islands from Argentine aggressors.
The service of remembrance and commemoration was held at the Liberation Monument in the centre of Stanley.
After the parade and service, veterans and wives attended a reception at Government House, hosted by his Excellency the Governor and Mrs Huckle, where these veterans were presented with commemorative badges.
The Falkland Islands Defence Force – a brief history
As a response to the possibility of aggression from Russian warships and privateers during the Crimean War in 1854 Governor Rennie formed the first Falkland Islands volunteer force. The force, although not officially titled but sometimes called the ‘Stanley Volunteers’, was the forerunner of the Falkland Islands Volunteers, which subsequently became the Falkland Islands Defence Force (FIDF).
In June 1891 a Chilean steamer called the ‘Maipo’ entered Port William. The vessel belonged to the revolutionary party in the Chilean civil war and called into Port William ostensibly to carry our engine repairs. Because the vessel had over 200 fully armed soldiers ands sailors aboard it was considered a risk to the security of the Islands. In a quick but measured response to the perceived threat the Governor, Sir Roger Goldsworthy, formed an armed body of volunteers. The first 37 recruits, known as the Falkland Islands Volunteers, were sworn in at Government House on 13 th June 1892. Training assistance was obtained from the UK in the form of Sergeant William Quianlan of the Royal Marines. Sgt Quianlan served with the Falkland Islands Volunteers from 1892 to 1895 and during that time was given an award for bravery for rescuing two seamen from drowning in Stanley harbour.
During the First World War the Colony of the Falkland Islands was placed on a war footing and the Falkland Islands Volunteers were mobilised for service in military outposts positioned around Stanley. On 8 th December 1914 the smoke of a German fleet was spotted by one of the outposts and subsequently the outpost on Sappers Hill provided valuable information on the movement of the vessels. The end result was the resounding victory of the Battle of the Falklands. This event is commemorated each year by a parade that is held at the WW1 memorial on the seafront of Stanley. During WW1, 36 Islanders, many of them members of the FI Volunteers, enrolled with His Majesty’s Armed Forces. 10 lost their lives during service overseas.
By 1919 the FI Volunteers was ordered to stand down. Later that same year the name of the force was changed to the Falkland Islands Defence Force (FIDF).
During WW2 the FIDF was again used to man military defensive outposts throughout the Islands. At this time the FIDF included a horse mounted rifle unit. It is not known how many Falkland Islanders travelled north to join HM Armed Forces during WW2, but is believed that approximately 150 joined various services. 23 were killed in action. During the war the FIDF worked closely with the West Yorkshire Regiment (Prince of Wales Own) and the Royal Scots.
From 1952 until 1982 there was a Royal Marines presence in the Falkland Islands and the FIDF consequently adopted RM drill and a dress uniform similar to RM blues. From the mid sixties until 1982 the FIDF received training assistance from the Royal Marines.
On 28 th September 1966 the Falkland Islands became the site of one of the world’s first aircraft hijacking incidents. 19 armed Argentine extremists hi-jacked a DC4 aircraft during an internal flight in Argentina and landed on Stanley Racecourse. Their intention was to stage a symbolic invasion of the Falkland Islands. The Royal Marines and the FIDF, reinforced with ex FIDF members and contractors, encircled the aircraft and using a combination of food, water, heat and sleep deprivation tactics, forced the terrorists to surrender without loss of life.
Following this incident the FIDF was put on heightened alert and a section was held on permanent standby until February 1967.
In November 1968 a light aircraft from Argentina landed illegally on the Eliza Cove Road – the FIDF was again deployed to contain the incursion, however this time the passengers were unarmed Argentine journalists.
On 1 st April 1982 the FIDF was mobilized along with the Royal Marines of (Naval Party) NP8901, to defend the Falkland Islands from a full scale Argentine Invasion. On the morning of 2 nd April, the Governor, Sir Rex Hunt, ordered the FIDF and the Royal Marines to surrender. The Argentines seized all equipment belonging to the FIDF and declared it an illegal organization. Several members of the FIDF were arrested by the Argentines and sent to Fox Bay (a settlement on West Falkland) where they remained under house arrest until the Argentine surrender
The FIDF was reformed in 1983. Today the FIDF is entirely funded by the Falkland Islands Government and follows British Army doctrine in training and operations. The Force is modelled on an infantry company (light role), and two of its main strengths are local knowledge and the capability of rapid deployment using Landrovers, quad bikes and rigid raiders. Recent modernization includes reconfiguring the Force into sniper/recce, machine gun, close combat, amphibious and logistic support units, coordinated by a central command. The Force supports the local community by providing a mountain rescue capability and trained search and rescue teams.
In 1999 members of the FIDF received training with Royal Navy establishments in the UK in the operation and maintenance of the Oerlikon 7 Alpha 20mm canon, board and search and various other skills associated with fisheries protection units. Subsequently the FIDF has given the Falkland Islands Government Fisheries Department the capability of mounting armed deterrence against illegal fishing activity within the Falkland Islands conservation zones.
The FIDF is armed with the Steyr AUG assault rifle and light support weapons system, together with GPMGs (General Purpose Machine Guns) and .5 heavy machine guns. The Force has excellent support equipment and night vision capability, together with a state-of-the-art communications system (Panther EDR) that has the capability of giving secure communications, global positioning system interface and in-field email. In general terms the FIDF is very well equipped and now has the benefit of a new headquarters from which to train; however its greatest asset is undoubtedly the dedication and professionalism of the volunteers that give their time in order to serve their country.
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