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Falklands 40: What Portsmouth Saw

2022 marked 40 years since Argentine and British troops fought to gain control over the Islas Malvinas or Falkland Islands. The ten-week conflict started on 2nd April 1982 and ended on 14th June when Argentina surrendered.

Falklands 40: What Portsmouth Saw, our temporary exhibition at Fort Nelson marks the 40th anniversary of the Falklands War. It depicts Portsmouth during the war from the point of view of the local Portsmouth newspaper, The News and features moving stories from Falkland War veterans.

HMS Intrepid in the water with a group of boats

HMS Intrepid returns to Portsmouth from the Falkland Islands. Credit: The News

What Portsmouth saw

Portsmouth played a significant part in the Falklands War. Thousands of Portsmouth dockyard workers rallied to prepare ships that carried British troops to the Falkland Islands.

Later, images of the Dockyard became front page news as huge crowds flocked to welcome the ships and troops back once the war was over. They show some of the scenes that played out in 1982 as the ships of the British fleet returned from the Falkland Islands to Portsmouth Dockyard after the war.

The homecomings

Portsmouth City Archive were contacted by the Royal Armouries team who were looking for photographs of Portsmouth at the time of the Falklands War. We found a treasure trove of negatives containing images of the Dockyard. The negatives, taken by journalists for local paper, The News, featured families, crowds, ships and homecoming banners.

Every emotion was visible on the pictures, and we knew we would like to share them with our visitors to help us tell the story of the part Portsmouth played in the war.

Falklands War veterans’ stories

In April 2022, as part of the Falklands 40: What Portsmouth Saw exhibition, 10 Falklands War veterans visited Fort Nelson and shared their stories with us. We spoke about their time in combat and the return home. Some sailed into Portsmouth and were greeted by tens of thousands, others had smaller welcome parties. All told fascinating and moving stories, which can be seen in the videos below.

The weapons of the war

As a much richer and more powerful nation, Britain entered the war with more and better aircraft, ships and missile systems than Argentina.

Despite this, the soldiers fighting on the ground were armed with weapons that were virtually identical and equally effective. Even the same ammunition was used.

This meant that firearms were not a deciding factor in this conflict, but they did create common ground for the soldiers of each side. They knew exactly how their enemy’s weapons worked and what their capabilities were. If necessary, they could even pick them up and use them.

The image below shows an example of one of these firearms in our collection.

L1A1 Self-Loading Rifle

The powerful and tough Belgian FN FAL rifle was adopted by many nations during the 1950s. This is the British version, known as the L1A1 ‘Self-Loading Rifle’ or ‘SLR’. Argentina’s version could fire automatically, like a machine gun, but it kicked so hard that it was hard to control.

Centrefire self-loading military rifle - SLR, L1 A1

Centrefire self-loading military rifle – SLR, L1 A1. PR.5223

Zoomable images give a closer look at the rifle in collection catalogue entry for this rifle, a centrefire self-loading military rifle – SLR, L1 A1.

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