The Falkland Islands Defence Force – a brief history
The origins of the Falkland Islands Defence Force (FIDF) can be traced back as far as 30 December 1847 when Lt Richard Clement Moody, RE, the first Governor of the Falkland Islands, formed what he called "the Militia Force of the Falkland Islands". The Force consisted of mounted and artillery corps, plus two infantry platoons. The nominal role of the force shows many names of early settlers whose descendants still live in the Falklands Islands, some of whom are current members of the FIDF
In the period following its formation in 1847 it appears the Force declined, probably due to lack of regular training. The Crimean War, however, provided a good reason to again look to the defence of the Islands, mainly due to the possibility of aggression from Russian warships and privateers. In 1854 Governor Rennie reformed the volunteer force.
In June a Chilean steamer called the Maipo belonging to the Revolutionary party in Chile's Civil War arrived in Port William to effect engine repairs. There were over 200 fully armed soldiers and sailors onboard, and the risk to security prompted Governor Sir Roger Goldsworthy to form (reform) an armed body of volunteers. The first body of 37 volunteers were sworn in at Government House on 13th 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 (WWI) 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 1st December 1914, eight Volunteers lost their lives in the Canache while on active service. The men drowned when their boat overturned.
On 8th December, 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 WWI Memorial on the seafront of Stanley. During WWI, 36 Falkland Islanders (many of them members of the FI Volunteers), enrolled with His Majesty's Forces. Ten lost their lives during service overseas. During this period the local government also invested heavily in the Force. The Military estimate for 1915 totalled £10,000, this being the highest expenditure on any one government department in that year.
In 1919, the FI Volunteers was ordered to stand down from active service and resume a peace-time training routine.
On the 13th December 1920, the Falkland Islands Defence Force was formed from the Volunteer Corps.
In 1931 on the recomendation of Captain C.E.C Ransome Royal Marines visiting the island on HMS Danae the Defence Force addopted Royal Marine Blue Dress Uniforms for ceremonial duties. This style of uniform is still in use today.
During the 1930’s several Force members attended training in the UK, this included Training and Instruction on Costal Artilery, Vickers Machine Gun training and Drill Instruction and Physical training courses.
During the Second World War the FIDF was used to man military defensive outposts throughout the Islands. At this time, the FIDF included Costal Artillery and Mounted Infantry Units. It is not known how many Falkland Islanders travelled north to join HM's Forces during WWII, but it is believed that approximately 150 joined HM services and 23 were killed in action. During the war the FIDF worked closely with the Garrison Regiments, the West Yorkshire Regiment (Prince of Wales Own) and the Royal Scots. At midnight on 2nd July 1945, the FIDF reverted to peace-time establishment. No hostilities reached the Falklands during the 1939-45 War, although ships returned to Stanley after the Battle of the River Plate with their damage and wounded. Several sailors that died as a result of the battle are buried in Stanley.
In June, 13 members of the FIDF took part in the Victory Parade in London.
From 1952 until 1982 there was a Royal Marine presence in the Falkland Island, from the mid 1960s until 1982, the FIDF received training assistance from the Royal Marines this resumed in 2004 with a WO2 Royal Marine PSI being attached to the Force.
On 28 September, the Falkland Islands became the site of one of the world's first airplane hijacking incident. 19 armed Argentine extremists hijacked a DC-4 aircraft during an internal flight in Argentina and landed on the 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. Using a combination of food, water, heat and sleep deprivation tactics, they successfully 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, a light aircraft from Argentina landed illegally on Eliza Cove Road. The FIDF was again deployed to contain the incursion, however this time the passengers were unarmed Argentine journalists.
1982 and the Falklands Conflict
On 1 April, the FIDF was mobilized (along with Royal Marine NP8901), to defend the Falkland Islands from a full-scale Argentine invasion. On the morning of 2 April the Governor, Sir Rex Hunt, ordered the FIDF and Royal Marines to lay down their arms. The Argentines seized all equipment belonging to the FIDF and declared it to be an illegal organisation. Several members of the FIDF were arrested by the Argentines and sent to Fox Bay where they remained under house arrest for the duration of the war. Members of the FIDF, along with many other FI residents, provided assistance to British Forces during the struggle to liberate the Falkland Islands that ended with the Argentine surrender on 14 June 1982.
FIDF was reformed in 1983. The reformed FIDF is entirely funded by the Falkland Islands Government and follows British Military doctrine in training and operations.
Members of the FIDF received training with Royal Navy establishments in the UK in the operation and maintenance of an Oerlikon 7 Alpha 20mm cannon, board and search and various other skills associated with Fisheries protection duties. Subsequently the FIDF was able to give the Falkland Islands Government Fisheries Department the capability of mounting armed deterrence against illegal fishing activity within the Falklands Conservation Zones.
In mid September the FIDF marched from their old premises on John Street to the newly built Headquarters on the South East side of Stanley.
A small detachment of serving and retired FIDF personnel took part in the Ceremony in London to commemorate the 25th Anniversary of the 1982 Falklands War.
1st December 2018 Major Peter Biggs retired after 35 years Service and Major Justin McPhee took over command of the Force.
The FIDF undertook a modernisation program to update and modernise equipment and enhance compatibility with UK forces. The force retired its Steyr AUG assault rifle system and adopted the UK L85A2 weapon systems and upgraded a wide range of combat equipment. Members of the Force visited DSEI 2019 in London to gain a greater understanding of the latest military equipment
In October, Major Justin McPhee became the first Defence Force Officer to attend the UK Defence Academy and successfully completed the UK Intermediate Command & Staff Course (Land Reserve).
The Force is configured to undertake a full range of light infantry roles with training expertise is provided by a Royal Marine Warrant Officer, employed as a Permanent Staff Instructor through a secondment arrangement with UK MOD. FIDF Soldiers work closely alongside personnel from British Forces South Atlantic Islands and can undertake military training courses in the UK.
The Force supports the local community by providing mountain rescue capability and trained Search and Rescue teams and provides support to the Falkland Islands Government in times of disaster or emergency.