The Falkands Yomper, 1982

On 2 April 1982, after a period of rising tension, Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands. Although Argentina viewed the islands as theirs, the islanders, almost all of British descent, did not want to be ruled by the junta in Buenos Aires. Britain sent a naval task force that would ultimately consist of  38 warships, 77 merchant and auxiliary vessels, 11,000 military personal, and 261 aircraft. The Argentineans were already numerically superior and the United States believed that the British were attempting ‘mission impossible’, a view shared by many in the British Ministry of Defence.

The British public was overwhelming behind the deployment, but the government had learnt from the lessons of Vietnam War and worried that the support would wither away if some bad news from the front reached home. Thus, all the significant news, good or bad, were censored or at least delayed; in those days before internet, the reporters had to use the Royal Navy carriers to send their reports back home, which made the task easier. Only two photographers were onboard the task force too — one from Press Association and one from the right-wing Daily Express. Don McCullin was refused accreditation, and there were no pictures for 54 of the 74 days the conflict lasted.

In their place were jingoistic headlines: Yomp, Rejoice, I Counted Them All Out, I Counted Them All Back, Invasion, In We Go, Stick It Up Your Junta and the most egregiously of all, Gotcha. Yet some memorable images did come out of the conflict: the surrender taken by Rafael Wollmann, the departure of the fleet, the Belgrano, the camouflaged Max Hastings, the reconstructed face of Simon Weston, burial of the dead at Goose Green, and Argentinian prisoners with P&O cruise labels around their necks.

Most reprinted image associated withthe conflict was above: the photo taken by Petty Officer Peter Holdgate, Commando Forces Photographer. It showed 24 year old Corporal Peter Robinson ‘yomping’, the Royal Marine slang for a long distance march carrying full kit. It was June 14, 1982, the final hours of the war. There were already rumors that the white flags were flying in Stanley and the Argentinians had surrendered. As the Royal Marines proceeded along the Moody Brook track towards Port Stanley, Robinson took a Union Flag from from the marine in front of him and attached it to the aerial of his radio with masking tape. Holdgate, eager to capture an image for the magazine of the Royal Marines, Globe and Laurel, took a picture as the flag billowed in a gust of wind.

It was used by every British national newspaper, including The Sun which used its as its Falklands War logo. On the 10th anniversary of the occasion, Mrs. Thatcher unveiled a statue in front of the Royal Marines Museum honoring this iconic moment.

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