THE FALKLAND ISLANDS conflict saw the UK successfully reclaim the territory from invading Argentine forces during the 1982 war, but the fiery clash involved other parties, including France, who offered support to Buenos Aires as they took on British troops.
France’s contribution to the war had been perceived as an incredibly helpful one to the UK, with Secretary of State for Defence Sir John Nott lauding the friendship between London and Paris at the time. He said in his memoirs that France was the UK’s “greatest ally”, but formerly secret papers obtained by the BBC in 2012 show that Paris may have courted both sides during the conflict.
In May 1982, Exocet missiles were used by the Argentine forces in an airstrike against British vessels HMS Sheffield and Atlantic Conveyor.
The strike killed 32 people, marking a low point in the ultimately successful reclamation effort.
These missiles were sold to Argentina by France before the war, at a time when war was not thought to be an imminent threat.
The weapons deal came before France’s early support for Britain in the conflict, with Paris placing an embargo on weapons sales and support for Argentina.
As the BBC highlights, France also granted the UK forces the use of French port facilities in West Africa, as well as providing London with detailed information about planes and weaponry the country had sold to Buenos Aires.
The decision by the then French President, Francois Mitterrand, to offer Britain help aided those in London massively, some of his compatriots were furious.
France’s then ambassador to London, Emmanuel de Margerie, described British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher as “Victorian, imperialist and obstinate” in a scathing document.
He added Mrs Thatcher had a “tendency to get carried away by combative instincts”.
Another document titled ‘The Falklands: Lessons from a Fiasco’, French official Bernard Dorin referred to Britain’s superpower arrogance.”
He also levelled an accusation that the British had “profound contempt for Latinos”.
In another document entitled The Falklands: Lessons from a Fiasco, senior French official Bernard Dorin accused Britain of “superpower arrogance” and claimed the country had shown “profound contempt for Latinos”.
Despite Paris placing an embargo on weapons sales to Buenos Aires, the BBC revealed a team from France worked in the Falklands during the war and carried out tests that ensured the missiles in the Argentinian hands would fire.
When three of them failed, the team fixed the issue, and the missiles that would then be used on British troops were once again fully functional.
A total of 659 Argentine and 253 British troops died during the conflict which took place between April and June 1982.