Tactical Intelligence in the Falklands Campaign
- Giles Orpen-Smellie
15th June 2022
On 2 April 1982, Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands. The British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, was determined that Argentina’s seizure of British sovereign territory would not stand. A Task Force, led by the Royal Navy, was ordered to the South Atlantic to recover the Falklands. The campaign that followed became a remarkable chapter in British military history.
This book gives a ‘warts and all’ description of Giles Orpen-Smellie’s experience, as a battalion intelligence officer, of how battlefield or tactical intelligence, relevant at battalion level during the battles ashore, was collected and assessed to develop a picture of the Argentine defenders. He explains what information was known at the time, the gaps in that information and how the information that was available influenced decisions. He goes on to compare what he believed he knew in 1982 with what he now believes to have been a rather different reality.
The South Atlantic was the last place on earth that Britain had expected to mount a military operation. Consequently, almost no peacetime contingency planning had been done. The campaign that followed, widely regarded as an efficient and spectacular British success, was actually a much closer-run thing than had been realised when Argentine forces on the Falklands surrendered on 14 June 1982. The British victory was won by a bloody-minded determination to ‘muddle through’ and get the job done with boldness and risk-taking overcoming the previous lack of planning and preparation. It was this determination that gave the British their edge. However, the harsh school of conflict exposed some gaps in British military training and capabilities. Tactical intelligence was one of those gaps and this book describes how tactical intelligence almost became an Achilles heel in what was otherwise an impressive British military operation.