The Falkland Islands


CONFIDENTIAL

Ministry of Defence
London, England WC32

FLTC-660
1 April 1982

MOD Order 10482

Robert William Campbell Fraser
Lieutenant Commander, Royal New Zealand Navy
c/o Foss Launch & Tug Company
660 West Ewing Street
Seattle, Washington 98119
United States of America

Reference:  (A) MOD Directive 33182

In accordance with Reference A, you are hereby recalled to active service in support of Her Majesty’s Naval Forces efforts to regain control of the Falkland Islands.

As soon as practicable, and not later than 12 April 1982, you are directed to proceed to Port Stanley, Falkland Islands, where you will assume the duties of Commandant of the Falkland Islands, with the rank of Captain, Royal Navy.

Your duties will be to assemble all military forces remaining in Port Stanley and hold position until formally relieved by Her Majesty’s forces.

Upon successful cessation of hostilities, you will be released to inactive service with the rank of Captain, Royal Navy, and the honorary title of Commodore.

By special dispensation from the President of the United States, your service in support of the Crown will not alter your United States citizenship status.

(signature)
John Nott
Secretary of State for Defence

———————————————————————–

So reads a letter, in triplicate, that I recently discovered among my father’s papers.  I didn’t have any memory of him heading out of the country urgently in early 1982 (this would have been two months before I graduated high school, and at the time I was not in Seattle, but San Mateo in California).  I was pretty sure that if he had rushed off to take command of military forces in the Falklands at the outbreak of the conflict, I would have known about that.  The letter appeared genuine.  It’s clearly typed on paper that is aged about right to be from 1982, and in an envelope that is similarly aged.  I don’t know what John Nott‘s signature is supposed to look like, but he was indeed Secretary of State for Defence in the British government at the outbreak of the Falklands War.

So I asked my father, “What is this?  Were you called up for service in 1982?”  His response:  “Oh, that.  I assumed it was a practical joke and ignored it.”  And of course, it has to have been a joke.  The letterhead is missing the Ministry of Defence logo.  There are no accompanying details about orders or disbursement of funds or exactly how he was to get himself to Port Stanley at a time when Argentina was pretty much blockading the place.  And why exactly would the Royal Navy call upon an ex-reserve officer who had been out of the service for about twenty years, and New Zealand’s Navy at that, and was now living as a private citizen in the United States?  To take command, of all things?  Surely the Royal Navy must have had an active duty commander available; surely they wouldn’t be quite that desperate.

Still, what if it wasn’t a joke?  What if it was real, absurd as it sounded?  My next question, then, was “Well, did you check it out?  Did you follow up, or contact anyone at the Ministry of Defence?”  No, he did not.  He just filed the letter away and ignored it.  He assumed one of his sons (not I) had concocted it.  What if?  Thirty years later, and could he be considered derelict in his duty?  Surely not.

I asked my brother Rob what he knew about it, and he had no memory of the letter.  It wasn’t him.  Not his style, in any case.

1 April 1982.  April 1st.  An April Fools joke, surely.

As it happens, at midnight that night, April 1st, is when Argentine amphibious troops began landing on the islands, and as the buildup to this event had occurred over the previous few months, British forces were already steaming toward them.  By the end of the next day, London was telexing to find out what happened:

LON (London): HELLO THERE WHAT ARE ALL THESE RUMOURS WE HEAR THIS IS LON
FK (Falklands): WE HAVE LOTS OF NEW FRIENDS
LON: WHAT ABOUT INVASION RUMOURS
FK: THOSE ARE THE FRIENDS I WAS MEANING
LON: THEY HAVE LANDED
FK: ABSOLUTELY
LON: ARE YOU OPEN FOR TRAFFIC IE NORMAL TELEX SERVICE
FK: NO ORDERS ON THAT YET ONE MUST OBEY ORDERS
LON: WHOSE ORDERS
FK: THE NEW GOVERNORS
LON: ARGENTINA
FK: YES
LON: ARE THE ARGENTINIANS IN CONTROL
FK: YES YOU CAN’T ARGUE WITH THOUSANDS OF TROOPS PLUS ENORMOUS NAVY SUPPORT WHEN YOU ARE ONLY 1600 STRONG. STAND BY.
–Duncan, Andrew, The Falklands War, Marshall Cavendish Books Limited, ISBN 1-84415-429-7

In retrospect, I am convinced the letter was indeed an April Fools joke, although the timing was propitious and the invasion was certainly no joke.  Indeed, the whole thing has the feel of the work of my other brother, Peter.  The attention to detail in the letter would be just right for him, as would the idea in the first place.  I wish I could ask him about it now, but of course that’s impossible.

Peter died in 1996.

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Published by

Matt Fraser

Writer of books, teller of stories. Science fiction author. Sailor, hiker, traveler, computer geek.

2 thoughts on “The Falkland Islands”

  1. Hi i just came across your article and find very interesting the date of it . If was for sure deliver on the 1st of April 1982 who send it have very good sources of information , the operation over the Malvinas ( oginial name of the called Falklands ) was a secret know just for a few in Argentina until April 2nd and for the us military who told UK about Argentina imminent military operation .

    Like

    1. Hi Andrés, yes, the date would be very interesting, and of course it supports the proposition that the letter was in fact an elaborate April Fools Joke being played on my father by my older brother Peter. I cannot know now on what date my father actually received the letter, but if it had been genuinely mailed from Britain on the 1st it would have been at least a few days later before arrival in Seattle. By this time much of the world would have known about the invasion and the British response, so the details within would have been available to add to a back-dated forgery.

      My father did leave the Royal New Zealand Navy (not the Royal Navy) as a Lieutenant Commander, but it was twenty years prior to this event. By the time of the Falklands/Malvinas conflict he had emigrated to and become a citizen of the United States, and he would have had even less ability to respond to events in the southern hemisphere than the British forces steaming across the Atlantic. No doubt, however, the letter played upon his romantic ideals of himself as a naval officer. He always harbored a minor hidden regret at having left the Navy at the time he did, but he did so in order to put family first.

      Thank you for your interest in and comment upon my little story here.

      Like

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