Falklands remembers 34th anniversary of Margaret Thatcher’s first visit to the Islands
The Falkland Islands government remembered on Tuesday. the 34th anniversary of the first visit of ex prime minister Margaret Thatcher to the Islands. Flowers were laid by the Falklands government office representative in London, Sukey Cameron, MBE.Flowers laid to mark #MargaretThatcherDay #Falklands. 10th January 1983 she first visited the Islands.@FalklandsGov.
The British prime minister visited the Falklands for four days in January 1983 to mark the 150th anniversary of the establishment of a permanent British settlement. The trip was also less than eight months after the end of the conflict and was considered top secret, according to UK government files released twenty years later.
The prime minister was flown by the RAF to Ascension Island before being taken on a Hercules plane, which had to be refueled mid flight, to Port Stanley. Information about the visit was only shared with a handful of staff at Number 10 and press officers were briefed to tell the media that Mrs. Thatcher was going to Chequers for the weekend.
Instead the prime minister and her husband Dennis were whisked to RAF Brize Norton, from where she boarded the plane, and it was only announced when Mrs. Thatcher, later Baroness Thatcher, arrived on the Falklands safely.
After being sent a provisional program for the visit, Mrs. Thatcher was asked if she would be prepared to lay an artificial poppy wreath, as “I doubt if anything else will arrive in a reasonable condition”. She replied “will consider”.
And when asked “would you like to give a good Stilton each to the civil and military commissioners or take some smoked salmon for one of the drinks parties?” She wrote “on reflection – unnecessary”.
On the schedule which included some free time and which was later amended, one civil servant wrote: “the Prime Minister is not a great one for spare time in such visits”.
Details of a spat between the BBC and ITN of the pooling of footage from the trip are also revealed in the files. In effect the prime minister’s chief press officer, Bernard Ingham, was furious the BBC did not make film and soundtrack of the visit freely available to other networks.
A telegram in the file states he regarded the BBC’s behavior as “childish”, “stupid in the extreme and therefore deeply offensive”. He banned further filming until the BBC guaranteed “full pooling which was precisely the basis on which we intended to operate”.
The files also contain letters of thanks from Falkland Islanders to the prime minister and details of gifts she received, which included new potatoes, a lambskin, stamps, a handmade metal penguin, ashtrays, a sweatshirt and an enameled box.
It also contains her letters of thanks, including one to Sir Rex Hunt, Governor of the Falkland Islands, and his wife, Lady Hunt in which the prime minister wrote: “You will know as well as anyone how much the Falkland Islands have been in my heart and thoughts over the last year.
“I was deeply touched by the warmth and kindness of the welcome I received everywhere I went and from everyone I met”, underlined Mrs. Thatcher.
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