The Refuse of War, 40 Years on

On 14 June 1982, the two-brigade-sized British Army and Marine force secured the final defeat of a reinforced division-sized Argentine military element in the Falkland Islands.

Original telex message from Major-General Sir Jeremy Moore to London announcing the recapture of the Falkland Islands, 14 June 1982. The signal, marking the end of the Falklands War (1982), is based in part on a similar surrender signal sent to Winston Churchill by Field Marshal Montgomery from North West Europe in May 1945. NAM. 2013-11-17-1

As the Argentines were quickly repatriated, sans equipment and arms (except for being able to march off with their unit flags while the officers, in an ode to chivalry, kept their sidearms) the invaders left behind a lot of gear that became the property of the Crown.

A rubber-booted SAS man, armed with an M16, inspects captured Argentine weapons in the Falklands. In his hands is an American-made M3 Grease Gun SMG. The pile includes a 90mm M20 “Super bazooka,” assorted FN FAL rifles, and other items, now all “property of the Queen.”  

Captured Argentinian firearms following their surrender. Note the FALs and FN MAG 58s

A Royal Marine Commando very happy with his second-hand Argentine M20 3.5-inch Super Bazooka, of U.S. origins

The haul included:

100 Mercedes-Benz MB 1112/13/14 trucks (Which the Argentines bought on credit and did not pay West Germany for)
20 Unimogs
20 Mercedes-Benz G-Class jeeps
12 French Panhard ERV 90mm armored cars
1 SAM Roland launcher
4 SAM Tigercat launchers
1 Improvised shore-based Exocet ASM launcher with four missiles
3 CITER 155mm L33 Guns
10 Oto Melara Mod 56 105mm pack guns along with 11,000 shells
15 120mm RCLs with rockets
15 Oerlikon twin 35mm GDF and Rheinmetall twin 20mm air defense cannons
1 AN/TPS-43 3D mobile air search radar
10 Skyguard, Super Fledermaus, ELTA, and RASIT AAA fire control radars
Over 90 (British-made!) Blowpipe MANPAD SAMs
Assorted Soviet-made SA-7 MANPADs (120 supplied to Buenos Aries in late May by Gaddafi’s Libya)
11 FMA IA 58 Pucará COIN aircraft, formerly of the Argentine Air Force, many destroyed on the ground by SAS
2 former Army Agusta A109
7 former Army Bell UH-1H Iroquois
1 Army CH-47C Chinook
1 Aérospatiale Puma SA330L in Argentine Coast Guard markings
3 Argentine Navy Aermacchi MB.339A trainers
11,000 small arms, mostly FN FAL variants, as well as assorted M1911 and Browning Hi-Power clones
Over 500 assorted machine guns, usually FN MAG 58 variants but also some M2 .50 cals
4 million 7.62 NATO rounds
The Argentine Coast Guard Z-28-class patrol boat Islas Malvinas (GC82)
Plus lots of interesting night vision goggles, thermal imagers, portable radars, EW, and commo equipment

As the FALs were select-fire metric variants rather than UK-standard L1A1 inch-pattern semi-autos, they did not mesh with the British supply train and were mostly discarded– dumped at sea in the deepwater offshore.

The horror…

Some rumors persist that at least a few container loads were clandestinely given away to needy anti-communist guerillas in Third World stomping grounds but, of course, those are just rumors until such action is declassified. What is known is that at least some were transferred to the Sierra Leone government as military aid for their security forces.

Plus, the MOD was totally against any trophies being brought back home, as had occurred in the World Wars and Korea.

Warning from Captain Seymour, RFA Resource, regarding Argentinian equipment

But what of the larger stuff?

Some 90 Blowpipes were discovered among the Argentine equipment

Argentia’s occupation force included 12 of these Panhard AML-90 armored cars. Due to the terrain on the islands, they were restricted to the roads around Port Stanley and saw very little fighting. They were all captured more or less intact and the two best examples were brought to the UK. One is at the Household Cavalry barracks in Bulford, and one is in The Tank Museum collection.

AML 90 Argentine Panhard circa 1966 production captured in Falklands 1982 on display at Bovington

AML-90s in Port Stanley

One of the two CITER 155s brought back to the UK, is currently at the Marine Museum in Norfolk

The ammunition and Blowpipes, however, were absorbed and fired off by the MOD in training. No word on what happened to the SA-7s, but if you told me they made it to the muj in Afghanistan who were then fighting the Soviets, as often hinted at, I would not scoff.

Libyan-supplied SA-7s recovered in the Falklands

Likewise, the vehicles were kept in the Falklands and used by the follow-on garrison with some of the Unimogs surviving into the 1990s.

One of the captured Argentine Panhards has long been on display at the Bovington Tank Museum while most ended up as hard targets for the British Falklands garrison.

Perhaps the most useful of the kit, the Skyguard radars, and Oerlikon flak guns, were used by the RAF Regiment, protecting airbases in the UK, against the Russians until the end of the Cold War.

Men of 1/7th Gurkhas (Duke of Edinburgh’s Own) just before Stanley with a captured Argie 20mm AAA gun

Captured Argentine Oerlikon 35 mm twin Cannon

Cañon bitubo Oerlikon de 35 mm en Puerto Argentino

The British inherited some advanced Swiss and German AAA guns, gently-used

The aircraft and artillery pieces were typically just used as museum pieces except for the damaged Chinook, which was mated with other parts and returned to service with the RAF.

RAF Harrier GR3 at RAF Stanley with several Pucara wrecks in the background. Notice the matting on the ground.

22 SAS D squadron commander Cedric Delves Pebble Island Pucara, after the surrender in June 1982, looking at their work handiwork. Note the M-16s, which the SAS and SBS used almost exclusively

A Boeing Chinook (k Bravo Juliet off Atlantic Contender) hauls the wreck of an Argentinian Pucara away. The Pucara is a ground attack aircraft but had little impact on the battle. A captured Pucara is in storage at the RAF Museum.

A Pucara wreck. Some were brought to Britain for tests but most wrecks stayed on the islands for several months, proving popular with incoming garrisons looking for a photo op

As for the 90-foot patrol boat Islas Malvinas, she was renamed HMS Tiger Bay and used until 1986 when she was sold for scrap which is a pity as she would have made an interesting little museum ship that would have required little in the way of maintenance.

HMS Tiger Bay as PNA Islas Malvinas (GC-82)


  • Lindsay Brooke

    Chris, interesting article about the WW2 Panther but one important correction: the Maybach V-12 engine was gasoline fueled, not diesel. None of the German main battle tanks were powered by diesels, despite the mythology. In the 1940s, no country had diesel engines that could generate 600hp in a displacement that would work in an armored vehicle.

  • Craig L Schieve

    SAS with an M16?
    While with the 82nd I did TDY with the Para Brigade in southern England back in the 70’s
    They had a fine weapon, a 7.62 SLR and the only M16’s on the base were the ones we brought.
    I wonder why that SAS troop would be shouldering an M16

    • The SAS, SBS, and much of the Royal Marine’s Mountain & Arctic Warfare school cadre used M16s, at least in the Falklands. I guess it was a weight trade-off both in terms of arm and ammo. The SAS at least had experience with the AR15 even before the Pentagon adopted the M16 going back to Borneo, and used them extensively in Aden/Oman in the 1970s as well.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.