Falklands

Small but mighty: Meet the 40-strong Falklands Army

The Falkland Islands are the UK's most remote overseas territory, being more than 8,000 miles away from Britain.

The isolated nature of the islands means that the troops stationed there must be almost self-sufficient.

The job of protecting 2,887 islanders, 700,000 sheep and more than a million penguins falls onto the Falkland Islands Defence Force (FIDF).

The FIDF is a 40-strong reservist unit made up of mechanics, tax inspectors, builders and even a world-renowned seal scientist.

The part-time force, while small, is tasked with overseeing more than 700 islands.

The unit is made up of locals who were born on the island and know it intimately.

They are trained as a light infantry unit but perform a wide variety of tasks making them one of the most useful armies in the world.  

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Major Justin McPhee, Commanding Officer Falkland Islands Defence Force, said: "We are very much seen as local advisors.

"It's a unique terrain, quite arduous environment, quite challenging climate so we bring lots of knowledge."

The FIDF are self-sufficient, funded by their own government and not the Ministry of Defence. They are perhaps one of the best-equipped reserve forces with heavy weaponry, armoured vehicles and quad bikes as part of their arsenal.

In the last 40 years, the Falklands have developed a booming economy with their per capita income now on par with Norway or Qatar.

However, the Falkland's financial fortunes have only recently changed in part due to fishing, tourism and the prospects of oil.

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When veteran Brian Summers joined in 1982, he remembers that the reserve force had a "Dad's Army Reputation" and even recalls having to share a Land Rover with the post office.

Today, the FIDF is trained by elite marines and send soldiers to the UK for regular training to gain further skills.

While the soldiers of the FIDF are proud to be British they are also proud to protect a nation that is almost self-sufficient.

Private Sorrel Pompert-Robertson believes that the Falklands are in a good position to defend themselves against any threat.

She said: "I am very proud to be able to defend the Falklands in my own small way.

"Argentina does pose a very real threat, but Britain has given us a lot of support, a lot of strength.

"If an attack was to happen again, we are in a very good position to defend ourselves."

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Lance Corporal Alastair Baylis is a world-renowned scientist. In his day job, he studies the fauna of the islands, tracking the movement of birds and seals. As a soldier, he said he is willing to do whatever it takes to defend the land and all of its inhabitants.

The FIDF is not the only military force on the island.

After the end of the Falklands War in 1982, Britain fortified the islands' defences, building an airfield at RAF Mount Pleasant, 27 miles west of the capital, Stanley.

Forty years on the British troops continue to have a strong military presence in the region with 1,000 personnel from all three services stationed at Mount Pleasant.

The UK's relationship with Argentina has been improving in recent years, as demonstrated in 2017 when an Argentine submarine went missing during a routine patrol and the British Forces in the Falklands contributed to the rescue mission.

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However, the Falklands have not forgotten the losses from the conflict with their much larger neighbour.

Major McPhee said: "We're very conscious of what happened in 1982 and the sacrifice and effort that was made to give us our freedom.

"And it is important that we protect and maintain that freedom.

"Whilst we'll never defend ourselves alone, it's really important that the UK sees and the Falkland Island sees that there are Falkland islanders here and we are very willing and very happy to contribute to our own safety and security."

Head to our Falklands 40 page, where you can find our memorial wall, as well as more Falklands stories, videos and podcasts.