Lot 442
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Lot Details
The original message dictated by Rex Hunt, Governor of the Falklands Islands, over the radio to Trevor Edwards of the British Antarctic Survey, and handed by him to the Argentine expedition that had landed on South Georgia, headed "SAT. MARCH 20TH 1982/ FROM/ THE GOVENOR OF THE FALKLAND ISLANDS": "You Have Landed illegally at LEITH Without Obtaining Proper clearance./ You and Your Party must go back on board the BAHIA BUEN SUCESO immediately and report to the BASE COMMANDOR at GRYTVIKEN for further instructions./ You must remove the ARGENTINE flag from LEITH./ You MUST NOT interfere with the B.A.S. depot at LEITH./ You MUST NOT alter or deface any of the notices at LEITH./ NO military personnell are allowed to land in SOUTH GEORGIA./ NO FIREARMS are to be taken ashore./ GOVENOR OF THE FALKLAND ISLANDS", one page, written in green ballpoint pen on lightweight paper, folio, one or two barely discernable stains, presumably arising from having been handled during negotiations with the Argentine party, archival mounting, 20 March 1982



    This by now famous document was discovered only recently by Neil Shaw, a member of the British Antarctic Survey, when going through his diary kept at the time. It was recently displayed at the National Army Museum to mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of the war. Dr Alastair Massie, Head of Archives at the museum, has described it as one of those documents "which, almost by accident, survive down the years and evoke a response from later generations because of the momentous events with which they are associated. This note, the British response to Argentine aggression, marked the countdown to the Falklands conflict and perhaps the least expected war in history. The British Government were taken completely by surprise, but the fact that they were prepared to fight came as an equally nasty shock to the military Junta ruling Argentina" (National Army Museum, News release, 19 March 2007).

    According to Neil Shaw's diary, his party set off on 18 March 1982 to visit the whaling stations and complete some maintenance work at Leith. The following day they noticed that BAS depot had been ransacked, and that "a number of personnel" were there, with the Argentine flag flying. That evening they alerted the authorities and awaited their reply. On 20 March his diary records: "Made radio contact at 5.30am, message relayed to us from the Governor of the Falkland Islands, searched the building for a pen and paper and wrote his message down. Trevor and I took this on board the ship again. The message was read out to the ships captain, he explained that they were working with a man called Davidoff and he had clearance to come ashore from the Argentinean Government. I took the letter and we left" (NAM release). According to Shaw's later recollection: "We took the note to the ship and read it to an interpreter, who read it to the captain. They took the note and gave it back to us, dismissing it quite quickly. They said, 'If you'd like to come in for a meal and a drink, you're welcome, but we're not interested in this'" (Guardian, 18 March 2007). Argentine troops landed in the Falklands on 2 April, and the following day the BAS party were taken captive.