Falkland Islands Defence Force

Falkland Islands Defence Force

Badge of the Falkland Islands Defence Force
Active 1892–1982
1983 – present
Country Falkland Islands, United Kingdom
Allegiance Elizabeth II (United Kingdom)
Type Military reserve force
Role Light Role with additional roles
Size One Company
2 Permanent Staff Personnel
~100 Primary Reserve Personnel
~100 Secondary Reserve Personnel
Garrison/HQ Port Stanley
Nickname(s) Falklands Army
Battle honours Falklands War
Commanding Officer Major Biggs

The Falkland Islands Defence Force (FIDF) is the locally maintained volunteer defence unit in the Falkland Islands, a British Overseas Territory. The FIDF works alongside the military units supplied by the United Kingdom to ensure the security of the islands.


The first volunteer unit in the Islands was formed in 1854 during the Crimean War to guard against possible aggression by the Russian Empire. Not given an official title, this unit was sometimes known as the Stanley Volunteers. However, the modern unit traces its direct lineage back to 1892. The previous year, a steamer owned by one of the groups involved in the Chilean Civil War docked at Stanley. Although ostensibly there to carry out repairs to its engines, the presence onboard of 200 armed soldiers was considered a security threat. So, the Governor, Sir Roger Goldsworthy, ordered that an armed volunteer force be formed. The first draft of men of the new Falkland Islands Volunteers were sworn in at a ceremony at Government House in June 1892.

During the First World War, members of the Volunteers were mobilised to man military outposts around the Islands, while 36 Falklanders enlisted in the armed forces. At the end of the war, the Falkland Islands Volunteers was renamed as the Falkland Islands Defence Force. The FIDF was mobilised again during the Second World War, manning defensive outposts around the Islands. At this time, a mounted rifles unit was raised.

FIDF Cap Badge

In 1939, a group called the "Tabaris Highlanders" arrived on the islands for a brief two months. They were from the Anglo-Argentine community, and were supposed to defend the islands from a German attack during World War II. 33 men arrived in the Falklands on 27 September 1939; six were rejected on medical and other grounds and returned to Buenos Aires almost immediately. The 'commanding officer', a Major Morrough, was one of those rejected. The remainder were enrolled in the FIDF, with Ronald Campbell made Sergeant as their group commander and Thomas Dawson Sanderson as Corporal. They left the Islands on 8 December 1939, once the immediate danger of attack from German raiders was judged to have receded. During this time the Highlanders dug out gun pits, embankments, and protection of every sort from a possible German naval attack. While they were only in the Islands for just over two months, 22 of them applied from Stanley to join the British Forces. Many of this group were rugby players, including Cpl Thomas Dawson Sanderson, who was president of a rugby club.[1]

After the end of the war, the presence of Royal Marines as part of the Islands' defence led to the FIDF adopting RM dress and drill styles. On 28 September 1966,[2] 19 members of an Argentine extremist group staged a symbolic invasion of the Islands by landing a DC-4 on Stanley Racecourse, in one of the first significant hijacking incidents; the extremist group called this action Operation Condor. There, they took four islanders hostage. The FIDF, alongside the Royal Marines, contained the situation and the group surrendered without casualties. Following this, the FIDF was on heightened alert until February 1967.

Falklands War

Main article: Falklands War

On 1 April 1982, alongside the Royal Marines party, the FIDF was mobilised to defend the Islands from the Argentine invasion. Of its approx 120 men only 23 turned out.[3] The following day, Sir Rex Hunt ordered them to surrender. The Argentines confiscated all of the FIDF's equipment and declared them to be an illegal organisation. For the duration of the war, some members of the FIDF were kept under house arrest at Fox Bay until the Argentine surrender. The FIDF was reformed in 1983.

Terry Peck, a former member of the Defence Force, spied on Argentine forces in Stanley, then escaped to become a scout for the 3rd Battalion, Parachute Regiment, with which he fought at the Battle of Mount Longdon.



A parade led by a detachment of the Falkland Islands Defence Force

Today the Falkland Islands Defence Force meet once a week for training, with various extended training weekends throughout the year. Soldiers of the Falkland Islands Defence Force conduct training patrols with soldiers from the British Garrison on the islands as well as acting as "enemy" forces against British soldiers in training exercises.

FIDF soldiers also provide search and rescue and mountain rescue services across the islands. They have been trained by the Royal Navy to operate Oerlikon 20mm cannon and conduct boarding operations of vessels to fulfill a fisheries protection role for the Falkland Islands Government.



The Falkland Islands Defence Force today is funded entirely by the Falkland Islands government and has an annual budget of £400,000.[5]


A parade by detachments from (right to left) the Royal Navy, the Parachute Regiment, and the Falkland Islands Defence Force, on 14 June 2013

The FIDF is organised as a light infantry company with additional roles. It is manned entirely by the local population, following British Army doctrine, training and operations. In an agreement with the British Ministry of Defence, a Royal Marines Warrant Officer Class 2 is seconded to the Force as a Permanent Staff Instructor. Two permanent soldiers from the islands are employed as the Force's Commanding Officer, ranked as a Major, and as the senior non-commissioned officer, ranked as a Sergeant Major.


See also


  1. Dictionary of Falklands Biography 1592 - 1981; TABARIS HIGHLANDERS (1939), retrieved 10 September 2009
  2. ASN Aircraft accident Douglas DC-4 LV-AGG Port Stanley
  3. M.Hastings, S.Jenkins "The Battle for the Falklands", W.W.Norton & Co., London & New York, 1983, Chapter 5, page 72
  4. Defense & Security Intelligence & Analysis - Special Forces (Land) (Falkland Islands), Amphibious and special forces
  5. The Times Article, March 6th 2010, retrieved 23 July 2011
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