News In Depth
From remote outpost to battleground
Thirty years ago the Falkland Islands suddenly went from being a forgotten corner of what remained of the British Empire to a dramatic test of the UK's global power status.
The remote group of boggy, windswept islands in the South Atlantic, whose 1,800 human inhabitants were vastly outnumbered by sheep, became a battleground between the ambitions of Argentina's military junta and the steely determination of Margaret Thatcher.
Simmering diplomatic tensions over the ownership of the Falklands boiled over in spring 1982 and Argentine forces invaded the islands they call the Malvinas.
In response, Britain launched its biggest naval operation since the Second World War, sending a taskforce of 27,000 personnel and more than 100 ships to retake the territory.
Lasting 74 days, the Falklands War claimed the lives of more than 900 people and cost the UK many hundreds of millions of pounds.
But the conflict reasserted Britain's ability to rule the waves, and Mrs Thatcher considered it one of the greatest triumphs of her 11-year premiership.
The UK's claim to the Falklands dates back as far as a sighting in 1592 and a landing in 1690 by Captain John Strong, who named the channel between the two main islands after Viscount Falkland, the treasurer of the Royal Navy.
France, Spain and Argentina all established settlements on the strategically important archipelago, but Britain took control in January 1833 and kept hold of them.
The roots of the 1982 war lay in Argentine military dictator General Leopoldo Galtieri's determination that the 150th anniversary of UK rule in the Falklands the following year should never be celebrated.
To Buenos Aires, it appeared that Britain had lost interest in the rocky islands nearly 8,000 miles away, which at the time had a population in decline and a tiny economy dominated by wool.
By the early 1980s, the Royal Navy's Falklands patrol ship HMS Endurance was scheduled for withdrawal and the new British Nationality Act had denied full UK citizenship to many islanders.
Options being considered in Whitehall included a plan to hand sovereignty to Argentina but allow the islanders to remain on a "leaseback" basis.
The official British inquiry into the causes of the war, the Franks Report, found evidence that Argentina was intending to strike, but not until the end of 1982, in time for the 150th anniversary.
But things came to a head earlier than planned when a group of Argentine scrap metal workers landed without permission on the British-controlled island of South Georgia, 810 miles to the east of the Falklands, on March 19.
They hoisted Argentina's blue-and-white national flag, prompting an angry response from Falklands governor Rex Hunt and a flurry of diplomatic activity in London.
As the crisis escalated, the Argentine junta brought forward its invasion plans, landing thousands of troops on the islands and seizing the capital Stanley from a small garrison of Royal Marines on April 2.
Three days later, a huge British naval taskforce, led by the aircraft carriers HMS Hermes and HMS Invincible with Harrier jump jets and Sea King helicopters on board, set sail from Portsmouth.
Although relatively short, the war resulted in major loss of life on both sides as ships were sunk and ground troops fought fierce battles in the rugged landscape of the islands.
UK forces retook South Georgia on April 25 before launching the first attacks on the Falklands themselves on May 1 in audacious RAF bombing raids on Stanley airfield that involved an 8,000-mile round trip from Ascension Island.
The most controversial episode of the war came when the British nuclear-powered submarine HMS Conqueror sank the Argentine cruiser General Belgrano on May 2, killing nearly a third of the 1,093 crew members.
At the time, the Belgrano was outside the UK-imposed 200-mile exclusion zone around the Falklands, and it may have been heading away from the islands back towards mainland Argentina.
Two days later, HMS Sheffield became the first British warship lost in battle since the Second World War when it was hit by an Argentine Exocet missile.
Twenty sailors were killed in the attack.
More troops died in later attacks on UK ships, including HMS Ardent, HMS Coventry, HMS Glamorgan, the container ship Atlantic Conveyor, and the Royal Fleet Auxiliary ships Sir Galahad and Sir Tristram.
The war ended on June 14 when British forces reached Stanley and Argentine General Mario Menendez surrendered.
There was a groundswell of public support for Mrs Thatcher back home in the UK, and she led the Conservatives to another landslide victory in the 1983 general election despite mass unemployment.
It was very different in Argentina, where the humiliating defeat led to General Galtieri's resignation and ultimately the collapse of the junta's rule.
For Falklanders, the outcome of the war brought a new sense of security as Britain greatly increased the number of troops stationed on the islands to ensure they would never be lost again.
The past three decades have seen the Falklands become more populous and more prosperous and the discovery of oil and gas deposits around the islands has added a financial dimension to the dispute about who owns them.
Argentina has announced it is taking steps to sue five British firms - Desire Petroleum, Falkland Oil and Gas, Rockhopper Exploration, Borders and Southern Petroleum, and Argos Resources - claiming the firms were engaged in "illegal and clandestine activities" by drilling around the islands.
The UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office has dismissed the threats to take legal action as "wholly counter-productive".
Diplomatic relations between Britain and Argentina have become increasingly strained as key milestones marking the 30th anniversary of the conflict have passed.
Despite David Cameron's insistence that the islanders must be allowed to choose their nationality status, his counterpart in Buenos Aires has renewed her push to wrestle back control.
Earlier this year president Christina Fernandez de Kirchner said Britain's stance was "ridiculous and absurd".
In May an Argentinian television advert showing an Olympic hopeful training on a British war memorial in the Falklands sparked controversy.
Foreign Secretary William Hague accused Argentina of trying to misuse the Games for political purposes.
The provocative 90-second clip, produced by the country's presidency, said the athlete is preparing for London 2012 on "Argentine soil".
Argentina has also accused the UK of "militarising" the dispute by reportedly sending a submarine carrying nuclear weapons to the South Atlantic, something that Britain has not confirmed.
Buenos Aires also objected to the Duke of Cambridge's posting to the Falklands as an RAF rescue helicopter pilot and the deployment to the region of one of the Royal Navy's most modern destroyers, HMS Dauntless.
On June 12 the Falkland Islands government announced it will hold a referendum on the "political status" of the islands - hoping to bring an end to the continuing dispute with Argentina over sovereignty.
It hopes a referendum will send a firm message to Ms de Kirchner that islanders want to remain British.
This will be the first referendum held on the islands, but in a poll in the mid-1980s, 94.5% of those who took part supported staying British.
June 14 marks exactly 30 years since the liberation of the Falkland Islands.