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|Falkland Islands Defence Force|
Cap Badge of the Falkland Islands Defence Force
|Country||Falkland Islands, United Kingdom|
|Battle honours||Falklands War|
The Falkland Islands Defence Force (FIDF) is the locally maintained volunteer defence unit in the Falkland Islands. 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 Russian aggression. 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.
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, and were enrolled into the FIDF. Many of this group were rugby players, including Cpl Thomas Dawson Sanderson, who was president of a rugby club.
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, 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. 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.
On 1 April 1982, alongside the Royal Marines party, the FIDF was mobilised to defend the Islands from the Argentine invasion. 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.
The FIDF is organised as a light infantry company. 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 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.
The FIDF operates sniper/reconnaissance, machine gun, close combat, amphibious and logistic support units, co-ordinated by a central command. It has the capability to mount its own armed defence against illegal fishing in Falkland waters. It also fulfills the role of a mountain rescue agency for the archipelago.
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