War and peace

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Jayne Dawson reports on a month when Britain was at war, Sophia Loren was in jail and the Pope was in Britain



The three-week long Falklands War between Britain and Argentina, fought because both laid claim to the Falkland Islands 500 miles off the coast of Argentina, was at its height.

On May 25 the British container ship Atlantic Conveyor went down with the loss of 12 men, including its commander Captain Ian North. He was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.

The vessel's troop-carrying Chinook helicopters, key equipment necessary to re-capture the islands, sank with the ship.

Without them, the British troops were forced to march to take their first major objective – Goose Green.

After a bloody land battle, Argentine forces surrendered to the British and peace was declared on June 20.

More than 900 people died in the war – 655 Argentines, 255 British troops and three Falkland islanders. Among the ships requisitioned to carry troops to the Islands was the famous cruise ship the QE2. Prince Andrew was among the serving troops.

The war gave a huge boost to Margaret Thatcher's popularity and she won the general election the following year with a massive majority.

Although the two nations have made peace, Argentina still retains its historic claims to the "Malvinas" and Britain maintains an expensive and large garrison there.


l The Pope landed in Britain for a six-day tour that included a visit to York. The gruelling schedule lead to fears for the health of the Pontiff who had survived an assassination attempt the year before. The Pope made impassioned pleas for peace during his stay, though his plea for a ceasefire in the Falklands War was ignored by prime minister Margaret Thatcher.

He also urged the thousands of pilgrims who gathered to hear him at the Knavesmire racecourse in York to fight the "destructive forces" of abortion and contraception.

His was the first visit of a Pope to Britain since 1531 and for the first time since Britain broke away from the Catholic Church at the time of Henry VIII, a Pope and an Archbishop of Canterbury prayed together at Canterbury.

l There was trouble at Leeds's most famous hotel – staff at the Queens Hotel walked out over a row involving a waitress sacked for allegedly swearing. Forty members of staff walked out and then claimed they had been suspended by management.

l Disc jockey John Peel became a father for the fourth time, naming his daughter Florence Shankly .

l Rock band Queen were playing at Elland Road in Leeds in front of 38,000 fans. It was the biggest-ever rock concert in Leeds and was judged to have been a great success with marvellous music, a spectacular stage show and a peaceful audience. Other bands who supported them on the day were: Heart, Teardrop Explodes and Joan Jett and the Blackhearts .


l Noel Edmonds, then the star of BBC children's programme Swap Shop, was being touted to front the channel's breakfast TV show which was due to start the following winter.

l ITN newscaster Selina Scott became a pin-up for the troops fighting the Falklands War, leading to a big following for News At Ten.

l TV producer Desmond Wilcox, husband of That's Life presenter Esther Rantzen, won a libel action against satirical magazine Private Eye which had accused him of misusing his position at the BBC when he published a book.


l Film actress Sophia Loren flew back to her native Italy to begin a month-long prison sentence for tax evasion. The crime, which the 47-year-old attributed to "a little error" by her accountant, dated back to around 1970. The actress said a month behind bars was preferable to a lifetime in exile from her homeland and family.

l The European Economic Community called for a ban on the use of rubber bullets by British troops in Northern Ireland.


l The Queen and Prince Philip were mixing with the common people down on the street. The royal couple paid a visit to the set of Coronation Street to launch its newly-built location, which was suitably decked out in bunting and Union Jacks for the occasion.

Additional research by David Hartshorne

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