Striking images taken during the Falkland Islands conflict will go on display together for the first time in a new Imperial War Museums (IWM) exhibition which aims to highlight the long-term legacy of war.
The photographs, by Paul Haley for the British army’s Soldier magazine, will feature alongside other exhibits, including online films, to mark the 40th anniversary of the 10-week undeclared 1982 war, with a focus on new awareness of its impact.
Opening on 2 April – the anniversary of the invasion by Argentina – at IWM museums in London, Salford and online, the exhibition aims to bring a new perspective to a war that claimed the lives of 255 British military, 649 Argentinian troops and three civilian Falkland islanders, said the show’s curator, Dr Hilary Roberts.
Haley was a first-hand witness, accompanying the taskforce from setting off on board the QE2, to landing at San Carlos in East Falkland and capturing the immediate aftermath of the Battle of Goose Green and the journey to Port Stanley.
He also photographed the Argentinian Skyhawks flying overhead on their way to bomb the British navy vessels Sir Galahad and Sir Tristram.
Some of the images, and accounts from Falkland islanders, will also feature in five short films, made digitally available, which will explore the impact of the war, at the time and subsequently.
Roberts, the senior curator of IWM’s cold war team, said research offered a new understanding of the conflict, which even today was “still a lens” through which UK-Argentina relations were assessed.
“Today we have a greater understanding of the way in which that small conflict has permanently influenced international events, in terms of political legacies, military legacies and social and cultural consequences,” she said.
The outcome shaped both governments in power. The Argentinian military junta fell, with Gen Leopoldo Galtieri forced to resign the following the year, while Margaret Thatcher became one of the longest-serving prime ministers.
“The Falklands factor has been much debated. I won’t say it’s the only reason why, but it was clearly one of the factors,” said Roberts.
The conflict led to new research into post-traumatic stress disorder and had a lasting influence on Royal Navy ship design, deployment of vessels and commitment to aircraft carriers and submarines, she added.
“I hope it will give people awareness that this wasn’t simply a small colonial war, and it wasn’t simply an aberration. It does continue to affect our lives, and that small wars should not underestimated,” she said.
“The conflict is moving, slowly, from contemporary history, which is informed by people still alive to tell the story, into documented and researched history, where we learn more from the archives but we gradually lose those voices which are so important.”
Haley’s work will feature alongside that of the war artist Linda Kitson, accounts from the Falkland islanders, and exhibits including an Exocet missile and an Argentinian anti-aircraft gun captured by the Gurkhas.