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Falkland Islands Defence Force

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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 from any outside aggression.

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 Port 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.

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. During this period, one of the first significant hijacking incidents occurred, when an Argentine extremist group staged a symbolic invasion of the Islands by landing a DC-4 on Stanley Racecourse. The FIDF, alongside the Royal Marines, employed tactics that led to the terrorists surrendering without incident. Following this, the FIDF was on heightened alert until February 1967.

On April 1, 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, members of the FIDF were kept under house arrest at Fox Bay until the Argentine Surrender. The FIDF was reformed in 1983.

The Falkland Islands Defence Force today is funded entirely by the Falklands government. The FIDF is organised as a light role infantry company, capable of deploying using Land Rovers, quad bikes and rigid inflatable boats. The Force is manned entirely by the local population, following British Army doctrine in training and operations. In an agreement with the MOD, a Royal Marines WO2 is seconded to the Force as a Permanent Staff Instructor. The FIDF operates sniper/recce, machine gun, close combat, amphibious and logistic support units, co-ordinated by a central command; in addition, it provides both search and mountain rescue personnel for the local community. The Force also operates in the fisheries protection role, giving the Government's Fisheries Department the capability of mounting its own armed defence against illegal fishing in Falkland waters.