Cosmo Dugal Patrick Thomas Haskard

Cosmo Dugal Patrick Thomas Haskard was governor during a turbulent time as Argentine attitudes hardened and a number of high profile events to raise awareness of the Argentine claims were made, including Operation Condor. Despite these worrying signs, the British government in 1968 considered removing the right of the Islanders to choose their own future. Cosmo Haskard was deeply concerned at the rights being removed and dropped serious hints of what was going on. Islanders read between the lines and lobbied hard in Britain to ensure their rights were not trampled over.


25 November 1916 - 21 February 2017

SIR COSMO HASKARD, who has died aged 100, was Governor of the Falkland Islands in the late 1960s when the Labour government of Harold Wilson was attempting to persuade the 2,000 islanders to cede sovereignty to Argentina, which had long claimed the islands.

When he was appointed governor in 1964, he was delighted at being posted to a quiet colony whose austere charms reminded him of his home in Co Cork. But even while he was sailing out with his wife and two-year-old son, a lone Argentine pilot landed at Port Stanley to plant his country's flag, while Panorama, an Argentine magazine, carried a picture of him with the caption "El ultimo gobernador ingles?' ("The last English governor?").

On settling in, Haskard recommended that a platoon of Royal Marines remain on the islands and personally visited farms by float plane or on horseback. He revived the annual horticultural show, started a winter arts and crafts fair and paid a visit to Britain's Antarctic territories. In the 1965 New Year's Honours he was appointed KCMG.

But at the time Britain was abandoning its "east of Suez" policy for financial reasons, and thinking of ways of winding up its residual empire. The islanders received a severe shock six months later when it was revealed in London that a transfer of the islands' sovereignty to Argentina was being discussed. Haskard could see the logic in Whitehall thinking, but with more than 20 years experience in Africa he was imbued with a primary sense of duty towards his colonial charges.

The islanders became more nervous still when an aeroplane containing 16 young Argentines landed on the race course at Port Stanley, while the light cruiser Belgrano, outside the three mile limit, regularly pointed her guns inland.

As Haskard was reminded by London about the value of Argentine trade, he replied in increasingly outspoken letters and telegrams, protesting that the islanders were being kept in ignorance of discussions and emphasising their aversion to any accommodation with Argentina.

When he found that their objections were not being taken seriously he went to London, where the Foreign Secretary George Brown, returning from a bibulous lunch, thought he was talking to the British ambassador to Argentina and proceeded to drive Haskard to such fury that his colleagues had to urge him not to resign. The following day he was summoned to another meeting at which Brown fulminated against the failure of Foreign Office staff to inform him of the British islanders' fears.

Back in the Falklands, Haskard held a closed meeting of the Islands' executive council, at which he informed them about what was being discussed. The members were so appalled that they broke their oath of secrecy and wrote letters of protest to every MP.

In the row that followed Haskard's superiors in London suggested he might tell them that the publicity was not helping their cause. His response was to suggest that a member of the government should pay a visit to the islands.

In November 1968 Lord Chalfont, the junior Foreign Office minister, duly arrived at Stanley to be greeted on his arrival with the messages: "Chalfont Go Home" and "Keep the Falklands British". Haskard left Chalfont in no doubt about the strength of opinion in the islands, and during the visit the minister got a taste of why they felt as they did, when an Argentine aircraft suddenly crashed on a road outside Stanley and he was taken to inspect it.

Chalfont left the islands with a promise that nothing would happen without the islanders' agreement, but his return to Britain he reported: "I do not believe that the Falkland Islands can continue to exist for many years as they are presently constituted. I believe one day that the Falkland Islands may be prepared to choose Argentine sovereignty. We must at all costs avoid giving the impression that we want to get rid of them, since that would set up precisely the reaction we would want to avoid." The Foreign Office eventually decided not to proceed with the plans, however, because of opposition within the Cabinet, exasperating the Argentines with whom, it was revealed in Foreign Office documents released in 2001, the government had made progress on a memorandum of under-standing to hand over sovereignty - even discussing the right to continued use of the English language.

The son of a brigadiergeneral, Cosmo Dugal Patrick Thomas Haskard was born in Dublin on November 26, 1916. He was first brought up in Co Cork, then lived in Egypt and China before being sent to Cheltenham College. But after Sandhurst, where he passed out second, he failed the medical because of a chest infection.

Instead he read Modern Languages at Pembroke College, Cambridge, and on the outbreak of war joined the Royal Irish Fusiliers and the Colonial Service in Tanganyika, which posted him to the King's African Rifles.

Following another bout of chest trouble he served with the battalion in Ceylon before becoming adjutant of the 2nd battalion in Burma as it harried the Japanese retreating after the battle of Kohima.

Coming out of the Army as a major with an MBE, Haskard first joined the Tanganikya and then the Nyasaland civil services, particularly enjoying travelling on foot as a district commissioner. He served as a member of the Nyasaland- Mozambique border commission, and on his first home leave in 1949 took the unusual step of visiting Dr Hastings Banda, the future dictator of Malawi, who was living with a white mistress in north London while working as a general practitioner.

After the formation of the Central African Federation of the Rhodesias and Nyasaland, Haskard became provincial commissioner in the northern province and watched as relations between Africans and the government deteriorated, leading to widespread disturbances in Nyasaland and some deaths, and the declaration of a State of Emergency in 1958. The following year a commission under Mr Justice (later Lord) Devlin was set up to examine whether the actions of the colonial administration in suppressing dissent had been appropriate.

Although its findings were unfavourable to the Nyasaland government, it was less censorious about events in the north, which Haskell attributed partly to the precise diary of events which his wife Phillida had helped to compile.

Two years later Haskard was appointed CMG and, as Nyasaland evolved into selfgoverning Malawi, he worked in the ministry of natural resources. But he resigned to return home for a successful lung operation and was then appointed Governor of the Falklands.

As his five-year governorship drew to a close the islanders showed their appreciation by asking the Foreign Office if he and his wife could stay on for a further year. He devoted his last year to improving the pasturage on the islands' farms and supervising the transfer of Brunei's iron steamship SS Great Britain from a beach outside Stanley, where it had lain since 1937, to become a tourist attraction in Bristol.

Haskard retired to Co Cork, where he kept up his friendships with the islanders. He was also a trustee of the Beit Trust, which builds hospitals and libraries in Africa, and particularly enjoyed returning to Malawi.

When war with Argentina broke out in 1982 Haskard offered his aid to the Foreign Office. It was not accepted. But the day after their son Julian passed out at Sandhurst to join the Gurkhas, Sir Peter de la Billiere, Director of Special Services, had a meeting with the Haskards to discuss the likely conditions the infantry would encounter on the islands. He also ordered Julian to report immediately to SAS headquarters in Hereford.

In 2012 Haskard was astonished to discover that his governorship had been commemorated, more than 40 years earlier, in the name Haskard Highlands, a range of peaks in Antarctica. His wife and son survive him.

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by Stephen Luscombe