Sir Rex Hunt, the former governor of the Falkland Islands during the Argentine invasion which triggered the South Atlantic conflict of 1982 passed away in England on Remembrance Sunday.
A British diplomat and colonial administrator he was governor, Commander in chief and Vice Admiral of the Falklands and concurrent High Commissioner of the British Antarctic Territory from 1980 to September 1985.
Considered a hero in the Falklands for his courage in organizing the resistance against the Argentine invasion, he was taken prisoner and expelled from the Islands by the Argentines.
However in Britain he became a symbol for the struggle to recover the Falklands and on his return after the war dedicated his life in support of the Islands and one of its most iconic lobbyists.
In a brief message the Legislative Assembly of the Falklands said Sir Rex will forever be remembered for his years of service as Governor and particularly for his courage and dignity in facing the Argentine invasion in 1982.
“His numerous contributions to our home were recognised in his being granted the Freedom Of Stanley in 1985. A loyal friend of the Falkland Islands, he served for many years as Chairman of the Falkland Islands Association and as President of the UK Falkland Islands Trust. His passion and commitment to the Falkland Islands will be sorely missed. The thoughts and deepest sympathies of all Falkland Islanders are with his family and friends at this sad time”.
Sir Rex Masterman Hunt, KCMG was born 29 June 1926 and after attending Coatham School, Redcar and St Peter’s College, Oxford, he joined the Royal Air Force as a cadet in 1941 and was enlisted as an airman in 1944 and commissioned as a pilot in 1945.
He transferred to No 5 Squadron in India in August 1946 where he flew Spitfires, before transferring to Germany with No 26 Squadron in August 1947. He left active service in 1948, but remained in the reserves until 1951 where he reached the rank of Flight Lieutenant.
In 1952 he joined the Colonial and Diplomatic Services and went on to serve on postings in Uganda, Sarawak, Brunei, Turkey, Indonesia, South Vietnam, Malaysia and the Falkland Islands. Hunt was appointed the Consul-General at the British Embassy in Saigon in 1974 and was there at the time of the fall of South Vietnam in 1975. From 1980 to 1985 he was Governor of the Falkland Islands.
Sir Rex became a household name during the Falklands War after the Argentine invasion of the islands. He was captured by the Argentine invasion force and expelled from the Islands to Uruguay.
During the invasion he had made his official residence, Government House in Stanley the operational headquarters for the Royal Marines. He sent his family and domestic staff away to safer houses with only their most valuable possessions. His housekeeper took a picture of the Queen and a bottle of gin.
Government House quickly became the site of an engagement between the Royal Marines garrison and the Argentine Navy commandos. Hunt gave the order to lay down arms, before going to Stanley town hall, wearing his governor's plumed hat, to meet the Argentine commander, Vice Admiral Carlos Büsser.
You have landed unlawfully on British territory and I order you to remove yourself and your troops forthwith, said Hunt. Four hours later Hunt was on a plane to Montevideo. Following the expulsion of Argentine forces in June 1982, Sir Rex returned to the Islands to his post as Governor until 1985.
Sir Rex Hunt wrote about his time in the Falklands in his book My Falkland Days. He was chairman of the Falkland Islands Association for many years. He retired as chairman in 2004 and moved to Yorkshire.