Sir Cosmo Haskard 1916 - 2017

Governor of the Falkland Islands from 1964 - 1970, Sir Cosmo Dugal Patrick Thomas Haskard, KCMG, MBE, passed away peacefullyat his home in Tregariff, County Cork, Ireland, on February 21, aged 100.

Sir Cosmo was born in Dublin in November 1916– only a few months after the Easter Rising.  His father, John McDougal Haskard,was an officer in the British Army, and a landowner in County Cork.  The youngCosmo was educated at Cheltenham, and then went on to Sandhurst, where he passedout second.  But ill health prevented an immediate military career, and so hewent up to Cambridge in 1937.  There he read modern languages, joined the UniversityOfficer Training Corps and, as war with Germany approached, was commissionedinto the Territorial Army.

Following the outbreak of war he joined the Royal Irish Fusiliers, butin 1940 he transferred to the Colonial Service and was posted to the King’sAfrican Rifles in Tanganyika.  He served in Ceylon and Burma and earned an MBE(Military).  He was demobilised in 1946.

Cosmo then spent the rest of his working life in the Colonial Service. He began in Nyasaland (Malawi) and met his future wife Phillada Stanley there.  Theymarried in 1957. He was appointed CMG in 1960.

Cosmo continued on in Malawi after independence in 1961, serving in theadministration of Dr. Hasting Banda.  In 1962 his son Julian was born.

In 1964, Cosmo was appointed Governor of the Falkland Islands and Commissionerfor Britain’s Antarctic Territory.  He was knighted in 1965, as a KCMG.

Sir Cosmo and his wife found the Falklands to their liking.  They wereused to life in isolated places, and their young son attended the Junior Schoolin Stanley.  They got on well with the Islanders.

The Argentine threat to the Falklands had been emphasised by the landingof Argentine fanatic Miguel Fitzgerald in a light plane on Stanley racecourse shortlybefore Sir Cosmo arrived.  As a result, Sir Cosmo recommended that the platoon of30 Royal Marines then on board the local guard ship HMS Protector be retained in the Islands.  These were the first of thetiny garrison/training detachment that was stationed in the Falklands right upuntil the 1982 invasion.

During his time as Governor, Sir Cosmo played a critical role in opposingthe Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Britain and Argentina which came soclose to being signed in November/December 1968.

This was the agreement that was intended then as the first step towardsending the sovereignty dispute with Argentina – in effect by paving the way fora handover of sovereignty to that country.

Negotiations over this had begun after UN Resolution 2065 in December1965.  Aggressive Argentine negotiating had forced the principle of Islanderconsent out of the text of this document.  Instead, Britain clung to thisprinciple by the precarious device of saying that a Unilateral Statement wouldbe made in Parliament at the time of signature and publication of the MoU sayingin effect that it could not be implemented without Islander consent.  This wasdone by saying that Britain would never be satisfied with any subsequentguarantees made by Argentina to the Islanders – unless the Islanders were too.This technically gave the Islanders the option to resist any handover.  Islanders,however, were still kept in the dark about the whole plan.

But long before this, Sir Cosmo had become soconcerned about the way negotiations were going that he went to London in 1967to report Islander opinion to the Foreign Office and Foreign Secretary GeorgeBrown.  He said that Islanders were completely unprepared for the MoU, werebitterly opposed to any handover of sovereignty, and would fiercely resist this. His words fell on deaf ears. Britain had other considerations: trade withArgentina, support at the UN over Rhodesia, etc., and Britain was also in theprocess of actually removing the Chagos Archipelago Islanders from their homesthen.

On his return to the Falklands, SirCosmo encouraged the handful of Islander Councillors, who knew about much ofthe plan but were bound by oaths of secrecy, to go out and defend themselves. They did so by writing to every MP in Parliament.  Around that time the FalklandIslands Emergency Committee was formed by allies in Britain.  It organised supportfor the Islanders in their struggle for survival.  That committee evolved intothe Falkland Islands Association of today.  

The situation came to a head in November and December 1968. The final wordingof the MoU had been agreed with the Argentines that August, and the Argentinesalso knew what Britain’s Unilateral Statement would say.  The plan was forJunior Foreign Office Minister Lord Chalfont to visit the Falklands thatNovember to coincide with the signing and explain it all to the Islanders.  Itwas to be a fait accompli. But the signing had to be delayed because ForeignSecretary Michael Stewart was away in India.  And Lord Chalfont’s visit couldnot be postponed as it depended on the sailing times of British ships in theSouth Atlantic.  So Lord Chalfont’s visit took place before the MoU was signed,which meant he had the task of explaining the details of its final provisionsto a horrified Council – while there was still a chance of stopping it.  He wasaccompanied by journalists, and this got publicity in the British press,particularly the Daily Express.  Itsfamous photo of Islanders demonstrating by the Whalebone Arch in favour ofcontinuing British sovereignty was most effective.

Then the Argentines shot themselves in the foot.  On the way back toBritain, Lord Chalfont passed through Buenos Aires, and made a courtesy call onNicanor Costa Méndez, who was the foreign minister for the militarydictatorship of General Ongania (Costa Méndez was later to be foreign ministeragain in 1982).  Costa Méndez told Lord Chalfont that Argentina would not signthe MoU unless Britain dropped the guarantee of Islander consent from itsUnilateral Statement.  This was a bombshell.  Lord Chalfont replied that thiswould put an end to the agreement.  The British Government had defended itselfagainst criticism by saying that nothing would be done without Islander consent. So the contents of Britain’s Unilateral Statement were vital.

Argentinethreats not to sign the MoU unless the British dropped this guarantee followedas Lord Chalfont proceeded on to London.  They poisoned the atmospherecompletely.  This threat was only dropped two days before the Cabinet met tofinally decide on the MoU - by when unfavourable British press coverage andParliamentary opposition had made the Argentines realise their mistake.  It wastoo late.  An angry Cabinet rejected the MoU and said that any future agreementmust include Islander consent or have such consent specifically linked to it insome other way.

It had been a close runthing.  There can belittle doubt that without Sir Cosmo the MoU, or some similar agreement, wouldhave led to the handover of the Falklands to Argentina.  His action in informingthe councillors as much as he could, and supporting them, allowed the Islandersto defend themselves successfully. He is honoured in the Islands for this.

Sir Cosmo retired after serving as governor in the Falklands.  Hereturned to his native Ireland, where he remained active for many years.  He maintained a keen interest in the Falklands, and served the FIA well as a distinguished Vice-President.

The Falkland Islands Government honoured him on his 100th birthday, inNovember 2016, with the gift of a painting of Government House in Stanley.  Itwas hanging over his bed when he died three months later.

SirCosmo is survived by his widow Lady Phillada, his son Julian, his daughter-in-lawMichelle and three grandsons, Cosmo, Piers and Hugo.