Chronicling the final days of the Falklands War on Twitter
“To me the Falklands is often an overlooked war on the global stage, but it was also a kind of an important turning point in British history,” offered Malcolm Bailey, a resident of Southampton, England.
“It's the last time we actively and overtly used force to defend part of ‘The Empire.’ It's also the last war we've been involved in where there was a definite enemy, clear victory conditions and morally there was little ambiguity as to whether we were right.”
In part to rectify that historical oversight, Bailey has been using Twitter to tirelessly recount the events of the Falklands War as it happened—albeit 30 years after the fact.
The Falklands War between Britain and Argentina was the biggest naval battle since World War II. The conflict spanned 74 days between April and June 1982, and almost 900 men lost their lives in the battle.
The Falklands conflict holds special significance for Bailey, the director of game design and development company MBXGames. His parents watched the BBC’s evening news broadcast for updates, and he holds vague memories of the imagery. In fact, it’s the first major international event he can recall.
Bailey also grew up close to RNAS Yeovilton, where he says he spent much of his childhood “with the Harriers that had played such a significant role, crisscrossing the Somerset sky at speed and undertaking occasional dog fighting practice. To the children in the area, these were real heroes.”
Inspired by @RealTimeWWII, which operates under a similar fashion, Bailey began work on @falklands82 ahead of the conflict’s 30th anniversary. Since mid-March, the account has sent more than 750 tweets tracking the events and has garnered more than 840 followers.
“Lt-Commander Pedro Giachino has died from wounds suffered in the attack this morning. He is the first fatality of the invasion,” the account tweeted April 2.
Using news sources, battle overviews, and personal diaries, Bailey built a strong overview of exactly what happened on those islands three decades ago. He then looked through his resources to discover some of the main events in the conflict, while having to cut out some incidents due to a lack of clear details.
To determine the exact times for many of the incidents, the 34-year-old looked at journals and diaries, particularly those related to Task Force ships. Many of the incidents were not recorded with exact times, however, so he used his sleuthing skills to figure out a rough timing for them.
“As such some tweets may be 2 or 3 hours out from reality, with these I err on the side of caution and set the tweets to go out later,” he said, “and then write in ‘recent past tense’ to try and keep it realistic.”
It takes around an hour to schedule each day’s tweets, and he usually sets up three to four days worth of tweets in advance. Bailey, who studied computer science at university, built a system for automating the tweets, putting together a database, tweet-importing form, and script that posts tweets every 15 minutes. Though it does the job, Bailey said it’s a “rudimentary” system that has a British ethos: “It isn't pretty but it works!”
As a Brit, Bailey is on the winning side of the conflict, but he’s well aware that those involved in combat are simply doing their jobs. As such, he tries to make the conflict more human by using the names of both Brits and Argentinians.
With just a few days left until the war ends, the tweets will soon come to a close. While Bailey can’t really see himself doing real-time tweets for other conflicts, he admits he underestimated the time involved in putting the content together.
“[I]t would be a fantastic educational project to be able to catalog all historical battles in a minute by minute breakdown and then allow users to have them play out in real time,” he said.
“Seeing events unfold in real time helps bring home some of the reality.”
Photo by Malcolm Bailey