Liberation Day in South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands Date in the current year: April 25, 2024

Liberation Day in South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands Liberation Day is a public holiday in South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands (SGSSI), a small British Overseas Territory in the Atlantic Ocean. It is celebrated on April 25 to commemorate the liberation of the islands in the Falklands War.

The overseas territory of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands is a remote collection of islands that has no permanent population. The residents of SGSSI include researchers, museum employees, a government officer responsible for managing transportation, fishing and tourism, and a deputy postmaster who runs the local post office in summer; their number may vary between 15 and 40 depending on the season.

South Georgia was the first Antarctic island to be discovered by Europeans. It was first sighted by English merchant Anthony de la Roché in 1675, and the first person to set foot on the island and survey it was Captain James Cook. He took possession of the island for Britain in 1775 and named it the Isle of Georgia after King George III.

Up until the late 19th century, South Georgia was inhabited by English and American seal hunters. British arrangements for continuous and unchallenged government of South Georgia were established under an 1843 letters patent. The island was governed as a Falkland Islands dependency, i.e. a distinct entity governed through the government of the Falkland Islands.

In the early 20th century South Georgia became the largest whaling center in the world and experienced a new rush of economic activity and influx of settlers. Companies from Norway, Japan, and other countries applied for whaling leases granted by the governor of the Falkland Islands and established whaling stations. Most whaling stations were closed and destroyed by German raiders during World War II.

In 1982, SGSSI were briefly occupied by Argentina during the Falklands War. Argentina first claimed sovereignty over the island of South Georgia in 1927, on the grounds that employees of an Argentinian whaling company had been the island’s first permanent residents. In 1938, Argentina also made a claim over the South Sandwich Islands.

The sovereignty dispute over SGSSI came to a head on April 2, 1982, when Argentina captured the Falkland Islands, starting the Falklands War. The next day, Argentine Navy forces attacked Grytviken, the largest settlement on South Georgia, and overpowered a small group of Royal Marines stationed there, although the British did manage to shoot down an Argentine helicopter and damage the corvette ARA Guerrico before surrendering.

Argentina was unable to occupy the rest of South Georgia due to the losses suffered during the capture of Grytviken. The British war cabinet almost immediately started to plan an operation in order to recapture the island. Codenamed Operation Paraquet, it was carried out on April 25, 1982. The Royal Navy damaged and captured the Argentinian submarine Santa Fe and recaptured Grytviken.

Although Argentina maintained its presence on South Sandwich Islands until June 20 (almost a week after the declaration of a ceasefire), it is the anniversary of Operation Paraquet that is celebrated in SGSSI as Liberation Day.

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Liberation Day in South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, public holidays, holidays in SGSSI, Falklands War