Linda Kitson was commissioned by the Imperial War Museum to be the official war artist for the Falklands War. Displayed at the Arboretum forty years later, her vivid drawings provide a unique window into the experience of those who fought on the front line, reminding us of the sacrifice that they made.
Despite the islands having been under British possession since 1833, Argentina has long claimed ownership over the Falklands, which are located around 300 miles off the country’s east coast.
When Argentina’s diplomatic efforts to reclaim the islands failed, they resolved to take them by force. Faced with an assault on the British citizens who populated the islands, Britain’s response was swift. A task force of over one hundred ships was assembled, setting sail for the Falklands just days after the Argentine invasion.
255 British personnel lost their lives defending the Falklands, of whom 86 were Royal Navy, 124 Army, 27 Royal Marines, six Merchant Navy, four Royal Fleet Auxiliary and eight Hong Kong sailors. Three Falkland islanders also died in the fighting.
Linda Kitson studied illustration at Saint Martins School of Art and the Royal College of Art, later going on to teach at Camberwell, Chelsea and the City and Guilds Art Schools. Impressed by her drawings that had appeared in The Times newspaper, the Artistic Records Committee of the Imperial War Museum awarded her the Falklands War commission. Consequently, she became the first official female war artist, setting out alongside personnel to document the Falklands conflict in 1982.
On May 12 1982, Kitson set sail on the civilian cruise liner Queen Elizabeth II, which had been requisitioned by the Navy. One of the only women travelling amongst three-thousand men, the eight-thousand mile journey would take two weeks to complete. Scrapping the original plan to end her journey at Ascension Island in the middle of the Atlantic, the artist went on to join those operating in the Falklands themselves, keen to produce a record of the action.