Rex Hunt (diplomat)

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Sir Rex Masterman Hunt, CMG (29 June 1926 – 11 November 2012) was an English British Government diplomat and colonial administrator. He was Governor, Commander-in-Chief, and Vice Admiral of the Falkland Islands (and concurrently High Commissioner of the British Antarctic Territory) between 1980 and September 1985. He became a household name in the United Kingdom during the Falklands War, after the Argentine invasion of the islands in 1982, when he was taken prisoner and temporarily removed from his position.

Sir Rex Hunt

Governor of the Falkland Islands
In office
25 June 1982 (de facto) – 16 October 1985
MonarchElizabeth II
Chief ExecutiveDavid G. P. Taylor
Preceded byJeremy Moore (as Military Commander)[a]
Succeeded byGordon Jewkes
In office
1980 – 2 April 1982 (de facto)
MonarchElizabeth II
Preceded bySir James Parker
Succeeded byMario Benjamín Menéndez (as Military Commander)[a]
Personal details
Rex Masterman Hunt

(1926-06-29)29 June 1926
Died 11 November 2012(2012-11-11) (aged 86)
Alma materSt Peter's College, Oxford
OccupationDiplomat and colonial administrator
Military service
Allegiance United Kingdom
Branch/service Royal Air Force
Years of service1941 – 1948
RankFlight Lieutenant
UnitNo 5 Squadron
No 26 Squadron
Battles/warsWorld War II, Falklands War
^ Legally, Hunt remained Governor throughout the occupation.

Early lifeEdit

Rex Hunt was born in Redcar in the North Riding of Yorkshire. He received his formal education at Redcar's Coatham School, and at St Peter's College, Oxford, where he read Law.[1]

During World War 2 he joined the Royal Air Force as a cadet in 1941, and was enlisted as an airman in 1944, receiving a commission as a pilot in 1945.[2] He was promoted to flying officer (war substantive) in June 1946,[3] with the permanent promotion to that rank in December the same year.[4] In August 1946, he was transferred to No 5 Squadron in India, where he flew Spitfires, before transferring to West Germany with No 26 Squadron in August 1947. He left active service in September 1948,[5] and held the rank of flight lieutenant in the Royal Air Force reserves in September 1950,[6] relinquishing his commission in December 1953.[7]

Diplomatic careerEdit

In 1952 he joined the Colonial and Diplomatic Service of the British Government's Foreign Office. and received his first foreign posting as District Commissioner in Uganda in 1962. He then served as First Secretary in Kuching, Sarawak, 1964–65, and Jesselton, Sabah 1965-67, both in the newly independent Malaysia, and then in Brunei 1967. In 1968 he was transferred to Ankara in Turkey, but was back in Asia with the appointment as Head of Chancery in Jakarta, Indonesia, 1970-72.[8] After a brief spell back in England, he was appointed Consul-General at the British Embassy in Saigon in January 1974,[9] and was there at the time of the fall of South Vietnam in 1975 at the end of the Vietnam War. He was transferred to Kuala Lumpur in 1976, and served as Deputy High Commissioner to Malaysia 1977-79.[8]

Falklands GovernorshipEdit

On 14 January 1980, as a final career posting, he was appointed as the Governor of the Falkland Islands and High Commissioner of the British Antarctic Territory.[10] The national status of the Falkland Islands was a troublesome British Empire legacy issue to the British Government, which was under diplomatic pressure at this time from the Government of Argentina to hand over the Islands to its national control, having asserted a sovereign right over the territory for centuries, based on contested historical claims. With a military dictatorship in place in Buenos Aires, this claim was being asserted with more intent than ever before, and - unbeknown to the British Government - plans were underway to seize the Islands by force of arms, without a prior declaration of hostilities.[11][12] In the meantime, Hunt had been dispatched to the Islands as their new Governor, with instructions from the Foreign Office to try, during his tenure administrating them, to persuade the recalcitrant islanders that the Islands being moved into an Argentinian governmental sphere of influence, given its geographical proximity compared to that of the United Kingdom, was perhaps in their best long-term interest. Hunt soon discovered that the Falkland Islanders were adamantly opposed to any ceding of their sovereignty in this direction, and he relayed this information back to London; on consideration of the matter arguing that he personally agreed with their views. Hunt's seniors in London did not receive the news well, and concluded that Hunt had "gone native".[11] When government minister Nicholas Ridley attempted in 1980-1981 to negotiate a diplomatic solution to the contested sovereignty of the Falkland Islands, local islands politician Adrian Monk made a broadcast on 2 January 1981 outlining the local population's opposition that Hunt described as "Churchillian" [13]

Falklands WarEdit

On 2 April 1982, under cover of a night approach across the Southern Atlantic Ocean, the Argentine Navy and Argentine Army carried out a seaborne invasion of the Falkland Islands. Hunt made his official residence, Government House in Port Stanley, the operational headquarters for the small Royal Marines garrison on the islands, sending his family and domestic staff away to safer houses. His housekeeper took with her a portrait photograph of the Queen and a bottle of gin.[14] Government House quickly became the scene of a brief battle between the Royal Marines garrison and Argentine commandos. With the British forces facing overwhelming military and logistical odds, Hunt, after an extended exchange of small arms fire, with a handful of casualties, reluctantly gave the order to the Royal Marines lay down their arms. He then went to Stanley Town Hall, wearing his full dress uniform, complete with medals, gold braid, neck ribbons, sword, sash and plumed cocked hat to face the Argentine invasion force's Commandant, Vice-Admiral Carlos Büsser, addressing him with: "You have landed unlawfully on British territory, and I order you to remove yourself and your troops forthwith". In response he was met with laughter, roughed up, and placed under confinement by the Argentines. Four hours later, under armed escort, he was flown out of the Falklands on a aeroplane to Montevideo, in Uruguay.[14] He remained in this forced exile during the Occupation of the Falkland Islands, until they were militarily liberated on 14 June 1982 by a British seaborne taskforce dispatched by the British Government, after which he returned again in full dress uniform and re-established its self-governance. Victorious British forces paraded past in review while he was clad in full dress uniform. He continued to serve in the post of its Governor until 1985.

External image
  Hunt at his desk shortly after returning to his post

Later lifeEdit

In retirement he wrote his memoir My Falkland Days, which was published in 1992.[15] He was chairman of the Falkland Islands Association for several years. He retired as Chairman in 2004 and moved to Elton, County Durham, near to his childhood home of Redcar.[16]


Hunt died in his 87th year at Stockton-on-Tees on 11 November 2012.[17][15] His funeral, with a pallbearer party from the Royal Air Force, was held at All Saint's Church in Hutton Rudby on 23 November 2012,[18] with a burial in the church's graveyard. The gravestone makes no reference to his career civic titles or awards, but bears an engraved image of a map outline of the Falkland Islands.[19] A memorial service was simultaneously held to his memory at Port Stanley.[20]

On the announcement of his death by the British Government, Prime Minister David Cameron stated that Hunt "should be a hero to everyone in Britain for his actions during the Falkland War."[15]


He was appointed a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George (CMG) in 1980, and knighted on 11 October 1982, in recognition of services during the Falklands War.[21] He was a Freeman of the City of London 1981, and a Freeman of Stanley, Falkland Islands 1985.[8] In 1987 Hunt was appointed as the Honorary Air Commodore of No. 2729 (City of Lincoln) Squadron (Royal Auxiliary Air Force Regiment).[22]


Ribbon Description Notes
  Order of St Michael and St George (CMG)

Companion, 1980

  Knight Bachelor (Kt)

11 October 1982

  Defence Medal
  War Medal
  South Atlantic Medal with Rosette



  • My Falkland Days (1992)

Cultural referencesEdit

Hunt was portrayed by Ian Richardson in the 1992 BBC television drama An Ungentlemanly Act, a dramatization of the Argentinian invasion of the Falklands in 1982.[24]


  1. ^ Shirley, John (12 November 2012). "Rex Hunt Obituary". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 12 November 2012.
  2. ^ "No. 37518". The London Gazette. 29 March 1946. p. 1626.
  3. ^ "No. 37647". The London Gazette. 12 July 1946. p. 3603.
  4. ^ "No. 37883". The London Gazette. 18 February 1947. p. 800.
  5. ^ "No. 38401". The London Gazette. 14 September 1948. p. 4946.
  6. ^ "No. 39335". The London Gazette. 18 September 1951. p. 4878.
  7. ^ "No. 40293". The London Gazette. 5 October 1954. p. 5642.
  8. ^ a b c Who's Who 2012, A & C Black, 2012, Online University Press
  9. ^ "No. 46272". The London Gazette. 23 April 1974. p. 5068.
  10. ^ "No. 48277". The London Gazette. 13 August 1980. p. 11491.
  11. ^ a b "Sir Rex Hunt". The Daily Telegraph. London. 12 November 2012.
  12. ^ Thatcher, Margaret (1995). The Downing Street Years. London: HarperCollinsPublishers. p. 175. ISBN 0-00-638321-1.
  13. ^
  14. ^ a b "Fight for the Falklands". BBC News. Retrieved 26 May 2007.
  15. ^ a b c "Rex Hunt, British governor at time of Falklands war, dies at 86". Washington Post. 12 November 2012. Retrieved 14 November 2012.
  16. ^ Live, Teesside (12 November 2012). "Redcar-born Sir Rex Hunt has died aged 86". Retrieved 13 September 2018.
  17. ^ "BBC News - Falklands governor Sir Rex Hunt dies". 1 January 1970. Retrieved 12 November 2012.
  18. ^ 'Veterans join final salute at funeral of former Falklands Governor Sir Rex Hunt', 'Teeside Gazette', 23 November 2012.
  19. ^ Entry for Rex Hunt's grave in Findagrave website (2019).
  20. ^ 'Veterans join final salute at funeral of former Falklands Governor Sir Rex Hunt', 'Teeside Gazette', 23 November 2012.
  21. ^ "No. 49134". The London Gazette. 8 October 1982. p. 12859.
  22. ^ "SIR REX HUNT, FORMER GOVERNOR OF THE FALKLAND ISLANDS, VISITS SOLINGEN, WEST GERMANY [Allocated Title]". Imperial War Museums. Retrieved 13 September 2018.
  23. ^ "Falklands Portraits: Sir Rex Hunt (b.1926), Governor - Art UK". Retrieved 13 September 2018.
  24. ^ "An Ungentlemanly Act (1992)". IMDb. Retrieved 6 June 2009.