LONDON -- A band of 'visitors' landed on a remote, uninhabited island off the Falklands, tore down the Union Jack and replaced it with the Argentine flag, the Ministry of Defense said Friday.
The incident occurred before Dec. 19, 1982 but was only revealed by the ministry after a London newspaper reported Argentina had landed a raiding party on the remote island.
The ministry said it did not know who was responsible for tearing down the British flag on the tiny island of Thule, part of the Sandwich Islands, about 400 miles southeast of the disputed British colony in the South Atlantic.
'We are not inclined to treat the incident as a serious indication of Argentine intent to re-establish a presence on the dependencies,' the ministry said in a statement.
The South Sandwich Islands are among several British dependencies in the south Atlantic. The others include South Georgia Island, 800 miles east of the Falklands, Tristan da Cunha, the British Antarctic territory and the Sandwich Islands.
Argentine military personnel had manned a meteorological station for six years on Thule until they were removed June 20, 1982, a defense spokesman said.
'We haven't a clue what went on and God only knows who it was - scrap metal merchants, someone in their cups (drunk) or the Argentine military,' a ministry spokesman said.
The ministry statement said a tattered Argentine flag was found flying on the Thule flagpole Dec. 19, 1982 by the crew of the HMS Hecate, a research vessel.
'They found the British flag folded under some rocks nearby,' the statement said.
'Investigation has not shed any light on this occurrance. There were no other signs of visitors.'
Although defense officials were not treating the indcident as serious, the statement said 'in view of the possibility they (Argentina) might seek to re-occupy their well-equipped base on southern Thule, steps were taken to destroy the buildings during the first week in February.'
The spokesman said parties on the HMS Ariadne and the supply ship Tide Spring demolished the Argentine buildings.
'The only structures now remaining are two beacons, a flag pole with the Union flag and a fully-staffed refuse hut' filled with provisions in case anyone got stranded on Thule, the spokesman said.