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Falklands Royal Navy Wives: fulfilling a militarised stereotype or articulating individuality?

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

This thesis demonstrates that Falklands naval wives were not the homogeneous and stereotypical group portrayed in the media, but individuals experiencing specific effects of conflict on combatants, wives and families. It contributes originally to oral history by exploring retrospective memories of Falkland’s naval wives and their value to wider history.

Falklands naval wives as individuals had not been researched before. The conflict was fought in the media using gendered and paternalistic language and images, a binary of man fighting versus woman serving the home front.

The aim is to widen the scope of the gender, social, naval and cultural history of the Falklands Conflict by recording naval wives’ views before they were lost, thereby offering new insight into the history of the Falklands Conflict.

Original research described in this thesis addresses several important research questions:
1. If a group of naval wives underwent the same events, would their views/thoughts/ experiences be comparable?
2. Was the image depicted in existing literature the only view?
3. Did the naval community differ from the rest of society; how were its gender roles defined?
4. Did the wives’ thoughts and feelings differ from those reported in the press?
5. Did media views reinforce previous militarised patriotism and gender roles?

Pilot interviews revealed wives’ techniques of coping with deployments, views on media intrusion, and PTSD effects on families. This original research extended that work by disclosing, through successive stages, how military life affected wives’ lives
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Oral history methodology was adopted because wives were accessible and could remember. Enloe’s institutionalisation of military wives’ theory was interrogated. One-to-one, not group interviews, were selected because groups could have reinforced military culture and hierarchy. Questionnaires would have provided poorer data.

Deployed naval personnel totalled 18,000. Fifty wives recruited from the south of England constituted a small population; accessing a representative sample after thirty years introduced problems of balance and retrospective memory. Measurable variables included ages, jobs, children and naval experience. Absent from pilot interviews were education, political allegiance and newspaper choice, thus omitted from questions.

Oral History Society training and academic oral historian guidance predicated re-interviews with more open questions and props, to enrich initial data and explore further the Falklands naval wives’ individual experiences of family life during and after a conflict. It offers unique but generalisable insight into gender issues in the British armed forces.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Advisors
Award dateDec 2018
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