Sir Rex Hunt, who was governor of the Falkland Islands during the 1982 Argentine invasion, has died at the age of 86, officials have confirmed.
"Sir Rex Hunt should be a hero to everyone in Britain," said Prime Minister David Cameron.
"Faced with invading forces in Port Stanley in April 1982, his courage, resolve and judgment fired the spirit of the Islanders and the British people to stand up to aggression and to defend the rights and freedom of the Islanders."
Foreign Secretary William Hague said: "As governor of the Falkland Islands he served his country and the Falkland Islanders with great distinction. Like the Islanders themselves, he demonstrated great courage and fortitude in the face of Argentine aggression during the Falklands conflict.
"After the conflict, he contributed to the transformation of the Islands into a vibrant, modern and successful democracy. The warm tribute the Falkland Islands government has paid him today reflects the genuine respect, gratitude and affection felt for Sir Rex by the people he worked so hard to support. His contribution will not be forgotten."
The Falkland Islands government said Sir Rex will be remembered for his "courage and dignity" in facing the invasion. He also served as chairman of the Falkland Islands Association and as president of the UK Falkland Islands Trust and was granted the freedom of the island capital, Stanley, in 1985.
The Yorkshireman took up his post in 1980 and was ousted as governor of the British overseas territory by invading Argentinian forces on April 2 1982. After refusing a plan to hide in the hills and outnumbered after a fierce gun battle, Sir Rex took the painful decision to surrender. But he made one final act of defiance when, dressed in full gubernatorial uniform, he refused to shake invading commander General Oswald Garcia's hand.
The islands were recaptured by British forces on June 14 that year after then-prime minister Margaret Thatcher deployed a naval taskforce to the South Atlantic ocean. During the weeks of the war, Sir Rex stayed in London while his wife and son were in a house in Kent.
The Falkland Islands government said in a statement: "We received news of the passing of Sir Rex Hunt with great sadness. Sir Rex will forever be remembered in the islands for his years of service as governor, and particularly for his courage and dignity in facing the Argentine invasion in 1982."
It added: "His passion and commitment to the Falkland Islands will be sorely missed. The thoughts and deepest sympathies of all Falkland islanders are with his family and friends at this sad time."