Prime Minister David Cameron today saluted the men and women who liberated the Falkland – and reaffirmed Britain’s commitment to the islands, 30 years to the day they were invaded.
A series of commemorative events in the UK and the Falklands themselves will be held over the next 11 weeks, beginning today at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire.
The iconic image of Royal Marine Peter Robinson yomping towards Stanley with fellow commandos
THE first of a series of national events commemorating the sacrifices made liberating the Falklands takes place today – 30 years to the day the islands were invaded.
Some 18,000 Royal Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary sailors and Royal Marines took part in the 11-week campaign to re-take the islands, which saw a force of more than 100 warships, support vessels and merchantmen dispatched to the South Atlantic at short notice.
Six vessels never returned – four Royal Navy warships, one RFA landing ship, and the supply ship Atlantic Conveyor – and the 130 sailors and commandos killed accounted for more than half the 255 British dead; in addition, 257 men from the Naval Service were wounded.
Those sacrifices will be honoured at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire, where a short service of remembrance is being held.
The terrible sight of HMS Antelope exploding as an unexploded Argentine bomb detonates
A Falklands flame will be lit in the arboretum’s chapel for the first of the 74 days of the conflict. Up until Thursday June 14 – the anniversary of the Argentine surrender – visitors can use this to light their own candle of remembrance.
The first commemorations come as the Government reaffirmed its commitment to the islanders right to determine their own future.
In a message marking the anniversary, Prime Minister David Cameron said it was a day “to remember all those who lost their lives in the conflict – the members of our Armed Forces, as well as the Argentinian personnel who died. Today, we salute the heroism of the Task Force which set sail to free the islands.
Sea Harriers launch from the very wet flight deck of flagship HMS Hermes. Picture: Fleet Air Arm Museum
“We are rightly proud of the role Britain played in righting a profound wrong. And the people of the Falkland Islands can be justly proud of the prosperous and secure future they have built for their islands since 1982.
“Britain remains staunchly committed to upholding the right of the Falkland Islanders, and of the Falkland Islanders alone, to determine their own future. That was the fundamental principle that was at stake 30 years ago: and that is the principle which we solemnly re-affirm today.”
No British warship which took part in the campaign is still serving, but the public has the chance to see a sister ship of the Type 42 destroyers which shielded the Falklands task force, HMS York, during three days of commemorations in Portsmouth Naval Base.
The Remember the Falklands Weekend opens with a private garden party and Beat Retreat at HMS Nelson on the evening of Friday May 4 for the estimated 400 veterans still serving in the Royal Navy and Royal Marines.
That’s followed by events in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard on Saturday May 5 and Sunday May 6 – with York and her successor, new Type 45 destroyer HMS Dragon, open to the public.
Royal Marines prepare to hoist the Falkland Islands flag again on the pole outside Government House in Stanley
The history group Forces 80 will be in RN and Argentinean uniforms of the era, displaying infantry kit and numerous weapons and will set up a command post with documents, radios and Falklands’ maps, and Nicci Pugh, Senior Nursing Officer for the Queen’s Alexandra’s Royal Naval Nursing Service, who served on the hospital ship Uganda will give talks on the crucial work of medics during the conflict.
On Sunday May 6, there will be a service of remembrance in Portsmouth’s Anglican Cathedral attended by serving RN personnel and Falklands’ veterans, and will include a performance by the Royal Marines Band.
Following the service there will be a civic procession, to the Falklands’ Memorial in nearby Broad Street for a ceremony where the Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire, Lord Mayor of Portsmouth, the leader of the City Council, representatives from the Royal Navy and veterans’ organisations will all lay wreaths.
After the ceremony the Royal Marines Band will lead Falklands’ veterans in a march past along Broad Street in front of the Falklands’ Memorial where the Lord Lieutenant and Lord Mayor will take the salute.
A rapturous welcome in Portsmouth for Hermes on her return
Commemorations then return to Staffordshire for the dedication of the Falklands Memorial at the National Arboretum on May 20.
The monument – a curved wall of rugged stone facing a rock from the Falklands and two benches – has been erected thanks to a £62,000 fund-raising drive by SAMA82 which represents Falkland conflict veterans.
Falklanders will hold their annual liberation day ceremony on June 14, while there’s a service of remembrance at St Paul’s Cathedral in London organised by the Falklands Families Association on June 16.
The last major commemorative event takes place the following day, June 17, with the annual service at the Falklands Memorial Chapel in Pangbourne, near Reading.