HELMETS FOR CHEESE – THE TRUE STORY OF THE FALKLANDS 25 YEARS ON
By Julian Nettlefold, Editor BATTLESPACE
13 Nov 06. The 25th anniversary of the Falklands Campaign will be commemorated across 8,000 miles and four time zones, in London, Pangbourne and the Falkland Islands from 14 to 17 June 2007, Veterans’ Minister Derek Twigg announced on Monday.
The First Sea Lord and Chief of the Naval Staff, Admiral Sir Jonathon Band KCB, ADC, said that a number of lessons had been learnt during the Falklands conflict. These included new design for warships, taking away the aluminum superstructure and a totally refined Logistics and Expeditionary Capability which is now the norm today. Coupled with the new Joint Force Structure including the Joint Harrier fleet and the new amphibious assault ships, the Royal Navy is now well placed to conduct similar campaigns.
The Falklands campaign was the first covered by the Editor at Defence Magazine and thus has a special place in my career. The late Antony Preston, then Naval Editor, was elected onto the Falkland Enquiry under Humphrey Atkins in the House Of Commons and there were many quotes form Antony on the answers from the many Civil Servants. One source had told the Editor that the 80mm mortars all broke their base plates due to never having been fired at full charge. Just when the Brigadier thought he had escaped serious questions about failure of equipment, Antony nudged Humphrey Atkins and said, “Ask him about the mortars!” “Ah, the mortars…….”replied the Brigadier.
On another occasion the Civil Servant spent an hour talking about the rubber lost on the plimsolls of the Royal Marines whilst running round the White Whal, SS Canberra. “Methinks the fox has got away!” said Humphrey Atkins.
Commemorations will look too at what the Islanders themselves have achieved in the 25 years since the conflict, building a robust and thriving community worthy of the sacrifices made.
Official events begin on Liberation Day Thursday 14 June at the Falkland Islands Memorial Chapel in the grounds of Pangbourne ‘nautical’ College, Berkshire. This service of Commemoration and Remembrance is held annually on behalf of the Falklands Families Association, but will have special significance in 2007 when it will be attended by senior members of the Royal family, and carried live on BBC.
Later that day (UK time) attention will turn to the Falkland Islands and the first of a series of ambitious live link ups with the Islands. A service at Christchurch Cathedral, Stanley will be followed by an Act of Commemoration at the Falklands War Memorial, and British Forces currently based on the Islands will parade through Stanley exercising the Freedom of the City that was bestowed on them by the Falkland Islands Government in 2002.
The showpiece event of these commemorations will be on Sunday 17 June. This will consist of a high impact visual event on Horse Guards Parade followed by a march past of veterans and their modern day service counterparts up The Mall to Buckingham Palace to witness a fly past of aircraft from the Falklands era as well as some of those flown by the same squadrons today. Central to the event will be the personal recollections of veterans and Islanders as they tell their stories in their own words.
The Falklands Campaign also has another special place in my heart. My father was wounded in North Africa in 1943 serving with the Welsh Guards; he lost both hands and an eye the other being saved by an American Surgeon attached to Third Army. When Sir Galahad was hit and the wounded Welsh Guards taken home, my father visited them, including Simon Weston, in hospital to given them hope for the future. After all he was only 21 when he was wounded and is now 85 with three children, four grand-children and a 56 year marriage!
The Editor talked to John Phillips DSC who lost an arm whilst defusing a bomb on HMS Antelope and now serves on the BLESMA Board. BATTLESPACE supports BLESMA’s