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FALKLANDS 25TH ANNIVERSARY

08 June 1982: Fifty die in Argentine air attack. Up to 50 British servicemen have died in an Argentine air attack on two supply ships in the Falklands. Sir Galahad and Sir Tristram were anchored off Fitzroy in Port Pleasant, near Bluff Cove, when they were bombed in a surprise raid by five Argentine Skyhawks. Sir Galahad burst into flames instantly. The exact number of injured is still unknown. The ships had almost completed an operation to move support troops of the Fifth infantry brigade from San Carlos to join forces advancing on the capital Port Stanley when the attack occurred. The decision to make the dangerous journey was taken after the discovery that the settlements of Fitzroy and Bluff Cove had apparently been deserted by Argentine troops. Moving the soldiers round by sea in landing ships was intended to save a lengthy trek across the bogs and mountains, which would have delayed support reaching other troops. The attack came before adequate air defences could be installed, and the men on board, many from the Welsh guards, were helpless as Argentine air planes pounded them. Helicopters which had been moving equipment rushed to rescue survivors, some of whom had jumped overboard to escape the rapidly-spreading flames. Black smoke poured out as the guards’ ammunition started to ignite. On the cliff tops, medical staff waited for helicopters to bring the injured to shore. Many of the injured had suffered burns, as the speed of the attack meant the crew had no time to put on protective masks. In a week of raids at San Carlos, not a single ship has been sunk. Now, two have been lost in a single attack.
Meanwhile, it has been announced that Wales’ memorial to the war’s 258 UK victims will be unveiled in September. The destruction of the Sir Galahad by Argentine Skyhawk jets came just six days before the Argentine surrender. The bombing accounted for one fifth of all British fatalities, many of them Welsh Guardsman preparing to go ashore and join the land war. Twenty-five years on, Welsh veterans will attend a remembrance service at St Mary’s Church which has a stained glass window depicting the bombing. The service, beneath the window at the north end of the church, will include elements of the original 1982 memorial service for victims of the attack. It will include the playing of the Dire Straits song, Brothers in Arms, which has a special significance to the veterans. At the same time, it is expected to be announced that a commemoration of the conflict in Cardiff on 30 September will include the unveiling of a Welsh national memorial to the British fallen. A significant part of the memorial will be a five-tonne rock given to the Welsh veterans of the conflict by the people of the Falklands. The stone was brought from Mount Harriet, a battle site where Welsh Guards supported the Royal Marines. The stone was chosen by Andy Jones, secretary of the South Atlantic Medal Association in Wales, who was a 19-year-old Welsh Guardsman on the Sir Galahad on the day of the 1982 attack. “You were picked up and thrown like a feather in the wind,”Andy Jones. He said: “It means an awful lot to all the veterans to see their comrades’ names on a national Welsh memorial. “Most veterans who were aboard or knew people aboard the Sir Galahad mark 8 June in their own way. “It’s quite an upsetting date in their calendar. Some of them certainly will be suffering today – more so than usual.” Mr Jones, now a prison officer in Cardiff, said of the bombings: “You were picked up and thrown like a feather in the wind. Every bit of breath was forced out. “There was a huge orange flash and the heat was coming through your eyes. It was like needles.” (Source: BBC)

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