SERVICES were held in the UK and Port Stanley yesterday to mark 30 years since the end of the Falklands War.
Foreign Office minister Jeremy Browne represented the British government as commemorations were held in Stanley, the capital of the Falklands.
Hundreds of Islanders lined the streets to remember the moment on June 14, 1982, when British forces liberated the islands 74 days after Argentina invaded the rocky outpost 8,000 miles from home.
In all, 100 ships and 27,000 troops – including many sailors based in the Portsmouth area – were sent by Margaret Thatcher to reclaim the Falklands.
Prime Minister David Cameron yesterday paid tribute to the men who did not return home and reaffirmed the UK’s support for Islanders in the face of continued aggression from Argentina over the territory.
He said: ‘It’s a time to pay tribute to the 255 UK servicemen who paid the ultimate price so that the people of the Falkland Islands could live in peace and in freedom.
‘And it’s a time to express our huge debt of gratitude to all those servicemen who showed such astonishing courage to recapture the Islands.’
The Prime Minister also expressed his hopes that the decision by the Falklands government to hold a referendum on their sovereignty next year would end that dispute ‘once and for all’.
He said: ‘For the last 180 years, 10 generations have called the Falkland Islands home and have strived hard to secure a prosperous future for their children.
‘Next year’s referendum will establish the definitive choice of the Falkland Islanders once and for all.
‘And just as we have stood up for the Islanders in the past, so we will in the future.’
The Royal Navy held a Liberation Day service at its training establishment HMS Raleigh in Cornwall, while sailors from HMS Penzance joined Welsh veterans for a ceremony in Swansea.
Among the war veterans at Raleigh was Warrant Officer Gary Smith, who served as a 22-year-old Leading Seaman in HMS Brilliant during the conflict.
He said: ‘Initially, in the mess deck we were not even sure where the Falklands were. Four weeks later we were attacking the Argentine submarine Santa Cruz off South Georgia – the rest is as they say history.
‘One hundred days at sea, action stations and daily air attacks has a way of focusing the mind.
‘One of the most difficult things then was that all mail was snail mail. It was about a month’s turn around on news from the Falklands and back to the UK so often the families back home were unsure of events at the time.’