Falkland Islands liberation marked

Defence correspondent om Cotterill on the jet simulator

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War heroes and those they freed will stand together today as they mark the 30th anniversary of the liberation of the Falkland Islands.

The 74-day occupation of the remote British Overseas Territory ended on June 14 1982 as Argentinian commander General Mario Menendez surrendered to the British at Stanley.

The fighting cost the lives of 255 British servicemen, three Falkland Islanders and 655 Argentinian soldiers.

Eight thousands miles away in London David Cameron also marked the anniversary and pledged to continue defending the Islands from Argentinian ‘aggressive threats’.

Three decades after Margaret Thatcher sent 27,000 troops and more than 100 ships to repel the Argentinian invaders, Buenos Aires continues to set its sights on claiming the territory.

The South American country’s president, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, is due to address the United Nations Special Committee on Decolonisation, meeting today in New York.

Mr Cameron said he hoped the decision by the Falkland Islands government to hold a referendum on their future sovereignty would end that dispute “once and for all”.

The Prime Minister 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.’

In a swipe at Argentina, he added: ‘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.

‘And despite the aggressive threats from over the water, they are succeeding.

‘The Falklands economy is growing, the fishing industry is thriving and tourism is flourishing.

‘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 Falkland Islanders in the past, so we will in the future.’

A small delegation of islanders, most of whom were not yet born when the Falklands War took place, will also be in New York, where they hope to give a message to Ms Kirchner and the Argentinian delegation that the South American country’s attitude to Falkland Islanders is an “insult” to the generations of families who have forged a life there.

In Stanley - the capital of the Falkland Islands - veterans, widows, politicians and Falklanders will take part in a commemoration service.

The service will be attended by Foreign Office Minister Jeremy Browne who said the anniversary would be a mixture of ‘celebration and commemoration’.

‘People are very proud of the achievements of the British armed forces,’ Mr Browne said.

‘The Falkland Islanders themselves were obviously coerced into a political arrangement they didn’t wish to have 30 years ago and they are enthusiastic about celebrating their liberation from that.

‘It is also a commemorative event and it’s a balance about people being pleased on the Falkland Islands about the outcome of the war but also a more sombre reflection on the sacrifice on both sides.’

At least half of the 3,000-strong population is expected to line the street which leads to Liberation Monument.

A service of thanksgiving will be held at Stanley’s Christ Church Cathedral, with the Governor of the Falkland Islands, members of the Legislative Assembly, the Commander of British Forces South Atlantic Islands and other visiting dignitaries and veterans expected to attend.

A parade will be led by veterans of the 1982 war and consist of members of the Royal Navy, the Parachute Regiment, the Royal Air Force and the Falkland Islands Defence Force.

Accompanied by the Salamanca band of the Rifles the parade will march from the Cathedral to Liberation Monument for the Act of Remembrance.

The names of all the British service personnel and Falkland Islanders who died during the war will be recited during the service.

Following the Last Post wreaths will be laid and the Act of Remembrance will finish with a Royal Salute.