Fareham pledges to remember the Falklands fallen and all those who served in the conflict at town centre Freedom March

IT WAS a proud day for the people of Fareham as the community came together to mark the 40th anniversary of the Falklands conflict.

Sunday, 15th May 2022, 9:29 am

Hundreds lined West Street today as they watched and applauded a procession led through the town centre.

A civic party, accompanied by the HM Royal Marines Band Collingwood and the ship's company of HMS Collingwood, marched from the Civic Offices to the centre of town.

The event on Saturday also celebrated the awarding of the Freedom of the Borough of Fareham to HMS Collingwood, which gives the officers the right to exercise the privilege of marching through the area with drums beating, colours flying, and bayonets fixed.

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Derek Kimber, the Mayor of Fareham, Mike Ford and other Falkland veterans. Picture: Keith Woodland (140521-491)

After the band led the procession to the high street, cllr Mike Ford JP, the Worshipful the Mayor of Fareham, inspected the guard, band, and colour party, while the deputy mayor inspected the front rank officers and senior ratings.

Captain Catherine Jordan, commanding officer on behalf of HMS Collingwood, then inspected the junior ratings as well as the Falklands veterans attending the ceremony.

An arms drill display was held before several formal addresses, including a speech by Falklands veteran Derek Kimber, chief petty officer on board HMS Coventry.

Mr Kimber said: 'It is good that friends and neighbours remember us and our lost brothers, particularly as the world seems to turn at such a pace now.

Derek Kimber and the Mayor of Fareham, Mike Ford. Picture: Keith Woodland (140521-476)

'Thank you Fareham residents for your attendance.'

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Hymns were performed by singer Carley Williams and accompanied by HM Royal Marines Band, while Bible passages and prayers were also read out to the crowd.

Cllr Seàn Woodward, executive leader of the council, also gave an address on behalf of Fareham Borough Council.

Melanie and Jennifer Collins at the Freedom March. Picture: Emily Turner

As he spoke to the crowds, cllr Woodward recalled being at Portsmouth Harbour to see HMS Hermes and Invincible sail away, and then again when they returned home.

He added: ‘Much has been written about the Falklands war, and much more will be written.

‘We are here to remember because people in Fareham were affected by this conflict.

‘I’m proud that in Fareham, and elsewhere, we pause to remember and honour those men and their families who paid the ultimate sacrifice. It is right that we do.’

Proud military family members watched from the crowds as the procession and service took place.

Mother and daughter Jennifer and Melanie Collins wore matching wristbands, scarves, and t-shirts reading ‘HMS Hermes: Never Forgotten’.

They attended in proud memory of their husband and father Michael, who served on HMS Hermes 40 years ago.

Melanie said: 'I was about seven, and I remember we all went to the dock yard to see it leave, and then to see it come back as well.'

Jennifer says that today was an 'emotional' day for her, but added: 'We are very proud to be here to represent him.'

Mum and daughter - who moved from Fareham to Gosport - agreed that the highlight of the day was seeing the veterans taking part in the parade.

Melanie added: 'It's nice to see some living veterans here today. It's all one big family.'

Friends Yvonne Featherstone-Williams and Sue Mathews wore their Falkland scarves with pride as they supported their veteran husbands while they took part in the parade.

The pair both reflected on the difficulties their spouses faced after the conflict.

Yvonne, whose husband Peter is the chairman for HMS Bristol, said: 'We supported our husbands all the way through - we have gone through it with them.

'We continue to support them - I think the government let them down when they came back.'

Sue's husband Ian served on HMS Arrow, and she remembers having to travel up to Plymouth to welcome the ship back.

While Sue says she is 'definitely proud' to see today's ceremony, Yvonne added how nice it was 'to see them march so proudly after what they did for their country'.

Sue said: 'Our two sons are very proud, and especially our grandson, who is seven.'

Both Sue and Yvonne anticipate a busy year of Falklands commemorations, but took the time to reflect back on Fareham's past remembrance ceremonies.

They were among the thousands of residents attending the town’s event to mark the 25th anniversary of the conflict, when Margaret Thatcher unveiled the Falklands Arch on West Street.

Gesturing to the arch, Yvonne said: 'We were here when this went up. We met Maggie Thatcher.'

Taking part in the West Street parade was Dick Shenton, standard bearer for HMS Bristol.

He said that the parade today was 'fabulous': 'a brilliant day, brilliant weather - loved every minute of it.'

Dick added: 'We need to remember at all times.

'There are lots of living memories. The Royal British Legion is collecting as many memories as they can.'

The Freedom of the Borough March was an important moment for many in the crowd, as HMS Collingwood led the parade away from West Street and through the Falklands Arch.

This memorial to the Falklands fallen recently received a special adaptation, which was officially opened today.

Dignitaries unveiled a new memorial plaque at the arch, along with the addition of 40 pale maiden flowers fixed to the structure.

This plant is the national flower of the Falklands, and cllr Woodward said that their inclusion was a ‘poignant addition’ to the memorial.

After the ceremony, the mayor said: 'It is a fabulous occasion, how we have been able to commemorate it today.

'It has been an absolute delight and I hope we have commemorated it appropriately.'