Falklands 40: Royal Navy veteran commandos return to the islands to unveil memorial at end of anniversary year

AS THE 40th anniversary year of the Falklands drew to a close, commandos who had been the first to come under fire in the conflict were honoured at a final commemorative event – which saw the veteran warriors return to the islands.
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The 70 Royal Marines and sailors of Naval Party 8901 – the islands’ first line of defence – fought against Argentine forces during the first hours of the invasion in 1982.

They were ordered to lay down their arms by the islands’ governor, before being taken prisoner.

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Repatriated a few days later, the men returned to the islands two months later – to raise the Falklands flag outside Government House as Argentine forces surrendered.

Royal Marines veterans with the new memorial plinth to NP8901.Royal Marines veterans with the new memorial plinth to NP8901.
Royal Marines veterans with the new memorial plinth to NP8901.

Four decades later, the veteran commandos have returned to the capitol of Stanley, joining the current garrison and Falkland Islands Defence Force personnel in a parade through the streets, ending in front of the large war memorial on the sea front.

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Bill Muir, in 1982 a sergeant major who had begun his year-long tour of duty just days before the invasion, was invited to unveil a memorial plinth in honour of the Falklands War veterans in the grounds of Government House.

The memorial praises him and his comrades for offering a ‘courageous and gallant defence' despite being ‘outnumbered, outgunned and outmanoeuvred’.

Naval Party 8901 raise the Falklands flag at the end of the conflict.Naval Party 8901 raise the Falklands flag at the end of the conflict.
Naval Party 8901 raise the Falklands flag at the end of the conflict.
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Bill fought back tears as he performed the honours – as this is the first official recognition the Naval Party has received.

He said: ‘’I know the people of the Falklands continue to thank us, but after the war, it is us who really, really thank them.’

Stanley’s councillor, MLA Leona Roberts – who was a child during the conflict – told the Naval Party veterans it was difficult to capture the extent of the islanders’ gratitude for the veteran’s valour.

She said: ‘You have a place in our hearts. And you have earned a place of special honour in the history of the Falklands.’

Naval Party 8901 veterans march past the 1914 Memorial.Naval Party 8901 veterans march past the 1914 Memorial.
Naval Party 8901 veterans march past the 1914 Memorial.
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This year saw the 40th anniversary of the conflict marked with a range of events across Portsmouth, including an emotional parade of hundreds of veterans who were cheered and saluted as they marched through the streets of Old Portsmouth in June.