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WORLD | 14-06-2022 09:29

Britain marks 40 years since Argentina's surrender in South Atlantic War

Britain marks, on June 14, 2022, 40 years since Argentine forces surrendered after 74 days of conflict on the Malvinas (Falkland) Islands.

Britain on Tuesday remembered its fallen troops on the 40th anniversary of the end of the Malvinas (Falklands) War with Argentina, as London reasserted its territorial claim to the islands.

Veterans will gather for a remembrance ceremony at the National Memorial Arboretum in central England at 1400 GMT, alongside bereaved family members and civilian support staff.

The Act of Remembrance will include a live link to a similar event at the 1982 Cemetery in Port Stanley, where Argentine forces surrendered on June 14, 1982.

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss paid tribute to the veterans, saying the UK "will always remember their efforts and their sacrifice to liberate the remote South Atlantic archipelago."

"Today the Falklands are thriving as part of the British family. They're a shining beacon of freedom and democracy as a self-governing overseas territory," she said.

British government support for the islands since the conflict has been unwavering, despite Argentina's steadfast claims to what it calls Las Malvinas.

Truss said Britain "will never hesitate" to defend the islands and drew comparisons between the military junta in Buenos Aires's landgrab four decades ago with Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

"The assumption that peace and stability were inevitable has been shattered by Putin's invasion of Ukraine," she said in a video posted on Twitter.  "We must stay vigilant about threats to freedom, sovereignty and self-determination, wherever they may be." 

 

'Psychological wounds'

The British prime minister at the time, Margaret Thatcher, announced the surrender to Parliament on the morning of June 14, 1982, vindicating for many her high-risk decision to send nearly 30,000 troops half-way round the world to retake the islands.

The task force sailed home, greeted by crowds on the docks waving a sea of Union Jacks upon their return from the self-governing British overseas territory nearly 13,000 kilometres (8,000 miles) away.

The victory gave a declining Britain hit by strikes and civil unrest a patriotic boost – and ensured Thatcher a landslide re-election in 1983.

Argentine forces invaded on April 2, beginning a war which claimed the lives of 255 British servicemen, three women who lived on the island and 649 Argentines.

In Britain and on the islands, the anniversary of the start of the conflict on April 2 was muted. Islanders in particular see Argentina's invasion as nothing to celebrate.

But a year-long series of events has been taking place to mark the 40th anniversary, including those on June 14 to mark Liberation Day – a public holiday on the islands, which are home to just 3,500 people.

British veterans of the conflict – which was the first since World War II to involve all branches of Britain's Armed Forces – are grouped under the South Atlantic Medal Association.

Carol Betteridge, of veterans' charity Help for Heroes, recalled that "for many of those who fought so far from home, the physical and mental wounds they received during the conflict affect them every day – not just on anniversaries."

"The lack of proper support for mental health means that many Falklands veterans buried their issues and 'soldiered on' as they were expected to," said Betteridge, the charity's head of clinical and medical services.  "This is why, 40 years on, we still have Falklands veterans coming to us for help for psychological wounds that they have struggled with for so long."

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by Charles Onians, AFP

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