This week marks half term for us here in the Falklands. It’s an oddly timed break, just one week long and with the weather getting to a bitterly cold level (snow and hail are coming and going, though not in terrible quantities and not enough to cause problems). We’re unlikely to head out to Camp all the same as we’ve got a lot to do, but we’ll find time for a break in the proceedings as military history geeks or blog followers with great memories will be aware; 14th June this year marks the 35th anniversary of the surrender of Argentine forces in the 1982 Falklands conflict. To those here in the Falklands, this is Liberation Day and it’s hard to explain the significance and the atmosphere to people living in countries that haven’t experienced military occupation in living memory. The day is a bank holiday, of course, and proceeds with a service at the Cathedral before a military parade at the solemn Liberation Monument on Stanley seafront. It is a safe bet that this will be the largest turn-out for any event in the Falklands. At least, I cannot see there being a larger crowd gathered at all here.
What follows is the great contrast of Liberation Day. On the one hand, the day is solemn. It’s a time to remember those who fell in battle or died fighting to free the people here (many of whom remember the sacrifice made for them and by whom). It is, however, also a time to celebrate; the joy of being granted freedom after oppression at the hands of an aggressor. With that in mind, we then proceed to the largest suitable venue (last year the Town Hall, this year the FIDF Hall; drill hall for the Falkland Islands Defence Force) where the government puts on a “civic reception” for everyone to gather together and celebrate. The excellent Museum is also open with free entry for a few hours (the staff there among the few people in town who are working on the day).
It’s a strange day, particularly poignant for the older members of the community. It’s also a stark reminder that there are some distinct differences between the UK and this overseas territory. I can’t summon to memory a celebration in the UK that seems to maintain the significance of this one to such a large proportion of the people. Perhaps our excitement about Liberation Day is another symptom of being part of this community.
Speaking of symptoms of the community: the annual South Atlantic Mid-Winter Swim is approaching in two weeks. We’ve yet to decide if we’ll do it again this year. It lacks novelty for those who have lived here their entire lives, so is almost universally attended by the many military and fixed-term contract residents (such as ourselves). Stay tuned to find out whether we brave it for yet another Certificate of Lunacy signed by the Governor.