It will have been (rightly) hard to escape the fact that yesterday marked 100 years since the guns fell silent on the Western Front and elsewhere. It is also hard to escape the fact that the Falklands has seen blood spilled on its soil in conflict in living memory. I often say to visitors that you need to understand 1982 to understand the Falklands today. It sounds obvious, as history ultimately explains everything about our World today, but this is more pronounced and specific to one key event here. The effects of 1982 are wide-ranging and long-standing, but on a day like Remembrance Sunday, the conflict once again casts its light over the Falklands. The commemorations in Europe and elsewhere have received a lot of press coverage so for those wondering how this occasion passed in the Falklands Islands, the annual traditions were complimented by a local campaign.
Each year on Remembrance Sunday, a military parade makes its way to the Cross of Sacrifice overlooking Stanley Harbour, where the forces and civilians gather in as much of a crowd as a small population can muster. The Governor then begins the wreath-laying ceremony and the names of all those from the Falklands who have died fighting in major conflicts of the 20th century are read out before the Victory guns (two small calibre guns on Victory Green) and a bugler signal the start and end of the two minute silence. Wreaths are also laid at the many other memorials dotted around the Islands.
This year, I was privileged to be part of the There But Not There campaign, helping my students at the secondary school to research and write up whatever we could find about the 22 men from the Falklands who died on active service during WWI. As a result of this project, it was discovered that Robert Greenshields Douglas had been missed out and, for the first time, his name was read out alongside the others on the Roll of Honour at the service. The rest of the information is on display in the excellent Museum in Stanley and it was astonishing to see that such a small population lost such a high percentage of its men for those four years and after (many of them paying their own way to Britain). The There But Not There campaign also brought down some striking figures of WWI Tommies to represent these lost souls and their presence added a powerful backdrop to the commemoration. The photos below are from the British Forces South Atlantic Islands collection, as I tend not to take photos at solemn occasions like this; the presence of a ‘selfie stick’ at the memorial going quite a long way to proving pretty much everything wrong with the 21st century.
The only hindrance to the day was the fact that a multi-faith or secular approach was not adopted in this diverse society. Sadly, there was little escaping the Christian insistence on dominating occasions that should not be motivated by religion and I can only hope that the Falklands and other nations take a more progressive approach to this in future years.