Today is Liberation Day in the Falkland Islands. A public holiday, of course. 37 years ago today the Argentine surrender was signed by General Menendez in the Secretariat, ending 74 days of armed occupation for the population here. It hadn’t come easily: 255 British servicemen, 3 Falkland Island civilians and approximately 650 Argentine servicemen (exact figures aren’t known) all lost their lives. Then, of course, there were the countless on all sides who bear the scars of War (both physical and mental).
There is a tangible build-up here in the days and weeks preceding Liberation Day. As the British forces closed in on Stanley and the war in the air and at sea raged on, one anniversary follows another at an ever-increasing pace. In the past few days, the key battles and major events have all been marked: the taking of Mounts Kent, Harriet, Two Sisters and Longdon, the advance across Wireless Ridge, the Exocet attack on HMS Glamorgan and the infamous battle for Mount Tumbledown last night. The course and events of the War are well-known (see the documentaries, there is one in the tab at the top), but it’s hard to put into words the sheer scale of the effects it had (and continues to have) on the islands.
As someone who is neither old enough nor has lived in the Falklands long enough to recall the occupation, it is nevertheless an important day for all of those who live here. Ultimately, the families of those men lost their loved ones to defend the rights of the people here and to defend the wider principles involved; no aggressive state should be able to invade another against the wishes of its people. Still, the sacrifice is a burden that weighs heavily on the collective mind of the population here. As a result, there is a sombre mood that hangs over the day and almost seems to physically do so as Winter brings its oppressive climate to the day. There is also, however, an undoubted joy at the liberation itself and a sense that this should be celebrated, for those who suffered. So, I’ll shortly leave to attend the parade and service at the Liberation Monument, before the government invites all citizens to a Reception.
We will remember them.