June 19

I salute our servicemen then and now: Prince Andrew


[The  Prince Andrew, Duke of York, on the 25th Anniversary of the liberation of the Falkland Islands] 


I am not a war correspondent, but a veteran of a campaign to recover the Falkland Islands from what was a friendly nation, Argentina, whose leadership embarked upon an expedition to forcibly take a group of British islands in the South Atlantic, 8,000 miles from here.

I wrote on the occasion of the 20th anniversary: "The experience of war is one of the most life-changing experiences anyone can have."

I haven't changed my opinion of this immutable fact. I am sure that those who have experienced the current conflicts in which we are engaged as a nation would agree. My prayers and thoughts go to all the families and friends of those who have lost loved ones as a result of the Falklands conflict, and as a result of the conflicts we now find ourselves engaged in.

Without doubt, the nature of conflict has changed since I was at war. When we set off for the Falklands, in 1982, circumstances were completely different from those we find ourselves in today.Back then, it was a clear case of British territory being invaded by an aggressor nation. It is just as clear to me now that it was our duty to go those 8,000 miles to recover those islands.

We were dispatched, as I remember it, with a great sense of national pride. We were on a recovery mission, plain and simple. The circumstances in which our Armed Services find themselves today are far from those of 25 years ago and a great deal more complex and contentious.

I have previously said about the Falklands war: "There was a knowledge that war was not as glamorous as depicted in war films – it was dirty; it was exhausting; and it was monotonous. People really bled and death might be a consequence." Today, our Armed Services and their families fully understand this reality.

In 1982, as a nation, we supported our troops as they "yomped" across the Falkland Islands to take back Port Stanley. The fighting around the islands' capital was fierce and often hand-to-hand. But the conflicts we find ourselves engaged in today are so different from the one I fought in that it is almost impossible to relate the differing circumstances.

It is only because of my continued personal relationships with naval and military units, and because I have visited Iraq on two occasions, that I have an understanding of what our Servicemen and women are facing today.

I recall there was a poster slogan from the Second World War: "Careless Talk Costs Lives". It is true today. And in my opinion it is even more vital today because of the advances in media communications, 24-hour news channels and internet connectivity.

Free information given to an enemy predisposed to target an individual or British troops in general gives me genuine cause for concern about any speculation on operational deployments or plans.
In my experience in the Falklands, and since, it is vital that we try to avoid this potential gift to the enemy.

Today our Armed Services are in harm's way and, whatever your view about the rights and wrongs of our involvement, our men and women serving in these inhospitable places need our support.

Five years ago I also wrote: "camaraderie is a sense of wellbeing among people who have gone through similar experiences that are hard to communicate to others. I found that, in my squadron, there was a high degree of camaraderie, as we were experiencing the same things every day. That feeling can never be taken away from us and we will always have that special connection or bond."

I recently held a reunion dinner for those of us who served in 820 Naval Air Squadron and Invincible and I can truly say that that bond is as evident today as it was 25 years ago.

On Sunday, many of us Falkland veterans will be on Horse Guards to commemorate that event and, at the same time, go some way to recognising the people of this great nation for their support as we toiled all those miles away. In this way, we can demonstrate our thanks for the unlimited support we received, as was shown when we departed Portsmouth at the beginning of April and on our return in August.

As for my contribution 25 years ago; I went to the Falklands as a small cog in a huge machine. I was not special when it came to the totality of the Falklands campaign. It was just that I am who I am and as a consequence, there was a greater interest. I was privileged to serve with so many wonderful other "small cogs".

The ultimate reason we won was that we were able to make all those cogs work together as a team more successfully than our enemy. Wars are won by teamwork, dedication to the task and loyalty to the cause.

In 2007, I salute my colleagues from 25 years ago for their heroism and sacrifice. It is one hell of a lot more difficult today for our current Armed Services, who continue to hold the torch and lead the way in succession to us.
I salute your bravery, loyalty and devotion to duty in the face of an unquestionably dangerous opposition and in circumstances well beyond the understanding of many people.



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