On Monday 25 April SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity commemorated the 40th Anniversary of the Falklands Conflict with a reception in the House of Lords.
Hosted by the Rt Hon. the Lord West of Spithead GCB DSC, former First Sea Lord and Chief of the Naval Staff, who was Captain of HMS Ardent which was sunk during the Falklands Conflict.
Guests included a number of Falklands Veterans who volunteer for SSAFA, War Artist Linda Kitson, MPs and representatives of the House of Lords, as well as key figures from the MOD and within the military charity sector.
The evening featured personal reflections from SSAFA’s Durham Chair and Falklands Veteran Paul Moore and War Artist Linda Kitson. SSAFA’s CEO, Sir Andrew Gregory, spoke about SSAFA’s support for the Armed Forces community during the conflict and Penny Mordaunt MP, Minister of State for Trade and former Secretary of State for Defence spoke about the importance of the anniversary and how important it is to work with organisations like SSAFA that have the expertise to support the Armed Forces community.
Admiral the Lord West led the speeches with a poignant reflection on his time in the South Atlantic: “I sadly lost 22 of my boys who were killed. That’s always very sad indeed… And that always sits with you really. It was very intense. In 7 weeks, 255 men were killed. It took 5 years before 240 had been killed in Afghanistan, so actually it was more intense than Afghanistan or Iraq, and I think that’s something else we all forget.
“Don’t lock things away, go to talk to someone. Talk to loved ones, and indeed, talk to experts who can help you if necessary. These things leave scars on your mind…”
Lt General Sir Andrew Gregory, KBE, CB, DL, CEO of SSAFA said:
“This event was a commemoration of the commitment and sacrifice made by members of the British Armed Forces and Civilians to protect the democratic freedoms of those living in the Falkland Islands. 40 years on, SSAFA is proud still to support those who need assistance from that conflict and subsequent military campaigns.”
During the Falklands Conflict SSAFA actively supported the Armed Forces community in a number of ways; relatives were helped with travel arrangements to ports, airfields and hospitals. SSAFA’s Branches also put the relatives of men in the Task Force in touch with one another and organised morale boosting parties.
As names and addresses of the injured and fallen were released by the Ministry of Defence, voluntary workers in SSAFA Head Office briefed local representatives in towns and villages all over Britain. As a result, nearly every widow of the 255 men who lost their lives was visited and offered help, comfort and good counsel where needed.
A year after the conflict, on 6th April 1983, 541 relatives of the fallen embarked on a long, sad journey to the Falkland Islands. In the Escort Party which accompanied the bereaved families to provide sympathetic support was Anne Woodruff, SSAFA’s Senior Social Worker.
SSAFA is calling on the British public to remember those who served during the Falklands Conflict, particularly those who made the ultimate sacrifice. The charity supports serving personnel, veterans and their families during times of hardship, providing practical, financial and emotional support when needed.