A series of portraits of Falklands veterans has been released to tell their stories as Scotland marks the 40th anniversary of the end of the conflict today .
Award-winning Glasgow photographer Wattie Cheung worked with leading military charities Poppyscotland and Legion Scotland to commemorate the bravery and sacrifice of our Armed Forces in the 1982 war.
The work has been released ahead of a national remembrance parade and service in the centre of Edinburgh on Saturday (JUNE 18th). Hundreds of current and former servicemen and women and their families are expected to take part. They will be joined by the Lord Provost of Edinburgh, representatives of the Scottish Government, and heads of all three Armed Services in Scotland.
Veterans and a military band will march from Charlotte Square along George Street on Saturday morning, before a service of remembrance and wreath-laying in St Andrew Square, followed by musical entertainment.
Pipers around the world will also join in playing the Crags of Tumbledown Mountain in tribute to the fallen at 11am that morning. The tune was composed by Scottish soldier, Pipe Major James Riddell, during the final battle on the back of a ration packet. More than 110 have already signed up, from as far away as Canada, Peru, and the Falklands.
The conflict began on April 2nd, 1982, when Argentina invaded the British overseas territory in the south-west Atlantic Ocean. Argentina surrendered on June 14th, as British forces approached the capital, Stanley. In total, 255 British servicemen, 649 Argentine military personnel, and three civilians died, while many more were wounded.
As part of the charities’ commemorations, Mr Cheung photographed seven veterans across Scotland using a Graflex Super D large format film camera made in the USA in the 1940s. Each one said that the 10-week conflict had impacted the rest of their lives, with many losing close friends and struggling to come to terms with their experiences.
Among them is David Cruickshanks, from Fife, who at the age of 17 was the youngest Scot to serve in the Falklands with the Royal Navy. He remembers the constant threat of air attacks, accidentally walking through a minefield, and losing six crewmates from his ship, HMS Fearless.
Former Scots Guards Donald McLeod, Willie Urban and Graham Hopewell were involved in the final battle to take Mount Tumbledown on June 13th, before the Argentinian surrender the following day. Mr McLeod described nine hours of hand-to-hand fighting through the night, during which eight of his comrades were killed.
Mr Cheung said he had always been fascinated by the stories of veterans, and he was inspired to capture the portraits following similar projects to mark the 75th anniversary of D Day in 2019, and VE Day and VJ Day in 2020.
“Meeting veterans is always humbling and a good opportunity to learn about the harsh realities of war from those who have first-hand experience. They were all young men, no matter which war, sent into situations that they had never experienced. I don’t think they see themselves as heroes but just ordinary men in extraordinary circumstances doing a job they were trained to do.”
Legion Scotland and Poppyscotland are organising this weekend’s commemorative events in partnership with the Armed Forces and the Scottish Government. Falklands veterans and bereaved relatives will also be traveling to the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire today (JUNE 14th) for a UK-wide service.
Dr Claire Armstrong, Chief Executive of Legion Scotland, said:
“These stunning portraits pay tribute to the incredible efforts and resilience of those who served in the Falklands. They encourage us to reflect on the sacrifices they made 40 years ago and remember those who paid the ultimate price.
“Today will be a poignant day for thousands of veterans, servicemen, women, and their families, as we mark the anniversary of the ceasefire. Although the conflict lasted for just 74 days, it had a profound impact, with many veterans struggling with the physical and mental scars for decades afterwards.
“We’re pleased to be working with Poppyscotland, the Scottish Government, and Armed Forces to hold national commemorations and encourage the public as well as the Armed Forces community to get involved. We’ve also been impressed by the enthusiastic response to our call for pipers to take part, and join us in playing on streets, hillsides, and gardens across Scotland and the world.”
Saturday’s parade will start at 10am from Charlotte Square, led by the Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines and the Scots Guards Association Pipes and Drums. The service, led by Revd Dr Karen Campbell, will be followed by performances by both military bands, Legion Scotland Sweetheart Amy Hawthorn, Stuart McLean, Juniper 3 and Ellyn Oliver.
For more information of the Falklands 40 commemorative events programme visit www.poppyscotland.org.uk/Falklands40.