By Richard Graham, Office Volunteer
Thirty years ago this month the Falkland Islands were invaded by Argentine forces. The Falkland Islands were a British Dependent Territory, and had been under British care since 1833, the UK responded with military action. This conflict led to the deaths of 255 men of the UK Task Force, three female civilian Islanders killed by ‘friendly fire’ and 649 Argentinians, before the surrender of Argentine forces in June 1982.
Since 1915 government policy, with very few exceptions, had been that there should be no repatriation to the UK of those who fell in war. This was for both hygienic and logistical reasons, reinforced after the Armistice by the principle of equality of sacrifice, i.e. that the wealthy should not be able to repatriate while the poor could not. The lack of a grave at home at which to mourn had led to the great number of war memorials created after 1918.
Following the Falklands conflict however, requests were made by some of the bereaved families for the return of their sons and this was permitted. Most of the British Falklands dead have no grave but the sea, but, of those whose remains were recovered, 65 were repatriated, while 16 remain on the Falklands: 14 are buried at Blue Beach Cemetery at San Carlos on East Falkland, and two in isolated graves on West Falkland. The three women civilians were buried at Port Stanley, while 237 Argentines lie in the Argentine Military Cemetery on East Falkland.
Since 1982, of course, it has become customary to repatriate military casualties, and the reception of the casualties of Iraq (2003-2009) and Afghanistan began to take place at Wootton Bassett (now Royal Wootton Bassett) in Wiltshire, a tradition now carried on for casualties of Afghanistan in Carterton in Oxfordshire.
UKNIWM has so far recorded 355 Falklands memorials on its database, among them the Falklands Memorial Chapel at Pangbourne College in Berkshire and the Falklands Merchant Navy memorial on Tower Hill in London.