A Royal Air Force Voyager aircraft departed RAF Brize Norton in the early hours of this morning (9 November) carrying veterans and bereaved next of kin of the Falklands Conflict.
Over 130 veterans and next of kin of those who lost their lives in the conflict will return to the Islands for the first time in 40 years.
Funded by the Ministry of Defence, the flight takes place over the traditional Remembrance period to allow those who lost loved ones in the conflict to pay tribute to them in this special commemorative year.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said:
“I am delighted that the MOD and Armed Forces have been able to facilitate the return of veterans and bereaved families to the Falkland Islands for the first time in 40 years.
This Remembrance we honour the efforts of all those who were involved in the conflict and remind ourselves of the sacrifices made by those who did not return, but will never be forgotten.”
All those travelling applied independently through a Ministry of Defence ballot which was announced in May 2022.
The first commemorative flight for Falklands Conflict veterans and next of kin, the flight was operated by RAF personnel from 101 Squadron.
Flying the aircraft to the Falkland Islands, Flight Lieutenant Joe Turner of 101 Squadron said:
“It is a real privilege, on behalf of 10 and 101 Squadron to play a part in transporting a number of veterans and families down to the Falkland Islands. We will always remember the courage and sacrifice they, and those who sadly did not return, showed in 1982.”
While in the Falkland Islands, the veterans and next of kin are visiting former battlefield sites and military cemeteries to remember those who lost their lives. They will also attend Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday events in Stanley, reflecting on the sacrifice so many made.
Chair of the Legislative Assembly for the Falkland Islands, the Honourable John Birmingham said:
“I’m sure I speak on behalf of the whole Falkland Islands community when I say how delighted we are to welcome veterans and families back this week. There has been a lot of work put in to make this pilgrimage a success and I must pass on my sincerest thanks to the community, which has come together to host, drive or help in so many other ways to make our guests feel at home.
In the past 40 years we have grown in many ways, and the sacrifices that were made by these Veterans and those who were never able to return home have enabled us to be the country we are today. We remain eternally grateful to each and every one of them. I hope they will always remember that they have a home in the Falkland Islands.”
The commemorative flight is just one of the events that the Armed Forces have been involved in this 40th anniversary year, with support to commemorative events at the National Memorial Arboretum and St Paul’s Cathedral in June and a reception for veterans on board Royal Navy flagship HMS Queen Elizabeth in July.
The Falklands Conflict took place in 1982 and 255 British service personnel and three islanders lost their lives.
Working and living alongside islanders, today around 1,700 British Armed Forces personnel and civil servants are also based in the Falkland Islands.
Watch Pathfinder’s interview with Falklands veteran Simon Weston on Remembrance from 2019 below.