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20th Anniversary of Goose Green Liberation

Thursday, May 30th 2002 - 21:00 UTC
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?It is not the beginning but the continuing of the same until the end'.
The epitaph which is inscribed on the tombstone of Lt. Colonel ?H' Jones VC OBE, 28 May 1982, Age 42. He is buried at the San Carlos cemetery on the Falkland Islands, but the outline of a soldier, formed in whitewashed stones, lies halfway up Darwin Hill, the place where Colonel ?H' died after being hit by an Argentine bullet.

On Wednesday morning, on top of Darwin Hill, where a modest white cross sits in a cairn of stones, more than two hundred people gathered to pay tribute to the men of 2nd Battalion The Parachute Regiment, who twenty years previously, despite being heavily outnumbered, won the battle for Darwin and Goose Green. The victory left 17 ?Paras' dead and many more injured. The Argentines lost nearly 50 men during the twenty-eight hours of torrid action.

The Falklands War proved to be an outstanding success for ?2 Para'. They were the first Unit ashore at San Carlos, the first to go into battle, the first to gain a victory, the first and only unit to be deployed in two battles (Goose Green and Wireless Ridge and perhaps most importantly, the first into Stanley.

The ?Service of Remembrance and Thanksgiving for the Liberation of Goose Green' opened with the adapted words of a famous First World War poem:

?We are the dead. Short days ago we lived, felt dawn, saw sunrise glow, loved and were loved, and now we lie in Falklands fields'.

Approximately one hundred of the one hundred and eighteen Islanders, held captive by the Argentine troops in the Community Hall for a month, attended the Service and many of them laid private wreaths.

Several Company Commanders who served under Colonel ?H' during the battle for Darwin/Goose Green traveled 8,000 miles from Britain to the Falklands for Wednesdays commemorative service. Major General (Retired) Diar Farrar-Hockley MC, former Commander of ?A' Company explained his return to the Islands 20 years on. ?I returned to remember our dead and there is no better place to do that than the battleground'.

Colonel (Retired) John Crossland CBE MC, former Commander of ?B' Company, speaking twenty years after the War, generously thought of the Falklands population, saying, ?If we managed to help in a small way to get the prosperity going for the Islanders, then this huge sacrifice was worthwhile'. Asked what he could remember about the battle itself, Colonel Crossland spoke of ??.the tenacity and bravery of the soldiers to keep going despite the withering fire from the Argentines. The events were proven by the actions we carried out as a body. If there is a heritage to ?H' Jones, that is his heritage, that his Battalion continued to fight and to lead the actions because we were asked, by Margaret Thatcher, to get to Port Stanley and raise the Union Jack (flag)'.

Another war veteran, Captain Dave Abols, who twenty years ago was a 24 year old Corporal is now on a 4 months tour of duty in the Islands. He was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal after taking out a troublesome Argentine machine-gun trench by firing a 66mm light anti-tank weapon from his shoulder. He admitted that Wednesday's service had been an emotional occasion for him. ?Today was the first time I ever had tears in my eyes, especially looking at the support of the local civilians ? those who were locked up ? even the grandchildren came along'. Asked if the 20th anniversary Service had brought back unpleasant memories, he answered emphatically, ?No. I was thinking of the lads that died as opposed to my personal memories'.

Following the Service of Remembrance, everyone gathered for a celebratory lunch in the Community Hall ? the place where many civilians spent a most uncomfortable and unforgettable month in confinement, twenty years ago.

Patrick Watts ? Port Stanley

Categories: Falkland Islands.

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