The British Government has paid tribute to Sir Rex Hunt for his courage and leadership as Governor of the Falkland Islands during Argentina’s 1982 invasion and for his part in the modern, prosperous Falklands of today.
The tribute was paid by the British Foreign Secretary, William Hague. In a message to the London Memorial Service in thanksgiving for the life Sir Rex, who died in November last year, aged 86.
The memorial service took place in the Royal Air Force Central Church of Saint Clement Danes, a particularly appropriate venue as Rex Hunt served as an RAF Spitfire pilot even before he graduated at Oxford University and began his diplomatic career.
His widow, Lady Mavis Hunt, was joined at the service (on Tuesday, 11 June) by hundreds of friends, family, former colleagues, Falkland Islanders and present and former members of the Armed services, including officials and 1982 veterans of the SAMA, the South Atlantic Medals Association.
The Falkland Islands Government Representative in London, Miss Sukey Cameron, attended along with six former Governors of the Falklands Islands. One of them, Alan Huckle, read out the Foreign Secretary’s tribute, expressing the Government’s pride and thanks for his long and dedicated service to his country, and especially for his role during the Argentine invasion.
William Hague said: “We could not have wished for a better man at the helm when disaster struck. Sir Rex’s courage, leadership and fortitude not only gave hope to the Islanders and rallied the people of the United Kingdom to resist this unprovoked and illegal aggression. They were also the mark of the man. It is not lightly that the Prime Minister, David Cameron, described Sir Rex as a “British hero”.
Mr Hague said his unremitting advocacy of the Islanders’ perspective vexed Foreign Office officials seeking a deal with Argentine in the years before the invasion. “But it is rarely wise to seek to be popular. It is far better to be right.
“Sir Rex’s concerns about Argentine intentions proved all too well founded. His injunctions that the wishes of the Falkland Islands people must always be forefront in any consideration of the Islands’ future now form the cornerstone of Britain’s policy on the Falkland Islands. His friends and family can take great comfort that, as the events of thirty years ago recede into an increasingly distant past, Sir Rex and his reputation rest firmly on the right side of history.
“Rex Hunt’s affection for the Falklands was clear for all to see, as was the affection the Falklands held for him. Sir Rex was instrumental in helping to champion the many positive changes in the Falklands that followed the conflict. He was proud to lead the Islands in this new adventure.
As we look today at the prosperous, democratic, secure and confident Falkland Islands, we have much to be grateful to Sir Rex for. Indeed I am reminded of the epitaph of Sir Christopher Wren (Britain’s iconic church builder): “If you seek his monument, look around”.
Another former Governor of the Falkland Islands, Mr David Tatham, who succeeded Sir Rex as Chairman of the Falkland Islands Association and other Falklands’ support groups, described Sir Rex’s long diplomatic career in various parts of the world. Praising his judgments and leadership on the night of the invasion, Mr Tatham said Rex was “courageous, competent, wise, steadfast…. quite simply the right man, in the right place at the right time”.
Mr Tatham praised Lady Hunt as a wonderful wife and partner in his many overseas postings and described the Rex Hunt his friends knew as a “a lovely man, friendly, approachable, humane, sensitive, fun-loving”.
This aspect of part of Rex Hunt’s character was illustrated in another tribute by his cousin, Mr John Weightman. His grand-daughter, Miss Tammy Thurman, read a poem “High Flight” written by a Canadian air force pilot killed in action in 1941.
The address was given by the Chaplain in Chief of the Royal Air Force, Venerable Ray Pentland QHC.
Harold Briley, London