The British charity “Help for Heroes” has done a poll to mark the 40th anniversary of the Falkland Islands conflict and the report on results is astonishing to the point that the South Atlantic war risks becoming a “forgotten war” since many of the people polled have no idea about events.
In effect one in four younger people have never heard of the 1982 fierce fighting with Argentine forces over the Falklands, according to the latest survey, which in its report uses the word people are clueless.
Only 4% of more than 2,100 adults polled by Help for Heroes were able to answer questions on the Falklands war correctly.
Half of those aged 18-34 said they did not know when the war was fought, and one in 10 of that age group believed the UK invaded the Islands, leading to the war, while a similar number thought the Falklands are in the English Channel.
The charity said its research suggested that the sacrifice of those who stepped up to serve their country is in danger of being forgotten as years pass.
Help for Heroes said it believed there are likely to be many Falklands veterans who are still struggling with physical or mental wounds from the conflict, and wants these people, and their families, to know they will never be forgotten, and it is never too late to come forward for support, even 40 years on.
Carol Betteridge, head of clinical and medical services at Help for Heroes, said: “Forty years ago, the support for mental and physical wounds was less advanced and harder to access, making it difficult for veterans to get the support they needed.
“While there have been major improvements in Government support for veterans since then, we are concerned that veterans are falling through the gaps.
“Just because people were injured 40 years ago, doesn’t mean they don’t still need help, as recovery can take years or last a lifetime.
“We’re currently supporting Falklands veterans with long-term issues, including the lasting effects of trench foot and also PTSD. Every one of them deserves our help and we would urge anyone who is struggling to ask for help.”
Falklands veteran Nick Martin, 65, was in the Royal Navy on the Atlantic Conveyor when, on May 25 1982, it was hit by two Argentine Exocet missiles, killing 12 crew.
He suffered physical injuries including a fractured skull, traumatic brain injury, lost teeth, a dislocated jaw and burns to his mouth and throat.
Nick, originally from Hertfordshire but now living in Plymouth, also has a diagnosis for PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) as a result of his time in the Falklands.
He said: “There was no real support available for me when we returned home. I had a couple of months in Stonehouse Hospital in Plymouth, but nothing more than physiotherapy. There was no mental health support at all. No advice.
“Previously I sabotaged anything that was good, and I wouldn’t allow myself to enjoy anything. I kept thinking: ‘Those lads who never made it back never had a chance to do any of this, so why should I have a nice life?’
“With Help for Heroes, I had a light-bulb moment that made me realize what I should be doing is living the best possible life I can, because that’s what they would have wanted me to do – but it took nearly 35 years to get sorted.”
Richard Marsden, 62 of Barrow-in-Furness, had a similar experience to aftercare following the Falklands, having fought in the final battle of the conflict, the taking of Mount Tumbledown, when he was serving with 2nd Battalion Scots Guards.
He said: “When we came home, we were given six weeks’ leave but that’s when I started experiencing night terrors.
“PTSD wasn’t even a phrase that was used back then so I was unaware of any possible long-term damage to my mental health. Subsequently, I managed to carve out a successful career path in the Army, but I eventually left after 12 years’ service as I knew that something wasn’t right, and the problem was psychological.
“The Falklands War should never be forgotten because of all those families who were, and continue to be, directly affected by the conflict.”