>> SAMA Wales Welsh Falklands Memorial
SAMA Falklands Memorial
SAMA Wales Welsh Falklands Memorial Consecrated 30th September 2007
Twenty-five years after the Falklands Campaign, (1982) a covenant by some four hundred veterans of SAMA Wales/Cymru (South Atlantic Medal Association) was honoured as the Welsh National Falklands Memorial was consecrated by a Drum Head Service, in Alexander Gardens, Cardiff on September 30th.
The covenant concept, three year fundraising, and the building of the memorial was a ‘grail’ for the four hundred veterans of SAMA Wales/Cymru and their families to honour the memory of the 258 names of the Task Force and Falklanders’ who died in the campaign. This is a moving story of an extraordinary action by ordinary people who in 1982 were all in their late teens early twenties.
On the plinth will be a five-ton granite rock, which has traveled 8,500 miles from Mount Harriet, a gift from the Falklanders’. Until recently it has, poetically some might say, been resting, absorbing the ‘Hiraeth’ of Wales in a lay-by under the brow of Pen-y-Fan the highest mountain in Southern Britain.
All major battles and ship losses had dead and injured from Wales. The greatest casualties were, tragically from the Welsh Guards who lost a total of 36 over the whole campaign. Thirty two at Fitzroy, on June 8th, when the Sir Galahad was bombed, three serving with the SAS. The last to die was L/Cpl Chris Thomas hit by an Argentine artillery shell shrapnel on the last day of fighting. 777 men were wounded in action, many of whom struggle to lead a normal life. The Argentines suffered 655 deaths, and over a thousand were wounded.
SAMA82, founded in 1997, is an active ‘grass roots kinship’ group; with a UK membership of some 4,000 plus. A key objective has always been to make it possible for veterans, and families, particularly of the fallen, to return to the Falklands, a vital part of the ‘healing’ process.
SAMA82 Wales/Cymru was founded in 2003 some 21 years after the campaign. Now with some 400 members it provides Welsh Falklands veterans with a really helpful link with each other. Some members travel many miles to attend meetings and functions, or find that another comrade lives nearby.
Service life makes wonderful lifelong bonds. It’s rather like being a football fan. Except that it’s ones mates that matter. In the most difficult and dangerous of times you rely on them and they on you! This is especially so for those who experience the horror, and reality of a campaign.
Added to that is the British regimental system that means that most soldiers serve with people from their region, and so understand the timbre and nuances of dialect, custom and history. As a result there are many family links going back centuries. It’s a system that is the envy of the World and which politicians, and generals tamper with at their peril.
Why then another memorial? Simply because, although all SAMA Wales/Cymru members, Naval, Paras, Marines, Guardsmen, RAF and from the support arms, through these long twenty five years, have been troubled with personal demons they have never forgotten those ‘mates’, or as is said in Wales ‘butties’ who made the final sacrifice.
“This granite rock will be there now for years to come.” Said Stephen (Hoppy) Hopkins SAMA82 Wales/Cymru Chairman from Newport. “It’s somewhere where veterans, wives, children – some who never knew their fathers – parents, grandparents and grandchildren can come and remember, and feel just that bit closer. Of course it’s also a place where the people of Wales can come to say a prayer in remembrance of all those who died members of the Task Force and Falklanders’
“When we formed one of our first jobs was to assist two members to return to the Falklands.” Said Andy (Curly) Jones, SAMA Wales secretary, from Brecon, whose concept it was. “Since then SAMA Wales have sent back over twenty Veterans from many units and areas of Wales. In addition during its short life we have referred veterans, in need, to “Combat Stress”, the ex services mental welfare society, where expert help is at hand for PTSD and the like. A very good working relationship is now enjoyed with Combat Stress and other service charities. So, Fundraising is important for us”.
The efforts of the Task Force - in atrocious sub Antarctic weather conditions - can be summarized as follows: "In seven weeks a task force of 28,000 men and over 100 ships was assembled and sailed 8000 miles. It fought off combat aircraft that outnumbered its own by six to one. It put 8500 men ashore on a hostile coast and fought several pitched battles against the enemy. And brought them to surrender within three and a half weeks."
For all those involved in the campaign, it was a life changing experience, and the South Atlantic Medal Association - SAMA 82 - is always there to help the less fortunate Falklands Veterans in their hour of need. Sadly, some 250 plus have taken their lives since 1982. Combat Stress the ex Services Mental Welfare Society, half funded by the government needs constant public funding to maintain the brilliant work it does.