All royalties are going to the British Forces Foundation.
Foreword by Iain Dale
On 2 April 1982 I was on holiday, visiting friends, the Weber family, in the German spa town of Bad Wildungen. At the age of 19 I was on an Easter break from my German degree course at the University of East Anglia in Norwich. After dinner we sat down to watch TV. I watched incredulously as the newsreader told us of the Argentine invasion of the Falklands. Unlike most people in Britain I had a vague idea of where the Falklands were due to my childhood stamp collection. My German friends assumed they lay off the coast of Scotland. Herr Weber, a veteran of the Russian front in the Second World War, said: "It’ll all be settled by diplomacy." I remember vividly replying: "I doubt it very much. Margaret Thatcher is not known as the Iron Lady for nothing. I think there’ll be a war." "No, no," replied Herr Weber. "There will be a compromise. They’ll bring in the United Nations. People don’t fight wars over small colonies anymore." "Trust me," I said. "You don’t know Margaret Thatcher." A few weeks later, back at University, I was asleep in my room one morning when there was a knock at the door. "Oh, you’re still alive then," an anonymous voice said. Still half asleep I didn’t really think anything of it and went back to sleep. A few minutes later the same thing happened. "Glad to see you’re still with us," said my next door neighbour. Strange, I thought. Later on in the kitchen someone asked if I had seen the papers yet. I said I hadn’t. "You ought to," came the reply. I remember it as if it were yesterday. Turning to page two of the Daily Mail and seeing my name. Killed in action on the Falklands. But it wasn’t me. It was Welsh Guardsman Ian Dale, aged 19, from Pontypridd.
It was like being hit in the solar plexus. Tears streamed down my face, as they were to do many times over the next few weeks. Nothing else could have brought home to the terrible waste of war like this did. I was the same age. It could have been me. Not long afterwards I attended a debate at the University between the President of the Students Union and leading light in the University Labour Club, Mark Seddon, and someone whose name I now forget but who was on the extreme left. I was horrified that such a debate could take place between the soft left and hard left with no other viewpoint being put. So up I stood and defended the sending of the Task Force and our right to retake British sovereign territory. That was my first real experience of the cut and thrust of political debate. And I enjoyed it. It was the catalyst for me getting involved in politics - an interest which endures to this day. For me, the Falklands War was a formative experience. My father’s teenage years were spent during the Second World War and even now he is most happy when he is reading about it or watching TV documentaries. I remain fascinated by the political, military and personal consequences of the Falklands War. I remember watching the TV pictures of the Sheffield in flames, of the helicopter rescues from burning ships with tears welling in my eyes. I remember the sleep-inducing tones of the Ministry of Defence spokesman Ian McDonald at his daily press conferences. I remember the fury which overcame me as I watched the BBC’s Panorama programme which sought to pour scorn on the war. I remember John Nott announcing the retaking of South Georgia late at night in Downing Street and Margaret Thatcher urging the journalists present not to ask more questions but "rejoice" at the news. But most of all I remember the sense of relief, national pride and joy which most of the country felt as they watched the Union Jack being hoisted again over Government House in Port Stanley. It was a day which helped Britain regain its national pride, which many felt had been lost 26 years earlier in the Suez Canal. In my opinion 14 June 1982 will be seen by future historians as a turning point in British history. It was a day which showed that Britain was no longer a soft touch and had the ability to stand up to aggressors. Most important of all, it demonstrated a resolve to the Communist world and the Soviet Union in particular, which they had felt we had lost years ago. This book has no political viewpoint and does not seek to go into the rights and wrongs of political or military strategy. It is a collection of personal memories, anecdotes and reminiscences. it’s as simple as that. in the following pages there are memories from the ?Great and the Good? as well as recollections from people involved in the War whose names are not well known. They include soldiers and sailors who fought in the war and Falkland islanders themselves. There are reminiscences from politicians and journalists too. The fascinating tales recounted here help us understand the war a little better. Sometimes amusing, sometimes entertaining and sometimes moving these memories are all informative and thought provoking. Royalties from this book are being donated to the British Forces Foundation. We are delighted to be associated with such a worthwhile charity. The BFF is Jim Davidson's brainchild and its aim is to encourage top class performers from show business to go around the world to entertain Servicemen and women in all three services on operations. Davidson says: ?When young soldiers, sailors and airmen are a long way from home, doing their bit for their country, they like to know that people care back here. The appearance of a well known entertainer helps give them that reassurance - as well as cheering them up, I hope!? If you would like to support the activities of the British Forces Foundation please contact them at the following address:
British Forces Foundation
23 Bradford Mews
Telephone 0207 436 3007
Fax 0207 436 2120
You can out more about the BFF on their website at www.bff.org.uk One day I shall visit the Falklands.