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Last Updated: Thursday, 14 June 2007, 21:44 GMT 22:44 UK
Liberation Day takes on special status
By Peter Grant
BBC News, Stanley

"After three days of shelling, there was a deathly silence. It was just as if someone flicked a switch."

Liberation Monument in Stanley
The annual commemoration took on a special status this year

Patrick Watts, who ran the Falkland Islands Broadcasting Service at the time of the Argentine invasion in 1982, was back on the air and recalling the final moments of the conflict.

Below him in his raised position, the Liberation Day parade had formed up.

Behind the governor, who was in full dress uniform complete with feathered-cocked hat, a small, shy Girl Guide stood nervously holding his wreath of poppies.

At the appropriate moment, a tall moustached Army officer dripping with gold braid, turned, smiled, leaned down and helped her forward.

Duty done, the young girl grinned with relief.

Key site

Because it was the 25th anniversary of the end of the Falklands conflict, this Liberation Day had been given special status.

But for the islanders, every Liberation Day is worth marking.

The Reverend Kathy Biles, who compiled the thanksgiving service held at Christchurch Cathedral in the Falklands capital Stanley said the task had been straightforward.

Prince Edward, Adam Ingram
Prince Edward represented the Queen at the ceremony

"In all truth it was very easy because the service this year followed the same pattern it does every year," she said.

She pointed out that for the Falkland Islanders, this is the end of a commemorative season which starts on 21 May with Landing Day, marking the British forces landing on the far side of East Falkland from Stanley at San Carlos.

There are then services and ceremonies for the other events of the campaign.

Each of these is special in its own way but 14 June is the big day.

It is emblazoned in gold lettering on the memorial to the conflict which stands just along the waterfront road to the cathedral.

This monument is the other key site for Liberation Day.

'Completing circle'

Under the shadow of Britannia, who stands on top of the grey stone pillar, there is a parade.

This year the Queen was represented by her son Prince Edward, the British government by the armed forces minister Adam Ingram, while Lord Parkinson, who was a member of the 1982 war cabinet stood in for the then prime minister, Baroness Thatcher.

These people and some others were designated VIPs.

But just as important to the islanders were the veterans.

For some of them this had been a repeat visit. For others, it had been the first time back.

One said that for him it had been like "completing the circle".

Another, who had revisited the site of his battle, said he was astonished by what he and his comrades had done.

And after the wreaths had been laid and the bands had marched away, the islanders and their guests drifted off to celebrate.

For legislative councillor Mike Summers, the day contained both elements.

"It's commemoration for those who died," he said. "And celebration of 25 years of freedom."


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Scenes from the war and memorial service





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