SAMA (82) began its existence on April 2nd 1997, the fifteenth anniversary of the uninvited arrival of Argentine forces in the Falkland Islands. Soon afterwards, a task force was assembled in Great Britain and dispatched to the South Atlantic to restore Her Majesty’s Sovereignty. On June 14 1982, Major General Jeremy Moore RM was able to announce to the world that the Falkland Islands were once again living under the Government of their choice. Seventy four days of occupancy had elapsed.
Since those heady days in 1982 many things have changed. The Islanders now have a measure of economic independence, and the geography of the capital, Stanley, has been radically reshaped. There is now a new airport complex, integrated with the garrison which continues to defend the Falklands against any aggressor. But most of the Task Force members also had their lives altered. Just under 780 were wounded, with injuries ranging from minor shrapnel scratches, through disfiguring burns, to amputation and loss of a limb or limbs.
Even those who were not wounded physically found that they had changed on their return home. A few were suffering from the cluster of severe symptoms known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder; others merely had disturbed dreams. For nearly all veterans of the short but sharp South Atlantic conflict, November 11th’s Remembrance Sunday now became an intense emotional experience, along with feelings of sadness and loss on specific anniversaries such as the land battles of Goose Green, Mount Harriet, Tumbledown, Two Sisters, Wireless Ridge and Mount Longdon – or the death in action of a friend and comrade elsewhere, perhaps at sea, or closer to shore at Fitzroy Cove, or in the Battle of San Carlos Water. Three Falkland Islanders also died in the fighting; two hundred and fifty five members of the Task Force did not return to their homes.
All members of that Task Force are united in one thing. They, or their next-of-kin, received from Her Majesty’s Government the South Atlantic Medal. It was awarded to all personnel who took part in operations in the South Atlantic for the liberation of South Georgia and the Falkland Islands. To qualify, the recipient had to have at least one full day’s service in the Falkland Islands or South Georgia, or thirty days in the South Atlantic operational zone, including Ascension Island. Additionally, those who qualified under the first condition were awarded a rosette to wear on the medal ribbon.
What is perhaps surprising is that nearly 30,000 of these medals were awarded, underpinning the Government’s seriousness in terms of generating the forces needed to carry out the difficult task of dislodging the Argentine invaders. The breakdown of medal awards is: Royal Navy 13,000; Royal Marines 3,700; Royal Fleet Auxiliary 2,000; Army 7,000; Royal Air Force 2,000 and Merchant Navy/Civilian 2,000.
The main objectives of SAMA (82) are simply stated. We intend to maintain and promote a sense of pride and comradeship among all veterans of the South Atlantic campaign, and to keep them in touch with each other in a manner which respects both individual privacy and personal requirements. We also want to establish and maintain contact with other organisations involved in the welfare of the armed forces, and ensure that due consideration is given to the interests of all Falkland veterans. SAMA (82) will also investigate for consideration, by an appropriate organisation, any case of hardship or distress amongst South Atlantic veterans in which direct financial assistance is sought or recommended.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly for the majority of SAMA (82) members, we desire most strongly to maintain and strengthen links with the people of the Falkland Islands.