Falklands: 'Sacrifices Weren't For Nothing'

Michelle Clifford, senior news correspondent

Thirty years ago today Argentinian troops invaded the Falklands, entering the capital Port Stanley in the early hours of the morning. 

Members of the local Defence Force had been on guard overnight but would prove no match for the encroaching military.

Gerald Cheek spent the night at the racecourse where it was feared Argentinian planes might land. He still remembers feeling absolutely terrified.

"It was pretty tense, pretty scary. We had been trained up to a point but we were a part-time army type thing. We really weren't trained to go to war," he said.

"It really was pretty worrying and frightening. But we were determined to do what we could to keep the Islands under the British Crown if we could."

He stayed all through the night but soon got word that a lot of Argentinian troops were on the ground.

The then Governor of the Islands Rex Hunt told the men from Defence Force to surrender because they would be overwhelmed.

"I was afraid when I got my first sight of the Argentines," Mr Cheek said. "They got down in a defensive position in front of us. And we surrendered. We were told to take off our uniforms and not to get involved in anything like that again. I will never forget it. It doesn't seem like 30 years ago".

Falklands resident Andrea Clausen agrees. She was just a 10-year-old girl back in 1982. Away from her family at boarding school in Stanley, she has a very distinct memory of that period.

"My first recollection is of being told to go to bed and listen to the radio for an important announcement from the Governor. He said we would be invaded by forces from Argentina. And I didn't really understand what he meant until the next morning."

Andrea woke to the sound of gunfire at around six o'clock. When she looked out the window she could see Argentinian soldiers in the hills and very soon armoured vehicles appeared on the streets of Port Stanley.

"We were all very afraid. We didn't know what to expect. I remember listening to the radio and we were being told to stay away from the windows - to stay indoors for safety reasons."

Andrea's anxiety was compounded by the fact that she was not with her family. She recalls that it was not until the next day that she and other children were able to go to a radio telephone station and try and make contact.

"I remember being really upset. They were in Goose Green. I couldn't talk to them but I could hear them. We had an Argentinian teacher at the primary school and she negotiated for all the children boarding in Stanley whose homes were away from there to leave in a very large convoy," she said.

Andrea reflects that April 2nd 1982 was "a rude awakening for a child. You are going along innocently and wham, this happens. It shattered that innocence".

The invasion triggered a conflict which would last 74 days and claim more than a 1,000 lives on both sides. It was a heavy price but one the people of the Falklands believe was worth it.

Andrea said: "There were terrible sacrifices but it wasn't for nothing. The people who liberated us should know that we have made the Falklands work. We've made this place better."

And Mr Cheek, the man who put on and was quickly forced to take off his Defence Force uniform, believes he did as much as he could that April day. He is grateful to all those who gave their lives to protect the Falklands.

"This is my home" he says. "Five generations of my family have lived here. And it is where I want to stay."