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Falklands’ first defenders honoured as memorial is unveiled to Royal Marines unit

13 December 2022
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The last commemorative event of the 40th anniversary year of the Falklands conflict paid homage to the first men to see action in 1982.

The 70 Royal Marines and sailors of Naval Party 8901 – the islands’ first line of defence – fought an unequal battle with overwhelming Argentine forces during the first hours of the invasion in 1982.

They were reluctantly ordered to lay down their arms by the islands’ governor, before being taken prisoner. Repatriated a few days later, the men returned to the islands two months later to raise the Falklands flag outside Government House – the seat of British power – when Argentine forces surrendered.

Four decades later and veteran commandos were in Stanley again, joining today’s garrison and Falkland Islands Defence Force personnel marching through the streets of the capital to the imposing war memorial on the sea front.

It commemorates the 1914 naval clash off the islands – and Falkland leaders decided Battle Day 2022 was the perfect occasion to simultaneously honour NP8901.

Bill Muir, in 1982 a sergeant major who had begun his year-long tour-of-duty just days before the invasion, was invited to unveil the memorial plinth in the grounds of Government House which praises him and his comrades for offering a “courageous and gallant defence” despite being “outnumbered, outgunned and outmanoeuvred”.

He fought back tears as he performed the honours, filled with pride and appreciation, not least as this is the first official recognition the Naval Party has received.

“I know the people of the Falklands continue to thank us,” he said. “But after the war, it is us who really, really thank them.”

You have a place in our hearts and you have earned a place of special honour in the history of the Falklands

MLA Leona Roberts

Stanley’s councillor, MLA Leona Roberts – who experienced the war as a child – told the Naval Party veterans it was hard for the islanders to express their gratitude for the men.

“You have a place in our hearts,” she said. “And you have earned a place of special honour in the history of the Falklands.” 

The ceremony – and Battle Day commemorations at the monument – were played out in glorious weather, with all three Services represented and the Royal Marines Corps of Drums adding pomp and rhythm to the occasion. 

Battle Day honours the Royal Navy sailors who hunted down and all but wiped out the squadron of German admiral Graf von Spee who had hitherto proved to be a thorn in Britain’s side.

He had routed an inferior Royal Navy force off Coronel in the Pacific in November 1914, prompting the Admiralty to dispatch two battle-cruisers – faster and more powerful than anything von Spee commanded – to destroy the German group.

They succeeded. Four of the five German warships in von Spee’s squadron, including the flagship with the admiral aboard, were sunk with the loss of nearly 1,900 souls while the Royal Navy suffered just ten dead.

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