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Falklands veterans fly new standard

Remembrance celebrations: South Atlantic Medal Association wins recognition at last in march past Cenotaph
FALKLANDS VETERANS will march as a unit past the Cenotaph in Whitehall for the first time tomorrow. The 100 veterans from the conflict will be led by a new, specially created standard.

The busy concourse at Euston Station in London is not a place normally associated with military ceremony. But yesterday afternoon it saw the unfurling of the new standard for the South Atlantic Medal Association (Sama 82), which will be paraded at the Festival of Remembrance at the Albert Hall in London tonight.

The flag had just arrived by train from Liverpool, courtesy of a merchant seaman who served in the war, and was on its way to a special service of dedication. This had been hastily arranged so that the standard can be used during this weekend's Remembrance celebrations. "It means a lot to me to have been the first guardian of this," said Michael Beck, who was an able seaman on the Canberra when it took many of the British troops to the Falkland islands.

"I think this will mean a lot to the lads, to be recognised at last," said Ieuan Bullivant, a former corporal in the Third Battalion The Parachute Regiment, who will be the first standard bearer. "For me it is a great honour to be the representative for all the units who fought there."

The organisation realised it needed a standard only a few weeks ago, after being asked by the Royal British Legion to take part in tonight's festival. Even when the design and production had been sorted out at such short notice, it was then pointed out that the standard must be formally dedicated before it could be used.

A simple service took place yesterday at Falkland House, and was conducted by the Rev Phil Parker, padre to the volunteer 10th Battalion of The Parachute Regiment.

"This is a reminder and a symbol of the cost paid for ensuring that the Falkland islanders have the life they want," Mr Parker said. "It is also a focus for the pride and comradeship of those who served."

The standard is grey, to represent the waters of the South Atlantic with the "Sama" letters picked out in colours representing the different services involved in the campaign. A Union Jack is in the top corner, and across the bottom are the words of the Sama motto: "From The Sea - Freedom".

Rick Jolly, chairman of Sama and a former Royal Marine surgeon-commander who was in charge of the Ajax Bay casualty station, said he hoped this weekend would be a breakthrough for the association.

"This will be the first time that we have appeared on a national scale. I think it's going to be very powerful. We are going to be desperately proud and desperately sad, because we all lost chums and we will be thinking of them," Mr Jolly said.

The association, formed 18 months ago on the 15th anniversary of the conflict, now has just under 1,000 members. It hopes that being seen to march in its own right will attract more of the remaining 28,000 medal holders. "It's about re-establishing contact with other people who went through the same thing," Mr Jolly said.