Falklands ceremony is too late for 'abandoned' veterans

The 25th anniversary of the end of the Falklands War was commemorated yesterday in front of thousands with a ceremony at Horse Guards Parade, a flypast of 50 aircraft over Buckingham Palace and a march by servicemen and women who took part in the conflict.

But 300 Falklands veterans were missing from the ceremonies yesterday - men who had returned home after the victorious campaign and then taken their own lives, often alone in their last days, receiving little or no official help to cope with their distress and despair.

The number of suicides of those who fought in the south Atlantic is now 45 more than those who were actually killed in combat, a still unfolding and disturbing toll largely unnoticed by a society which, their comrades say, seems not to comprehend or care about the scars left by the war on the lives of soldiers.

Among those at yesterday's commemorations were Prince Charles and the Duke of York, who served as a helicopter pilot in the Falklands, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and Baroness Thatcher. Prince Andrew said "It is very important those of us who were down there say 'thank you' to a great many people in this country who supported the action in the South Atlantic 25 years ago".

Yet the South Atlantic Medal Association, an aid group for the veterans, charges that successive governments, of whichever hue, including that of Baroness Thatcher, who arguably owed her political survival to the victorious war, of failing to look after the returning service personnel. As well as those who had committed suicide, hundreds more have been forced into life on the streets, huddled in doorways not far from yesterday's scenes of celebration, campaigners say,.

The Government announced last week that a medical assessment programme set up to help Gulf War veterans would be extended to those who fought in the Falklands. That was said to be a personal initiative of Derek Twigg, the recently appointed Veterans' Minister, who said: "It is my sincere hope that all military personnel who served since 1982 make use of this programme if they or their GPs have any concern that they are suffering from a medical condition or mental health issue linked to their military service".

But John McQue, who served as a 19-year-old Royal Marine in the Falklands, said: "Why did it take 25 years to do this? We are grateful that this gesture is being made now, but I am afraid that for 300 people it is simply too late. They took their lives because there was no help available. Lot of people felt simply abandoned. It is as if after benefiting from the victory the politicians simply lost interest in the men who made it possible.

"What is forgotten is that the Falklands War was very different from the hi-tech stuff you see today. It was basically trench warfare, a bit like the First World War. And, of course, many of those doing the fighting were very young and saw some terrible things. We have the dead but also many who survived are homeless, without a job or a home even now."

Dave MacCreedy, of the South Atlantic Medal Association, said "Officials basically did not want to accept that there is [post traumatic stress disorder]. This contributed to the suicides. We have taken veterans back to the Falklands, accompanied by doctors, and that seemed to have helped. It has given them a sort of closure. But that costs £1,200 a head."

Hero jumped to his death: Charles Bruce. Former SAS soldier

Charles "Nish" Bruce of the SAS was the first Special Forces soldier to parachute into the Falkland Islands during the South Atlantic war. His courage and leadership on the extremely hazardous mission won him the Queen's Gallantry Medal.

Bruce left the Army in 1988 to work in the security industry, and also wrote a book under the pen name Tom Read. A former member of the elite Red Devils parachute display team, he took part in regular skydiving displays. But despite his success and popularity, Bruce was deeply affected by his experience in the conflict. "In the Falklands, I saw dead men so deformed that their own mothers wouldn't recognise them,'' he said. "Boys of 18 who had tried to slit their own throats because they had been so badly burned.''

In 1994, Bruce had a breakdown and attacked his then girlfriend. He seemed to have recovered, but eight years later he jumped without a parachute from a Cessna over Oxford.

Corporal Les Standish, of the Parachute Regiment, a friend of Bruce, said: "I know more than a few Paras who had served in the Falklands and then killed themselves."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Interactive / Mobile Developer

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer - Midweight

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Recruitment Genius: Junior Front End Developer

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Recruitment Genius: Front End Developer - Midweight / Senior

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Day In a Page

Giants Club: After wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, Uganda’s giants flourish once again

Uganda's giants are flourishing once again

After the wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, elephant populations are finally recovering
The London: After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

Archaeologists will recover a crucial item from the wreck of the London which could help shed more light on what happened in the vessel's final seconds
Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

The invention involves turbojets and ramjets - a type of jet engine - and a rocket motor
10 best sun creams for kids

10 best sun creams for kids

Protect delicate and sensitive skin with products specially formulated for little ones
Tate Sensorium: New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art

Tate Sensorium

New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art
Ashes 2015: Nice guy Steven Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

Nice guy Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

He was man-of-the-match in the third Test following his recall to the England side
Ashes 2015: Remember Ashton Agar? The No 11 that nearly toppled England

Remember Ashton Agar?

The No 11 that nearly toppled England
Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks