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
Voices
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy as ECB finally wield the axe
Arts and Entertainment
a clockwork orange, stanley kubrick
film
News
news... you won't believe how bad their skills were
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Ashdown Group: Analyst Programmer (Filemaker Pro/ SQL) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days, pension, private medical : Ashdown Group: A highly...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas