Last Saturday (May 20), veterans of the Falklands Conflict came to Sidmouth from across the county to attend an anniversary commemoration, 41 years since the events of spring 1982.

The operation was one of the most astonishing logistical achievements the world has ever seen. It was the biggest naval operation since D-Day 1944, but Operation Overlord, as it was known, took two years to plan - in 1982, Operation Corporate was planned in two days, and executed in two weeks.

Being under such pressure and taking part in such a successful operation to liberate British territory has bonded veterans for life, and this spirit was very clearly in evidence last weekend.

The event was organised by Sidmouth Royal Naval Old Comrades, supported by the local branch of the Royal British Legion and Sidmouth Town Council.

Sidmouth Herald: Falklands anniversary parade makes its way along Church Street

Sidmouth RNOCA Chairman Peter O’Brien said: “Our association has three members who are Falklands veterans - Peter Titchen, Martin Dunkin and Nigel Elks - and last year, we supported them with their 40th anniversary commemoration. Afterwards, it was decided that we did not want to have to wait for the 50th. Obviously, in every way, the two world wars were much more significant, and we have no intention to over-shadow Remembrance Sunday in November, but it is nice to do something in this glorious weather.

“We had a splendid day. After the formalities of Rev. Matt Selman’s excellent service, we gathered at the Triangle for photos, and then repaired to the rugby club for refreshment. The atmosphere in the club-house was marvellous, such fantastic good cheer and bonhomie. We are definitely going to do it again next year.”

Sidmouth Herald: Rev Matt Selman and Sidmouth Council chair Chris Lockyear with all commemoration attendees

The event was attended by two VIPs. Commodore Michael Clapp, who commanded amphibious operations in 1982, had travelled from Ipplepen; and Ms Vivien Foster, the national President of the Merchant Navy Association, had made an even longer trip from Clovelly. Ms Foster made the very valid observation that nothing could have been achieved without the Merchant Navy, and it is true that, until 2000, various governments had been somewhat slack in acknowledging their contributions in WWII and the Falklands.

The South Atlantic Medal Association was well represented, with a strong party, and their standard too, and a special mention must go to the boys of HMS Antelope who stopped off on their way down to their own annual reunion, taking place that same day.

RNOCA Vice-Chair Colin Craven said: “All in all, a special day, it was great to see boys from the RN, MN, Marines and a vet from 3 Para. We thank our Chairman’s son Rory, a serving RM officer, who turned out in uniform, and special thank-yous to Sidmouth Town Band’s Fiona Harvey who contributed her excellent bugling, and to Chris Lockyear and Chris Holland of the Town Council for their wholehearted support”.

We will leave the last words to Gary Clement, a 1982 Royal Marine, who returned to the Falkland Islands in 1991 with his young family. He is still there, now with grand-children, and has a number of roles, including manager of the Falkland Islands YMCA, and representing the South Atlantic Medal Association. In a written message of support for the commemoration event, he said:

"Falkland Islanders remain forever thankful and in your debt - as one Falklander was heard to tell a visiting veteran on the 2012 pilgrimage, ‘I will look after you, and my children will look after your children, and the same for your grand-children if they visit these islands’. Strong words spoken with deep sincerity. Islanders who lived through the Argentine invasion in 1982 still to this day live with Argentinian political pressure - their government still wishes to gain control of the Islands.

"A poll of Islanders some years ago saw 99.8 per cent in favour of remaining British, and as long as the British Government continue to support us with the garrison, that is how we will stay.

"At the time of the War in 1982 the population was about 1,700 of mainly British Falkland Islanders, today around there are 3,300 residents with over 65 different nationalities represented. The Islands are flourishing, and we are proud to be self-governed and self-sustaining with a healthy monetary reserve. I hope your commemoration went well, and thank-you for still thinking of us.”