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Wind-swept, rocky, but still reverberating

By Tom Clifford - posted Friday, 30 March 2012

The Falklands campaign continues to kill 30 years after the guns fell silent. The battle for a group of wind-blown islands in the South Atlanatic has claimed more lives since the fighting ended than when battle raged. SAMA - the South Atlantic Medal Association, which represents and helps Falklands veterans in Britain - say that at least 264 veterans of the Falklands now taken their own lives. This contrasts with the 255 who died on active service

In Argentina the battle for the Malvinas has taken an even higher toll. The suicide rate among Argentine veterans almost certainly exceeds those who actually fell in combat, according to a group that cares for veterans. The reason that an exact number is difficult to confirm is because of the shame involved in suicide and many of the deaths have been disguised as accidents.

This small war had major consequences. It ensured two election victories for Maggie Thatcher, discredited military rule not just in Argentina but across South America and ushered in an age of democracy in Argentina. The consequences of the war were immense.


The war, which began when Argentine troops landed on the South Atlantic islands on April 2, 1982, lasted 74 days, with 255 British and 649 Argentine soldiers, sailors, and airmen, and three civilian Falklanders killed.

But at least 400 Argentine Falkland veterans have taken their own lives since then, highlighting the tormented plight of those who came back defeated to a country that wanted to forget. These are confirmed suicides.

´´When we returned we were ignored,´´ Peniel Villarreal a member of the Federation of War Veterans of Argentina told me when I met him an other veterans in a run-down Buenos Aires suburb in 2009.

´´We were nobodies. Nobody wanted to talk to us, give us healthcare or jobs. We came back from a campaign where our friends were killed to a country that viewed us as letting them down. That´s why more tha n 400 of our colleagues have taken their own lives´´

The veterans call it a forgotten war, not because of the lapse of time but simply no one wanted to remember.

´´We were told to stay silent,´´ said Santiago Tettamanzi, an officer on the Caracarana, a merchant supply ship that was attacked off Port King. ´´Coming back as a defeated army is so different than coming back as a victorious one.´´


The military junta ordered them not to speak about their experiences and the veterans went quietly back to their homes and struggled to rebuild their lives.

´´Make no mistake, at first we were proud and even happy to be called on to serve,´´ Enrique Lewton said.

´´The Malvinas are Argentine land and we believed we were fighting colonialism. But as soon as we landed we knew we were unprepared. It was freezing, we did not have adequate clothing, some even wore sandals. The equipment was not up to standard. We shivered in the trenches. And originally we believed that all we had to do was land and then the diplomats would sort it out. But we soon realised we had to fight.´´

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About the Author

Tom Clifford worked as a freelance journalist in South America in 2009, covering Bolivian and Argentine affairs. Now in China, he has worked for newspapers in the Middle East, Africa, Europe and the Far East.

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