FOREWORD BY LADY THATCHER TO 3 PARA COMMEMORATIVE BROCHURE
I was honoured and delighted to be asked to contribute the Foreword to this commemorative brochure. The 3rd Battalion the Parachute Regiment played a distinguished and vital role in the re-taking of the Falkland Islands. It must never be forgotten.
The Falklands War seems to many a distant memory. Not so for me – nor, I know, for those who served in it or their families. At the time, we must recall, there were many who believed that the whole enterprise was plain folly. The risks our ships and our men were bound to face fighting an unknown enemy eight thousand miles away across the South Atlantic were at once huge and unpredictable.
As the Prime Minister of the day, I had to acknowledge these risks and seek, on the basis of the best advice available, to evaluate and overcome them. I had no doubt at any stage that our cause – that is, the restoration of the Falklanders’ liberty and the defeat of blatant aggression – was just. But conviction of the rightness of an undertaking does not suffice to give it a reasonable chance of success.
So what gave me confidence? Various positive factors entered into the calculation of our chances. The nation was extraordinarily united behind the undertaking. The public finances were sound: there would be no mention of economic crises even when military crises occurred. A certain amount of international support was available, though it was at the time uncertain how strong this would turn out to be. But the most important positive factor encouraging me was quite simply the quality of Britain’s armed forces.
Here I am not talking about equipment – obviously crucial as that can be. I mean, rather, the qualities possessed by those called upon to risk - and sometimes give - their lives in combat. The credit for victory in the Falklands is theirs, and the particular story of 3 PARA illustrates that in incontrovertible fashion.
Reading the account of the action against Argentinian forces on Mount Longdon on that desperate night of 11/12th June, I am yet again filled with admiration. There was no escaping the need to take this obstacle to secure the ultimate goal of Port Stanley. And there were no illusions either for local commanders about the difficulty of the undertaking. Comprehensive plans were accordingly laid as to how the objective was to be attained. But in the end their achievement depended upon quite extraordinary heroism, above all that of Sergeant Ian McKay VC. Professionalism and courage – it is these two qualities together which mark out 3 PARA’s deeds that night, and which also explain the unique reputation that Britain’s armed forces now enjoy throughout the world.
The Falklands are now restored to British sovereignty. The wishes of the Islanders have been respected. I trust that this is one struggle at least which will never have to be re-fought. But there will be others – always. The only ultimate guarantee of peace is that the peaceful nations can successfully wage war. While the ideals and achievements of 3 PARA continue to be both honoured and emulated there is a good chance that we shall continue to enjoy peace. And if storm clouds again should threaten, we know to whom we can turn.