1. ITV Report

Yeovilton remembers the Falklands War

Veterans assemble outside the Fleet Air Arm church in Yeovilton Photo: ITV Westcountry

In May 1982 126 aircraft and 1400 servicemen and women were stationed in the South Atlantic to support Britain's fight to regain the Falkland Islands from Argentina. 12 sailors and marines from the Somerset base died in the conflict. An avenue of 12 hornbeam trees and a Portland stone memorial commemorate their loss.

Fleet Air Arm forces deployed to the Falklands in 1982 Credit: ITV Westcountry

When Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands on 2 April 1982, all the Yeovilton Squadrons were brought to immediate readiness and four resident Squadrons, 800 NAS and 801 NAS (Sea Harrier) and 845 NAS and 846 NAS (Wessex/Sea King) were joined by the newly created 809 NAS (Sea Harrier) and 847 NAS and 848 NAS (Wessex). Lynx helicopters from 815 NAS were already embarked in many of the surface ships dispatched almost at once to the South Atlantic.

Sea Harriers line up in readiness Credit: ITV Westcountry

The Ministry of Defence says that the Falkland Islands could not have been retaken without air power. The Sea Harrier defeated the Argentinian Air Force in scoring over twenty air combat victories. Lynx helicopters provided anti-ship capability and were used successfully in that role in coastal waters. Navy commando helicopters flew most of the land-based missions inserting SAS patrols, rescuing survivors of Exocet attacks, mounting daring missile raids and supporting troops. Often they flew with bullet holes in their aircrafts' fuselage and red warning lights on in their cockpits.

Sea Harrier called to the defence of the Atlantic Conveyor supply ship Credit: ITV Westcountry

RNAS Yeovilton has since grown to become one of the busiest military airfields in the United Kingdom and is amongst the largest in Europe. Yeovilton Squadrons remain at the forefront of current operations with the Commando Helicopter Force having been deployed to Afghanistan in support of forces in the Helmand region, and the Lynx Force are equally busy embarked on ships around the world, most notably engaged in high profile anti-piracy and drugs operations.

Today's service is being attended by veterans, both front and second line and the families of air crews who lost their lives. The Duke of York, himself a Falklands veteran, will also be there.

You can find out more about the Falklands Anniversary on our national site