Stanley cathedral full for Falklands' Thatcher memorial

Martin Geissler

Former ITV News Correspondent

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A slightly tatty union jack flutters at half mast outside Andrew Brownlee's house in Stanley.

All flags are worn by the wind here, but they're flown with chest-swelling pride.

Inside, the Brownlees, like most Falklands families, are sitting in front of their television, watching the funeral from Saint Paul's.

Eight thousand miles of Atlantic Ocean may separate them geographically, but in spirit, these Islanders are part of the congregation.

"Margaret Thatcher gave us two things," Andrew tells me. "Our liberty and our future. And we'll always be grateful for that."

I leave his house and make my way along Stanley's tidy seafront. At Christ Church Cathedral I find Rev. Richard Himes putting the finishing touches to a sermon he's preparing for the Falklands' own memorial service this afternoon.

A quiet man with a broad smile, he has a lot on his mind. In an hour or so the church will be full to bursting. A big screen has been erected in a separate hall in case the congregation spills over.

"I've had 500 orders of service printed he tells me, but people may have to share," says the Reverend.

"Hang on," I say, "500 people is almost a quarter of the Falklands population."

"Yes", he replies, "Mrs Thatcher was really very popular here."

It's no wonder, really. These Islanders have long memories and the events of April 2nd 1982 are still fresh in many minds.

That was the day of the Argentine invasion, the day they thought their lives would change forever. But ignoring the advice of colleagues and allies, Mrs Thatcher ordered that a task force should set sail and set the Falklanders free.

The conflict cost the lives of 255 British servicemen, more than 600 Argentinians and three Islanders. Ten weeks after it was lowered, the Union flag was raised once again over Stanley.

Much has changed here in the 31 years since the conflict. Fishing rights and new found oil fields have made the Falklands rich. The Islanders have a rosy future on this barren outpost of Britain.

They owe all that, they say, to just one woman. Today they paused to reflect on that, and to remember.