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Falkland Islands soldier inspired by 1982 veterans

A soldier from the Falkland Islands has spoken of how the bravery and sacrifice of the troops who fought to liberate the islands 40 years ago motivated her to join the Army.

Warrant Officer Class 1 Sara Halford was born three months before the Argentines invaded the British overseas territory in April 1982. The 40-year-old, who serves with 16 Medical Regiment in Colchester, joined the Army to repay a debt of gratitude she feels towards the soldiers who fought in the Falklands Conflict.

WO1 Halford joined soldiers from 2nd Battalion The Parachute Regiment to visit the Airborne Assault Museum in Duxford to learn more about paratroopers’ role in the fighting, and to meet Falklands veteran Clive Smith. Mr Smith was a 23-year-old lance corporal in 2 PARA’s Signals Platoon.

“My motivation to join the Army was all about the history from 1982,” WO1 Halford said. “In the Falklands, everyone learns from a young age about the sacrifices made by the soldiers that liberated us - by joining up I wanted to be able to give something back.

“In the Falklands, everyone learns from a young age about the sacrifices made by the soldiers that liberated us - by joining up I wanted to be able to give something back." WO1 Sara Halford

Growing up in Port Stanley, WO1 Halford would play with friends on Mount Tumbledown, the scene of a key battle the day before the surrender of Argentinian forces on 14 June 1982.

“There was a real freedom growing up, we would just go off on our own to the hills and beaches,” she said. “It was a freedom which came from the sacrifices made for the islands by British troops. But we knew there were dangers too – there were minefields, with one on the other side of our fence at home, and children were taught to be careful with any bit of military kit we found."

WO1 Halford left school at 16 and worked as a lifeguard at Port Stanley’s swimming pool to save money to pay for a flight to Britain. In March 1999 she made the journey to join the Army aged 17, training as a Combat Medical Technician.

“At the end of training you’re given a choice of unit to go to and I wanted to go to 16 Air Assault Brigade, because I was bought up on the stories of 2 and 3 PARA in 1982,” she said. “I have served 22 years, and I’m particularly proud that 20 of those years are with airborne forces. In 16 Medical Regiment I’ve gone all the way from Private to Regimental Sergeant Major, and I’ve done operational tours of Iraq with 2 PARA as a company medic, as well as Kosovo and Afghanistan.”

Mr Smith was the Commanding Officer’s radio operator during the Falklands Conflict and involved in battles at Goose Green and Wireless Ridge. He left the Army in 1998, having gone on to serve in Northern Ireland and the Gulf War.

“My major memory of the Falklands is the bleakness of the countryside - we experienced constant wind and rain with no shelter,” he said. “My first interaction with local people was at Goose Green. We were welcomed into their homes, they gave us warm clothes, let us wash and fed us. They were so friendly and appreciative, and that relationship has stayed strong to this day.

“I think Sara’s story is fantastic. It’s amazing to think that she was born at that time, developed this overwhelming urge to join the Army and has gone on to have such a great career.”

“I think Sara’s story is fantastic." Clive Smith

WO1 Halford said: “It’s been interesting to come to the museum to see the kit and weapons used 40 years ago and talk to Clive to understand what the soldiers endured. The Army learnt a lot for the Falklands, and I’d say the only thing that has stayed the same is the camaraderie between soldiers.”

She concluded: “Speaking as a Falkland Islander, the veterans will never be forgotten for what they did for us as a community in 1982 – we will be forever grateful.”