FORTY years ago, Major John Balmer – contingent commander of the Combined Cadet Force at Gordon’s School in West End – travelled to the Falkland Islands as one of 26,000 Armed Forces personnel deployed to liberate the islands from Argentinian occupation.

This week, he is returning to the islands off the south-east coast of South America, with other veterans of the war, to lay a wreath in remembrance of his fallen colleagues.

Major Balmer, who was a section commander in the Third Battalion of the Parachute Regiment and in his early twenties during the 74-day war, remembers taking six weeks on board cruise liner The Canberra to travel to the remote islands. His return journey this week, by plane from RAF Brize Norton, takes just over 16 hours.

The opportunity to return to the islands and commemorate those he fought alongside was offered to Major Balmer by the Ministry of Defence, who held a ballot. He and his wife will stay with a family from the islands.

“I remember the Falklands as being a bleak, barren place with a constant roaring wind and frequent rain and snow showers. I was involved in the battle for Mount Longdon, which was one of the final battles leading to the liberation of the Islands. It will be interesting to see it now,” he said.