For Tahir Mirza, returning to the Falkland Islands this week will bring back a flood of memories. Thirty-three years ago he helped liberate the Islands and saw firsthand the vital role the RAF played in the conflict. On 8 February, along with 10 leading businessmen, Tahir will return to the Falkland Islands to trek 120km in freezing temperatures, following the historic route taken by the Royal Marines 45 Commando Group in 1982.
Tahir tells us why the challenge, which will raise money for the RAF Benevolent Fund's Seaside Apartments Appeal, is so important.
I was a member of the original 'Task Force' which helped liberate the Falklands in 1982. Still a young man, I volunteered as a merchant seaman on the Canberra sailing from Southampton to the Ascension Islands and on to South Georgia and finally the Falklands.
At first light, we dropped the main compliment of fighting troops at San Carlos Water and later collected more troops from the QE2 and took them on to the Falklands. At the end of the war, Canberra loaded Argentinian prisoners of war and took them back to Argentina.
Finally, we collected the Marines and Paras from Port Stanley (sadly with some faces we had come to know missing) and brought them back to a hero's welcome in Southampton.
During all this I saw the RAF provide massive support in many forms with considerable risk to themselves. Harrier Jump Jets and a variety of helicopters were a common sight. I recollect attending to a ditched helicopter pilot being brought aboard and cared for in the hospital area.
The only part of the 'loop' missing for myself is the 124km section from San Carlos to Port Stanley. So, when I was aware that this expedition was being undertaken by the April Fools Club to raise much-needed funds for the RAF Benevolent Fund’s Seaside Apartments Appeal, I was keen to join them.
The project we are raising funds for involves the creation of a new respite home comprising two self-contained apartments for serving and retired RAF personnel and their families. So many of our military return from conflict with welfare needs, serious injury, mental health problems and sometimes consequential financial pressures.
Sadly there are also an increased number of single parent families within the serving RAF where relationships have broken down and one of the parents has access to their children for weekends but nowhere to take them.
These new apartments will offer the Benevolent Fund the opportunity to meet these welfare needs through dedicated buildings. Each apartment will comprise two bedrooms and will be constructed to meet medical standards and be disabled friendly.
The new apartments will be named after the April Fools Club and will be adjacent to the respite home for older veterans, Princess Marina House in Rustington, near Littlehampton. The total cost of the project is likely to be in the region of £300,000 with construction commencing late May, 2015 and first occupants by the end of the year.
I hope you agree that this fulfills the objective of creating a tangible project that can provide welfare support to the RAF community.
By Tahir Mirza
Sponsor the April Fools Club
You can support the April Fools Club as they undertake their yomp by making a donation on their JustGiving page.