Prince William has followed in Princess Diana’s footsteps by declaring land mines “cruel and senseless weapons”, as the Falkland Islands are declared mine free.
The British overseas territory was peppered with an estimated 13,000 mines by Argentine forces in the 1982 conflict, but now the last beach has been cleared – three years ahead of schedule.
The Duke of Cambridge marked the “historic moment” in a special recorded message for residents of the Islands after their beaches and coves became no go areas for 40 years.
Diana was famously pictured in a partially cleared minefield in the Angolan town of Huambo in 1997, to highlight the plight of those maimed by the weapons and to urge for a world-wide ban.
Harry’s mother never saw her work to help outlaw landmines come to fruition as she died the year of her Africa visit a few months before the international treaty to outlaw the weapons was signed.
To celebrate the historic occasion, William said: “I’m very pleased to join you in marking this historic moment as the Falkland Islands are declared mine-free.
“Land mines are cruel and senseless weapons that ruin lives and livelihoods. For so many of you, particularly in Stanley, the exclusion tape barring access to nearby beaches has become a sad and perilous fact of life.”
William told how he had previously visited the region after he qualified as a Royal Air Force search and rescue captain in 2012.
He added: “Having visited the Falklands in 2012 while I was serving with the RAF Search and Rescue, I know how important the effort to clear the islands of mines has been.
“This is therefore a hugely significant moment for the people of the Falklands.
“I hope that by removing for good these scars of the 1982 conflict you are taking another step towards defining yourselves as the modern community-spirited place that you have built in the decade since.”
He also thanked the deminers, who have helped to make the Falklands safe.
William said: “I would like to say a huge thank you to all those who have helped to achieve this milestone, in particular we all owe a debt of gratitude to the Zimbabwean demining staff, who have worked tirelessly over the years in very difficult and dangerous conditions.”
The programme to remove the mines started in 2009 as part of the UK’s obligations under the international anti-personnel mine ban convention.
Islanders marked the momentous occasion with the detonation of the final mine and played games of cricket and football on the beach as they enjoyed unrestricted access for the first time.
During a tour of Southern Africa last September, Prince Harry returned to the former mine field in Angola where the Princess of Wales in 1997 walked through to further highlight the scourge of the war weapon.
The area is now a tarmac road at the centre of an ever growing community with a school, but Harry called on the world to rid more countries of the bombs, saying: “Let’s finish what was started, and in partnership with landmine clearance organisations, community leaders, and private supporters, redouble our efforts.
Let us consign these weapons to the history books, for good.”
Minister Wendy Morton, UK Minister with responsibility for the Falklands, said: “This is a huge achievement for the Islands and we must pay tribute to the brilliant team of deminers who put their lives at risk day to day removing and destroying landmines to make the Falklands safe.”