Our long awaited visit to the Falklands, flying via Cape Verde has now been and gone.
There was so many highlights for all of us. We were all in agreement that it was amazing talking to the people who were there in 82 and listening to their first hand stories.
The warmth and appreciation of everyone we met was humbling as young and old continued to tell us that without the intervention of the British Forces back in 82, their lives would have taken a dramatic turn for the worst. We took more photos than a group of David Bailey’s and some of the 1000+ pics will appear here.
Biz did an excellent job cataloguing our visit for the SAMA Magazine and as you can see, we covered a lot in the time that we were there. He is the extract hot from Biz’s computer before it is cut/edited for the magazine.
Eighteen months ago eight of us sat around a table at a ship’s company reunion, trying to decide what to do to celebrate having survived almost sixty years on the planet. Our original idea of going to Hong Kong for a few days for the rugby sevens had fallen flat due to the prohibitive cost.
Then one of the lads said “Why don’t we go to the Falklands?”
So, with the help of SAMA and the FVF the trip was organised and eighteen months later we disembarked at MPA after a long, boring, uneventful flight (just the way we like ’em).
We were met by Jerry and his minibus who packed us all in and transported us to Liberty Lodge where we were met by Ali Dodd who was to be our mum during our stay. Later we were introduced to Gary and Curly, two former Royal Marines who are our SAMA reps in Stanley and together with Ali, a mine of information.
The lodge itself is an amazing place with loads of space, well appointed rooms and a knockout view across the harbour from the main lounge area. After settling in we had a fairly early night, ready to begin the next part of our adventure.
Friday 9th November.
After breakfast we split into two groups and headed out for a look around Stanley and the surrounding local area. After stopping at various sites to take photographs we found ourselves at Hookers Point, the site of the memorial to HMS Glamorgan, a poignant moment for us as Glamorgan, together with ourselves and HMS Arrow, formed a surface action group (SAG) and operated together many times until she was damaged by an Exocet missile. This was the first of many such memorials we were to come across during our visit and it was good to see that they are all very well maintained.
Later that evening we attended the “Poppy Ball” organised by RBL at the town hall where we made many new friends.
Saturday 10th November.
This day we set off on a round robin tour of the island in three SUV’s driven by some of the local lads. First port of call was the Argentine cemetery just outside Darwin and then on to Goose Green where we visited the spot where Lt Col H Jones fell and also the 2 Para memorial. We found that every memorial has an ammo box with Brasso and cloths for cleaning up the brasswork, so we obliged … quite a few times over the next few days.
Then it was on to San Carlos Cemetery and Teal Inlet, stopping on the way to visit the graves of Harrier pilot Nick Taylor and Scout pilot James Nunn DFC.
Sunday 11th November.
Remembrance Day. A beautiful sunny day with hardly any wind and all the lads turned out looking very shiny indeed. One of our number (Shelton Grigg) was nominated standard bearer and left the lodge early to join the others. A liner had docked that morning and the town was full of tourists and also about four hundred troops had been bussed in from MP. Apparently it was the biggest attendance ever, what with it being the Centenary and all.
After the service at Christ Church Cathedral we marched to the war memorial where two of our number, Gary Beck and Phil Holbrook laid two wreaths on behalf of SAMA and our own ship’s company. The rest of the afternoon was spent watching a football match between the England “C” team versus combined services and socialising at various watering holes around town.
Monday 12th November.
Today was a visit to the mountains around Stanley, namely, Tumbledown, Goat Ridge, Two Sisters, Longdon and Wireless Ridge. We were picked up by Lisa and “Fudge” in two Defenders. For some reason we thought that we would be taken part way up and have to do the rest on foot, how wrong we were. When we left the road for the first climb little did we know it would be the last time we would see a real road till we’d done all the surrounding peaks, these two drivers were real off-roaders.
We stopped and got out at the top of each peak for a good look round and were amazed at the amount of old weaponry, field kitchens, gun emplacements, etc, that were still there. There were also the ubiquitous memorials many of which were individual ones that ever reminded us that these peaks were not conquered cheaply, looking at the ages of our fallen comrades gave us many quiet, “lump in the throat” moments. After performing any cleaning duties required,vis a vis brass plaques, we headed back to Stanley in quiet mood.
Tuesday 13th November.
We boarded two “puddlejumpers” at Stanley airfield and flew over to Port Howard to visit our memorial on Clippy Hill that commemorates the action on the night of 10/11th May in which Alacrity sank the Argentine supply ship Isla de Los Estados.
We were met by Chris Leigh and his brother Myles and after a cuppa and a biscuit Chris took us up the hill where we laid a wreath and planted an aluminium poppy that my daughter had made. Then Tommy got the “Tot Box” out. It contains a bottle of Alacrity labelled rum, eight glasses with our names etched on, one for the skipper and one other etched with a poppy for guests, we asked Chris to join us in a toast to “Alacrity”.
Later, we visited the local cemetery and paid our respects at the grave of Captain John Hamilton (SAS), whose story was told to us by Chris.
After visiting the Port Howard museum, which contains all kinds of interesting battle memorabilia (ejector seat, anyone?), we flew back to Stanley.
Wednesday 14th November.
Today was a Stanley day with a visit to the Falkland Islands museum and National Trust in the morning and tea and “stickies” in the afternoon with the Governor, Nigel Phillips CBE. Nigel gave us the story of the history of the islands which left us in no doubt as to who the true owners are. After a tour of Government House we were invited to sign the underside of the famous billiard table upstairs. We then presented the Governor with a painting of HMS Alacrity attending the crippled Atlantic Conveyor before opening our “Tot Box” again and asking Nigel to join us in a toast before taking our leave.
That evening we held a social at the lodge and invited some of the people who had been instrumental in getting us around and making our visit the great success that it was. Needless to say, everyone had a great time.
Thursday 15th November.
Our last day was spent out in the SUV’s visiting places that we hadn’t yet seen, such as the Atlantic Conveyor memorial at Pembroke Point. Some of the lads went off to check out Fitzroy and we managed to find some of those elusive penguins. We were all astonished at the amount of de-mining still going on after all these years, it made us wonder if the Argies had time to do anything else but lay mines.
That evening we had a visit from Curly and his best mate Max, a very friendly German Shepherd who wanted to make friends with us all, so we got the “Tot Box” out one last time and said our goodbyes.
Friday 16th November.
The end of our stay and also our story. Time to say goodbye to Ali and Gary, pack our gear in the minibus and head off to MPA and that long flight home. We’d all had a brilliant time and made many new friends. We’d also got a better perspective of the Conflict by going to the battlegrounds and listening to people, both civilian and military, who were there.
Will we ever go back again? Who knows? I can’t see the future, but I do know one thing, the welcome will be as warm as it ever was .
Many thanks again to SAMA and FVF for making it all possible, BZ.