Month: September 2019

Falklands 1 – Small Island in the middle of no-where.

 

intro

When I was 13, Britain was at war with Argentina over control of the Falkland Islands (which the Argentines call the Malvinas).

Every day when I got home from school and turned on the TV, there would be reports of bombing raids, interviews with soldiers and stuff like that.

I don’t glorify war, but it was a key moment in my “growing up”. When I found out the cruise I was on, would visit the Falklands, I was was excited about seeing some of locations I’d seen on the 6 oclock news all those years previously.

tdown

Additionally, about 2 years after the war, was a drama over 2 evenings called Tumbledown.

It told the story of the Scots guards and their attack on mount Tumbledown (which once taken would secure a victory for Britain)

So, with 1 day in the Falklands, I decided to split my day with the morning exploring Tumbledown and battle sites with a local guide, and in the afternoon, seeing a bit of the town and finding out what life is like on an isolated Island.

tender

The boat arrived at the Islands (we were visiting East Falkland, though its possible to visit West Falkland as well) around 6am in the morning.

The Falklands are really difficult to get to. The only other route I know, is on a military transport stopping at Ascension Island, and for civilians, it costs about £2000 return.

With 18 decks, our ship was to big to fit in the harbour. So we were transported ashore by tender.

shore

At the main landing point, loads of poeple were milling around (tourism is a major industry in the Falklands and lots of people had booked day trips to see Penguins and the like).

sign1

Considering the war was 37 years previous, you would think it was last year.

There are signs everywhere defiantly protesting the independence of the Falklands.

People of the Falklands are called Kelpers (after the seaweed), have their own defence force (very well equipped the the Stayer AUG) and are governed by a council elected from the islanders (Britain maintains a massive military force on the Island but they largely run their own affairs).

sign2

For parity, I’ve included this sign which is on show at the harbour of Tiera del Fuego in Argentina (you can see that someone had tried to damage it).

Many of the people on our cruise ship were Argentinian as well as British. Both call the Islands by a different name and using the “wrong” name in front of the “wrong” person can call grave offens. I was very impressed by the cruise staff who refereed to our destination as Stanley (Port Stanley is the capital of the Islands) a compromise that doesn’t offend anyone.

jeep

Most of the cruise organised, battle site tours had been booked so I got in touch with a local guy Tony from Discovery Falklands.

I explained the things I wanted to see in an en email a few weeks before our arrival and he was able to assist.

He picked us up and we drove off towards the hills (and since he had a 4×4, we drove a fair way into the hills as well).

ngwalk

We head off and start seeing the area around Tumbledown Mountain (It overlooks Port Stanley)

mob_kitchen

We saw some Argentine mobile kitchens, left over from the war.

arg_pos2

You can see from this picture how bleak the terrain is.

If the weather turns bad here, there is literally no cover. In freezing wind and rain, it mus have been awful.

bul

Tony showed us some ammunition left over from the war.

dugout1

Some of the improvised “caves” used by the Argentine soldiers who were dug in to defend the mountain.

wire

Technology has moved on. Modern armed forces would use encrypted short wave radio, but back then they used field telephones to communicate between their positions and the wire is still there.

dugout2

We were showing the route 42 Commando took, along with other area’s like wireless ridge.

It was incredible to be standing in the places I’d seen on tv almost 40 years previously

Falklands 2 – Small Island in the middle of no-where.

ngrocks

The terain was really rocky it must have been very difficult to attacking soldiers to cross in the dark, when it was wet.

rocks

Combatants from both sides of the conflict are frequent visitors to the Island.

On some occasions, Argentine conscripts who arrived in the dark had hired our Tony to show them where they had been (at the time, they’d had no map, and were just left there with no food and told where to point their rifles).

During the attack, there was a sniper on top of these rocks. Our guide had given a tour with the Scots guards one of them had climbed up with a bayonet on the the night of the attack with a bayonet.

When he returned he’d said simply we won’t have any more trouble from him. The stark reality of war, this isn’t John Wayne.

copter

Nearby, this grassy area is where a helicopter made 5 trips ferrying injured men back to the field hospital (including Robert Lawrence featured in the BBC Drama Tumbledown).

He had no night vision equipment. At one point, the helicopter skids became tangled on a fence and the pilot had to fly backwards, 5 feet from the ground in the dark, to free the helicopter.

 

cross1

As the Scotts guards reached the top, the sun was rising and they could sea Port Stanley.

At that point the war was effectively over and Margaret Thatcher would announce “White flags flying over Stanley” in the house of commons.

It was the last time British forces used fixed bayonets in combat and the Tumbledown assault itself cost the lives of 9 Scotts Guards.

cross2

These men were made of Iron. Around the cross that marks the top of tumbledown, they’ve left pictures, small bottles of whisky and such like to fallen friends.

But that’s not all. I found out, that most military crosses setup by the ministry of defence, face north. The Scots Guards had asked for it to be moved to face Port Stanley.

Admin and bureaucracy had taken too long, so the Guards took leave, flew over and with picks and shovels, re-cemented the cross to face Stanley (and nobody seems to have complained or attempted to put it back).

gyard

Back from our sobering adventure, we wander around the town. The graveyard.

churce

Christ Church Cathedral. On the right is the whalebone arch, built in 1933.

mus1

Historic Dockyard Museum.

Inside, a re-creation of a small general store.

mus2

There were loads of interesting things in the museum. Too many to show here, so just for fun, I’ve included a commode.

bus

What could be more British than a red double decker bus.

These, days, its used for day trips. Basically, there are 2 sorts of journeys in the Falklands trips around Stanley where you can walk and travelling around the Island which can take up-to 8 hours !.

phone

The red telephone box. Not for show, these actually contain working telephones.

log

The Mizzen Mast from SS Great Britain.

prison

The Falkland Islands Police station and HM Prison Stanley.

A day earlier on the cruise, we’d been given a talk on the Island. It was joked that the prison can only hold 17 people, so if you’re the 18th person theyl just send you home 🙂

Interestingly, the police run an exchange program with the UK, and its quite common to run in a scouse, brummy or cockney bobby on the beat in the South Atlantic.

sur

On the right is the 1982 Liberation memorial. Behind it, is the Secretariat Government building and the top floor on the right is where the  Argentine surrender was signed.

thatcher

Well, the only thing I didn’t get to do, was eat fish and chips and drink a pint of beer in a “British” pub in the Falklands. All the pubs were full with diners, so we had some coffee and a nice cake instead.

On special thing for me was this monument.

Only a while after Margaret Thatchers death, when poeple in Manchester and Liverpool were hosting street parties and ding dong the wicked witch is dead reached number one in the UK…

I see this. A monument to Margaret Thatcher, on a road called Thatcher drive. She is a hero to the people of the Falklands. When she visited the Islands for the first time (she visited twice, the only UK prime minister to do so) security had to surround her. Not for her safety, but because the Islanders wanted to carry her down the road shoulder high !.

As our guide said. Some people might not like her but when we needed her she helped when nobody else would.

An amazing experience. I’m not sure what I’d find to do if I was there for 2 weeks, but the Falklands are a must see sight for any serious traveller.

Sorry this update has taken so long, loads on at work. Near and Far the search for adventure continues…