No-one who was in the Falklands in 1982, either resident or as a member of the British Task Force that liberated us from Argentine occupation, will ever forget those traumatic days. Argentina invaded us on 2nd April, in the pursuit of her claim over sovereignty (which rumbles on to this day), and the final liberation occurred on 14th June. Not long in war terms, but a lifetime for those who were close to the action or oppressed by the occupying forces. And the effects are being felt to this day.
As a family we were fortunate enough to be well away, out at Port Stephens on the West. (Robert was in the school hostel in Stanley when the invading forces arrived, and like most youngsters viewed the events of that time with more excitement than fear. We were glad when he was allowed to travel home with other Camp children...). But we still remember how it felt to know what was happening over on the East, and how worried we all were. We were told to blackout at night, take all radio masts down etc. We listened to the regular BBC World Service reports in disbelief, and to the local (heavily censored) radio broadcasts with concern. Most of us had suitcases packed in case we were ordered to evacuate, though when offered the chance to leave voluntarily we chose not to do so.
Later we were able to play host to some of the liberating forces, in the shape of a Gurkha company. Our house expanded to accommodate 16 of them. We remain friends to this day with some of these wonderful people and were happy to see one of them again not long ago. Durga is now a CSM, and brought a fellow Gurkha over to see us from the military base at Mount Pleasant, during his tour of duty in the Falklands.
Although Port Stephens remained unscathed, other areas were less fortunate. We have filled several large craters here at Dunnose Head with rubbish, since moving here. I can only imagine how terrifying it must have been for the residents of those days, to realise that this small settlement was being bombed (to render the airstrip unuseable). A high price to pay for the convenience of somewhere to dump rubbish...
There are several books on the subject of the 1982 conflict, and the South Atlantic Medal Association has an evocative website (see Links) which honours the memory of those who died. So I won't attempt to say much more on this subject, other than that there are tangible reminders of those awful days throughout the Islands, in the form of sad memorials, bits of shrapnel and remnants of shells etc, and fenced-off minefields which may never be cleared. Battlefield tours are offered for those who want to trace the route of the liberating forces, and it is possible to pay homage at the British war cemetery at Blue Beach, San Carlos, or elsewhere at the smaller memorials scattered around the Camp. And of course there is now a military garrison here to protect us, as well as our own Falkland Islands Defence Force. Mount Pleasant is a tri-service operation with Royal Air Force, Royal Navy and Army personnel.
All Falkland Islanders, it is safe to say, recognise the sacrifices made on behalf of the Islands, the courage of those who put their lives on the line and the quiet suffering of those whose menfolk never returned home.
We can never repay the debt we owe.
And we will never forget to whom we owe it.