Thursday, 8 November 2007

Day 6

Not quite such an early start today and thank goodness, as I was pretty tired this morning after all the excitement of losing my phone and trying to get hold of Susie to explain why I had suddenly dropped off the face of the earth. After my usual 'breakfast of the champions' of porridge and brown toast, I walked up to the FIDF hall to see if I could find anybody with whom I could get a lift and do some exploring.

I didn’t really have an agenda today except that I would prefer to do something with a fellow Scots Guardsman, so I was well pleased when Alex asked if I was planning on doing anything and suggested we did Goose Green. It seemed like a good idea so we asked for a driver and was allocated an Australian lady named Sue Wilks who volunteered to drive us around.

For the trip over to Darwin, we followed Eric Goss who was the farm manager of the settlement and is probably one of the most informative guides of the battlefield. First stop was the area just behind the initial First Aid point where 2 Para had been pinned down. This was where Eric had buried the thirty eight Argentine dead from the battle and where he put up a sign with a rather blunt “38 Dead Argies” on it. This about summed him up, as he is known to be quite a character and someone who you either get on with or don’t.

From here he showed us the spot where Col H. Jones was shot dead and pointed out a number of the Argentine positions many which can still be seen as the trenches outline are still there. He explained that Col H. Jones's injuries made it most probable that the person who killed him shot him from the front. He got quite in depth about why but I didn’t know enough about the battle to know if he was talking sense. What was very obvious about the battle was that 2 Para had a hell of a fight.

From here we went to the grave of the RAF Harrier pilot Flight Lt Nunn ,who was buried some distance out from the settlement. The headstone even had some parts of his harrier placed behind it. We then looked at the memorial built by 2 Para to commemorate the battle which has been fairly heavily modified over the years.

The settlement itself has suffered as many have moved to Stanley where there are better jobs available. I met up with Alan, the chap from Teeney Weeney Airways I met on the first day. He was based in Goose Green for about a week and arrived on the day after the battle finished. He explained that the area around still had bodies (and parts of bodies) lying everywhere and that it was a pretty grim place. I went into the hall where all the islanders had been locked up for three weeks. I also got to see the sheds where they kept all the prisoners with the original 'POW' markings still visibly painted on the side.

We then headed over to the new ferry terminal that is being built, at much cost and a lot of controversy. This is where recently a thirty nine year old islander died and whose funeral is being postponed until we leave the island ,as it would cause too much disruption (as everyone would want to go to his funeral). As we were following Eric, we didn’t really know why we were going here but the reason soon became apparent when we got there, as we could see a large colony of penguins. I think the wind was blowing in another direction when we were at Ajax Bay because these stank, a very distinct fishy smell!

Having seen the penguins, we headed back towards Stanley going via the Argentine Cemetery. This is very close to Darwin just off the Stanley road and was very well kept. It is tragic that very few Argentines are capable of making there way to the Falklands to visit the graves of their loved ones. It was only recently that restrictions were lifted, that prevented anybody travelling to the Falklands on an Argentine passport. A few have made the trip but for both relatives and veterans the cost remains too high and the numbers have dropped off to almost nobody nowadays. The Argentine authorities have also refused to allow the families to bring the bodies home as the government have used the whole situation to score political points saying 'why bring the body’s home to Argentina when they are already on Argentine soil'. Looking around the graveyard I was once again reminded of the sad waste of young lives.

Many of the islanders believe that if the invasion hadn’t happened twenty five years ago, the islands would have probably been given back by now.

From the cemetery we decided to pop into the Mount Pleasant Airport complex and check out the various murals that had been removed from the walls of Ajax Bay. I had found out only the night before that a lot of the units who subsequently were based in Ajax Bay, had painted murals on the wall. We had set a trend and quite recently the garrison commander decided to have them all removed to the base so that they would be preserved. We found the 'Ode To Tumbledown' which I read aloud to our driver and Alex. They were powerful words and I found it quite emotional.

We then headed back to Stanley and we popped up to Sapper Hill where there is a monument to the Royal Engineers. We had a chance to see the back of Tumbledown and look over the ground down to Stanley. I have very few memories from the conflict of this part of our deployment. I do remember crawling up to the peek and looking over the edge at Stanley below but have no memory of anything else. I know for a fact I wasn’t curious to explore the battle field or to scavenge booty.

We drove past the golf course and Alex had a look to see if it is playable. I think that he might get a round in before he leaves, though it looks a pretty fierce course with plenty of water obstacles! We also drove past the old water pumping station and saw where Moody Barracks used to be before it was destroyed by the Argentines. It was a nice spot at the end of Moody Brook close to the Murrell road.

I was dropped off at the house and popped in to pick up some goodies for the driver. Sue has young children, so I gave her the items that I had brought for children.

Tonight is a quiet night so no need to rush out, except I got a phone call saying they had found my mobile lying in a puddle at San Carlos! I walked over to Teena’s and low and behold, not only did they have my mobile but it still worked, incredible! It is really nice to be back in contact with Susie. Back at the house I had a nice meal with Aunty Teen and then headed to bed for an early night.

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