Video, Words and Pictures by Richie Gough
It was bright sunny Monday morning as we arrived at the ferry Concordia Bay berthed at North Arm for our trip into Falkland Sound. As we set out from the dock I realised that my mobile phone had a full signal so I decided to text Lord West: ‘Boss, we are at sea right now about 40mins from Ardent, great turn out of locals, military and of course us. It is a clear sunny day and the sea state is 2 with some wind.’ In an almost instant a reply came back ‘My thoughts are with you. Boss’.
As I shared this with the team I smiled to myself realising just how much the Falklands and the world has changed since 1982. Soon our ferry was over the Ardent wrecksite and the crew lowered the landing deck so we could carry out our service. This was led by the Rev. Richard Hines who had brought a portable PA system and MP3 player with him which allowed us to sing hymns and have the last post played at the right time. The wind had picked up slightly as Chez unfurled the HMS Ardent Association standard but he stood rock steady on the ferry deck providing a splash of Royal Navy colour to the proceedings.
A film crew from Falkland Islands TV recorded our service as I also did so we could both share with our respective audiences this special moment in Falkland Sound.As Pete read out the 22 names of our fallen shipmates the wind became still for a moment and with heads bowed I’m sure all those taking part reflected upon that day 29 years ago when HMS Ardent had bravely, and with honour, protected the British troops as they made their landing in San Carlos on Blue beach. Soon it was time for a toast of rum to the 22 and then to share the remaining rum with them. Pete dropped the half empty bottle over the side of the Concordia Bay and we all watching it sink towards the wreck of HMS Ardent below us.
Finally it was time for us and our guests to lay wreaths. For Jon a chance to lay some special football themed scarves from Peter and Renee Hanson for their son Shaun who had served as a Stewart onboard HMS Ardent.With the service complete we took one final look at the familiar view of Falkland Sound, the splashes of red wreaths and scarves breaking up the grey of the sea before us. With the landing ramp raised it was time to enjoy a buffet lunch provided by the crew of Concordia Bay and a chance to reflect on that long day in May 1982 when our lives were changed forever. This was the last day that the restof the pilgrimage team would be with me in the Falklands so we enjoyed some final drinks together with our hosts once we got back to Stanley. For me there was now a chance to work with the Falklands media to make sure our story was told to the islanders. Our visit was covered by the local Penguin news as well as on FITV which was just brilliant and I left the Islands on Saturday the 19th very happy.