Jon Major 2018 visit to the Falklands

26 Jan

The reason I never made it to last year’s reunion.

On Wednesday 16th May, along with 2 friends from Hull, Alan Taylor (Royal Signal Regiment) and Mike Harman (HMS Hecla) we travelled to RAF Brize Norton for a flight to the Falkland Islands. After a slight delay we took off at 0110 and after a brief stopover at Cape Verde we arrived at Mount Pleasant airport at 1630 local time.
The weather on arrival was a slight flutter of snow but that soon cleared and for most of our time there (except one day) it remained relatively dry and no where near as cold as we expected. The Friday and Saturday we spent around Port Stanley and visiting Memorial Wood, where I’m glad to report the majority of ‘our’ trees are doing incredibly well. Sunday 20th, we were confined to Liberty Lodge due to torrential rain and very high winds which we were assured would just be for the day.

Monday 21st May 2018
I’m glad to say they were correct and we woke early to a dry but slightly chilly day. We drove down in a convoy of many cars from Port Stanley to San Carlos for the Landings Day Service at Blue Beach
Cemetery. We was introduced to the Acting Governor and Commander British Forces (Falkland Islands) and asked if we would like to lay our wreaths directly after them.
It was a very moving service and extremely well attended by many of the islanders as well as troops from MPA and ships company of HMS Clyde. After the service we got an invite to Blue Beach farm where we had warming liquid refreshment and a buffet tea. The farmer and a few of his guests explained about their day on the 21st May back in 1982 as they watched the Landings unfold just down from where they lived and the horrifying moment they heard the news of HMS Ardent. I will never tire of listening to the stories from the Islanders perspective of that time.

Tuesday 22nd May 2018
We spent at the museum and visiting the new micro brewery. When we arrived back at the lodge another veteran had arrived which turned out to be an ex Ardent from pre 82 Peter Mason.

Wednesday 23rd we hosted a four course dinner at the lodge with guest of honour being the Acting Governor Mr. Alex Mitham and the vicar from Stanley Cathedral, a couple of islanders including the
landlord and landlady of the Victory bar. The night was a great success and enjoyed by all. The morning after I woke to the following e-mail:

Dear Jon,
Thank you for last night. It was a great evening (the food was delicious…..already had a quiet word with Immigration, and you’re staying mate!) Please pass on my regards to Mike, Alan and Peter.
I look forward to meeting you all again next week, and officially appointing you as the Head Chef for Government House.

Kindest regards, Alex Mitham, Acting Governor, Government House, Falkland Islands

Thursday 24th May 2018
We drove to Mare Harbour the berth of HMS Clyde to present some hip flasks on behalf of the Argonaut association for a committal of ashes the ships company carried out for them. We were met at the gangway by the commanding officer and first lieutenant and taken to the wardroom for tea and biscuits, followed by the presentation and ships tour, it was great to see a ships company so professional and welcoming as you would expect from the senior service.

Friday 25th May 2018
We visited Port San Carlos then were driven up to Fanning Head to pay our respects to the two that were killed on HMS Argonaut. Saturday & Sunday we spent on wildlife visits

Monday 28th May 2018
We went to the 1982 memorial in Stanley to lay our wreaths and remember the fallen, this was followed by a visit to Government House where we discussed our memories of 1982 and heard the history of the initial Argentine attack. On a personal note relevant to me the Acting Governor
discussed in depth the proposal of the return to Hull of the Viola which is a steam trawler requisitioned for the First World War and has remained in South Georgia since then.

Tuesday 29th May 2018
Saw a very early start for our journey to MPA and our onward journey home.

All in all it was an excellent trip with very mixed emotions. The islanders are so welcoming and I reckon will remain forever grateful for the sacrifices made in 1982.

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