On Sunday 24th January myself and three other Falkland veterans from Hull, one off HMS Argonaut, one off HMS Penelope and the other off HMS Hecla made our way to RAF Brize Norton for the flight to the Falkland Islands. At Brize we met up with Stephen (Wyatt) Earp from HMS Ardent and 70 year old John Whiteford, a stoker PO off HMS Yarmouth, who had driven down from Scotland for the trip South.
The flight was slightly delayed and we eventually left Brize Norton at 0200 and after a brief stopover at Ascension Island we arrived at Mount Pleasant airport at 1800 (local time) on Monday 25th. ￼When we arrived at Liberty Lodge we were told we were booked on Concordia Bay (the local ferry) leaving New Haven at 0600 on Wednesday 27th so on the Tuesday we drove to Goose Green where we had a tour of the battlefields and spent the night in one of the cottages at Goose Green. Once on Concordia Bay a hearty breakfast awaited us and we made our way to the site where HMS Ardent lays, once over the wreck myself and Stephen Earp read out the role of honour, after a short silence to remember our shipmates the pussers was passed round and toasted the memory of the fallen, a wreath was cast on the waters and the remainder of the pussers was dropped over the side for the lads to share.
We were lucky enough to spend the rest of the day at sea travelling to Pebble Island to pick up containers of wool and 300 sheep, whilst the crew were loading everything we were told the farmer at pebble would drive us up to HMS Coventry memorial, a very welcome bonus which we jumped at. We finally arrived back at New Haven at 1800 and drove back to Port Stanley.
We spent 10 packed days travelling the islands visiting many other memorials including climbing Mount Harriet to pay respects to 42Cdo RM, a long drive to Fanning Head where there is a memorial to the two lost on HMS Argonaut where Rob Ford read a poem from one of the widows, it was a lovely sunny day in one of the most spectacular places on the islands, we also visited 2 Para memorial at Darwin and the memorials at Fitzroy and Blue Beach cemetery at San Carlos where we laid a wreath. We couldn’t get drivers to take us up to Campito Hill so we decided to walk up on a very blustery day, we laid a wreath at the Ardent/Antelope memorial along with a medallion coin that Sheffield United FC had sent and asked me to place it in memory of Shaun Hanson, we spent a bit of time up there in reflection then made a very careful descent, after this I decided my mountain climbing and hill walking days are over.
I spent one afternoon on my own at memorial wood visiting as many trees as I could find and am glad to report that they are all doing really well, the plaques have also stood up to the weather conditions and all look fantastic. On Wednesday 3rd February four of us dressed in our finest (Stephen Earpe had flown to Sea Lion Island and John Whiteford stayed at the lodge feeling the effects of the last few days) and made our way to the liberation memorial where we met up with Lord Younger who is the Vice President of the War Widows Association and several of their members, the governor of the Falklands laid a wreath on behalf of the war widow spider, I then laid an Ardent one on behalf of our association.
Afterwards we were invited to Government House for tea and scones along with Lord Younger. On Thursday 4th I was contacted by Josephine Cragg, the sister of Stephen Heyes, I was lucky enough to get back to memorial wood to take a picture of Stephens tree and send it on to her, she was over the moon as she didn’t know anything about the woods. We left the islands with some great memories on Friday 5th, hopefully this won’t be the last time as there is still so much to see.
From Stephen (Wyatt) Earp
I would just like to thank Jon for giving me the opportunity of travelling back down to the Falklands with his group of 1982 veterans, they were a great bunch of guys and made me very welcome. I had been thinking of returning down south for some time and when the opportunity arose I did have some reservations but after an emotional 10 days I am very pleased I went. The visit was only made possible by the generosity of the Falklands Veterans Foundation (FVF) and the South Atlantic Medal Association (SAMA). The time that we spent above HMS Ardent was a very emotional time, however the real emotion did not hit me until I visited the memorial wood in Stanley which is a touching memorial to each of our fallen shipmates. The weather was fantastic but the real warmth came from the islanders themselves they went out of their way to ensure we were looked after. They were so friendly and it was great to sit and talk about their experiences and the current situation on the islands. We visited as many memorials as we could and I was lucky enough to go to Sea Lion Island to visit the HMS Sheffield memorial. We saw so much in such a short time and my only regret was that due to the weather I was unable to fly back to Stanley to join the others at government house. However, this just means I will have to do it next time I visit, and I certainly plan not to leave it another 34 years. Pete, Richie and Buster HMS Ardent Association Committee
DESIRE THE RIGHT
We will remember them