In the UK, we have a tendency to underestimate the effect of war on a nation, not having been occupied by an aggressive invading force for a little while now (1066 at last count?). The 1982 conflict is part of what brought me here and it shows in many aspects of Falklands life. Socially, the status quo of division between Stanley and ‘Camp’ (the name given to describe the remote areas/anywhere outside of Stanley) was broken and people talk in so many ways of ‘before’ and ‘after’; perhaps the measure of a true historical milestone.
Physically, the signs are still here. Three of the other new teachers and I took it upon ourselves to drive out and walk Wireless Ridge and Mount Londgon, Argentine positions overlooking Stanley taken by 2 and 3 Para respectively in fierce fighting. The area is undoubtedly beautiful but coming across rusted shovels, Argentine artillery pieces, (hundreds of) spent bullet cases, mess tins, Gerry cans and other rusted paraphernalia quickly remind you that this area has had other visitors.
The memorials here are plentiful, and rightly so as 23 members of 3 Para died taking Mount Longdon alone (two of them just 17 years old). Plaques and cairns occasionally mark the very spots where individuals died and do well to bring you back to the human side of the war. These were real people, dying on these very spots 8000 miles from home in an area containing nothing but Argentine equipment, roughly dug-in positions and a view of Stanley in the distance. It’s enough to make you question the sense of it, until the written tributes remind you of the reasons and you become quite thankful to be able to be there today (even as a non-Falkland Islander).
The area is Falklands through and through; one of many covered in the Falklands ‘diddle-dee’ berry – often made in to jam and much talked about by tourists. I’ve got to say, they’re horribly bitter, much like sloe berries. Also like sloes, I’ll be adding them to gin at some point for something I suspect will be pretty nice come summer.