Since 1982, the Falkland Islands have seen an increased military presence from the 36 Royal Marines previously stationed here. Following the sad realisation that the rhetoric of the Argentine government was to come to fruition, the British were understandably reluctant to leave the Islands as unprotected as they had been. This involved a monumental logistical achievement of over 1 million tonnes of supplies being unloaded 24 hours a day on the famous ‘B Slip’ slipway in Stanley between 1982 and 1985. The goods were destined to end up at RAF Mount Pleasant: the newest purpose-built RAF airfield in the World. Home to between one and two thousand military personnel, 4 Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft and several helicopters of various purpose, Mount Pleasant maintains the military deterrent of BFSAI (British Forces South Atlantic Islands).
It doesn’t take a mathematician or a sociologist to figure out that, for an entire community of 2500 Falkland Islanders, having a similar number of military personnel on a base 36 miles from the capital has the potential to have a major impact on life here. The Falkland Islands are, of course, extremely grateful for the military support offered by Britain and are happy to see the impressive Typhoons out and about and guiding the Airbridge planes in to land. That doesn’t, however, mask the other effects of having such a high civilian/military ratio. Informally, conversations we’ve had with many people here suggest that the relationship with the military is akin to the relationship with the contractors such as ourselves; there’s no choice but to have them here but that doesn’t mean it’s always a good thing for the local people. Standing outside one of a number of bars on a Friday or Saturday night when the Paras (in particular) are in might give some hint as to why this might be the case.
Still, the respect remains and there are many other positive impacts to be taken advantage of. With a British passport in hand, civilians are allowed on to the base and have access to the numerous employment opportunities provided by such infrastructure, as well as the entertainment available. As it was Han’s Birthday on the 2nd we spent the day at MPA, playing two games of bowling and then making our way to the Southern-most Go-Karting track in the World for a mini-tournament amongst 19 friends:
I should point out that, as the base is subject to the Official Secrets Act, we did have permission to take these photos. It was a great day out and it’s great to have the opportunity to do something a little different living in such a small city as Stanley. There’s also paintballing available so we’re looking forward to taking advantage of that some time soon too. It was a little difficult to re-adjust to driving home on the infamous MPA gravel road after that, with our 2.8-3 litre turbo engines not helping matters. We also got a nice little reminder of where we were on the drive home when we passed a river and Han spotted this little girl hanging about in the water:(I’m pretty sure this was a young female sea lion if you’re not sure)
We’ve taken our mid-contract flights to get to the South American mainland for a fortnight so we’ll be leaving the islands for the first time in a year this week. A scary but exciting prospect and we’ll report back on that in a few weeks’ time. In the mean time, you’ll have to be satisfied with the backlog of 60-odd posts from Pengoing South in the year since we began it.