To begin to make sense of the Falkland Islands, I spend a morning at the Falkland Islands Museum.
On display is maritime memorabilia, fossils, stuffed birds, a replica of a 1930 grocer’s store and, of course, exhibits relating to the 1982 Falklands War, the ten-week war between Argentina and the United Kingdom over the Falkland Islands and South Georgia – still a major theme for islanders.
I read some newspaper reports and look at islanders’ photos from those days. There is a reconstruction of a typical Argentine conscripts’ bunker – poignant and pathetic – and, outside, a recent acquisition: a restored Argentine Panhard armored vehicle. On my stroll back into the “center” of this tiny town I see a street called Thatcher Drive. Many may hate Maggie in the UK, dead or alive, but they love her here.
Historian and guide Tony Smith takes me out to see the Camp – as the Falklanders call the rural interior – and the main battlefield sites. I have never done much in the way of battlefield tourism in Europe – it is not my thing. But listening to Tony and standing in the drizzle at Tumbledown, Darwin and Goose Green, seeing where Lt Col H Jones was killed, and then paying my respects at the Argentine cemetery is moving as well as fascinating. I have my teenage memories of the war – I was 16 when it broke out – but now the story becomes real.
The weather helps. At Goose Green, the rain arrives, first as drizzle, but soon as violent, wind-howling, skin-drenching squall. “This is exactly how the weather was during many of the battles, including Darwin and Goose Green,” shouts Tony. “I’d love you to see the islands on a lovely summer’s day, but at least now you can imagine what it was like for the soldiers.”
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