The 150th Celebrations

By Cindy Buxton
(Falkland Islands Newsletter, No. 14, May 1983)

It was a great honour to receive an invitation to the 150th Celebrations held in Port Stanley from 20th to 26th February 1983.  I had not been to the Falklands since April 1981 when I had completed two seasons of filming the wildlife on the west.  It was very exciting to think that I would be returning to the Islands again and seeing so many friends once more.

We left England on a very cold and frosty morning, refuelling at Dakar in Senegal and continuing on to Ascension arriving there 14 hours later, tired, hot and sticky.  We had slight mechanical problems at Dakar which had delayed us for a few hours.  We managed to squeeze in five hours sleep at Ascension and then continued on our way south, in a Hercules, to Stanley, arriving there 13 hours later just in time for a well earned drink at Government House.  The Hercules trip had left me temporarily deaf from the noise of the aircraft, cold from the lack of heating and a very sore bottom from so long in a narrow canvas seat.  But it was wonderful to be back.

The first day of the celebrations, Sunday 20th February, was beautiful, the sun shining out of a cloudless sky.  The service at the Cathedral was lovely with plenty of singing and moving prayers followed by a very impressive Parade along the main street of Stanley by the Falkland Islands Defence Force, HMS Endurance and many other regiments that were not stationed there.  As I stood on the road side watching the Parade pass by, many friends came up to me and warmly welcomed me back again to join in all the fun.

Although the weather wasn't all that kind to us it didn't stop all the events on the racecourse.  Nearly everybody was there, in fact I was told that virtually the entire Falkland Islands population had descended on Stanley for the celebrations.  The horse racing was immense fun, the most popular win being Squinty Morrison winning the Governor's Cup.  Mr Morrison had flown out to the Falklands at his own expense to ride in the race.  He had won the Governor's Cup 50 years before during the centenary year, so riding in the race meant a great deal to him.  It was a major achievement on his behalf, especially as he was 71.  I was thrilled when he roared over the finishing line, arms and legs flying, as I had backed him.

There were numerous parties every day, at Government House, on board HMS Endurance (it was particularly good to see her back again in Stanley harbour), dances at the Town Hall, football matches, drinks and dinners with friends.  On and on the hospitality flowed, food and drink appearing to be unlimited.  I was kindly invited to visit RAF Stanley, now so different to what we remembered it was like over a year ago.  Once a quiet and sleepy little airport, now brimming with activity.  And then on to Rookery Bay to have a look at the minefields.  I tiptoed very carefully and gently, following exactly in the footsteps of one of the Bomb Disposal officers in front of me.  I gazed with great sadness at the beautiful bay, spying out the anti-tank and anti-personnel mines littering the beach, a death-trap to any man.

The airport road and the streets in Stanley were in an awful mess, totally torn up and destroyed by enormously heavy vehicles that the roads were not designed for.  It was impossible to do more than 10mph anywhere.  But plans to rebuild the roads were underway.  Due to vast quantities of supplies pouring in to Stanley every day for the troops, some areas of the town looked very untidy and glum, but one had to remember that in time, it would all get cleared up and sorted out.  The forces garrison at Stanley, being built the other side of the harbour, was gradually easing the lack of accommodation for the troops.  I was delighted to see the relationship between the civilians and troops was so good and friendly.  Many Islanders in Stanley had one or more soldiers staying with them in their houses and they were being treated literally as one of the family.

It is true that life in Stanley will never be the same as it used to be, but in the long-run I think it will be to the benefit of the Falkland Islands.  Outside Stanley, in many of the settlements and especially the islands out on the West, where I worked and which I got to know so well, life is just the same, quite unchanged, still staringly beautiful, quiet and peaceful.  We visited both Carcass Island and New Island, and sat down by the Rockhopper and Gentoo penguin colonies watching the little creatures going about their normal lives.  It was wonderful to see them again.  Just like we remembered them, after only a few minutes of sitting down quietly the penguins wandered over to us and began to nibble our boots and trouser legs.  Their trust in man was still there.

The Military were making great efforts not to disturb the wildlife.  Whole islands and large areas on the East and West were protected from low flying aircraft.  There were strict rules and regulations for every man in the forces to prevent disturbance to both the wildlife and the habitat.

To me the Falkland Islands are worth every bit of effort we can put into them.  The people there are willing and so are the islands.  They just need the chance, a chance that only Britain can provide.  They have never been offered the chance before, like we all have.  Give them time, help and advice and they will win through in the end. 

This article first appeared in the Falkland Islands Newsletter, Edition 14, May 1983.  The Falkland Islands Association is an independent organisation which brings together those who support the continuing freedom of the people of the Falkland Islands.  Its Constitution states that its objectives are to assist the people of the Falkland Islands to decide their own future for themselves without being subjected to pressure direct or indirect from any quarter.

Cindy Buxton made a number of wildlife films for the Anglia Television 'Survival' series, including 'Penguin Island' (1980) and 'Falkland Summer' (1981), both filmed in the Falkland Islands.  In March 1982 Cindy Buxton and her assistant Annie Price were coming to the end of seven months filming on the South Atlantic island of South Georgia when the island was invaded by Argentinians.  The two women spent four weeks trapped in their tiny hut before being rescued by HMS Endurance.  Their experiences were recounted in the films 'Stranded on South Georgia' and 'Opportunity South Atlantic' (both 1982) and in the book 'Survival: South Atlantic' published by Granada Publishing 1983

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