Falkland Islands talk for Probus

LIFE in the Falkland Islands was the subject of the latest talk at Montrose and District Probus Club, which held its meeting in the George Hotel last Tuesday.

The speaker on this occasion was Maurice Napier who hails from Arbroath and is currently President of Dundee Probus Club.

Since many of area members were wearing poppies at this time of year, it was very fitting that his topic should be about the Falkland Islands. A naval architect by profession, Maurice has made several visits to this far-flung corner of the globe, which of course shot into prominence in 1982 when they were invaded by Argentina.

This was not the first time that these islands saw war. There was a sea battle there on November 8, 1914 when some German ships were sunk and among the drowned was Admiral Graf Spee, after whom the famous Second World War German Battleship was named. Some sailors from HMS Exeter who lost their lives in the Second World War at the Battle of the River Plate are also buried in the Falklands.

Although so far away, and although penguins abound on the islands the capital, Stanley, is actually closer to the Equator than London is. There are only around 3,000 inhabitants on the islands, but the land area is roughly the same as Wales.

Goose Green, the second largest community, has a meagre population of 32. They are very similar in many ways to the Orkney Islands, with few trees, and blessed with good natural harbours. When Maurice visited Stanley on his last trip there, in his capacity as a naval architect, his visit coincided with the 25th Anniversary of the 1982 war.

Two hundred surviving veterans from that conflict came to Stanley on that occasion to celebrate Remembrance Day. They were shown tremendous hospitality from the grateful inhabitants who seem almost to be “more British than the British”.

There were very poignant scenes at the many memorials and cenotaphs on the island on that Sunday. There are many Argentinian soldiers buried on the island but very few British, as the bodies of many who died were repatriated. Nevertheless there are many memorials and sad reminders of the bitter war, which also claimed the lives of three civilians.

Fishing has replaced wool as the main occupation of the people. The land is very rocky and although sheep are plentiful, it is reckoned that it needs 2.5 acres to support one sheep. The local schools only take children up to the age of 16 after which many opt to go to Britain, but most who do opt to return when their education is complete.

Keith Aikenhead expressed the appreciation of the members for a very enlightening and informative insight into the Falkland Islands.