Delightfully Stormbound in Goose Green

Mina2 in the Caribbean - Where's The Ice Gone?
Tim Barker
Thu 1 Dec 2011 00:40

Position: 51:49.56S 058:58.27W

Date: 30 November 2011


We were hoping to set sail today for the next 60-mile hop south west down the coast, but the forecast was grim: south west F7 to F8 (gale force) occasionally F9 (strong gale), i.e. blowing old boots directly from the direction we wanted to go. It was a no-brainer. We were stormbound and we would be staying another day in Goose Green, tucked up safely on the jetty. We were not particularly concerned by this setback. Goose Green was a delightful place; much better weather was forecast for a few days after the gale, and we had factored in the inevitability of being holed up for a few days due to adverse winds.


Yesterday afternoon Colin came round with a Land Rover to take us on a tour of the San Carlos and Goose Green battle sites and the war memorials. Driving on the rough roads through the spectacular terrain reminiscent of the north of Scotland, we looked down from the hills over San Carlos Water (otherwise known as “Bomb Alley”) where the fleet of the British Task Force landed the British forces to recapture the islands in 1982. We then went to the graveyard where the fallen Argentine troops are buried. Surprisingly it was much grander and, even more surprisingly, in better condition than the memorials and graves of the fallen British soldiers. We stood in sad reflection of the meaningless loss of life of this conflict on both sides. Sadly, many of the graves were unmarked, the identity of the occupants being known only to God.


We visited the memorial to three members of the 59 Independent Commando Squadron, Royal Engineers. Behind the memorial was an ammunition box in which there were some empty rifle cartridges and, poignantly, a little plaque on which was engraved: “To Mike. Visited you December 1910. I will love you always. Gill”.


We then drove to the spot where Colonel “H” Jones VC was killed, marked by a small memorial. A few yards away was a dug out hollow in the hill in which was the Argentine machine gun crew that mowed Jones down as he charged over the crest of the hill in front of them. Given the lie of the land, a full frontal assault on the line of dug-in Argentine troops was exceedingly difficult and it is remarkable that the number of casualties was not very much higher than it was.


A couple of miles further on a lovely spot overlooking the rolling pasture is the memorial to the men of 2 Para, surrounded by a white picket fence. The fence is deteriorating and needs maintenance and a good paint. Shamefuly, neither the British War Graves Commission nor the Falklands government seem willing to take responsibility for it, so Colin said that he and some of his mates will just come out and sort it out themselves.


Finally, we visited the single grave of Nick Taylor, the Royal Navy Air Squadron Harrier pilot who crashed and died very near the Goose Green settlement. Behind his headstone are some bent and tangled scraps from his plane.


Colin was incredibly knowledgeable about the campaign and was constantly stopping to point out the positions of the opposing forces and describing the difficulties they each faced. The whole thing was a very moving experience.

In the evening both Colin and Jackie the teacher came to the boat for dinner. As if he hadn’t done enough, Colin brought with him as a present to the boat a wooden bowl which he had turned from a fallen timber from the “Vicar of Bray” the famous wrecked ship that lies rotting behind the jetty. It is the only remaining wreck of a ship involved in the Californian Goldrush of 1849. It was an incredibly generous gesture and I will treasure the bowl as a wonderful memento of our visit here.


Jackie told us that her school children, and those from Stanley who were visiting, were to receive a visit today from Mr Greenland, a local historian who would tell them all about life in Goose Green at the time of the invasion. Kindly, Jackie thought to ask us to come along as well. Mr Greenland’s talk was fascinating describing, amongst many other things, the conditions of the inhabitants held captive in the Community Hall (no talk to young children is complete without some scatological reference, so when told that all the imprisoned locals had to eat for over a month were tinned tomatoes and crackers which gave everyone the squits, and there were only two loos for the 120 or more prisoners, the young eyes were wide open). The talk was made all the more immediate by there being several children there whose parents and grandparents were amongst the captives. When Major Chris Keeble with a weakened force of barely 200, with almost no ammunition left, bluffed the Argentine commander of almost 1000 well fed troops to surrender, they placed the Argentine troops into the large shearing shed (once the largest and still the second largest shearing shed in the world) which to this day still has “P.O.W.” and “P.G.” (the Spanish equivalent) painted in large white letters on the outside to protect the Argentine prisoners in the event of further attacks.


Jackie had also told me that one of her pupils was very interested in weather and had been collecting and analysing weather data at Goose Green and comparing it to other places where local people had gone to work around the world. Jackie asked me if I could talk to her about why weather was important to sailors. So I spent a happy half hour telling delightful 7year old Kia (I hope I’ve spelt your name right, because I know you’ll be reading this!) about how wind doesn’t go in a straight line but in enormous swirling circles which changes the direction of the wind, why it was important to us when we were sailing, and I took my computer along to show her some grib files to show her how we could see what weather was coming our way and how it swirled round. Kira was polite enough to feign interest.


However, Jackie’s greatest gift to us was the use of her bath and shower. We have limited supplies of water on board to keep us going for about a month, so showers are strictly limited. Jackie cannot know how much we appreciated a luxuriating soak when you hadn’t had a good wash for over a week!


Meanwhile. Linda has been busy, needles flying, knitting a little polar outfit for Able Seadog Snoopy, Ship’s Mascot. He now sits resplendent in our “Vicar of Bray” bowl with smart two-tone gloves for his paws and a seaman’s sweater, all knitted from Falklands wool. He looks the biz, and he knows it.