Sunday, 1 April 2012

Darwin / Goose Green, and a visit to Camp.

Recently, one Saturday, we drove south-west out of Stanley - the only way to go, literally.  There are turn-offs to settlements at Bluff Cove, Fitzroy, and north to Estancia and Port San Carlos, but we continued on the main road the 35 miles to Mount Pleasant Airport.

As the massive air base and garrison appears on the right, in the middle of rolling peat bogs, a "Give Way" sign indicates just about the only decision point in the journey.  Left to Mare Harbour - the military port, and Berthas Beach; or right, a few hundred yards, to the airport/garrison entrance; and straight on to Darwin/Goose Green.  We go straight on.

The road is still gravel but is quieter, and I think, uses a different stone, which allows a smoother top layer and  quieter ride.  It undulates and twists for another 35 miles through the largely empty landscape, until arriving at the narrow isthmus which contains the two settlements (Darwin and Goose Green are about 1 mile apart), and where the first real land battle of the 1982 conflict took place.
The Fallen (Los Caidos) overlooking the Falklands countryside, near Darwin
Darwin/Goose Green was where men of 2nd Battalion of the Parachute Regiment (2 Para) engaged with Argentine troops on 28th May, 1982.  The British troops had landed a week earlier at San Carlos, and walked the 40 miles or so south, under the leadership of Lt-Col. "H" Jones, who was to be awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross.

The battle raged for around 24 hours and defeat for the British troops would have been a major, and possibly insurmountable, setback.  But, despite the loss of their Commanding Officer in mid-battle, 2 Para overcame a numerically-superior and dug-in force, finally taking about 1,000 Argentine prisoners, and suffering 17 killed.  Around 47 Argentine troops were killed.
Commando memorial, near Darwin.  Looking north to Wickham Mountains.
When the Argentine forces finally surrendered, the British troops could then release the local inhabitants, who had been rounded up one morning and locked into the community hall for about a month.  114 people, from babies to grand-parents, had been living in the hall in very difficult conditions, and while the battle had raged around them, had sheltered under the floor of the hall in a makeshift bunker.

Many emerged to find their homes destroyed or trashed beyond repair.  But the Union Jack was flying again, and their nightmare was over.
Memorial to Lt-Col H Jones and other British dead, overlooking Goose Green.
Goose Green community hall, where the population was held for a month in 1982.
Darwin and Goose Green were the main settlements in the south of East Falklands, and a centre for the sheep industry.  It has a large cafe which sells local dishes, and where I tried "Today's Special" fish and chips, in the hope it wasn't frozen.  It was fine, freshly caught and battered, but I couldn't identify the fish - white and flaky, but not cod or haddock.  "Mullet!"  was the answer, and so another fish was added to my palate's experience.
Goose Green.  Fisherman (centre) on jetty.
But I need not have worried about contributing to the demise of yet another fish species.  Judging by the success of the fisherman on the jetty, there were, as the saying goes, plenty fish in the sea.  We counted at least a dozen lying at his feet, and he had earlier supplied the cafe with a large number.
"1899", with goat.
We wandered around the small settlement of about 30 houses - some of which are holiday homes, used by Stanley residents for weekend breaks.  Chickens wandered around and children played on quad bikes or horses.  Hard to believe the events that took place here 30 years ago.
Goose Green jetty, scene of many dead, but tasty,  mullet.
After lunch, we continued south and west on the road, heading towards the ferry "terminal" at Newhaven.
Gentoo penguins, Newhaven
I have no photos of the ferry port, as there is nothing there apart from a slipway and some penguins!  We drove 16 miles there from Goose Green and passed no cars, just one tractor on the way.  On the return we saw no other vehicles!  Next time, we'll check the timetable and try to arrive when the ferry is in.
Coming to land
We did have one unusual (for me) sighting there - a hare!  I had heard that introduced rabbits and hares populated the countryside, but hadn't seen any before.  It seemed a harsh environment even for animals with fur coats.

Goose Green, and some rare trees....
After having our fill of watching penguins in the biting wind, we meandered back to Stanley; to tarmac, pavements and street lights, and some pubs.  I'm not sure I am cut out for a life in a Camp settlement. 

"Camp" being the name for the countryside beyond Stanley.  As many will no doubt be aware, it comes from "campo" - the Italian and Spanish word for "field"- and the same root as "champs", as in Champs Elysees - the Elysian Fields.  In Greek mythology, the final resting place for the heroic and virtuous....very appropriate.



  1. Hi Peter, I wondered if there would be any events to commemorate the invasion. Here this morning the papers and TV/radio are full of it. Mainly editorials ‘could be do it again?' as we barely managed it the first time I very much doubt we could. But then the Falklands is better defended now than in 1982 so hopefully we wouldn’t need to!

    Brings back memories of the Easter leave that never happened! I shall want to see the memorials to the 255 souls when I visit next year so best tourist guide hat on!

    Enjoying your blog immensely.


  2. Hi Bx, There was indeed a ceremony here yesterday (April 1), which I saw reported on BBC News this morning. The Governor took the salute at the Liberation monument from the Falklands Islands Defence Force veterans - now almost as old as me.

    I got a couple of photos, but most were ruined by rather rude journalists and photographers leaping in front of my vantage point as the guard of honour moved past. Still, it was more important that the world saw the ceremony! I hear President Kitchener (or CFK to her friends), has made a speech about the Falklands.. Strange choice of days to do so.

    No problem finding memorials. They are all around.

  3. Hugely enjoyable post. I feel that I now know more about the faraway Falklands than I do about the village I live in!

  4. Please do let me know if there's anything you would like to know. I forgot to link to this great blog about island life -