At this time of year when we remember the country’s war dead my mind is automatically drawn back to my visit to the Falkland Islands. Two years on from my trip to the South Atlantic, I thought about writing another long blog post about the military history aspects of my visit but after re-reading my post about visiting the battlefields, I’m not sure I can put my thoughts and feelings any better – that post can be found here:
Strangely, after reading so many books about the 1982 war over the years, I didn’t revisit them in the months before my trip. I’m not sure why I didn’t but perhaps it enabled me to take a fresh look at the war when actually being in the locations in which it was fought and when talking to people who were there. Since my return home, I have gone back to some of those books I previously read and I’ve finished many that I hadn’t read before. Having been in the Islands, the images that the words in those books paint are now so much more vivid.
One thing that really strikes me, therefore, in this period of remembrance, is that no matter how hard those of us who have no experience of war try to imagine it and understand what our veterans have been through, it is very difficult to do so. However, actually setting foot in the places where the battles happened and talking to people who were there makes those connections so much easier and stronger.
Not everyone can get all the way down to the Falklands, or even to the fields of Flanders, but in this country we are surrounded by people who have fought or who have been affected by war as civilians, either a long time ago or, indeed, very recently. Taking a moment at this time of year to listen to those who have been through those experiences can only help to aid our understanding and strengthen our remembrance.
There are so many aspects from my trip that will stay with me forever but perhaps the strongest and most poignant memory is of seeing the marker buoy identifying the final resting place of HMS Antelope beneath the cold, dark and wind-blown waves of San Carlos Water. I was thinking of that spot at 11 o’clock yesterday morning.