General Spacie cuts the first turf on 31st December 1983
General Spacie came to cut the first turf on 31st December 1983. It was supposed to be the day after but someone changed the day. Maurice C was in Stanley and either didn't get the message or couldn't get over in time. There would have been no room for him on the General's helicopter.
A pathetically small turnout for the largest government project of the day - about fifteen of us and a few of the General's staff.
We met a few liason officers in the early days when they were all keen to fly out to see what was going on, but when the project really got going we never saw them except at special events like Mr Heseltine's visit to the site and the opening ceremony by Prince Andrew.
A Sea King helicopter arriving at Mount Pleasant House at the end of November 1983
(they sometimes brought our mail)
We visited the camps at Goose Green and San Carlos and stayed there on Saturday nights when on our trips.
We all had notional ranks, I was a major, my colleagues were captains or lieutenants, the PSA senior engineers and the PSA liason officers were lieutenant colonels or colonels and Maurice C would have been a brigadier I suppose. We never needed to use the ranks but I think it should have dictated which mess we were supposed to go into.
At Goose Green a sergeant apologised that the officers' mess had been cleaned out so we went to the sergeants' mess which was fine. At San Carlos we went into the officers' mess but were obviously not welcome in the clubby atmosphere with leather arm chairs and regimental bits and pieces in our muddy, scruffy, site clothes. On the other hand the privates' mess was crowded and noisy with metal tables, so we went into the sergeants' mess which was just right. Friendly mature blokes in a small and quiet room. After that we always camped.
A BV at San Carlos on 1st January 1984
The BVs had tracks which really tore up the grass surface so that our landrovers often got bogged up on Sussex Mountains where the BVs had obviously been travelling.
BVs have a drive shaft to the rear unit, so that as a stunt they can climb over a container. The back half pushes the front half up the container, then the front half goes across the top and pulls the back half up, then the back half acts as a brake as the front plunges down. A bit bumpy I should think, I never saw it happen.
Once when travelling towards Goose Green we came across a platoon who had been told to walk from Goose Green to Stanley. The officer had obviously been sent to Coventry by the squaddies. He was ambling along about twenty yards in front of them in shabby trainers, not ideal for hiking. I never saw the squaddies speak to him and I don't think he spoke to us either.
The squaddies were pretty typical, their first question was "Has anyone got a light" which someone had, then they asked how long our tour of duty was. We said a minimum of one year, maybe two or three. They were appalled. They were fed up with only two months. I can only imagine that they had been asked to walk to Stanley to keep them busy.
On another occasion we were camping near Ceritos House below Mount Usborne. Most of us didn't bother with tents, just slept in our bivvy bags in the open which meant we could see the stars and circling satellites. Suddenly there was the sound of gunfire not too far away and we watched the tracers in the night sky. We probably often travelled over training areas, but the really heavy guns were trained on the middle of the island, although I wasn't too sure that night.
Once I woke up early to hear the sound of a vehicle approaching. Stirling M and someone else were sleeping in bivvy bags virtually on the track between Goose Green and Hell's Kitchen when a bv roared over the brow and down towards them. I don't know whether the driver saw them, I expect he did, but he didn't miss them by much.
Cemeteries and memorials
Wickham next to a minefield east of Mount Challenger
Moody Brook barracks west of Stanley
Hercules tanker and a Gazelle
Chinooks and Gurkhas bog-in
Nimrod and Phantom
Goose Green Camp, Argie dugout and Landrover with bog tyres
Islander, Tristar and Boeing 747 planes