End of November 1984

At the end of November 1984 a separate Army Works contract started with a consortium of Wimpey/Taylor Woodrow. We were asked to help them while they got set up by lending our landrover. Grudgingly we had to.

Violence still continued at the camp. One man was sentenced to six months jail in the Stanley court but as there was no jail he was sent home to serve his sentence in the UK. He had hit a woman and caused an affray, dislocating his finger when someone tried to keep him away from the girl. There had been a case of male rape some time before.

There was a difficulty for the Island police. They would have liked to know of criminal convictions before anyone entered the Islands, but LMA and Kelvin never asked at interviews. Some said that firms employing staff abroad should ask about previous convictions, others said UK law made it impossible for them to find out. Inevitably they employed rough characters who couldn't get work in the UK.

Times were definitely changing. Previously I had been lucky to have one bog roll. Now I had three spare ones provided and another two packs of four tucked between the pipe and the wall. One air freshener arrived, then more. I had one and a half bars on the window ledge, one on the soil pipe bend, one hanging over the edge of the wc pan and one hanging inside the cistern. I found a tin of scouring powder, powder toilet cleaner and liquid toilet cleaner, toilet brush and holder. They must have done the same in 900 or more rooms.

There was now a proper Post Office with bright red George VI post box outside and a better shop selling souvenirs.

October was double as wet as usual, November was changeable and early December was almost continuous drizzle. So different to 1983 when we were out and about in lovely sunshine and dry "camp" but the weather improved a bit in the middle of December.

On 21st December some PSA guys put on a pantomime "Benny Green and his forty thieves" in the main camp bar the "Gull and Penguin". Esther looked sexy as a slave girl in see-through pantaloons.

21st January 1985. The PSA bar was so busy that stocktaking became a problem. Large amounts seemed to disappear without being signed for. Brian H was almost sacked for negligence. He was an organiser for the bar, an informal barman, but drank heavily himself. He often took drink from the bar for things like barbecues with McTay, a subcontractor, intending to book it, but nothing tallied.

On one occasion twelve crates of whisky came off the ship, but only eleven were in the stockroom in the evening. John G and I were stocktaking that evening. Brian H was thrown off the committee. There were in fact two bars running simultaneously as M & E guys were taking stuff to the old JE block bar for private drinking.

Dermot B, the PSA boss who was visiting from UK, demanded better management. The PSA site senior men Jamie, Stuart M and John T said that everyone was to take turns running the bar, cleaning it and locking up. No democratically elected committee after that. It caused friction because some people didn't drink or just didn't use the bar, so they didn't want to hang around until closing time.

A few days later the bar committee, except Stuart M, resigned. Some PSA men were claiming the time to run the bar on their timesheets, contacted their union, Mike S refused to continue doing the accounts, general chaos. It got sorted out somehow. Stuart managed to get new volunteers for the committee, Graham N, Bill J and Stuart S.

Dry, dusty weather caused dust storms. The Army Works contractors WTW used LMA's roads and either damaged them or got them so covered with dust that LMA sprayed them and wanted WTW to pay.

The dust was so bad on the Stanley Road that a large landtrain lorry driver didn't see a white pile of quartzite chippings on a white road in a dust storm when a landrover passed him and he ploughed into the stockpile. The landtrain's front axle ended up near the back one and the driver was taken to Stanley with stomach injuries.

Ivor C was taken to his room with slurred speech and everyone thought he was drunk, but he had had a minor stroke. On 25th January he still couldn't feel his leg. He had had a heart attack a week or so earlier. He was flown home.

The army started to take over parts of the site on 25th January 1985 without liasing with us. Paras started erecting a fence around the fuel tanks and offshore pipeline area from west to east completely cutting off the peninsula, preventing the Army Works contractor getting access. Ken W, PSA man in charge, was never informed. Everyone had to have passes. We couldn't understand why they fenced off the fuel area, the pipeline ran alongside the Mare Harbour access road for five miles above ground on supports. It could easily be crashed into or blown up. As the months passed, more and more areas became off-limits, (in theory, anyway).

22nd February 1985. There has been pressure on the airbridge as more and more staff wanted to use it in preference to the long sea trip via Cape Town. A recent alternative was to go by the Uganda, an MOD ship that went to Ascension Island from where people went by VC10. It went through the tropics and had a swimming pool.

Campbell D and his girlfriend/secretary/future wife wanted to go on leave this way, but permission had to be obtained from MOD and PSA could organise this. Mike S thought of a good wind-up and several people helped him organise it. They organised an official PSA letter to be signed by Maurice C, handed to Campbell's boss Maurice A, that LMA were only able to use this route as a concession, very overbooked, etc. etc. and that the last remaining place had been allocated to Miss S, (Campbell's girlfriend).

Maurice A and Holly were primed and the letter was delivered. Campbell was very red-faced normally, the sort of person who easily blew his top with raised blood vessels on his forehead. Sure enough, Campbell went ballistic and Holly had to quieten him down quickly to avoid him bursting a blood vessel. He started stomping off in the direction of Jack S's room (the LMA boss at that time who was a serious man), so Holly stopped him just in time.

On Sunday 3rd March late at 2.30 am I woke up to hear the camp fire engine siren and smelt smoke. There had been a fire before just outside an accommodation block which was put out, but everyone suspected arson. As I have said before, LMA and Kelvin the camp subcontractors weren't allowed to find out about previous convictions before employing people.

No alarms were ringing near me, so I lay in bed just thinking about what I would put in my suitcase in a hurry. I got up and could see smoke in the camp floodlights. At that time the whole camp was wooden and the permanent buildings were still without roofs, although the hangar may have been the only one roofed. There was only the office/storage compound and the ship for shelter. If the wind got hold of the fire it would have quickly spread and burnt down the whole camp. The road to Stanley still had a large section of boggy "camp" in the middle, so nearly two thousand people would have been shelterless with no kitchen or washing facilities.

On Monday 4th March even as thirty-six security men were on duty, another fire was started in a women's block shower tray. The fire was very serious, it had been started in the inflammable foam under a shower tray. The shower areas had no smoke detectors and were separated from the rooms by a door, so the room corridor smoke alarms didn't work. The fire got into the roof timbers before it was put out.

The smoke and heat had buckled some doors. People left their rooms and locked them, but security men opened them to see that the rooms were empty. Subsequently the rooms were burgled. Watches, radios, etc. were stolen. One man lost £800 worth of camera equipment - even though he thought they were safe in a locked room.

No one knew who had started it. Lots of people were quizzed. Someone said they had seen one man in a T-shirt of one colour in the evening, but when he had helped put out the fire he had been wearing another coloured T-shirt. Suspicions were aroused and he was put in an identity parade on 20th March. The camp security and Stanley Police asked the UK police about this man. It turned out he had convictions for arson. They had no real proof it was him, so he was sacked for bad workmanship and we had no more arson attacks.

The Stanley road was progressing from both ends towards the middle to catch up lost time. On 10th March we went along the part just beyond Fitzroy and heard that 50 acre plots beside the road had been sold off to locals. One person had built a hideous tiny lime-green hut as a chalet overlooking the Fitzroy River culvert near Hawk's Nest Rocks, a really beautiful spot. I imagined the whole road from Stanley lined with holiday chalets, a complete contrast to the beautiful virgin "camp" that had been there.

The Fitzroy river culvert on 10th March 1985

The Fitzroy river culvert on 10th March 1985