St Helena Online

Tag: Falkland Islands

Breakthrough at last on Ascension-St Helena flights

Monthly flights between St Helena and Ascension Island have been negotiated, after months of discontent over the vital link being excluded from the original deal with winning contractor Comair. Each month, of the the airline’s Saturday flights from Johannesburg will land at St Helena and then continue on to Ascension for an overnight stop, before a return flight on the same route. Executive councillor Lawson Henry had led angry calls for a way to be found for Saints working on Ascension and the Falklands to be able to fly home without expensive detours of many thousands of miles. Ascension Island Government acknowledge support from Governor Mark Capes and Enterprise St Helena in applying pressure for the link to be provided.

Read more here.

Raymond and Cynthia achieve a uniform kind of fame

Click the pic of Raymond and Cynthia to find out how to order Jon Tonks's book, Empire
Click the pic of Raymond and Cynthia to find out how to order Jon Tonks’s book, Empire

Nearly a million people read The Observer newspaper. And in the final issue of 2013, they have been treated to a picture of Cynthia George and Raymond Hudson, posing in their scouting uniforms on Jamestown seafront.

The photographer, Jon Tonks, has a thing about uniforms.

The Observer says they illustrate the strangely British, but not-quite-British culture of the South Atlantic islands he features in his new book, Empire.

The picture of Raymond and Cynthia is one of the thousands Jon took for the book – 400 rolls of film in all.

During a five-year tour of the UK’s South Atlantic territories, he’s photographed firemen, police officers and the governor of the Falkland Islands in their official garb, and others besides.

Observer writer Sean O’Hagan says the book highlights “the often absurd traces of an older kind of Britishness that linger in these in-between, out-of-the-way territories”.

It also, we’re told, “evokes the everyday oddness of life” in these remnants of the British Empire.

Scouting, of course, is found all over the world, so there’s nothing odd about two Saints wearing their uniforms – Raymond as “an honorary member of the St Helena Scout Group”, and Cynthia as assistant beaver leader.

Jon, whose pictures of the territories previously appeared in the 50th anniversary issue of the iconic Sunday Times Magazine, travelled 50,000 miles in the course of his project, and spent 32 days at sea.

He visited the Falklands, St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha, where he photographed two lifeboats that had been hurled up a cliff by storm seas.

The Observer’s verdict on his arduous mission: “It was worth it.”

Signed pre-launch copies of Empire can be ordered from Jon’s website, here

Click any of the thumbnails below to see larger images from Jon’s book:

SEE ALSO: ‘Nationettes’ star in Sunday Times Magazine

READ MORE: Empire, by Jon Tonks – Observer review

Work ‘in hand’ on inter-islands link – but no answer yet

The RMS St Helena approaches Ascension Island - but not for much longer
The RMS St Helena approaches Ascension Island – but not for much longer

The British government has been asked how people and supplies will be transported between St Helena and other islands in the South Atlantic after the RMS St Helena is withdrawn from service in 2016.

But no clear answer has emerged in response to a written question in the House of Lords by the Liberal Democrat peer Lord Jones of Cheltenham – one of the figures behind the revival of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on St Helena.

His question was:

“To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the future reliability of inter-island links in the South Atlantic for the transport of imports and exports and the mobility of labour in the South Atlantic British Overseas Territories after the St Helena airport is operational and the RMS St Helena ceases to operate.”

Baroness Warsi (Conservative) has replied:

“We are working closely with the St Helena and Ascension authorities as plans are developed for the transportation of supplies and passengers domestically among the islands after the introduction of air access to St Helena.

“These plans are progressing although work remains to be done in the run up to the opening of the airport and the withdrawal of the Royal Mail Ship St Helena service.”

New stamps honour Maggie. She had the Argies licked

stamp 200The Falkland Islands Post Office is to issue a set of stamps to honour Baroness Thatcher for liberating the islands after the Argentinian invasion of 1982.

The islands already celebrate Thatcher Day each year on 10 January, the anniversary of her post-victory visit to the islands in 1983.

The stamps will be released on 16 May 2013.

Read more here.

Stanley’s no toy town for UK to play with, says Penguin News

Suggestions that the capital of the Falklands should change its name from Stanley to Port Margaret, or even Port Margaret Thatcher, have been treated with scorn by the islands’ newspaper, Penguin News.

“Once the laughter had died down,” it said, “we began to consider the suggestion more seriously and some pragmatic factors began to emerge, like the sheer cost and annoyance that such a move would involve.

“For starters, anything that is currently printed with the word Stanley, from business cards to milestones, would have to be re-printed, or re-chiselled. Would UK MP Tobias Ellwood, who considers such a move appropriate, be prepared to meet the costs involved? I doubt it.”

The paper said the suggestion showed that sections of the British press and political establishment seemed to regard the Falkland Islands as “some kind of quaint toy town to be re-named, re-painted, or perhaps abandoned to the back of the cupboard, according to their whim”.

Read more

Marathon relief: chef in bomb suit gets more than a red nose

Falklands governor Nigel Haywood has completed the Stanley Marathon in a time of 3 hours, 30 minutes and 1 second – on his birthday.

He was nearly three times as fast as chef David Bradley, who predicted he’d be a bit of a plodder on his online fund-raising page:

“I’m doing a marathon in a 45kg bomb disposal suit for Red Nose Day because I’M STUPID!!”

The first male and female islanders to finish were Richard Short and Lindsay Sutcliffe. The race winner was Andrew Van Kints, a pilot from Cheltenham, UK, who finished in under three hours. The fastest woman was Dawn Teed, partner of previous winner Hugh Marsden.

Picture of Governor Haywood with his medal
David Bradley’s fund-raising page

Only 98.8% vote Yes to Falklands staying British

Celebrations have taken place at the Whalebone Arch in Stanley in the wake of the overwhelming (but not surprising) vote in favour of the Falkland Islands remaining a British overseas territory. It is understood that only a small number of St Helenians living on the islands were qualified to take part in the referendum, called in response to pressure from Buenos Aires for them to be handed over to Argentina. Three people voted No.

Britain is ready to step up Falklands defence, says paper

Military chiefs have drawn up plans to step up defence of the Falkland Islands, the Telegraph newspaper has reported.

It says the March referendum on whether to remain a British overseas territory could lead to an act of aggression by Argentina, such as planting the country’s flag on the islands.

Harrassment of fishing vessels and disruption of British oil and gas exploration are other possibilities that could escalate if the Royal Navy had to intervene, says the paper.

The referendum has been called as a way of demonstrating the islanders’ resolve to remain British.

Read the Telegraph story here.

War papers reveal Thatcher’s fighting talk over Ascension

Newly-released secret papers have revealed how Margaret Thatcher had to stand her ground over Britain’s right to use Ascension Island as an air base during the Falklands War.

America’s senior diplomat planned to tell Argentina that UK use of the South Atlantic island had been “restricted” by the United States.

But the tough-speaking Prime Minister firmly insisted: “It’s our island.”

The US built one of the world’s longest runways on Ascension during World War Two, and in the late 1950s negotiated a lease to use the island as an American base.

The newly-disclosed British papers – released under a 30-year rule – record American negotiations with Argentina before and after the invasion of the Falklands in April, 1982.

Even as the British task force sailed to re-take the islands, US Secretary of State Alexander Haig flew back and forth across the Atlantic as a go-between, trying to avert a full-on military conflict.

Those talks depended on America appearing to be treating both sides equally. But press reports revealed how the US was supporting Britain behind the scenes, invoking fury in Buenos Airies.

Haig telephoned Thatcher to read a proposed statement designed to rescue the talks – with a specific reference to Ascension Island, which was then officially a dependency of St Helena.

A BBC radio programme, UK Confidential, used actors to show how Thatcher browbeat Mr Haig. The dialogue – recorded at the time – ran:

HAIG: “Now what we have done is put together a statement…”

THATCHER: “Yes, go ahead, read it to me.”

HAIG: “I would say that since the onset of the crisis, the US has not acceded to requests that would go beyond the scope of our customary patterns of co-operation. British use of US facilities on the United Kingdom island of Ascension has been restricted accordingly.”

THATCHER: “Oh, now that’s a bit devastating – ”

HAIG: “Now, we have looked very carefully at our agreement on this and we feel that that statement has been and remains justified -”

THATCHER: “Part of your statement would have an extremely adverse reaction here. It’s been said in the House of Commons, quite rightly, that I have done everything possible to   support President Reagan and the US government, on every single occasion that they have asked for help; and the moment we need your help you aren’t there. We just don’t receive it. I don’t like phrase, ‘you have not acceded to requests beyond the scope of the customary pattern’ … because it looks as if we have made them and you have turned them down.”

HAIG: “I told them that if they asked, we would turn them down; if you asked while this negotiation was under way, we would have to refrain as well.”

THATCHER: “…the suggestion that we are to be treated in the same way as a military junta… with a very bad record of human rights, I think will cause problems here. It will make it extremely difficult to continue the good relations that have hitherto existed.”

HAIG: “Well, I certainly understand that concern and that’s why I read this to you -”

THATCHER: “Well, let’s get Ascension out of it altogether, because it’s our island. I made myself clear, did I?”

HAIG: “Yes.”

Ascension was subsequently used as a major staging post for ships, troops and equipment en route to the conflict zone, as one point becoming the world’s busiest airport.

St Helenians who were based on the island at the time recall aircraft being parked up on every available piece of ground.

LISTEN: UK Confidential – BBC Radio 4 (available to UK listeners until 3 January 2012)

LINK: National Archives: newly-released Falklands papers

Maggie’s shock at Falklands Invasion – and how Britain nearly agreed to fly the Argentinian flag in Stanley

De-classified documents have revealed the British government’s shock when it realised Argentina was about to invade the Falkland Islands.

Only two days before troops walked through Stanley did Thatcher and her advisers realise what was about to happen.

In October 1982 she gave evidence behind closed doors to the Falkland Islands Review Committee, set up to analyse what happened.

The transcript is among the papers newly released by the National Archives office at Kew under a 30-year disclosure rule.

In it, Mrs Thatcher says: “I thought that they would be so absurd and ridiculous to invade the Falklands that I did not think it would happen.”

When she was shown raw intelligence suggestion an invasion was imminent, she said, it was “the worst, I think, moment of my life.”

She also said: “That night no-one could tell me whether we could retake the Falklands – no-one. We did not know – we did not know.”

The papers also show that Britain held secret talks near Geneva in the late 1970s. It suggested transferring the islands to Argentina, with the UK retaining sovereignty over the people who lived on them – “for, say, 200 years”.

Foreign minister Nicholas Ridley told an Argentinian military leader: “You would have increasing opportunities of influencing the islanders and opening their minds to cooperation.

“You could fly Argentinian flags on public buildings, and perhaps appoint a high commissioner.”

The Argentinian negotiator said his government had considered something similar, saying, “If Britain were to hand over the islands to Argentina, my government would not extend the same regulations to the islands as the mainland. They would have their own laws, civil service, etc, a bit like Tierre del Fuego.”

The “leaseback” idea was greeted with reluctance in the islands, and hostility in the UK parliament, according to UK Confidential, a special BBC radio programme broadcast on 28 December 2012, the day the papers were released.

On another occasion, Sir Roger Bannister – the first man to run a mile in less than four minutes – reported on meeting a US academic who’d suggested partitioning the islands, with Britain retaining West Falkland while Argentina kept the East – where most of the population lived.

The UK said dividing it the other way round “could be slightly less unattractive.”

The released archives also include a letter to Margaret Thatcher from Sir Rex Hunt, the British governor who stood up to the invaders, and returned to resume his post after the liberation. He wrote:

“I should like to extend my personal thanks and say how grateful I am to you for sending me back to Stanley to finish the job I started two and a half years ago.

“My wife and I were honoured and privileged to be invited to your box at the Trooping of the Colour [the Queen’s birthday ceremony].

“Nothing would give us greater pleasure than to return that hospitality by having you and Mr Thatcher to stay with us at Government House, Stanley.”

The offer was taken up.

Falklands mourn Sir Rex Hunt, hero of the ’82 invasion
I’m not surrendering: voice of the late Sir Rex Hunt


UK Confidential – BBC Radio 4 (available to UK listeners until 3 January 2012)

National Archives: newly-released Falklands papers
Thatcher was ready for Falkland Islands deal, papers show – Guardian website
Falklands invasion ‘surprised’ Thatcher – BBC News