Brian, Sandra and Teena talk to the Past Finders youth group about their experiences.
Brian Summers opened his talk by saying that the original Summers was in the Military when he arrived in the Falklands and that every generation since had been a member of the Falkland Islands Defence Force, so he joined just before his 16th birthday. He had just completed his basic training when the Aerolineas Argentinas DC4 aircraft was hijacked and landed on the Stanley racecourse. The hijackers had a very cold night on their aircraft before agreeing to surrender to the Catholic Church later the following afternoon. He was called out again 2 years later when the Cronica aircraft landed on the Eliza Cove Road.
By 1982 he was the Force Sargent Major and because things had been reasonably quite in the last few years the FIDF only had just over 30 members. A recording of Governor Hunt's radio broadcast from the night of 1st April 1982 was played, where he asked for all members of the FIDF to immediately report for duty and that everyone should remain calm and not go out and damage Argentine property. Brian explained that his role that night was to guard and maintain telecommunications with the outside world at the Cable & Wireless Office (now the Sure Office). He said that when he was leaving the Drill Hall, he said he remembered thinking that he could be shot, but never remembered feeling really scared. In the early hours of the morning contact was lost with London and he demonstrated the Morse code key that he used attempting to restore contact with London. At approximately 6am explosions could be heard at Moody Brook followed shortly after by gunfire from the ridge above Government House. With the gunfire going on and rounds striking the Office, he realised that this was the only building in the area that still had its lights on, so in the dark sitting on the floor he continued without success to contact London. After Governor Hunt had ordered the Royal Marines and the FIDF to lay down the arms and surrender, he went and checked the building for bullet holes and when he returned to the main office there was an Argentine Soldier standing in the doorway so he decided he should go direct to the door rather than diverting to pick up his jersey and jacket. He was taken down to the front road and showed photographs of the Royal Marines lying on the road being searched. He said that the only scary moment was when they were lying on the road, they could feel the vibrations of the amphibious armoured personnel carriers coming up through the concrete. To allow the wheeled amphibious armoured personnel carrier to pass everyone was told to get to their feet and stand in a straight line and not talk. Their only act of defiance was to huddle together, smoke cigarettes and talk. They were then moved onto the lawn where the Government House 1st Secretary’s house is. In one of the photographs of everyone on the lawn he pointed out himself and Kenneth McKay. The FIDF were taken back to the Drill Hall and told to go home and burn their uniforms. The Royal Marines were flown back to the UK later that day.
Everyone was told to go back to work as normal on the Monday morning and Brian returned to Cable & Wireless where communications with the outside world continued very much as normal. The office was also home to some Argentine troops and civilians.
Towards the end of April Brian was called into the Colonels office and told that for his own safety he was being taken away from Stanley. He was taken home by 2 security men to pack a small bag and then taken to Stanley Airport and led into the terminal building not realising that there were other Stanley residents already down there. Eventually a total of 13 including 4 children were taken to Fox Bay West on an Argentine Puma helicopter. The next day they were taken to Fox Bay East and as most of the residents had left for other farms without Argentine garrisons, they spent the next few nights in the empty houses. After the Vulcan Bombers had bombed Stanley airport, they were all rounded up and taken to the Cockwell house where they spent the next 7 weeks.
In the 2nd week of May an Argentine cargo ship anchored in Carcass Bay and the Bahia Buen Suceso, Monsunen and the Penelope were used to ferry the cargo into Fox Bay. This was spotted by the Task Force and just after lunch on the Sunday, Brian was at the end of the building looking south when 2 sea gulls didn’t flap their wings but started spitting cannon shells which made a loud ripping sound as they hit the ground. One shell hit the diesel tank but fortunately it didn’t catch fire, but the carpenter’s shop did, one end was used to store drums of fuel for the Beaver float planes which burnt furiously but didn’t explode. The smoke could be seen over most of the West Falklands. An amusing thing that happened during that raid was two Argentine soldiers were pushing a wheelbarrow with a drum of water in it, the Harriers shot the wheel off, but the two soldiers were unharmed.
At the end of the war Brian & Gerald Cheek when onboard the Bahia Buen Suceso and could hear a cat but couldn’t find it.
Sandra was only 8 years old during the conflict. Her family lived in the centre of Stanley on John Street. On invasion day the whole street was full of amphibious armoured personnel carriers and armed Argentine soldiers. As a young family decided to move to San Carlos and stay with family on the farm. Unknown to them San Carlos was chosen by the amphibious group, British Task force to Land here on the 21st of May. This area was nicknamed Bomb Alley.
Sandra talked about some of her scariest memories, Ajax Bay being bombed, losing the HMS Antelope, 1000 lb bombs coming down on parachutes and getting stuck in a trench.
The photo above is Sandra with the medical team living in the manager's house. Sadly, Sandra got scolded during the war this was a simple accident that happened in the home...boiling water didn't make it to her cup. She had to be treated by the medical team who worked in the cook house. They were amazing and she is not scarred today thanks to the chap who looked after her, he will always be remembered.
After the surrender Sandra went to Salvador with her grandad. While her parents and younger sister Naomi when back to Stanley. Their house in Stanley was a mess! The family lost pretty much everything. Sandra showed the only two items she had left from before the invasion which is very precious to her - a doll and teddy. Thanks to the donations given by many people from the Church and West Falklands they could slowly rebuild their lives.
The family are eternally grateful to the British Task Force.
On the afternoon of 6th April, I left Stanley with my 15yr cousin, her mum (my aunt) and my 82 years old grandmother. We were taken overland (there were no roads outside of Stanley then), to Bluff Cove by Carlos Perry and Bill Porter where we spent the night courtesy of Tim and Jean Dobbyns. The following morning Michael (Buster) Summers and Brian May drove us from Bluff Cove to Fitzroy where we stopped for lunch with Ben and Fanny Ford, then on to Goose Green.
A few days after the invasion my uncle thought it would be safer if we (the women of the family) left Stanley as he felt it could get dangerous when the British troops arrived, and the fighting started.
On the afternoon of 6th April, I left Stanley with my 15yr cousin, her mum (my aunt) and my 82 years old grandmother. We were taken overland (there were no roads outside of Stanley then), to Bluff Cove by Carlos Perry and Bill Porter where we spent the night curtesy of Tim and Jean Dobbyns. The following morning Michael (Buster) Summers and Brian May drove us from Bluff Cove to Fitzroy where we stopped for lunch with Ben and Fanny Ford, then on to Goose Green.
The plan was to go down to go across the Sound to West Falkland on the Penelope, skippered by my uncle Finlay Ferguson, then over to Weddell Is. where my parents were living. However, within a couple of days of arriving at Goose Green, the Argentines were on the boat my uncle wasn’t allowed to take ferry people anymore. This meant we had to stay at Goose Green. The Morrison family kindly took us in with another family from Stanley, making it a total of 12 people in the house.
The rest of April passed by with nothing much to do during the day. We would go on walks, do jigsaw puzzles, read, and help with all the household chores. Some evenings a film would be shown in the Hall.
On 1st May everything changed. Early in the morning the British Harrier planes bombed the Goose Green airstrip, destroying most of the planes there.
The Argentines panicked and at around 8.30am went around to every house in the settlement and ordered us all outside and took us to the Hall by gunpoint. They said it was for a meeting and we would be allowed out later. That never happened. We spent the day sitting around not knowing what was happening. Our first meal that day was around 6pm. Cold baked beans, spaghetti, cream crackers and spam. There were 114 people with no proper food, clothes or beds. It was three days later before we got a hot meal which was basically tinned meats and beans & spaghetti warmed up in a big pot.
Day 4 We managed to get a quilt to sleep on shared between 5 people. A few days later we got a single mattress and shared between 4 plus a camp bed for my grandmother.
Day 5 A Committee has formed. People were allocated specific jobs. Cooking, cleaning, ironing, unblocking the two toilets and other jobs.
Day 6 We were allowed use of the Galley just a short walk from the Hall, to cook meals for everyone. Two people would go over each morning and spend the day cooking lunch and supper for everyone. The Argentines would let a couple of people go across from the Hall to collect the food and take back to share around everyone. Bread and cakes were baked during the day at the Galley as well as the meals.
Day 9 I had my first bath, four of us shared the same water.
Day 14 Got word that that my family on Weddell were all OK. My brother was on HMS Endurance but I had no idea where the ship was.
Day 15 The British SAS raided Pebble Island and destroyed Argentine aircraft there. The Hardcastles were allowed to go home.
Day 16 I was at the Galley when the people who came to collect the meals told me my uncle and his work mate were stood against the wall outside with Argentines guarding them with guns. I went out and spoke to the guards and explained to them who they were. The Argentines thought they were British spies. As mentioned earlier, the Argentine Navy had taken over the Penelope and my uncle and his mate had decided they no longer wished to run the boat with them so asked to be put ashore at Egg Harbour. They stayed the night in the house there before spending the following couple of days walking to Goose Green settlement where they were arrested by the Argentine forces.
Day 17 We were told all Stanley people had to go back to Town in the morning and everyone else could go back into their houses.
Day 18 Only a few people were allowed to go home and nobody returned to Stanley.
Day 21 The British troops landed at San Carlos. Finally managed to get back to the house and collect my suitcase with my clothes. (I, like most other people had been wearing the clothes we had on when sent into the Hall on 1st May!)
Day 22 to 26 There was a lot of fighting, bombing, ships being sunk, lives being lost. Trap doors had been cut in the floors for people to take shelter from possible stray bullets. I chose not to go under as my grandmother wasn’t able to. A few more people went back to their houses.
Day 27 BBC reported that British troops were 5 miles off Darwin.
Day 28 Heavy naval bombardment all night. The fighting is getting closer to Goose Green. I watched Darwin School burn down which took approximately 40 minutes. BBC reported that Darwin and Goose Green now recaptured by the British but the Argentines are still all around.
Day 29 The British troops have taken control of Goose Green. 1400 Argentine troops have surrendered. My 82 years old grandmother spent all day making cups of tea and coffee for the British soldiers.
Day 30 We are still in the Hall because the house where we had been staying was full of bullet holes. My uncle’s house a complete mess and his furniture chucked outside. I spent part of the day translating for the British.
Day 31 My grandmother, aunt and I went to stay at Darwin House.
The next 17 days were spent between Darwin and Goose Green. There’s such a mess everywhere. Mostly cleaning my uncle’s house and helping others where needed until we were able to get a helicopter flight back to Stanley on 18th June.
It was a shock to see what a terrible mess Stanley was in.
I went back to work on 19th June.
This is a condensed account of my experiences during the War.