After seeing a friend referring to a CD he had performed on comment “Thirteen Years ago, how time flies” I started to think about momentous periods of my life.
There are many I could recall, my generation’s Kennedy moment, September 11 2001, starting & selling my first business, graduation and my first published article. All special moments in time, however none affected more than the events that spiralled out of control on 2nd April 1982.
The only significance for many people of that date will be it is the day after April Fools Day. However, for a number of people in a British Overseas Territory, that day changed their lives forever. Forces of the military junta governing Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands and South Georgia.
Before that day, living and growing up in the North East of England I had never even heard of the Falkland Islands. I was 15 at the time when the news broke in England. I had grown up with a background of news reports from “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland, but this was my first real experience of war. In fact, I would say this was the first war that TV covered.
Like having your extended family attacked, I remember my school friends, my town and my country uniting in condemnation of the action of Argentina. It became a basis for schoolyard fights, woe betide anyone who didn’t back the people of the Falklands. Of course as school kids, we had no concept of the horror of war, being held hostage or a foreign government exercising power over us and denying the rights we simply take for granted. But our well-intentioned support, if somewhat naively offered, was there.
The media landscape was very different back in 1982. Only three television channels existed. Breakfast television would not be launched until the following year. The BBC Microcomputer was less than a year old, as was Sinclair’s ZX-81, with the brand new ZX-Spectrum being launched on 23 April of that year, appropriately St Georges day for another ground-breaking British invention. The Internet had yet to be even imagined. Radio Tees (not to be confused with BBC Tees of today) was my local commercial radio station and chances are, you would be listening to music on AM rather than FM.
At that time of my life, I was more interested in being out and about with friends, however, once the news broke, the streets became deserted. Instead of being out on our bikes or in the nearby woods, across the town, children returned home. We ended up watching the daily news briefings delivered by John Nott MP, then the UK Defence Secretary.
From the moment the taskforce sailed in Royal Navy and requisitioned ships alike, news reporting changed. I lost track of the number of times I heard reporters say they couldn’t tell us where they were or where they were going. Or indeed that all important phrase used by Brian Hanrahan that let families back home know aircrew were safe “I counted them all out, and I counted them all back”. The news told us what they could, but it was far from the full story.
The military actions of the war are well documented; by the Ministry of Defence, by the media, by records showing who was mentioned in despatches and who were awarded medals.
But what of the unsung heroes? The islanders themselves. Who tells their story of being unarmed and in the heart of the action? Or what it was like to continue broadcasting at the local radio station when the studio was entered by Argentinian soldiers?
I think it was back in 2007, during the BBC’s Falklands 25 series that I heard a documentary that spent a little bit of time describing the “conflict” as the BBC would insist on calling it, from the islanders’ perspective. However it is a travesty this no longer remains online and available.
So I’ve decided to do the job myself. If I get agreement from islanders to be interviewed, as well as pull together the funding for the trip, I’ll be heading to the South Atlantic in 2012. Thirty years after our armed forces, I’ll be walking in the footsteps of heroes.