Thought For Today: Looking Back
Looking Back: In 2016 I made a short visit back to The Falkland Islands. After a 20 hour return flight we touched down at RAF Brize Norton, welcomed by heavy rain and an enquiry as if to I had “anything to declare?” Simply shaking my head, I proceeded through the Customs Check. I had brought nothing back but my thoughts, the experience, and a whole bagful of mixed emotions. Much of those thoughts are personal; I need time to unpack them and sort out what is for public sharing and what is for carefully folding and putting away. Similarly, some of the experiences are private – since they involved shared time with the 1982 War Veterans who made the journey with me. Together we had visited, re-visited, little known places that had become everyday news in 1982; Goose Green, San Carlos, Ajax Bay, Two Sisters, Tumbledown, Mount Harriet, Mount Longdon,Buff Cove, and ‘Bomb Alley’ (*Falkland Sound). Each place having its story, each place having a cairn and cross that spoke of those who had died there. The scars of battle can still be found. We talked a lot. We had kept silent a lot. Together we laughed a lot...... laughter can be a good disguise for tears.
As Chaplain it was my privilege to lay no less than 7 wreaths during our stay. That included laying one on an unnamed grave marked, ‘A soldier of Argentina. Known unto God’. We laid that wreath with the same quiet dignity and respect as those we laid on the graves of British combatants.
The most moving privilege was that of being able to visit Pebble Island, the nearest landfall to the final resting place of D118 HMS Coventry. I am most grateful to British International Helicopters for enabling me to visit this and other remote locations. The 19 names marked on the Pebble Island memorial are familiar to me. They are read out at the ship’s memorial service that I lead each year. Some I knew personally; some I now know their families. To stand in the biting wind, against a cold sea background, knowing that 300 foot below that sea surface rested the mortal remains of those 19 brave men, was overwhelming and humbling.
On one of the Sundays I preached at Christ Church Cathedral in Stanley (The most southerly cathedral in the world). After the service I gave a presentation on behalf of Coventry Cathedral entitled ‘The Cross of Nails’ The presentation combined the WW11 story of Coventry Cathedral with the story of HMS Coventry. The common link being the Cross of Nails that the cathedral gave to HMS Coventry - a cross that went down with the ship but was subsequently recovered by divers. This is a story I haven’t fully told at St Georges. It is a story better shared in person so I look forward to an opportunity when we all meet together again.