Weather-beaten Falklands memorials restored in time for season of remembrance

Sailors in the Falklands have been restoring memorials to the 1982 conflict in time for veterans returning for the 35th anniversary remembrance period.

It's the duty of Royal Navy personnel permanently based in the South Atlantic - the Naval Engineering Falkland Islands (NEFI) detachment who maintain ships based or operating from the British territory, and the crew of guardship HMS Clyde - to ensure the widely-scattered monuments and memorials to the 255 Servicemen killed in the six-week war are in pristine condition for the November ceremonies.

The NEFI engineers are responsible for maintaining the monuments to HMS Fearless' sunken landing craft F4 at Bertha's Beach, destroyer HMS Sheffield on Sealion Island and frigate HMS Alacrity at Port Howard; she survived nearly a dozen air attacks.

Clyde's sailors look after the memorials to frigates Ardent and Antelope, both lost during the San Carlos landings, 3 Commando Brigade Air Squadron at Port San Carlos, and the SAS and HMS Coventry memorials on remote Pebble Island.

"The weather in the Falklands is the main cause of damage and deterioration - the memorials suffer punishment from extreme winds and freezing temperatures, particularly during the winter months," explained WO1 Ian Gorman, in charge of NEFI.

Despite the memorials' remote locations, it is not unusual to have an audience - the local wildlife populace often takes a keen interest

Lieutenant Matt Ivory, HMS Clyde's marine engineer officer

"The harsh weather also makes any renovation work challenging, as even the simplest task such as sanding or painting can suddenly become very difficult in 50mph winds or in temperatures below zero," continued Ian.

"And just getting to the memorial sites can be logistically challenging, with many only accessible by helicopter or a combination of ship, sea boat and a long yomp."

The remoteness of many monuments also makes it impossible to remove sections and carry out a thorough restoration process in the engineering workshops.

Instead, most of the repair and conservation work has to be done on the spot, with the limited tools and materials that have to be carried by the sailors.

"Despite the memorials' remote locations, it is not unusual to have an audience - the local wildlife populace often takes a keen interest," said Lt Matt Ivory, Clyde's marine engineer officer.

"They keep a watchful eye on the standard of work and seize any opportunity to steal any unattended tools or lunches - especially the mischievous local bird of prey, the caracara."

In addition to honouring the memory of those sailors lost during the conflict, today's naval guardians of the Falklands are also extremely conscious of the importance of maintaining strong links with survivors from the ships which never made it home.

NEFI's shipwright CPOET(ME) Phillip Hughes has kept various veterans 'groups, such as the Type 21 Association, updated on the work carried out and offered to lay wreaths on behalf of the former frigate crews.

In addition HMS Clyde is hosting survivors from HMS Coventry this month for a service of remembrance over the site where she was lost.