Category: Hobbies and Interests

OTD: Argentina Invades The Falkland Islands

On this day: 2 April 1982, Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands and South Georgia. In response to the invasion the British government dispatched a naval task force to engage the Argentine Navy and Air Force before making an amphibious assault on the islands. The conflict lasted 74 days and ended with an Argentine surrender on 14 June, returning the islands to British control. In total, 649 Argentine military personnel, 255 British military personnel, and three Falkland Islanders died during the hostilities. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falklands_War.

Unfortunately the sovereignty of the islands was never really sorted out and Argentina still maintains that they belong to Argentina, even going so far as referring to them as “Islas Malvinas“.

There were many memorable events during the conflict, and some that stand out are:  The sinking of the Belgrano, The Black Buck raids, Canberra and QE2 called up into service as troopships, the sinking of HMS Sheffield, HMS Ardent, HMS Antelope, HMS Coventry, RFA Sir Galahad, SS Atlantic Conveyor, The bravery of the ground forces and the success of the Hawker Harrier, the unpreparedness of the Falkands against invasion, and so many more. It makes for fascinating reading although very little appears to have been written from the Argentinean point of view.

There are many memorials to the Falkands war in the United Kingdom. Worth mentioning are:

National Memorial Arboretum:

The South Atlantic Campaign 1982.

Portsmouth:

Southampton:

Trinity Gardens, London:

There are quite a few resources on YouTube that deal with the Falklands too, and of course that memorable footage of the Canberra berthing in Southampton after the war. (Image opens in YouTube video).

The Canberra had a wonderful image in her one stair tower of her arrival home but sadly a good photo of the image was almost impossible to get.

The Falklands conflict happened the year after my national service and today the veterans of that war are also wearing their medals and realising that their experiences back then are forgotten so many years down the line, and some will ask themselves what was it all in aid of? The same is possibly true for those Argentinean conscripts that were sent to the Falklands on what was really a very poorly planned and futile exercise. It is the same question that we ask ourselves too.  General Leopoldo Galtieri did not expect the reaction that came from the United Kingdom, and neither did the rest of the world. Nobody thought that a naval task force would be up to the task, but they were very wrong. The Falklands conflict is just another war in a succession of small wars through the centuries, but sadly the lessons that were learnt have all been forgotten. 

DRW 2020. © Created 02/04/2020.

Updated: 03/04/2020 — 18:59

No End in Sight

31/02/2020. Day 745673…. Still here. The company where I work now has key industry status and as such we are technically “key workers”. I will admit they are really trying their best to keep the virus out and us safe. So far though 109 people have tested positive for coronavirus in Gloucestershire and 8 have died in county hospitals. The UK tally is 22141 cases with 1408 deaths.  Around us life more or less goes on and people are getting used to the queues and delays although quite a lot are still out and about. Our local Morrisons is slowly getting their shelves packed and today is the first time I have seen toilet paper on the shelves in a long time. Online shopping and delivery have been bogged down though and some people are getting slots for a month down the line. Our local eateries are doing their best to cater to the demand that has been created for takeaways, and anybody that hasn’t been able to adapt will end up suffering until restrictions are lifted. Unfortunately I have had to buy a washing machine due to the closure of the local laundry, it was one expense I was hoping not to have to make. Hopefully it will be delivered on Saturday. Getting through to your bank is almost impossible with a large amount of people phoning in about the financial situation and how the virus will affect it. Unfortunately the virus is not only dangerous from a medical point of view but also from a mental point of view, so keeping busy is vital and going to work may be good for your mental health! (ya right…). So, nothing new to report. Still hanging in there. 

Day 384674….. still here, lost track of time. It is now the weekend, technically had all been hunky dorey I would have been on my way back from London after renewing my passport. Instead I am cold and grumpy, browned off  and depressed.  I had to get some shopping done and tried our local Morrisons but the queue was not going anywhere. They have complicated the matter by closing off the bicycle parking so I ended up chaining my bike to a pole. The queue was even slower than lines at an airport so I ended up giving up again and going to Tesco instead.  The town is like a ghost town, there are very few people around, most of the shops are closed and the traffic has halved. There is also parking available and heaven help you if you park where you are not supposed to (letters will be written to “The Times”).

Yet, there are still people manning tills, cleaning floors, moving boxes, delivering mail, delivering cargo, driving trucks, buses and trains and just doing their jobs to the best of their abilities.   The medical staff are in the front line and in spite of ticket wardens handing out parking tickets and yobs stealing their bikes they keep at it. Even Boris Johnson is infected and as much as I hate to say this it does show that he is human and not some stuck up suit in a distant office. At the end of the day we all have to ride out the storm together.

Back in South Africa the lockdown has been stringently enforced by police and military forces, and looking at the statistics for the country I can see why. There were 202 confirmed cases as at 20/03/2020, currently the total is running at 1170 cases with 1 death.  Unfortunately I fear that things will get much worse in South Africa as mob rule, criminality and xenophobia start to raise their ugly heads. I was reading a post last night about a German woman that was taken to a hospital in South Africa and there were people posting who were ready to use the pitchfork and burning torches. It made for very sickening reading and I blocked that post very quickly. 

On the positive side even the pigeons are laying low.

I would love to say “Things will get better” but at this moment in time that would be a white lie. However, we can count ourselves lucky that we were not living way back in 1665 when the “Black Plaque” was raging. The Public Domain Review  posted about “mortality” during the black plague and it makes for interesting reading. I know that I certainly would not like to be suffering from some of the things mentioned in those lists.

On one of the pages there is an exhortation devoted “To The Reader” and I advise you to take its wie word eriouly 🙂

I am heading back to work on Monday following my 7 days self isolation. At least I still have a job at this stage, but I do not know how much work there will be as the time passes. In the meantime I am busy making sure that if somebody does not hear from me for a long time that they check to see whether I haven’t suffered an attack of “Riing of the light” or “infant” or a “head mould hot“. 

DRW © 2020 Created 28/03/2020. Bills of Mortality are in the public domain worldwide and free of known restrictions under copyright law, including all related and neighbouring rights.  https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0/

Updated: 03/04/2020 — 17:32

OTD: The Westdene Bus Disaster

On this day,  27 March 1985 it was supposed to be yet another school day for the pupils of Hoërskool Vorentoe, in fact it was supposed to be a normal day for the whole of South Africa, but the events surrounding the Westdene bus disaster changed all of that in a brief tragedy that will remain with us all forever.  It is one of those surrealistic moments in your life that somehow remains with you forever.  The day was subdued after that, even though that was not true at Westdene Dam where divers were frantically searching for bodies and parents were standing grief stricken, knowing that their son or daughter would not be coming home on that day. 

Westdene Dam. (1500x466)

Westdene Dam. (1500×466)

The actual cause of the disaster was never really pinned down to any singular factor; the driver  never really gave an adequate explanation, there was no mechanical fault with the bus, and the weather conditions were not poor. I seem to recall that he said another car had swerved, or he had blacked out. Faced with the imminent backlash and the trauma that he had gone through too, it was no wonder that no single cause was ever found.

I won’t delve into the disaster because I was not directly involved and do not know the facts, there are others more qualified to do that. It was one of those moments in South African history that has remained in our pysche since 1985.   

Those that died in the disaster are mostly buried in Westpark cemetery in a dedicated plot close to the main gate. It is a tragic place to visit because the sheer sale of the disaster is only experienced when you are faced with seeing all of the graves together. 

In 2011 I spent some time in Westpark photographing all of the graves, sadly they were all desecrated a long time ago and never restored. I spent time hunting down the graves in the general cemetery and they too had been desecrated. Nobody has even been able to explain why this happened, and who was responsible. It was a sad pilgrimage for me, trying to match headstones with names, and seeing those names in the registers made it just a bit harder. The funeral for all of the children was held on the same day, and a sad day it was for so many people.

It took until 2007 for a memorial to be erected to the victims,  and even this has had its fair share of controversy.  

In 2014 I revisited the graves while I was down in South Africa and photographed the small photographs that were on some of the graves, one day I will match faces to names and make my own records of the disaster a little more complete. 

There are two graves that stick out for me, the first is grave number 7, where two sisters are buried together (Reinette and Linda Du Plooy) , and the grave of Caroline Brown who is buried in the general part of the cemetery in a grave that was stripped of its name like so many others.  The vandalism of the graves was not random, it was targeted, somebody went out of their way to hunt down the graves and desecrate them

It is just over 30 years since the disaster, had it not happened some of those children would have been mothers or fathers today, they would have had families of their own, and just possibly their children would have attended that same school that they had attended so many years ago. There are a lot of what if’s associated with the Westdene Bus Disaster, it was all a matter of timing. catching a different bus, or sitting upstairs or downstairs was the difference between life of death.

There were a lot of heroes on 27 March 1985, but sadly there were too many victims. May They Rest in Peace 

Images of the graves are available on eggsa. I sincerely hope that one day they get restored. 

My own page about the memorial may be found at Allatsea

DRW © 2016-2020. Originally created 27/03/2016

Updated: 27/03/2020 — 19:52
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