Growing up in a land-mine environment: How the Falklands Conflict shaped me

Friday, 2 April 1982 saw Argentina invade the British overseas territory of Falkland Islands.

Growing up in a land-mine environment: How the Falklands Conflict shaped me

Friday, 2 April 1982 saw Argentina invade the British overseas territory of Falkland Islands.

For many years, it had held the islands under its control. The ruling military junta of the country did not believe that Britain would try to retake the islands by force.

The ruling military junta did not know what they were doing.

Under Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Britain assembled warships and refitted merchant vessels, and sent a taskforce 8,000 miles (12.900 km) across the globe, to the South Atlantic.

In the next 10 weeks 649 Argentine soldiers, 255 British troops, and three Falkland islanders were killed.

Tamsin McLeod is an islander who grew-up in the shadows of conflict and now lives and works in London. She tells BBC about her homeland and how island families dealt with being forced into war.

"Our nickname is "Kelper" because of the abundance of seaweed and kelp around the islands. I am a Kelper, Falklander, and British first, and we are so grateful for the British doing so much on the islands. Without that task force, I wouldn't likely be here today.

"My parents didn’t talk to me about it much as I grew older.

It was a thing that happened. You have the Liberation Day, the parades, the receptions, and then you go to them all. It's personal.

My parents are more open about it the older I get. My parents would tell me in passing that my aunt and uncle were kept in Goose Green town hall for 30 consecutive days.

More than 100 Islanders were detained at gunpoint during the war and kept in Goose Green's community hall. Officials from Argentina summoned them to the meeting. They were held in the hall for almost a month in terrible conditions.

In two months of fighting in the Falklands 891 people died, 132 planes were destroyed and 11 ships were sink.

It was always there. It's always there. It is the legacy of the conflict, especially the landmines. It was normal to be surrounded on all sides by land that you couldn't use, fenced off for landmines. If you step on one, you could get hurt.

So, I was going on a walk and it was like, "oh, yeah! Here's wreckage from an helicopter or something from war".

My mum was finishing her O-levels when the invasion occurred. Imagine your O-levels being interrupted for three weeks because you are being occupied. You're being told that you must learn Spanish.

"All of a sudden you must drive on the other side of the road. You've got a curfew.

"My mom really, really clearly remembers Argentine soldiers showing up at her door. My granddad was the local butcher, and they were like, you need to kill mutton, feed us.

"And my granddad, he was born and raised in England. He vaguely recalls the Second World War. Before moving to the islands, he served his national service. He said, "I don't want to put my family at risk." He sent his entire family to Horseshoe Bay which is a farming community in the middle of nowhere.

"And that's my mom's main experience of war - her father being genuinely afraid."

Margaret Thatcher addressed the House of Commons in April 2003

"We are here because, for the first time in many years, British sovereign territory was invaded by an outside power.

"After several days with rising tensions in our relations Argentina, that country's armed force attacked the Falklands yesterday. They established military control over the islands.... It became apparent that an Argentine invasion was taking place yesterday afternoon and that the lawful British government had been usurped.

"Invasion is illegal and without justification. The Falkland Islands, and their dependents, remain British territory. No aggression or invasion can change that fact.

"It is the government’s objective to see the islands freed from occupation, and returned to British administration as soon as possible."

"My dad is slightly younger. He was 18 when he entered the conflict. He and his brother helped to feed and cook for British soldiers. They gave their car and their motorbike to the jeep. The people stayed on their floors. They tried to do everything they could.

"My father was a young man in that time, and there were soldiers dying, people his age.

It was impossible to escape. You realize how fortunate you are and how blessed you are. To be called a Falkland Islander is to have six generations of family members who grew up here.

"Appreciate what you have, because you could not have it, was the way I grew-up.

"People knew absolutely nothing about Falkland Islands when I arrived in the UK. People my age were especially ignorant.

"Occasionally, some mention penguins. And sometimes you meet friends' parents in their 40s or 50s who remember the conflict.

It's almost like I recalled hearing or seeing about it on television. Isn't there war in the 1980s? Isn't Margaret Thatcher involved in the war?

"That was all they knew."

"I grew-up there, it's home. It was all perfectly normal. I knew nothing different until I moved away. Then I realized, "Oh, hang on, there's an entire wide world here."

"There is still such strong, strong feelings. My parents remain close to many veterans. They are truly family friends.

"My godmother lost her child on the Sir Galahad. She went to the Falklands to find out where he had lost his life. It's horrible, terrible. It's something a mother shouldn't have to do. She stayed with me and returned to the island many times since her first visit.

"And because that relationship, she became an important part of mine life."

RFA Sir Galahad was preparing to load soldiers from the Welsh Guards at Port Pleasant on 8 June when RFA Sir Galahad was attacked and destroyed by the Argentine Air Force. Each bomb carried three Mk 82 500lb (227kg).

Sir Galahad was struck by two to three bombs that exploded and set off fires. 48 soldiers and crew members were killed in the explosions that followed.

"People should be concerned about the war. People lost their lives.

"We are resilient. We stand up for what we believe and want to keep fighting to be British.

"The war has ended, and the island is now moving on. We made the best of the losses. We are still able to remember the past, and we have learned to appreciate all that has happened. We are looking forward to the future.

"We don't have any positive relations with Argentina. It is not civil.

"We are more than statistics and geography. We have heritage, history, and lived experiences that have been very valuable to us.

"We are becoming the gateway to Antarctica from that side of the globe, which is incredible. We are the scientific center of the South Atlantic. More than 60 nationalities are represented in the region, with a growing number from Zimbabwe as a result of the de-miners removing landmines. We are truly cosmopolitan. We are proud of this.

"I will probably go back. It's home. It's home to my family. It's a joy to go home, visit my family and see friends. It is a lot more slow.

"This soil is my home. It is my home, so I always have a little bit with me. It has Falklands sand and it doesn't come off. Ever.

"The Falklands are part of me, and I'm part of them."

Tamsin's story was taken from My Moment in History, a BBC Local Radio podcast that focuses on people whose lives were affected by the Falklands war.

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