FIMA Friends sister organisation the Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust, has launched a highly interactive new website: fmht.co.uk. The sites takes online explorers around the many fascinating hulks, shipwrecks and on-shore historical sites that make the Falklands one of the world's most important centres of maritime history.
The Trust, a charity registered in the UK, is dedicated to preserving the seafaring history of the Falklands and those who have been associated with them. It aims to ensure that the maritime history that has helped shape the culture of the people of the Falkland Islands is properly recognised.
The Trust's first major expedition was the successful search for the wreck of the German cruiser "Scharnhorst", which was sunk in the Battle of the Falklands in 1914. The new website tells the story of this expedition. Click here to read more.
Ships that ended their days in the Falklands.
Top: "Jhelum" and "Protector"
Below: "Lady Elizabeth"
Two collections of photographs, letters and other document bought for the museum by the FIMA Friends shed light on what life was like for thousands of British soldiers who were posted to the Falklands during the Second World War.
The Army maintained considerable defences in the islands from August 1942 until the end of the war. The force of predominently infantrymen, known as Force 122, joined the local Defence Force and the permanent naval presence, HMS "Poursuivant". Axis sympathisers and nationalists in South America were perceived to be a threat, but the main source of concern was Japan, which had attacked Pearl Harbour in late 1941 and was then threatening allied territory across the Pacific, perhaps even as far as the Antarctic and around Cape Horn into the South Atlantic. The loss of the Falklands would have been a major blow.
A battalion of the West Yorks Regiment, augmented by men from other corps, was the first major unit to deploy. Among them was a Pte James Robinson, whose photos and papers the FIMA Friends have now acquired for the museum. In 1944, Pte Robinson and his comrades returned to the UK and were replaced by a detachment of the Royal Scots Regiment. This unit remained in the islands until the war was over. Among the Royal Scots was Pte James Lonie, whose collection of memorabilia the Friends has also acquired. Both collections were bought against stiff bidding at auctions in the UK.
Although far from the raging theatres of war, the garrison had a serious job to do, but Privates Lonie and Robinson probably felt the distance from their families acutely. Their photos, letters, locally designed Christmas cards, concert programmes and other souvenirs speak of this, but also of men who were determined to make the best of their situation and keep their morale high through amateur dramatics and concerts, dance music provided by at least one band, and excursions to view the unique wildlife.
For Pte Lonie, there was one obvious highlight. He and his colleagues clearly enjoyed a visit to Uruguay, either en route to the Falklands or on a visit during their posting. The soldier left a large collection of promotional leaflets from the bars, tango clubs and restaurants of Montevideo along with betting slips from the races and at least one photograph of a party thrown for the troops by the British community in the city.
Other material saved by both men is more poignant. There are letters home in which fears are expressed for a marriage put under strain by the war, and emotionally charged little notes for children.
This large collection of memorabilia deserves to be studied carefully to understand more about what life was like for soldiers posted to one of the empire's most remote outposts at such a pivotal time in history.
The material adds a human dimension to archaeological work carried out in 2020 by a team from Oxford University. Perhaps it does not stretch the imagination to think that some of the domestic and military artefacts uncovered by the archaeologists and now in the museum might once have been handled by Privates Robinson and Lonie.
To see Falkland Islands TV's report on the archaeological dig and the story of Force 122, click here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qTHF7kHIPmY
Photographs below, clockwise from top left:
A letter from Pte Robinson, passed by a local censor, to his wife at home in Yorkshire
Troops were equipped with tracked Bren Gun Carriers but some also experienced the Falklands' most practical form of transport
Troops are inspected by a senior official, thought to be the Governor of the Falklands Sir Allan Wolsey Cardinall
Troops march along Ross Road, past the Ship Hotel and the Deanery
Time to relax on one of the garrison's static artillery pieces
Soldiers cheerfully labour at the Stanley camp, which the force built under Royal Engineer guidance
Pte James Lonie pictured at the army camp west of Stanley
THE MEDALS and citations of the late WH “Tommy” Thompson (1919 – 2018) have been donated to the Museum in Stanley. Tommy was a popular Colonial Secretary in the Falklands from1963 to 1969. Over that time he also served variously as Acting Governor and High Commissioner for the British Antarctic Territories.
The late 1960s were critical years for the Falklands. Undercover political developments could have had huge repercussions for the populace had stalwarts of the calibre of Tommy and Governor Sir Cosmo Haskard not helped to steer the Falklands to a better future.
Tommy’s time in the Falklands was only a small part of a memorable life but it is one he looked back on with huge affection. During his time in post he founded the Falkland Islands Journal, something which gave him great pleasure to look back on in later life. The Journal is still published annually.
Tommy passed away in 2018 in his 99th year and, given his great affection for the Falklands above all his other postings, his family wished to donate his Governor’s sword, medals and citations to the Falkland Islands, to be displayed in the Museum. The FIMA Friends have been happy to be able to facilitate the transport of these historically important items to the Museum in Stanley.
Jim McAdam, a FIMA Friends committee member, was pleased to hand over the medals and citations to Andrea Barlow, Museum Director. Also present at the hand-over were FIMA Friends Hugh Osborne, Stefan Heijtz, Geraldine McAdam and Derek Howatt, FI Museum and National Trust trustees Richard Cockwell and Jan Cheek, and visitor from the Shackleton Museum in Athy, Co Kildare, Ireland Joe O’Farrell.
Andrea expressed her gratitude to Tommy’s sister Anne Rees for the donation and thanks to the FIMA friends for facilitating their delivery. “We are delighted that Anne chose to gift Tommy’s medals and citations to the Historic Dockyard Museum. Everyone you talk to knows something about Tommy and his contribution to the Falklands – from the birth of the Journal to his contribution in preserving our heritage; Tommy is a figure in our history that will always be remembered fondly. We are also grateful to FIMA for delivering the items to us. Some of the items donated will be framed and displayed in due course.”
The covid pandemic has made it difficult to get Tommy's sword to the Falklands, but it will be carried there as soon as possible.
More details of the life and achievements of Tommy Thompson can be found in the 2018 issue of the Falkland Islands Journal, where his obituary and memoirs of his time in the Falklands are published https://www.falklandislandsjournal.org/ His biography is also included in the Dictionary of Falklands Islands Biographies https://www.falklandsbiographies.org/biographies/thompson_willoughb
Photographs below, left to right:
Jim McAdam of the FIMA Friends presents Tommy’s medals and citations to Museum Director Andrea Barlow
Tommy's medals, including (second from left) the Riband and Badge of Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire for his service in the Falklands, and defence medals(1936-1954)
The CMG awarded for his distinguished service overseas
Tommy Thompson with his wife Sheelah in Sulivan House, Stanley
In December 1939, the Royal Navy's Force G, made up of the cruisers HMS "Exeter", "Ajax" and "Achilles", intercepted the fearsome German pocket battleship "Graf Spee" in the River Plate estuary. The battle that followed was one of history's iconic naval clashes, and the Falklands played an important part in the eventual British victory.
Now, thanks to The FIMA Friends, an important collection of photographs and other memorabilia linked to the "Graf Spee" and the famous battle will have a permanent home in Stanley's Historic Dockyard Museum. The committee heard that the collection, once the property of an officer aboard the "Graf Spee", was to be auctioned in Germany, and agreed to buy the items if possible. After a nail-biting auction, the Friends emerged as the new owners of the collection. The historical items are now in the UK and will soon be carried south to the museum.
The centrepiece of the collection is an album bound in Argentine cowhide (the German survivors were interned in Argentina) which includes more than 300 photos. The pictures are mostly of very high quality and were probably taken by the official ship's photographer. They show life aboard the notorious commerce raider in the months before the battle, and the sinking of several British merchant ships (the crews of which were all safely recovered and held prisoner or helped to recovery by neutral vessels). The photos also vividly show battle damage inflicted by the Allies Force G ships and "Graf Spee's" 36 dead crew members being buried in Montevideo.
The collection includes the Kriegsmarine ceremonial sword and dagger and service documents of Erick Radtke, the German sailor who compiled the collection. Along with his comrades, this young officer was interned in Argentina. He eventually returned to Germany.
This important material will eventually be exhibited with the large scale model of HMS "Exeter", the heaviest ship in the British squadron at the Battle of the River Plate. The FIMA Friends bought the model for the museum in 2019. "Exeter's" story forms the main link with the Falklands. The heavy cruiser had been operated in the South Atlantic for a considerable time before the war, and Stanley became her favourite port. "Exeter" would refuel, take on provisions and give the crew "runs ashore" there.
HMS "Ajax" and "Achilles" (which was crewed entirely by New Zealanders) also visited Stanley, the only British South Atlantic base. After the engagement with "Graf Spee", Captain Parry of HMS "Achilles" donated the ensign that had been flown during the battle to Christ Church Cathedral in Stanley.
Of the three British ships, "Exeter" suffered the worst battle damage. Her principal guns were
put out of action and 61 of her crew were killed. Captain Bell, who had survived a shell that hit the bridge, was navigating using a compass from one of the ship's small boats. He considered ramming "Graf Spee" but Commodore Harwood, the squadron commander, ordered "Exeter" to withdraw to the safety of the Falklands. The crew nursed their ship back to Stanley, where her dead were buried, her wounded treated in the hospital, and essential repairs were carried out to enable her to undertake the long and dangerous voyage home, which was successfully accomplished.
When the action with "Graf Spee" commenced, HMS "Cumberland" was in Stanley undergoing a self re-fit. She departed at speed for the River Plate, and joined the other cruisers, ready to resume the battle.
Inspired intelligence work and bluff in Montevideo had, however, convinced the "Graf Spee's" Captain Langsdorff, that he could not hope to beat the Royal Navy force waiting for him. Rather than waste the lives of his crew, he scuttled his ship in the approaches to Montevideo. Langsdorff, widely recognised as an honourable and decent man, later committed suicide in Buenos Aires.
Stanley and the Falklands played an important role in the Royal Navy's decisive South Atlantic victory in 1939. It is appropriate, then, that the town's museum will hold artefacts that tell the story of one of history's most significant naval battles.
The 1956 film of the Battle of the River Plate is available in full on YouTube, using this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2NbXqw79A-Q
Pictures below clockwise from top left:
"Graf Spee's" Arado aircraft. A British merchant ship is destroyed
"Captain Langsdorff In Montevideo. Argentine internment document for Erick Radtke
The pocket battleship meets her e
"Graf Spee's" crew gather beneath the ship's huge forward gun turret
Pt Louis in the early 19th Century showing fortifications
PORT LOUIS, at the western end of Berkley Sound, was the focal point of many formative events in Falklands history. It was the main settlement until the foundation of Stanley in the middle of the 19th Century. But images of the settlement in its early days, when under French control, are rare. Now the Falklands Museum has been given two important prints depicting the village and and the sophistication of its fortifications.
The prints (right and above) were donated to the museum by Geoffrey Calvert, or Pip as he is known to friends in the Islands. Pip's family were until recently the owners of Pebble Island, and his wife's ancestors settled in Port Louis early in the 19th Century. Pip contacted the Friends asking whether the prints would be of value to the museum, to which the answer was a very strong "yes." We were able to help convey the prints to the Falklands, and they are now in the museum.
Museum Director Andrea Barlow said, "Pictures and information of that time in Falklands history are seriously lacking, so seeing these fascinating depictions of Port Louis is like finding a pot of gold. We are very grateful to Mr Calvert for donating them.”
FIMA Friends President, David Tatham, wrote to Pip Calvert saying, "One of the great virtues of the Friends is that we provide a convenient channel for anyone who wishes to present a gift to the Dockyard Museum in Stanley – as you have generously done."
View of the harbour at Pt Louis
EARLIER this year, long serving committee member and trustee Bill Featherstone handed over the duties of Treasurer to committee newcomer Richard Holme (pictured right).
Bill had supervised our finances from the FIMA Friends' inception and was heavily involved in the demanding and complicated process of achieving registered charity status. Bill remains a trustee and continues to look after the finances of our sister organisation the Falkland Islands Maritime Heritage Trust.
In welcoming Richard, the Friends benefit from the skills and knowledge of a history enthusiast who has great knowledge of the Falklands and is a retired chartered accountant. Richard has visited the Falklands on a number of occasions and has made a particular study of the historic hulks that lie in Stanley Harbour. For more details about our new Treasurer, please go to the Committee and Trustees page.
Richard Holme, the FIMA Friends' newly appointed Treasurer
FIMA FRIENDS funds benefited from a kind gift from Robin Woods, shortly before his recent death. Robin was the pre-eminent Falklands ornithologist, and he researched and wrote extensively about the birds of the Falklands and their habitat. He was a members of the FIMA Friends from its inception.
Robin first visited the islands as a meteorologist in the 1950s and travelled extensively around the archipelago. He revisited many times and became a trustee and very active committee member of Falklands Conservation. Among his publications are a field guide to Falklands birds and an atlas of local breeding birds. His books are to be found tucked into the pockets and rucksacks of many Falklands visitors and most resident nature-lovers.
Robin, who was awarded an MBE for his work, was also enthusiastic about the history of the islands, and this was evident from his kind gift to FIMA of several hundred pounds. He passed away in August 2020. We offer our sincere condolences to Robin's family.
For Falkland Conservations' tribute to Robin Woods, please go to https://falklandsconservation.com/robin-woods/
Robin Woods, Falklands ornithologist, recording birdsong (Photo courtesy of Falklands Conservation)
THE FIMA Friends have purchased an artefact from HMS "Endurance", one of the most iconic ships in Falklands history. The shield, pictured above, was bought in an on-line auction and has been donated to the museum in Stanley, where it is now on display. It is believed that the shield originally adorned a wall in the ship's officers' mess. It was probably made in "Endurance's" own workshops, and a dab of "Endurance-red" paint on its reverse side may corroborate this.
The FIMA Friends have a special connection with the ship, as HMS "Endurance" was commissioned into the Royal Navy in 1967 in a ceremony involving current committee member Alexandra "Zaz" Shackleton. The ship was named after the original "Endurance", which carried Zaz's grandfather to the Antarctic in 1914.
Equipped with helicopters and light weapons and usually carrying a detachment of Royal Marines, HMS "Endurance", which was often affectionately known as "The Red Plum", was the Falklands guard ship and the Navy's Antarctic patrol ship from 1967 to 1991. There were plans to decommission the ship following a defence review in 1981, a move widely believed to have contributed to the Argentine Government's belief that British commitment to the Falklands was weakening. However the 1982 war broke out before "Endurance" could be withdrawn and she subsequently played an important role in the conflict. She went on to serve in the area for a further nine years.
More information about HMS "Endurance": https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMS_Endurance_(1967)
Pictures below left to right:
HMS "Endurance" in the Antarctic
Argentine forces on South Georgia formally surrender aboard HMS "Plymouth", before "Endurance's" commanding officer, Captain Nick Barker (seated second from right) and "Plymouth's" Captain David Pentreath
The shield, thought to have been made aboard HMS "Endurance", once graced a wall in the wardroom
THE FALKLANDS Maritime Heritage Trust (the sister organisation of the FIMA Friends) announced on 4 December 2019 that the wreck of SMS "Scharnhorst" has been located off the Falkland Islands. The "Scharnhorst", an armoured battlecruiser and the flagship of Admiral Maximilian Graf von Spee’s East Asia Squadron, was sunk on 8 December 1914 during the Battle of the Falkland Islands, a crucial naval battle in the early days of the First World War.
This discovery is a major breakthrough in the quest to locate all of the ships that comprised the German squadron lost during the battle. The search began on the centenary of the Battle in December 2014 but was initially unsuccessful. Five years later, the mission was resumed using state of the art subsea search equipment.
The Battle of the Falkland Islands followed the Battle of Coronel, fought off the coast of Chile in November 1914, where Graf von Spee’s fleet overpowered the Royal Navy and in which 1,600 British sailors perished. A month later a British squadron under the command of Vice-Admiral Doveton Sturdee, pursued, engaged and defeated Graf von Spee’s squadron, comprising the "Scharnhorst", "Gneisenau", "Nürnberg" and "Leipzig". The action was particularly important because the battle brought to an end to commerce raiding by German warships.
The "Scharnhorst", was the first to be sunk, having sustained substantial damage inflicted by HMS "Invincible" and HMS "Inflexible". Tragically 2,200 German sailors died, including Graf von Spee himself and his two sons - Heinrich aboard the "Gneisenau", and Otto aboard the "Nürnberg".
The Falkland Maritime Heritage Trust is now seeking to have the site formally protected in law. The wreck was not touched or in any way disturbed during the operation. The team on board Seabed Constructor conducted an act of remembrance at the site, commemorating all who died during the Battle.
The film production company TVT has been recording the search from its inception five years ago. Already, experts who have viewed unedited clips confirm that they reveal new information about this important episode in British and German naval history and in the history of the Falkland Islands.
Donald Lamont, Chairman of the Falkland Islands Maritime Heritage Trust, said: “It is less than a month since Remembrance Day, when we commemorated the millions who died in the First World War and subsequent conflicts. One episode in that conflict was the Battle of the Falklands in 1914. The search we organised had as its aim the locating of all ships of the German squadron, so that we may learn more about the Battle and commemorate all who perished in it. The site of the wrecks can now be protected.
The Battle of the Falklands is commemorated every year on 8 December in the Falkland Islands. Our aim is that the film should be made available to the Historic Dockyard Museum in Stanley, where it and accompanying information will be available for Islanders and for the thousands of visitors who come to the Falkland Islands every year.”
Mensun Bound, the leader of the search, said: “It is with mixed emotions that we announce the discovery of SMS "Scharnhorst". After a search that began five years ago, on the centenary of the battle, we are very proud to be able to shed further light on what was a defining point in the First World War, and therefore a landmark moment in modern history.
The moment of discovery was extraordinary. We are often chasing shadows on the seabed, but when the "Scharnhorst" first appeared in the data flow, there was no doubt that this was one of the German fleet. You could even see the impact crater. We sent down an ROV to explore and almost straight away we were into a debris field that said “battle”. Suddenly she just came out of the gloom with great guns poking in every direction.
As a Falkland Islander and a marine archaeologist, a discovery of this significance is an unforgettable, poignant moment in my life. Our work on this important project is not done. We will continue to assess the images that we have captured and, in time continue to search for the remainder of the fleet, in order to provide greater understanding of the events of that day, and to ensure the protection of the site.”
In Germany, the von Spee family was informed of the find and shown footage. Wilhelm Graf von Spee, head of the family, said: “Speaking as one of the many families affected by the heavy casualties suffered on 8 December 1914 at the Battle of the Falkland Islands, the discovery of SMS "Scharnhorst" is bittersweet. We take comfort from the knowledge that the final resting place of so many has been found, and can now be preserved, whilst also being reminded of the huge waste of life. As a family we lost a father and his two sons on one day. Like the thousands of other families who suffered unimaginable loss during the First World War, we remember them and must ensure that their sacrifice was not in vain.”
Publicity for the film, first broadcast on the Smithsonian Channel
AROUND 40 guests attended the opening (pictured above) of the new exhibition, "Women of the Falklands" on Friday 18th October 2019. The photographic exhibition was a tribute to Falklands women who have left an indelible mark on the Islands' history, and, in some cases, continue to contribute to the community today. The exhbition attracted appreciative audiences throughout much of 2020.
Visitors to the Museum enjoy the Women of the Falklands exhibition