Last Saturday was pure sunbathing weather. I mention this because a) I’m writing from the Falkland Islands, where such occurrences are not exactly regular, and b) I spent the whole beautiful day, with two or three dozen other volunteers, drilling through rock to stake out a couple of hundred 6ft metal figures. I even had to wear a hat.
This wasn’t the first time I’d attempted such a challenge. I lent a hand twice last year – first when we put up 100 Tommy silhouettes commemorating the centenary of the Royal British Legion. In the main these were set out on the sloping banks around the Stanley Cemetery and its first and second world war Cross of Sacrifice.
As with all inaugural events, lessons were learned – namely that the cemetery was founded on a hill made out of concrete. The lightweight 2D cut-outs – modified specifically for near-gale South Atlantic-type conditions, with guy ropes, rebar stake and 18in spikes descending from their feet – could not simply be stabbed into the ground by hand. Or even with the vigorous application of a boot. Drills were required – with 3ft drill bits. And a generator.
The terra may have been a little less firma by mid-winter, when my second attempt came around – but by then there were 258 figures to put up in a peaty paddock by the entrance road to Stanley. A more Falklands-specific commemoration, these came in five patterns: 255 soldiers, marines, sailors and airmen – one for each of those UK servicemen who died fighting the Argentinians in 1982 – and three female silhouettes, for the civilians who were killed in the accidental (royal) naval shelling of a house in town.