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Falklands veterans back on islands to assist survey of battlefields

They are working with archaeologists and others on the Falklands War Mapping Project.

07 April 2022

Veterans and archaeologists are part of a team carrying out the first ever archaeological survey of battlefields on the Falklands.

The Falklands War Mapping Project is a collaboration between the University of Oxford, the University of Glasgow the Falkland Islands Museum and National Trust, and Waterloo Uncovered, a charity that uses archaeology as therapy for trauma and injury.

Two British Army veterans – identified only as Jim and John – who both fought in the Battle of Mount Tumbledown are accompanying the archaeologists in a bid to improve their understanding of the landscape, finds and past events.

John is making his first visit to the Falklands since the conflict 40 years ago, while it is Jim’s fifth time on the islands.

Mark Evans, chief executive of Waterloo Uncovered, said: “Forty years after the conflict, seven years after Waterloo Uncovered started helping veterans though archaeology, we are proud and excited to be visiting the Falklands.

“We are accompanied by two Mt Tumbledown veterans, to help them move on in their lives, and to start to record the physical reminders and memories of 1982 that are still there today but dwindling fast”

The mapping project is being led by Dr Timothy Clack of the University of Oxford and Professor Tony Pollard of the University of Glasgow, who said having veterans from 1982 join the team is “a huge privilege”.

Prof Pollard added: “This direct link between the past and the present is a unique development in conflict archaeology.

“It is also hoped that with support from specialists from Waterloo Uncovered, the experience will have a positive impact on the veterans with regard to issues such as PTSD.”

Prof Pollard told how the mapping project “represents the first intensive archaeological survey of the battlefields of the Falklands War”.

He added it will “provide a detailed assessment of the character, location and condition of individual artefacts and structural features related to the events of 1982”.

With four decades having passed since the war, he also stressed the “urgency” of their task.

Prof Pollard said: “The scattered objects, aircraft wrecks, makeshift fortifications, and even shell holes from the Falklands War represent important elements of the cultural heritage of conflict, and have the potential to add to our knowledge of the personal experiences of combatants on both sides.

“It is now a matter of some urgency that these remains are recorded.”

Having visited the Falklands several times over the last 10 years, he said it is “clear that relic collection, decay, infrastructure development, and natural processes of landscape change have taken their toll” on battlefield sites.

Veteran John at the Mount Tumbledown battlefield site (Falklands War Mapping Project/PA)

Dr Clack, the Chingiz Gutseriev Research Fellow in Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of Oxford, said: “Working with veterans is a privilege enabling us to assess the potential of using their testimony to illuminate remains.”

While the work will start at the Mount Tumbledown battlefield site, he added that “longer-term the plan is to survey other 1982 battlefields”.

Dr Clack said: “This project represents a rare opportunity to explore not only the material record of a war still in living memory, but also how this serves to configure recollections, meanings, and identities over the long term.

“The project will answer questions about the past but also about the present.

“We intend to learn how battlefield materials can act as a primer for the recall of past events, how their meanings change over time, how they shape emotional states, and how people think conflict heritage should be protected.”

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