Arrival at Port Stanley

Maggie Barclay outs 2 Field Hospital Falkland Islands

Captain M E Barclay QARANC in front of 2 Field hospital sign outside the Churchill Wing of King Edward VII Hospital, Port Stanley

I arrived in Port Stanley on Sunday the 11th of July 1982 and although I continued to live on board Rangatira for about six weeks, with a daily commute to the hospital by Landing Craft Vehicle and Personnel (LCVP), I worshipped every Sunday at Christ Church Cathedral in Stanley((The most southerly Anglican cathedral in the world, the iconic Christ Church Cathedral was consecrated in 1892 by the first Bishop of the Falkland Islands, Waite Hockin Stirling. This historic building features a cathedral tower with a ring of five bells, 19th and 20th-century stained glass windows and a two manual pipe organ built in Ireland.  In addition, there are also locally-stitched needlepoint hassocks with scenes relating to the church and life on the Islands along with a collection of historic memorabilia.)).

Usually I attended Mattins until I moved ashore at the end of August which allowed me to attend 8 o’clock Holy Communion as well, usually at least once a month. If I attended Holy Communion I would also attend Evensong which Sir Rex and Lady Hunt (The Governor of the Falkland Islands and his wife) usually attended if they were able to. If I didn’t attend Holy Communion I would attend Mattins.

The Reverend Harry Bagnall OBE and his wife Iris were always very welcoming to the military personnel and often invited us into the presbytery for coffee after morning service. Some military personnel also joined the church choir and attended regularly, work commitments allowing.
If there were any military patients who wanted to attend morning service and were well enough to do so (that is, with the duty Medical Officer’s permission) I would accompany them to church and return them safely back to the hospital.

The First Remembrance Day

The first Remembrance Day Service and Parade following the conflict was organised as an ecumenical service at Christ Church Cathedral on Sunday 14th November 1982 at 0930hrs, followed by the laying of Royal British Legion wreaths of poppies at The Cross of Sacrifice in Stanley. The service was led by The Reverend Harry Bagnall OBE supported by his Roman Catholic and Methodist colleagues. Sir Rex and Lady Hunt led the congregation and were supported by all three service commanders and military personnel from all services alongside the civilian and ex-patriot community.

Songs of Praise

In early December 1982 a team of BBC programme producers, arrived in Stanley to record the Songs of Praise Programme from The Falklands which The Reverend Harry Bagnall OBE personally requested that I was featured in. It was broadcast in the UK on Sunday 2nd January 1983. (nb. I was filmed at the hospital prior to the service for the introduction by the presenter, the late Geoffrey Wheeler. For most of the service I was standing in the congregation, but was moved to stand in the choir stalls when my choice of hymn, I Vow To Thee My Country, was sung).

Church Community

During the six months I was stationed at The King Edward VII Memorial Hospital all three church ministers visited the hospital two or three times a week, they were very kind to all the staff and patients both civilian and military, and always interested in what we were doing and they chatted to everyone who was around during their visits. They always asked if we were “alright” and not feeling too homesick and surviving our strange and newly found sparse, cold and difficult circumstances.
Those of us who worshipped together formed friendships with both the local and military communities. The Church community provided me with a sense of normality in what was in reality a very unusual and out of the ordinary deployment. I loved attending the Cathedral services every Sunday and felt very much at home there.

Before the Second World War my father had begun his training to become a Church of England priest. His call-up to serve his country sadly ended his training. During this time my parents made a pact with each other that my mother would attend 8 o’clock Holy Communion in The Lady Chapel in our parish church of Holy Trinity Church, Eccleshall every Sunday morning, and my father would do the same wherever he was serving at home or overseas. They did this every week for the length of the war, repeating this ritual for me while I was in The Falklands. We each knew that at 0800hrs every Sunday morning we would be thinking of each other, including all family members. Both my parents were lifelong committed and active members of the Church of England.

At the time I had no idea I would become a Vicar’s wife eight years later! I married The Reverend J S Cooke BD AKC on Saturday, 17th March 1990 at our parish church Holy Trinity Church, Eccleshall, Stafford, Staffordshire. The service was conducted by The Right Reverend Michael Scot-Joynt later The Bishop of Winchester.

There were some very difficult moments during this deployment and our work was challenging and heartbreaking on many occasions, but never-the-less an unexpected adventure and the experience of a lifetime which I will never forget.