Falkland Islands trip was turning point in my transition to radio journalist

Stephen Foster Falkland Islands

Foz pictured at one of the sites of the large penguin population of the Falkland Islands. - Credit: Stephen Foster

In his latest On Air in Suffolk column, Stephen Foster recalls a memorable trip to the Falkland Islands.

It’s fair to say when I began my job as a trainee in the Radio Orwell newsroom in 1982 I was as green as the grass Tom Jones sang about in the 1960s. For the first few months I was well out of my comfort zone and don’t mind admitting I was finding it hard to make the transition from insurance claims clerk to radio journalist.

The turning point came in 1983 when I was asked by my boss, Andy Kluz, if I’d like to go on a press trip to the Falkland Islands. Only a year earlier I’d been glued to the TV coverage of the invasion of the Falklands and South Georgia by Argentina. The nation looked on in disbelief as the territorial dispute over sovereignty of the islands escalated into an undeclared war with the loss of over 900 military personnel and the deaths of 3 islanders.

I didn’t exactly bite Andy’s hand off but I thought it best to say yes and I am so glad I did. It was a five day trip to see the part the Colchester-based Royal Anglians were playing in helping the British territory get back on its feet after the 10 week conflict that changed so many lives forever.

As the press team boarded an RAF Tristar at Brize Norton I wondered what I’d let myself in for. The journey down to the Falklands took 18 hours. We stopped en route at Ascension Island to refuel and as we stepped off the plane the humidity in a temperature of 25 celsius would have been unbearable had it not have been for the ice cold beer we were given. Never mind the bottle, I could have downed the whole crate.

Stephen Foster Falklands

Foz pictured on the Falklands in 1983 beside the wreckage of an Argentinian fighter jet - Credit: Stephen Foster

The mid-Atlantic weather was in stark contrast to what greeted us on the Falklands. The wind did not stop blowing from the moment we arrived to the day we departed. I’d not encountered such blustery conditions before or since although Edinburgh in late November 1999 did come close.

The army, airforce and navy all worked together to ensure we had an experience we’d never forget. We were shown all aspects of what the armed forces had been doing to help get life for the islanders back to normal.

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It really was an eye-opening trip. We camped out overnight, visited many of the battlegrounds and, of course, got to see the penguins. Our visit to Port Stanley was fascinating. Let’s put it this way, it wasn’t your typical capital. With a population of 2,500 (two thirds of the whole population of the Falklands) it felt like we were stepping back in time and I don’t imagine much has changed in the intervening years.

It would have been easy to lose myself in the rugged surroundings. For the most part the landscape is bleak but it still has the capacity to amaze. My visit ignited my passion for overseas travel which up until then had been limited to a sunshine holiday in Tenerife and a trip to the Isle Of Wight.

I don’t feel the need to go back to the Falklands but my five days down there will certainly stay with me for the rest of my life. Trips like that don’t come around very often and I’ll be forever grateful to the Royal Anglians who made it so special.

On my return to Ipswich I went through all the interviews I’d done in the South Atlantic and put together a series of reports about my once-in-a-lifetime experience. My reporting duties continued for several years but as press trips go the one to the Falklands was a difficult act to follow.

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