Builder calls for recognition for those who built in Falklands
A FORMER construction worker has called for recognition for builders in the Falklands who “put their lives at risk.”
James Freeman, from Plympton, was one of thousands of men to work on the construction of Mount Pleasant Airfield, 35 miles from Stanley, the capital of the Falkland Islands.
Mr Freeman, 74, spent almost a year in the Falklands in 1984 helping to build infrastructure including a runway, a multi-purpose complex and a road from Stanley to the airfield.
He said: “I went out to earn money as I was finding it difficult to find work at home. “There were 2,000 people working on the site altogether which is a lot.
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“But there was no recognition of the work that was done there.”
Mr Freeman claims that Sir Rex Hunt, who was Governor of the Falkland Islands in 1982 when Argentina invaded, said the workmen should get a medal for what was achieved in the project, which was led by the Laing-Mowlem ARC consortium.
“Sometimes the conditions were bad, often you had to clear the snow away before you started using the machinery.
“All the workmen put their lives at risk, as well as the soldiers.” Mr Freeman added.
“I used to go down to Bertha’s Beach on a Sunday when I had some time off to take pictures of the penguins - the wind was terrific, it gets up to 100 miles an hour and it could be bitterly cold.
“There was a lot of work done in those 12 months. They used to call me ‘Jimmy the Grid’ because I was making cattle grids for three weeks.
Mr Freeman has written to Prime Minister David Cameron but so far has had no response.
However he sent a copy of a children’s book written during his time in the Falkland’s to the Queen and received a letter of thanks last week.
“I would like David Cameron to say thank you to all the construction workers and the people who built the airport. “These men put their lives at risk - we didn’t think anything about being blown up.
“We didn’t spend much time with the soldiers but we went into the pubs in Port Stanley occasionally and spoke to them.”
A spokesman from the Foreign Office said: “The UK government supports the continued social and economic development of the Falklands and Mount Pleasant Airfield is important for this.”
But they said that the construction and management of the airport is the responsibility of the MoD.
The importance of the airfield to the British military is clear from an Ministry of Defence (MoD) website outlining the actions of British forces overseas, which says:
“Soon after the conflict in 1982, work was started on the building of Mount Pleasant Airfield, 35 miles from Stanley. Construction was of an extraordinary nature, in that a road was built from Stanley to Mount Pleasant. An airfield capable of supporting fighters, helicopters and transport aircraft was constructed and also a complex capable of providing for all needs.”
However when asked about the airfield, the MoD said: “Unfortunately there has been no campaign to recognise the military service on the Falkland Islands.”