Forth Replaces Union Jack at historic Falklands Site

Sailors from HMS Forth raised the Union Flag on the site of the first British settlement in the Falklands – replacing one battered by the fierce South Atlantic elements.
The bleak, remote settlement of Port Egmont was inhabited for less than a decade and abandoned nearly 250 years ago.

But the site is marked to this day with the Union Flag flying over the foundations of the handful of buildings which once formed the small 18th Century settlement on Saunders Island.

It’s the duty of the Royal Navy’s current patrol ship permanently based in the islands to visit outlying islands and communities and also maintain some of the memorials peppered around the Falklands when opportunity arises.

The British flag was first planted on what is now Saunders Island – the fourth largest in the Falklands, around 100 miles west of the present-day capital Stanley – on January 23 1765 by Commodore John Byron.

He described it as “one of the finest harbours in the world. The whole Navy of England might ride in perfect security from all winds.”

To mark the 257th anniversary of the landing, Forth’s sailors hoisted a fresh flag on the pole.

The shrill note of the boatswain’s call pierced the Falklands winds as the new flag was hoisted in a unique set of ‘Colours’ and the sailors saluted.

Although Egmont is now uninhabited, British settlers returned to the island; Forth’s shore party called on the settlement owners following the ceremony as part of the ship’s mission to reassure Falkland Islanders.

What struck the sailors was how little the natural harbour had changed since Port Egmont was founded: the ship was treated to a view that wouldn’t be too dissimilar from the one seen from Commodore Byron’s ships, HMS Dolphin and Tamar.

“It was interesting to see this this site which is so important in the history of the Falklands,” said Lieutenant James Uglow, Forth’s First Lieutenant.

“As the Falkland Island Patrol Vessel, there is a great sense of pride in quite literally keeping the flag flying in the Falklands.”

The first vessel in the five-strong Overseas Patrol Squadron based in Portsmouth, Forth has now spent two years deployed in the islands with her crew rotating through – 12 weeks on, six weeks off – to maintain a permanent presence.

The ship will spend the coming months preparing for Falklands 40 commemorations, carrying out maintenance on war memorials and honouring veterans of 1982, alongside her training and patrol programme.

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