Julia goes back to Falkland roots

MARK NICHOLLS For the people of the Falkland Islands and the British armed forces, it will be an occasion to mark the 25th anniversary of a victory over an invading Argentine force.

MARK NICHOLLS

For the people of the Falkland Islands and the British armed forces, it will be an occasion to mark the 25th anniversary of a victory over an invading Argentine force.

But for one Norfolk woman it will also be a one-off opportunity to discover her roots.

Julia Parker will travel the 6,000 miles to be on the islands for the liberation day ceremonies in the middle of June.

It will be her first visit to the South Atlantic territories and to the landscape her mother, Elizabeth Hamilton, and her grandparents, Alfred and Vera Jones, lived in.

She will be travelling with Norfolk county councillor Christopher Lloyd Owen, who has a son serving with the military on the Falklands.

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Her mother will not be making the trip on this occasion - though she has been back before to the place where she was born in 1933.

Mother-of-four Mrs Parker, who lives at Melton Constable, said: "I am going to see where my grandmother lived and get an insight into my family roots but we will also see the islands, the war sites and the graves and the wildlife in such a remote place."

They will not, however, have time to get over to South Georgia, where her mother lived during the early part of her life.

The story of her Falklands roots arise from the journey of young Welshman Alfred Jones to the Falklands in the years between the two world wars.

He met Vera Riches, who lived in Port Stanley.

Her parents were returning to England but she took the decision to stay and headed the 700 miles across the icy waters to South Georgia, the island first occupied by Argentina in 1982, to be with Alfred.

They became the first couple to marry on the island, which is 105 miles long and between one and 25 miles wide, and settled in a bleak snow-bound house with penguins and other wildlife as neighbours.

Elizabeth, who now lives in Norfolk, was born soon after.

Mrs Hamilton said: "My mother had to go across to the Falklands to give birth to me and then return to South Georgia.

"My memories are very limited but I do remember the penguins, having a pram with skis on it and playing near Shackleton's cairn."

The journey between the two British territories took a week by boat.

Her father ran the whaling station in Grytviken, the principle settlement on South Georgia, and his marriage certificate to Vera is now one of the exhibits in the town's whaling museum, along with other artefacts including those of explorer Ernest Shackleton.

When her father later joined the colonial service and was sent to Africa, she returned to England and a life at boarding school.

But she regards her roots as lying in the Falkland Islands and it is this ancestry Mrs Parker will be exploring.

With Mr Lloyd Owen, she will embark on a journey to the remote islands, that were invaded on April 2, 1982, on a flight via Chile.

They will explore and take in some of the landmarks that became household names back in Britain as air, land and sea forces battled

to regain the territory from Argentina.

Their trip, from June 8 to June 18, will take in the liberation commemorations, which will be held at a monument designed by another family relative, London architect Gerald Dixon.

Mrs Parker, who is married to Robin and has four children - Rose, eight, Edmund, 10, Henry, 11, and Guy, 13, - added: "It is going to be a great opportunity to go somewhere so remote, fascinating and interesting."

Mr Lloyd Owen, who is a country fair organiser, will meet his army captain son Edward, who was posted to the islands in January, but will also take in the significant battle sites such as San Carlos, Bluff Cove and Tumbledown as well as digging into the Falkland Islands archives, which is an area of particular interest for him.

While on the Falklands, they will stay in Port Stanley on what is set to be an historic few days commemorating the 25th anniversary of the liberation of the islands.