Little of Rex Hunt's book has much to do with the Colonial Service or diplomatic life, but if there is a desire to understand the Falklands pre '82, much of the background
to the conflict and the immediate effect on life post '82, then I suggest that the time taken
to read My Falkland Days would be worthwhile. I should point out that although our
Governors were usually from the Colonial Service the Islands were controlled hy the
Foreign Office. It was the belief of Islanders that the said department wanted this
obstacle to good relations with South America out of the way. In 1968 George Brown
did a deal with the Argentine and sent Lord Chalfont here to sell it to the Islanders but
thanks to the support of Parliament that was knocked on the head. Although the
Sovereignty Dispute was put on the back burner for a short while, it was always there.
This added to the uncertainty of the Islanders, and by the time Sir Rex Hunt arrived we
had Nicolas Ridley trying to sell us Leaseback.
Rex Hunt in the early part of his book paints a picture of the Islands, the way of fife
and the sort of people who lived there. The Islands at that time were in decline, the only
industry was sheep ranching on a large scale and the major income was the taxation of
the sheep farming companies. As there was no budgetary aid the treasury income swung
back and forward with the world wool market. Sir Rex points out that the Administration
was small and the infrastructure, like everything else, was in need of expenditure we did
not have. In addition to the lack of money he brings out the uncertainty engendered by
the Argentine claim.
It is interesting to note the feeling Sir Rex had of being the piggy in the middle. He
needed to put forward the policy of the Foreign Office yet seeing the reaction of the
Islanders and their Councillors. At this time the Legislative Council consisted of the
Financial Secretary, the Chief Secretary and six elected members, while Executive
Council had the two ex officio officers, two independent members nominated by the
governor and two members elected by their fellows from the Legislature. It was to these
Councils, directly opposed to any change to the Sovereignty status, that the Governor
had to put forward the British Government's wishes. It is also interesting to note that the
Governor was not always fully informed on the British Government's policy with regard
to the FaMands. I found this period of late '81 and early '82 the most interesting part of
the book as it brings together material not covered in other works except various HMG
reports which appeared after the conflict.
The post conflict section is rather a catalogue of visitors, ships and people. It does
bring out both the conflict and co-operation between the administration and the military.
Sir Rex also covers the problems of the 31 million pound rehabilitation fund, the control of
expenditure by ODA and the Foreign Office, and the fact that the two could not work
together. The author touches on the Boarding House construction for Camp children
(it was never occupied and was eventually demolished) and the wrangling over the
rebuilding of the hospital, which had been so badly damaged by fire.
As a result of Lord Shackleton's second report Sir Rex got the Attorney-General he so
much wanted and a much-strengthened Administration. During this time of change we
were also negotiating with the British Government a new Constimtion, under which the
two ex officio members would be members of both Councils but would be non-voting.
The number of councillors in the Legislature would be increased to eight and of these
eight three would sit on Executive Council.
As a local I must admit that I skipped some sections with regard to visits to
Settlements and ships but I enjoyed the book.