FIRST CHAPTERS - The Novel in
JONES ARGENTINE ARMY
The initial landing
How wars begin:
James Skinner on the origins of the Falklands Conflict
searched the horizon for the landmark. His eyes glued to his binoculars.
Captain Nestor continued to bellow out the shut down orders
as the Gaviota dropped its anchor and shuddered to a halt.
A large water-tank perched atop a rusting iron tower a few yards from
the shore soon came into view. There she is, he whispered
to himself, holding his breath in case the ghostlike vision disappeared.
Hed waited for this moment for months.
The sight grew wider. The grey shacks splattered with rust, whistling
at his arrival as the Antarctic wind careened through their entrails.
The odd window of a broken down building, was still flapping angrily
as it sent out its message of frustration after years of abandon. Tino
stared into space, paused to wipe his eyes and resumed his review of
the landscape. He pictured the days when fishermen and slaughterers
sweated their lives away hacking at the products of a plundered sea,
whale in and whale out. He felt a million miles away whilst enjoying
this precious moment, a reminder of days gone by. Slowly it sank in,
the journey had ended but the work, and above all the lucrative business
had just begun.
Plenty of iron dollars eh, Tino? muttered Captain Nestor,
breaking the silence. Enough to see you to your grave, he
added sarcastically. He gave a quick glance at the ships chart
and returned to his glare. South Georgia is full of it, isnt
it? Guess youre happy now! Tino ignored the remarks and
took another sip at his cold coffee. Hed had enough bellyaching
from him ever since they set out from the naval base at Puerto Belgrano.
Theyd bickered and argued throughout the trip. The captain kept
insisting on a timescale. He wanted to know how long it would take to
dismantle and collect the remains of the old whaling station abandoned
since the twenties. What the hell do you care, retorted
Tino. Its my money you guys are getting. Shit, until we
get there I dont know.
Tino never understood the urgency. All he cared about was making sure
every ounce of iron was dismantled, catalogued and crated before leaving
the site. Why the precise timetable? he wondered.
One of the lifeboats was slowly lowered from the Gaviota.
Tino, three of his men and four armed navy ratings were soon making
their way towards the shore. His pulse was racing and although suffering
from high blood pressure, his ills were soon forgotten as he stepped
ashore eager to assess his future fortune. Still standing before him
were the magnificent buildings and installations of a historical industry
that had eventually been left to rack and ruin. He sighed, yet he still
The Argentine navy had initially refused the mission to take place despite
the lucrative booty at the end. Months of negotiations and bureaucratic
paperwork drove Tino mad, until finally, out of the blue orders from
the top gave the go ahead. When he turned up for the umpteenth
time at the War Office just after New Year in 1981, he was greeted with
an odd overdue Christmas present. Here you are, all signed, sealed
and now my personal delivery. General Petroso handed him a folder
and then turned and faced a man in a navy uniform. Meet Captain
Eduardo Nestor. Hell make sure you make it safely to South Georgia.
Enjoy your trip. He smiled, then paused, turned, and, as if he
knew, added, I envy you. Good day gentlemen! He promptly
walked out of the room. The two men looked at each other. No body language
was needed to feel that instant animosity was in the air. For a split
second, the two glared at each other.
Captain Nestor broke the silence, Mr. Friedberg. My ship, the
Gaviota will be ready to sail south within one month. Your
men and equipment are your responsibility. I have all the information
youve sent to the War Office regarding your mission. He
walked towards the window overlooking the park. He paused for a moment.
You must understand that this is to be considered a military exercise
and I shall be in charge at all times. My orders are paramount and undisputable.
Do you have any objections?
Tino was no fool; hed dealt with the military before. You
shits will never change, he thought. He began to move towards
the exit door of the office, his eyes scrutinising the folder. He grinned
as he recognised the signature and seal of approval from the Ministry.
He looked at Captain Nestor, already despising his new shipmate and
boss. He waved a sign of approval and walked out.
Tino was still bothered. Something was not right. Why the sudden
change? It wasnt the cash payment. Christ, they were getting their
moneys worth out of me, the thought kept turning over in
his mind. The military must have something up their sleeve. That
shit must have other orders. Oh, what the hell!
He sat on a small bench in the park just outside the entrance to the
Ministry and once again opened his folder. He kept on skimming through
the papers until he found what he was looking for; the letter from the
British Embassy in Buenos Aires with the counter signature from the
Governor of the Falkland Islands. Permission to land on the South Georgia
islands had also been granted. FOR COMMERCIAL PURPOSES ONLY, was written
in unmistakeable language. The Gaviota was not a merchant
ship; she was a thirty-year-old converted Liberty vessel now belonging
to the Argentine navy.
Tino sighed to himself, if the Brits only knew how much money
there is down there. He chuckled, Im back in business.
Constantino Friedberg, part time entrepreneur, sometime engineer had
been planning his raid on the South Atlantic scrap iron dump for years.
The offspring of an Italian mother and Jewish father, who had fled Italy
before the nazi takeover was brought up in the downtrodden Boca district.
He was too young to fall foul of the horrors of war yet the backlash
of the post war Peronist regime had taught the young Porteno
the lie of the land. Jews were both outcasts and refugees but also cunning,
whilst Italian immigrants exploited the rich spoils inherited from World
War II. Tino inherited both traits and thanks to the precarious life
and background of the Friedberg family he was born a natural scavenger.
To be continued
© James Skinner September 2003
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