Return To The Falklands Review: Slighty At Sea

RETURN TO THE FALKLANDS: Tuesday 20th March, ITV1, 9pm

“The Falklands holds a very bittersweet place in my heartâ€?, muses Welsh Guardsman and Falklands veteran who was blown up on HMS Sir Galahad and suffered 46% burns.

This bizarre conflict over sovereignty holds a very bittersweet place in history as well, the peace and safety Britain’s victory brought to the islanders at the price of nearly 1000 lives overall fighting for an approximately 1800-population archipelago.

The war’s absurdity is rather overlooked in this one-off documentary, made to mark its 30-year anniversary, which at times falls into one-sided fawning over the British intervention, or loses itself in its own premise – that of bringing three men who were present during the wars back to the islands, to discuss their memories.

A journalist, a marine and a Welsh Guardsman sounds like the beginning of a ropey joke, but here the punch line is a solemn one, about the transformative qualities of battle. Guilt, post-traumatic stress, pride, anger and passion all preoccupy one or more of the participants, and the islanders they encounter, as they recall the life-changing nature of such a “uniqueâ€? war.

The stories are gripping – particularly ex-marine Nick Taylor’s return of photographs he had developed from a film in an abandoned camera to an irrepressibly eager Argentinian ex-soldier, who is sweetly “touchedâ€? by the gesture. They meet on the same spot where they were trying to kill each other 30 years ago.

War correspondent Mike Nicholson returns to true journalistic form on his return, interviewing islanders about their feelings towards the war, concluding that the conflict was good for island life. What the islanders appear to mean is that “no publicity is bad publicityâ€?, and interestingly even admit to a slight feeling of guilt towards the servicemen who protected them. But this is turned at times into a gushing gratitude towards the British for their victory, in leading questions such as whether or not Mount Pleasant, a British airbase there, is a comfort to them.

Simon Weston, the ex-Welsh Guardsman, recounts the horrors of losing his fellow soldiers to a bombing of their ship, a story poignantly accompanied by footage of the memorial plaque displaying the names of his fallen friends. However, the focus unfortunately seems to drift from the human side of war the documentary is evidently trying to portray, to the men losing themselves in its format.

They concentrate too heavily on the beautiful scenery, the fact that they have never seen the islands in sunshine, the wildlife, and “this sort of warm experienceâ€?. The surrealism of their return to the scene of the conflict care of ITV should not overshadow the realism of their war stories themselves.