Hereford & Worcester

Island named after last Falklands soldier to die

Richard, Craig and Pam Jones
Image caption Craig Jones was photographed with his parents Richard and Pam before he left for the Falklands

On a June morning 30 years ago, Pte Craig Jones was killed by a shell as British troops made their final push in the Falklands War.

He was one of the last soldiers to die in the conflict as a ceasefire was declared the following day.

Three decades on, his family have followed in the footsteps of Pte Jones and the Parachute Regiment which helped liberate the islands that had been occupied by Argentina.

The family's journey ended at an islet they have been given which had previously gone by the name of Little Rabbit Island.

There they held a ceremony to mark its name change to Craig Island - in memory of their son.

Image caption The memorial to British soldiers at Teal Inlet

"There will never be any permission to build on the island, so it's going to remain what it is now - a haven for wildlife," said Pte Jones's mother, Pam.

"It's a tribute to Craig, and not only Craig, because he was one of 255 men who were killed - so it's a tribute to all of them."

The six-acre (2.5 hectare) isle is in the north east of the Falkland Islands, near to Teal Inlet, where Pte Jones was originally buried.

His body was one of the first to be repatriated to the UK, a change in the tradition for British soldiers' bodies to remain on the battlefields where they fell.

His parents wrote to the Queen and the then prime minister Margaret Thatcher as part of their campaign to get him brought home.

"We wanted Craig to be buried in Aldershot Military cemetery and we asked if there could be a Falklands corner and this they agreed to and so there are 18 Paras buried together," said Richard Jones, the soldier's father.

The 3rd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment, had fought for two days to take high ground around Port Stanley on 11 and 12 June 1982.

On the night of 13 June, Pte Jones was killed on Mount Longdon.

The family, from Tenbury Wells, Worcestershire, had been celebrating the end of the war when they were told about the death of their son.

"It was a bit of a high and then a terrible low - that was the worst part, the total shock of it all," said Mr Jones.

The place where he died is one of the spots his father, brother Gareth and nephew Alex have visited during their trip to the Falklands. Pte Jones's mother was not well enough to travel.

They have followed the route Pte Jones took from San Carlos Bay, where the troops disembarked, to Mount Longdon and to Teal Inlet, where he was buried, along with 28 other British soldiers who died in the fighting around Port Stanley.

"I always like to come here because it was his first resting place," said his father, who first visited the islands on the 20th anniversary of the war.

Mrs Jones, who visited the islands two years ago, said: "I was able to go to the exact place where Craig was killed and that was helpful to me - it was quite cathartic because I had a better understanding of what he died for."

The family visit is taking place to the backdrop of rising tensions ahead of the 30th anniversary of Argentina's invasion in 1982.

Argentina has criticised the deployment of Prince William to the island and there have been demonstrations - with the Union flag being burned - outside the British embassy in Buenos Aires.

Image caption The Jones family at the memorial on Craig Island

The Jones family's latest journey ended at Craig Island, where they unveiled a memorial stone and plaque.

Their chance to take ownership of the island came when they were put in touch with a farming family by another veteran of the war who was living in the Falklands.

Mr Jones said: "They came back and said they had a couple of islands, and the small one, Little Rabbit Island, they didn't use any more, so if we would like that island we'd be welcome.

"Our intention was to pay for something, but they wouldn't hear of it and this is what typifies the gratitude of the people on the Falkland Islands - it'll never be forgotten, the price that was paid for their freedom."

Farmer Carol Phillips, who was in the Falkland Islands when they were invaded, gifted them the isle.

"I can't explain how thankful we were to be liberated - it's terrible to think that so many people lost their lives for so few of us," she said.

The family had to contact the Falklands' government to get official approval for them to own the land and to see if it was possible to rename the island.

Mr Jones said: "They said it was no problem at all, and we could make that official in the deeds."

They were officially given the deeds to the island in January 2011.

Richard Jones added: "[Craig Island] is a really good lasting tribute to him and his mates."

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