Maurice Chammings standing back row far right with Kingsteignton Army Cadets.

The Falkland Islands were discovered in the late 16th century by Stoke Gabriel born explorer John Davis and shortly afterwards another Devon born seafarer, Richard Hawkins, is reported to have visited the then uninhabited  islands which he named Hawkins Maydenlande, after himself and Queen Elizabeth I.

Britain established a settlement on West Falkland in 1765, but temporarily vacated the islands during the early part of the nineteenth century to concentrate on the wars with France. It was during this absence the islands were seized by the Argentine Federation. After the end of the French wars Britain asserted its ownership of the islands and ejected the Argentinians who at various times since have claimed that their ejection was illegal.

On 2nd April 1942 the islands were invaded by Argentine forces. The British Governor, Sir Rex Hunt was deported to Britain along with the small contingent of Royal Marines who had defended the islands before being forced to surrender.   The Argentines installed General Mario Menéndez as Governor of the islands and commander of the occupying Argentinian force which imposed severe restrictions on the islanders, many of whom were incarcerated.

Prime minister Mrs Margaret Thatcher called an emergency meeting of her cabinet and within days merchant ships had been requisitioned to carry troops, equipment and aircraft to accompany 127 warships as part of a task force which sailed for the South Atlantic to liberate the islands.

Some 74 days later, after fierce fighting in the hills near Port Stanley, the Argentine forces surrendered. During the conflict Britain had suffered the sinking of the container ship SS Atlantic Conveyor, destroyer HMS Sheffield. RFA Sir Galahad had been bombed and irreparably damaged, and 255 British servicemen and 3 Falklanders had lost their lives. Argentinian casualties numbered 649.

After the repatriation of 11,000 Argentinian troops, it was decided to build a new airport for the islands and so improve communications with the rest of the world.

In August 1982 Kingsteignton born Maurice Chammings, along with Colonel Robin Jukes-Hughes of the Royal Engineers, formed part of a recce party to look at possible sites for such a facility. The site selected was on a flat run of peat at Mount Pleasant, a wild and largely unpopulated area on East Falkland.

Maurice was accompanying the recce party in his role with the Overseas Directorate of the Property Service Agency. As a Regional Director of Works his area of responsibility covered an area of far flung territories which included places such as Ascension Island, Trista da Cunha and the Falkland Islands.

With the site chosen a consortium of companies comprising Laing, Mowlem and ARC was selected to build the new airport. Responsibility for the supervision and control of the whole project rested with the PSA, and Maurice in particular.

Maurice was quoted as saying the only materials they had to hand were stone and water, the rest had to be shipped in from the UK. Over two million cubic metres of rock had to be extracted and the project was described as the largest and most unusual ever undertaken by the PSA.

On its completion, which was on time and within budget, Sir Rex Hunt said that immediately after the war no Falkland Islander believed that within three years there would be a new port at Mare Harbour, a road from there to Stanley- much better than anything they had before - an 8500ft runway and a functioning international airport. He went on to say that such was the achievement of the companies involved and the PSA that all Falkland Islanders would be everlastingly grateful to them.

For his part in the project Maurice was awarded an OBE in the 1986 New Year’s Honours List. For all these achievements Maurice remained an essentially modest man.

Maurice  was a Kingsteignton boy born and bred. Both his parents were involved with the British Legion and his father was involved with the committee of the pre-World War 2 Kingsteignton Athletic team, then regarded by many as the best amateur team in the county. Sadly, Maurice passed away in Torbay Hospital on May 14th 2016 aged 84.   Although his work had taken him all over the world, in his heart he was always a Kingsteignton boy.