Two tones predominate in the Falklands capital, now in winter: the usual white of snow blanketing the harbor town, and unaccustomed British Army green.
Before the Argentine invasion in April, kelpers--as those born in the Falklands are known--occasionally may have seen one of the 43 Royal Marines stationed just outside the town. But today they cannot look out of their wooden houses' windows without sighting convoys of Army vehicles and hundreds of milling troops.
The British Army presence has had more impact on Stanley than the occupying forces of Argentina. More than half of the 360 households here are playing host to British soldiers, while the remainder of the 1,500-plus troops in the capital are crammed into civic buildings taken over as makeshift barracks.
Accommodating the forces will be a problem until at least the end of August, when the Army hopes to have moved all the troops into huts now on the way by sea from Britain. Relations between the civilian population and the Army are still healthy after a month, but both sides are showing signs of wanting a quicker return to normality.
Many of the troops involved in the fighting to recapture the Falklands from Argentina are impatient to be replaced by other units so that they can return home, and Stanley householders are beginning to feel the inconvenience of having up to 10 soldiers sharing their modest houses.
The influx of troops more than doubled the capital's normal population of 1,050. It is putting a strain on water and electricity supplies. The Army has supplied its own generator and it has helped repair the bomb-damaged filtration plant, but interruptions of supplies still occur.
Nevertheless, the British Army is playing a vital role in the reconstruction of the capital. It is providing materials and labor to repair dwellings damaged in the fighting, and more crucially, it is attempting to clear mines left by the Argentines. More than 12,000 are believed to have been laid around Stanley alone. The streets have been declared safe, but the surrounding high ground is unlikely to be cleared before October.
No decision has been taken on the size or location of the permanent British garrison. Much will depend on the speed with which the airport runway here can be lengthened to take big aircraft. Then the need to station more than a 600-strong battalion on the island will be reduced, provided that logistical arrangements can be made to transport reinforcements speedily. The British Army appears to be anxious that Falklanders should not feel too displaced by a future military presence.
The former isolated and tranquil way of life of the kelpers--the name comes from one of the islands' few natural resources, kelp, or seaweed--is unlikely to return. But Army officials are pledged to listen to local views about favored locations for the garrison, strategic considerations permitting.