Navy ships welcomed back after Falklands conflict

HMS Invincible receives a heroine's welcome as she enters Portsmouth Harbour in September 1982
HMS Invincible receives a heroine's welcome as she enters Portsmouth Harbour in September 1982
Nelson's column at Portsdown Hill

WATCH: The original Nelson's Column

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It was a day those of us who were there will never forget – nor the millions who watched on TV.

It was Friday, September 17, 1982, the day the aircraft carrier HMS Invincible and unique Type 82 destroyer HMS Bristol returned home to Portsmouth from the Falklands war.

The Type 82 destroyer HMS Bristol returns to Portsmouth at the end of the Falklands war with HMS Invincible in the background

The Type 82 destroyer HMS Bristol returns to Portsmouth at the end of the Falklands war with HMS Invincible in the background

Tens of thousands of cheering people lined every vantage point from Southsea seafront to Old Portsmouth and across the harbour on Gosport’s waterfront.

The 19,500-ton Invincible, which had been sold to the Australian navy before the South Atlantic war erupted, had left her home port on April 5. Few believed she or the rest of the Royal Navy task force would actually go into battle.

But the air of jubilation at the victory over Argentina was tinged with sadness for the families of the 255 British servicemen who would never come back.

One who did come home in Invincible was helicopter pilot Prince Andrew.

The arrival home on that early autumn day was an event in itself, but it was given added poignancy when the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh joined thousands of other family members to welcome their son.

That day Steve Taw was on a tug in the harbour and took these pictures of Invincible and Bristol as they returned from war.

The destroyer was the only vessel of her class to be built for the Royal Navy.

She was the first of a class of new large destroyers to escort the CVA-01 aircraft carriers projected to come into service in the early 1970s.

But Bristol turned out to be a unique ship. The rest of the class were cancelled when the CVA-01 carriers fell victim to the 1966 Strategic Defence Review.