EMOTIONAL tributes were paid at a service of remembrance for a young soldier from Gosport who was killed in the final days of the Falklands War.
Relatives, friends and former comrades of Private Neil Grose gathered in the pouring rain yesterday to rededicate a tree planted in his memory in the grounds of his former school, St Vincent College, Gosport.
The paratrooper, pictured right, was shot dead in the early hours of his 18th birthday on June 11, 1982, as troops mounted a push on Mount Longdon near Port Stanley.
One of Neil’s best friends in the army, Mick Southall, 47, who was with the soldier when he died, travelled 300 miles from his home in Chester to be at the service.
He said: ‘It means an awful lot to be here today. Neil was a really nice guy. He was very professional, a thinking-man’s soldier.
‘He was very intelligent and I know he definitely would have gone far in the army.’
He said it was too painful to talk about Neil’s final moments, but added: ‘We did all we could for him.’
Around 100 people attended the service led by Rev David Cooper, 68, who was the army chaplain for 2 Para in the Falklands War.
Neil’s commanding officer Lieutenant General Hew Pike, 69, was also there.
He said: ‘It was a terrible night on Mount Longdon.
‘My feelings are the same now as they have been every day for last 30 years – of respect and deep sadness for the loss of those wonderful young men.’
Old school friends from St Vincent were among those paying their respects.
Richard Chase, 48, of Locks Heath, said: ‘It’s good to be here and reminisce about the good times and memories we have of Neil and how we wish he was still here.’
Neil’s former school form tutor Linda Brock, 61, of Copnor, also paid tribute. She said: ‘Neil was a smashing lad. He was quiet and really genuine. It was shattering when I was told he had been killed.’