THE News produced a colour special edition to mark the Falklands Task Force leaving Portsmouth on April 5, 1982.
Summing up the charged atmosphere, chief reporter Les Rothery wrote: ‘It was an occasion of raw emotion. Of tears and gnawing fears – and of a momentous renaissance of national pride.
‘History was in the making. For this was the day when Britain had to revert to gunboat diplomacy in defence of her empire.’
‘From the Round Tower at Old Portsmouth to the pier at South Parade, people from far and wide massed ten deep in tens of thousands along Portsmouth’s seascape to pay tribute and to wave farewell to the men who lined the decks of the aircraft carriers HMS Invincible and HMS Hermes, and the support tanker Pearleaf.
‘The Fleet, which had not fired a shot in anger since Suez, left Portsmouth Harbour on a rip-tide of patriotic fervour.
‘Naval families, war veterans, children and thousands of factory and office workers who had gone absent without leave, jampacked the esplanade at Southsea, the landscaped ramparts of Southsea Castle and the old fortifications at Old Portsmouth to cheer, to wave, to raise flags and to signal to the Royal Navy the bannered message: ‘Britannia Rules.’
‘This tremendous display of support for the Royal Navy’s hazardous mission to free a remote British outpost from the yoke of Argentinian oppression brought a grateful response from Admiral Sir James Eberle, Commander-in-Chief, Naval Home Command.
In a message relayed by Portsmouth’s Lord Mayor (Mr. Frank Sorrell) he said: ‘‘This has put the Royal Navy in very good heart for the task ahead.’’
‘But beneath the euphoria of Britain’s fightback from humiliation lay distress for the families of men in the Royal Navy and the Royal Marines who are now on their 8,000-mile rescue mission to the Falklands.
‘Impossible to imagine as the Invincible moved majestically through the mouth of Portsmouth Harbour, soon to be lost in the Solent mist, that this great warship could be engaged in a deadly conflict in a matter of weeks.’