Falklands veterans to mark 35th anniversary of conflict with memorial

HMS Intrepid returns to Portsmouth from the Falklands in July 1982
HMS Intrepid returns to Portsmouth from the Falklands in July 1982
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Falklands War veterans from the Portsmouth area will mark 35 years since the conflict began when they hold a memorial this weekend.

Members of the Falklands Veterans Foundation are travelling up to the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire to pay respect to those who lost their lives.

Derek "Smokey" Cole laying a wreath at a cemetary on the Falkland Islands. Picture: Derek Cole

Derek "Smokey" Cole laying a wreath at a cemetary on the Falkland Islands. Picture: Derek Cole

Derek ‘Smokey’ Cole, chief executive of the foundation, served onboard HMS Intrepid as a POMEM(M) - a Petty Officer Marine Engineer and Mechanic - during the war.

Since leaving the Royal Navy after 25 years in 1996, he has helped to arrange several Falklands reunions in Gosport.

He said: ‘We have to remember those who have paid the ultimate price and sacrificed their life in service of their country.

‘It means people are free, and my thoughts go to the families of those who did not return.’

The Holy Trinity Church Memorial in Gosport. Picture: Paul Jacobs

The Holy Trinity Church Memorial in Gosport. Picture: Paul Jacobs

Among the work done by the foundations includes the building of Liberty Lodge, a residence on the islands which can be used by veterans and their families.

This weekend those involved in the conflict will attend a memorial service on Sunday, where wives of servicemen who lost their lives will give readings.

Smokey, from Gosport, said: ‘People have had the pleasure of going through the last 35 years seeing their brothers, sons and sisters grow up, and it is a great shame that others have had to go through their pain and suffering since the conflict.’

The Falklands War began in April 1982 and lasted for 10 weeks.

It began when Argentina invaded and occupied islands to try and establish the sovereignty it had claimed over them.

After 74 days of fighting the Argentine forces surrendered and the islands were returned to British control.

Smokey, 60, recalled: ‘The day we were invaded was the day HMS Intrepid closed up, and we had left the ship and went our separate ways.

‘The day after we returned to put the ship back together as it was going to be scrapped. We had 10 days and then we left after the main task forces.’

As Freemen of the Borough of Gosport, all veterans also invited to a memorial service and freedom parade at the Falkland Gardens.

The event, on May 20, will also feature a reception afterwards.