THIRTY years ago Bill Skilleter was on HMS Broadsword, helping to rescue sailors from the sinking HMS Coventry.
And he knew that some of his friends were among those on the stricken ship when it was bombed by the Argentinians during the Falklands War on May 25, 1982.
But during a weekend of events to remember the conflict, including a service of commemoration in Gosport, Mr Skilleter was reunited with one of those pals, Charlie Findlay.
And as they reminisced in Walpole Park, Gosport, after the service and a march through the town centre featuring hundreds of veterans, the pair recalled the chaos of that day and its aftermath vividly.
Mr Skilleter, from Cowplain, was part of the Sea Wolf missile system team on Broadsword.
He said: ‘We were on patrol with the Coventry when we got attacked by two planes.
‘We were hit by a bomb which went through the side of the field deck and over the side.
‘We had stopped in the water because we didn’t know what was going on.
‘During the next air attack, the Coventry was hit.’
It later emerged that 19 sailors were killed and 30 injured during the attack.
‘I was looking for Charlie,’ said Mr Skilleter, ‘and I couldn’t believe it when we found him.
‘I reckon we picked up about two-thirds of them off of Coventry. We got them onboard and made them as comfortable as possible.’
Mr Findlay, from Worthing, said: ‘I remember every detail of that day. I was playing darts at the time – I’m only here by pure chance.
‘We went from having no water, to about six feet of water in just 20 seconds.
‘I didn’t get the chance to worry.
‘The only time I got worried was when I came back for the board of enquiry – it turned out there was an unexploded bomb in our compartment, if that had gone off, that would have been it. Once I was told that I went straight off for a triple whisky.’
He also recalled using beer from the chief’s mess as injured crew mates with horrific burns started to appear.
‘You just used what you had,’ he added. ‘And as a result, I drank the last beer on that ship.’
The 66-year-old used to live in Gosport, but this was his first time back to mark a Falklands anniversary. He said: ‘This has been beyond description, it’s that good. All of us here, we’re very lucky people. It’s a thing we all share, and no-one else can take that away from you.’
Mr Skilleter added: ‘It’s very good to see so many people out supporting us. Even a few years back we didn’t get this many, but now people are realising the good works we do.’
Mr Skilleter, 68, is also part of the Royal Navy guild of bellringers, and on Friday at 11am eight bellringers rang a quarter peal in memory of their fallen colleagues at St Faith’s Church in Havant.