Royal Navy veterans who flew from Northern Ireland praise Portsmouth for its warm welcome to Falklands commemoration

TWO disabled Royal Navy veterans who travelled from Northern Ireland to attend Portsmouth’s commemoration event on Sunday have praised the city for its warm welcome.

By Tom Cotterill
Sunday, 19th June 2022, 8:31 pm
Updated Sunday, 19th June 2022, 8:37 pm
Royal Navy veterans Alan Harris, right, and Tommy Finlay, left, flew from Belfast to Portsmouth to attend the event marking the 40th anniversary of the Falklands War
Royal Navy veterans Alan Harris, right, and Tommy Finlay, left, flew from Belfast to Portsmouth to attend the event marking the 40th anniversary of the Falklands War

Pals Alan Harris and Tommy Finlay flew from Belfast to represent the Northern Irish branch of the Royal Naval Association.

Alan, who is blind, said the city had welcomed the pair with open arms. The 63-year-old said: ‘The welcome has been great. We went to the pub last night and this guy just brought us drinks. I had no idea who he was. It was just really lovely.

Retired Chief Petty Officer Tommy, 65, added: ‘People have just been so friendly. It’s been very classy.

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‘I’m seeing friends I haven’t seen in years. It’s been over 20 years since I’ve been in Portsmouth. It’s been really nice.’

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However, the duo’s trip to Hampshire was almost scuppered after their original flights had been delayed and then cancelled all together, leaving them scrambling to find a replacement.

Tommy, who requires an oxygen tank to help him breathe, said: ‘We didn’t get here until midday on the Friday. It was hard getting here. Plus, Alan’s blind, and I’m on oxygen, which was starting to run low. So it didn’t make it any easier when the flights were delayed.’

But both the sailors were determined to attend the city to honour their fallen comrades.

Alan said he left the navy shortly before the Falklands but knew plenty of sailors who went to war.

‘It was really hard having left and knowing that some of my mates were going to war,’ he admitted.

While Tommy, who completed 24 years in the navy, added: ‘I lost a few friends down there. But I only found out when we got back after six months at sea. So although we knew about the ship getting sunk we had no idea who had died on it until we got back.

‘There was nothing we could do. It takes a while to get over it. A couple of the guys I lost were close friends. It didn’t hit me until afterwards. It takes a while to get over. These guys were like family.’