VETERANS of HMS Glamorgan raised a toast in remembrance of 14 men who lost their lives when the ship was hit by an Argentine missile in the Falklands War.
On an emotional trip back to the Falkland Islands, veterans cracked open a bottle of rum bought 29 years ago by one of the men who died in the 1982 tragedy.
Kelvin McCallum from Portsmouth had bought the bottle to drink with his father when he returned home from the conflict. But he, like 13 others on the ship, never made it home.
Veteran Hugh Upward, 69, from Hilsea, was asked to take the bottle to the Falklands by Mr McCallum’s mother.
He said: ‘I’m very glad we did it. It was the perfect way to remember Kelvin and all the other men who made the ultimate sacrifice.’
The HMS Glamorgan Association members made the pilgrimage back to the Falkland Islands to see a stone memorial unveiled at Hooker’s Point to honour their fallen comrades.
Almost 20 miles from that spot in 1982, the Portsmouth-based destroyer was struck by an Argentine Exocet missile in one of the final acts of the Falklands war.
The drive to erect a Glamorgan monument was sparked by a pilgrimage to the Falklands by the ship’s navigator in 1982, Commander Ian Inskip.
He said: ‘There were memorials on the islands for all the ships lost and all units which had suffered significant casualties – except for Glamorgan.
‘Mention the Falklands War and images of Sheffield, Coventry, Antelope, Ardent and Atlantic Conveyor always spring to mind. Few people know that Glamorgan was hit by an Exocet just two days before the Argentine surrender and came within inches of blowing up with the loss of hundreds of lives.’
The missile punched through the hangar and the galley below, but strenuous efforts by the ship’s company in the following hours saved Glamorgan from sinking.
The Welsh granite memorial was formally dedicated in the presence of the three dozen Glamorgan veterans, plus 150 Falkland Islanders, while current Falklands guardian HMS Clyde was anchored offshore and RAF Typhoon fighters flew low over the site in tribute.
During the 10-day visit, the veterans visited various sites of interest, including Memorial Wood, where a tree has been planted for every one of the 258 British men who lost their lives in the conflict.
The Royal Navy’s Falklands Patrol Vessel HMS Clyde also took veterans out to sea to lay wreaths at the spot where Glamorgan was hit by the missile.
‘The islanders were very good to us,’ said Mr Upward.
‘They couldn’t do enough for us and I am very grateful to them for hosting us. It was a once-in-a-lifetime thing.’