Falklands 40: Gosport hosts 'tremendous' Falklands War commemoration with hundreds of veterans from across the country

HUNDREDS of Falklands War veterans from across the country have paraded through Gosport to mark he 40th anniversary of the conflict, with those attending praising the ‘tremendous’ turn-out as one of the country’s largest gatherings of ex-servicemen.

By Richard Lemmer
Monday, 30th May 2022, 4:55 am
Updated Monday, 30th May 2022, 7:02 am

More than a thousand people attended a moving ceremony outside the Gosport ferry terminal on Sunday, which featured an address from Falklands veteran Reverend Godfrey Hilliard and a roll call of the 255 armed services personnel and three Falkland Islands civilians who lost their lives in the conflict.

With a parade through the town centre that saw the streets lined with cheering and clapping onlookers, veterans praised the ‘absolutely fantastic’ turn-out – with many saying it was the best attended Falklands veterans events they had experienced.

Derek ‘Smokey’ Cole, chief executive of the Falklands Veterans Foundation, said Gosport should be ‘exceptionally pleased’ with itself for hosting such a well-received event.

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Gosport Falklands commemoration event in Gosport on Sunday 29th May 2022. Pictured is action from the event. Picture: Sam Stephenson.

The 66-year-old, who served onboard HMS Intrepid during the conflict, said: ‘The day has been exceptionally good, and its pleasing to see so many veterans come from across the country to Gospot to support and remember the 255 (service personnel) and three Falkland ladies who are still on patrol.

‘Gosport must be exceptionally pleased with what they have done. And I cannot thank the veterans enough for coming down.’

Tony Davies, chairman of the veterans foundation and former member of Welsh Guards during the conflict, agreed – and stressed how important it is for people to remember veterans in the community after the pageantry.

The 76-year-old said: ‘It’s been an tremendous turnout from both the veterans and the town itself – the best I have been to, and I have been to countless.

Gosport Falklands commemoration event in Gosport on Sunday 29th May 2022. Pictured is action from the event. Picture: Sam Stephenson.

‘It’s when people go away and they are back to being on their own – that’s when it hits them.

‘It’s important for people to check-in on veterans that they know.’

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Events like the commemorative parade can be ‘lifesaving’ for veterans as it helps them build a support network that understands their harrowing experiences, according to Derek.

Gosport Falklands commemoration event in Gosport on Sunday 29th May 2022. Pictured is action from the event. Picture: Sam Stephenson.

He said: ‘Someone said to me the other day that everyone who served in the Falklands is suffering from some form of post-traumatic stress disorder.’

‘We’re scattered all across the country now. You bring them together and the camaraderie is there, they swap numbers that they haven’t seen for a few years and keep in contact.

‘Once you get together you can speak to people who understand what you went through in 1982 – and it does them the world of good.’

Veterans gathered for refreshments and to swap stories in Walpole Park – providing a chance for friends to see each other after decades apart.

Tony said: ‘I spoke to someone and he bumped into someone he hasn’t seen for 40 years – it’s amazing.’

But somber memories were never far away during the occasion, with many veterans calling for greater recognition and mental health support for those who have carried loss and memories of suffering for the last four decades.

Tony said talking about the conflict still summoned ‘unforgettable’ images from the attack on HMS Galahad, a supply ship struck by Argentine planes.

He said: ‘We lost 32 men and 90 were injured. As soon as the ship was hit myself and a commanding officer took a helicopter to where the ship was burning and they were bringing injured boys ashore. Their chums were assisting them, bringing them ashore in boats, giving them morphine. Scenes like that you never forget.’

Derek, who celebrated his birthday on the day of parade, agreed that more should be done to support veterans.

He said: ‘I spent my 18th birthday taking cover in San Carlos Water (off East Falkland).’

Ann Townsend from Fareham came to honour her son Neil Grose, a member of 3 Para who died during the battle of Mount Longdon on his 18th birthday.

Ann said: ‘We have learned a lot over the years as people have written down their stories. It’s been helpful to get more details because at the time we knew nothing. As a mother, you want to know what happened.

‘I think this area does a good job of remembering.

‘But we should recognise the veterans more and be ensuring their well-being.’

A range of events to commemorate the conflict will be taking place across the city from Friday, June 17 and Sunday June 19, ending with a parade, memorial service, and wreath laying ceremony at the Square Tower in Old Portsmouth.