As a tribute on the 40th anniversary of the Falklands conflict, a Royal Navy Field Gun with a Union flag draped over it carried the Royal Naval Association (RNA) memorial wreath from HMS Nelson Wardroom to the Falklands Memorial, Sally Port, Old Portsmouth, on Saturday.
A crew of serving and former military personnel pushed the one and a half tonne gun through the streets with the The Royal Marines Volunteer Cadet Corps (RMVCC) providing a beat to march to.
The field gun also fired a shot to mark the end of the international angling competition in the city while people cheered as the gun made its way out of Gunwharf.
Organiser Chief Petty Officer Danny Tregarthen said he was happy to take up the march as part of the RNA’s Reunite, Relive and Remember themed weekend.
‘We fired the gun and took a wreath and put it on the back of the limber and took it to Old Portsmouth as an official handover from relive to remember as part of the RNA’s Falklands 40th anniversary,’ he said.
‘The organising was the difficult bit, in getting people willing to give up their time.’
Antony Craig, 58, of Selsey, was among those to push the field gun for the best part of an hour. The former marine engineer, who served on HMS Exeter as an 18-year-old, can still vividly remember going to the Falklands.
‘We were in Florida at the time and were told to go to the Falklands. We thought it was somewhere around Scotland,’ he said.
‘We were in the dark about what was happening. But that’s better because you have less to worry about.
‘It was pretty harrowing. I had only been in the navy two years. We had to bunker down and didn’t know if we would survive at times. We got close to being hit but were never struck.
‘We took down an Argentine aircraft. It got hit and then just came down so quickly. We just thought, “thank god it was them not us”.’
Antony lost two good friends on HMS Sheffield and one on HMS Antrim during the conflict too. ‘I didn’t know at the time, it was only when we got back to Portsmouth three months later I found out,’ he said. ‘Two of them were 18 and the other one was 20. You had to grow into a man very quickly.’
Despite being surrounded by tragedy, Antony said of the war: ‘It could have been a lot worse. If the Argentinians had taken out our aircraft carriers it would have been.’
Speaking of the anniversary, he added: ‘I have fond memories and it is good to reunite with people again, some of us have not seen each other for 30 or 40 years.’
Ralph Dodds, 60, served on HMS Hecla, where he helped treat up to 100 casualties while working as a mobile ocean surgical hospital - including some Argentines. ‘Most of them were fine but there was one who was nasty, he was a prisoner of war,’ he said.
‘We took him to Uruguay where he was handed over to the authorities. I have no idea what they did with him.
‘It could be nervy doing transfers of patients. You just had to hope the enemy would see the white crosses and not hit you.’
Ralph said despite many patients being stabilised by the time they were passed over to them, he witnessed plenty of suffering. ‘Some had PTSD and others had bad skin burns where all the skin had been burnt off,’ he said.
Richard Shenton, 72, served on HMS Bristol during the conflict - acting as the ‘eyes and ears’ for HMS Invincible. He said: ‘You don’t forget, especially those who did not make it back.’
Positioned 200 miles off the coast, Richard, of West Sussex, said ‘everything ran smoothly’ the whole time they were out on operation - apart from one occasion.
‘The only time we were in danger and received an order to brace for impact was when a missile was coming towards us,’ he said. ‘But thankfully it got deflected and we got to survive. Sadly the container ship SS Atlantic Conveyor was hit though.’
It led to 12 sailors being killed.
Despite the horrors of war Richard said many veterans look back on the fond memories as well as remembering those who never returned.
‘We tend to only talk about the good times when looking back. Despite what happened, you only regret it if you did not go out there when given the chance. There were people who decided to stay at home and still regret it today,’ he added.
Michael Morrison was shopping in Gunwharf Quays with his children, Sophie and Ben. The 49-year-old said he was moved by the speech by retired Captain Bill Oliphant, who is the chief executive of the Royal Naval Association.
Michael said: ‘I remember being a boy and watching the task force leaving Portsmouth. It was something I’ll never forget. Hearing the captain’s speech, about all the ships lost and people who died, was really moving.’
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Anne Jenkins, 64, of Southsea, also witnessed the arrival of the field gun team in Gunwharf.
She said: ‘My late husband was part of the navy and he would have absolutely loved seeing this. It was wonderful to see so many people supporting the team.’