‘We must never forget’: Falklands veterans reflect ahead of 40th anniversary

Ahead of the 40th anniversary of Argentina’s invasion of the Falkland Islands, British veterans of the conflict have spoken to the PA news agency

27 March 2022

A veteran of the Falklands War has said “not a day goes by” that he does not think about the conflict, ahead of the 40th anniversary of Argentina’s invasion.

The 10-week war claimed the lives of 255 British personnel, three civilian Falkland Islanders, and 649 Argentine personnel.

Christopher Howe, now 65, was a Petty Officer onboard HMS Coventry. The Royal Navy destroyer was attacked by Argentine jets on May 25 1982, and she sank a short while later. Nineteen crewmembers were killed.

He suffered 27% burns in the attack, and spoke to the PA news agency about his experience.

He said: “I’m here to tell the story, and 19 shipmates aren’t. I’ve learned to deal with it

“There’s not a day goes by that I don’t think about what happened then, you can’t help it.

Chris Howe at his home in Ewerby, Sleaford (Joe Giddens/PA)

“I used to have a lot of silent periods when I went into my own. I don’t know where I went, I was thinking of what had happened; Why was I lucky? Why did I escape? Why did 19 of my shipmates lose their lives?

“I take some pleasure from the fact that awareness is there 40 years on. We must never forget. They made a sacrifice. And as we say, ‘we gave our today for your tomorrow’.”

As HMS Coventry sank, sailors who had escaped sat in a liferaft and sang Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life.

Mr Howe said: “Having just been sunk, and in the bottom of the South Atlantic…they were singing”.

Falklands War – HMS Coventry
HMS Coventry, pictured during the Falklands War (PA)

Thomas Herring, now 71, was a sergeant in 3rd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment when Argentina invaded.

In the final days of the conflict, Mr Herring was part of the British operation to retake Mount Longdon, a strategic mountain overlooking the capital of the Falkland Islands, Port Stanley.

“It will remain in my mind, I think all of our minds, for a long time, for life. It was heavy, heavy stuff. It was something that soldiers will never forget”, he said.

Fighting uphill in freezing conditions against an enemy force that was well dug in, 23 British soldiers were killed in the battle, with many more wounded.

“What will probably stay with me forever is the casualties that were maimed by artillery and mortar fire. It’s quite horrendous”, he added.

Mr Herring said he hopes the 40th anniversary will be a reminder of the conflict for many people, adding: “We fought for our own territory…it’s not forgotten.”

“It’s a special place. It bonds together the class of 82, whether they were at sea, whether they were at Ascension Island, whether they were a dock worker in Gibraltar.”

HMS Endurance, an ice patrol ship, was stationed in the South Atlantic in the run up to Argentina’s invasion (Crown Copyright/PA)

Andrew Lockett, now 78, was a Lieutenant Commander on board HMS Endurance, an ice patrol vessel, when war broke out.

Reflecting on the conflict, he told PA the war showed “if you wish to intrude on somebody else’s parish with aggression, you are not going to get away with it”.

He said: “It wasn’t an option not to go and get it (the Falkland Islands) back; it had to be done, because we would have been walked over after that had we not done so.”

Unlike many of those who fought in the conflict, Mr Lockett had spent some time in the Falklands prior to the invasion. HMS Endurance was at sea in the South Atlantic when news came of the imminent invasion.

He added: “I was on the bridge watch, driving the ship, and the captain came up and said, ‘I think they are invading this morning’.

“When I heard that I was so sad. There were those people that we’d actually interacted with; the school that I had visited and even given a lesson, the hospital that I had gone to see, and you think ‘this is awful, they are a peaceful, virtually undefended, set of Islanders who had a comfortable home, very loyal to the British crown. And they were about to suffer’.”

Andrew Lockett in 1982 (Andrew Lockett/PA)

The war saw not just military suffering, but Falkland Islanders held captive by the Argentine invading force. In Goose Green, a settlement approximately 50 miles from Port Stanley, tens of Falkland Islanders were held inside the village hall by Argentine forces.

Reflecting on this, Mr Lockett said: “When your home is destroyed, when you’re locked up in a village hall for a month, this has a lasting effect on people. And it’s not just adults, it’s children, it’s old people. It addresses the whole spectrum of people in all of their weaknesses.

“War is not to be taken lightly. Not at all.

“People should forever remember the importance of it: the safeguarding of British people, wherever their territory, and the importance of remembering those who gave their lives for that campaign.”

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