Swanage veterans to mark 40th anniversary of Falklands War

Local ex-service members and those who wish to pay their respects are to gather for a service at the Swanage War Memorial to commemorate the end of the Falklands War in 1982.

The ceremony at 2.30 pm on Saturday 11th June 2022 is to remember those who died in the fight to regain the islands in the South Atlantic captured by Argentina and also those who suffered afterwards from the mental scars.

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HMS Antrim in Grytviken harbour South Georgia
Steve Churchill

HMS Antrim in Grytviken Harbour in South Georgia

Task force

The conflict started on Friday 2nd April 1982 when Argentina invaded the Falkland Isles. It lasted 74 days, ending on Monday 14th June 1982.

In all, 255 British personnel lost their lives in the conflict, as well as 649 Argentinians and three Falkland Islanders.

The British forces successfully retook the Falkland Isles and South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands after a task force was famously assembled at speed to transport service members and machinery 8,000 miles across the sea.

Regular navy ships were joined by a variety of requisitioned civilian vessels including SS Canberra which had just returned from a world cruise, and the liner QE2.

HMS Antrim, cannon damage, 1982
Steve Churchill

HMS Antrim with cannon damage in 1982

“Proud to have been part”

Swanage resident Steve Hooper, who was a chef on the destroyer HMS Bristol, said:

“I feel proud to have been part of that moment in history. No one likes going to war, but you’re trained for everything.”

His type 82 destroyer had the unenviable task of ‘goal keeping’ to intercept or take the hit from incoming missiles to protect the aircraft carriers.

Steve Hooper
Steve Hooper
Steve Hooper
Carolyn Hooper

Steve Hooper, then and now

Wife was expecting

Based at HMS Osprey in Portland, at the time, Steve Hooper remembers clearly a visit from a police officer on the Friday telling him he had to report for duty on the Monday. It was an emotional moment because his wife Carolyn was pregnant with their first son Daniel.

Steve didn’t get back from the Falklands until ten days after his son was born in September 1982 after the ship remained on patrol duties when the conflict ended. Daniel went on to serve in the Navy in his own right, and brother Barry is still in the Navy.

Banner to welcome home Steve Hooper from Falklands
Carolyn Hooper

Welcome home banner opposite Carolyn Hooper’s parents’ Kings Road newsagents in Swanage which she was looking after at the time

“Lost some good friends down there”

Local resident Charlie Robson, who was a 31-year-old petty officer on the Atlantic Causeway, one of the container ships requisitioned to transport helicopters and other equipment the 8,000 miles to the Falklands, said:

“I lost some good friends down there, so it’s one of those things that I push to one side. The world’s a very different place now.”

Steve Churchill, third right, at a Falklands Veterans gathering for Armed Forces Day 2019 in Cleethorpes
Steve Churchill

Steve Churchill, third right, at an Armed Forces Day reunion in 2019

“Forgotten conflict”

Steve Churchill is currently chair of Swanage Royal British Legion. In 1982 he was a 23-year-old leading seaman (radar) assigned to anti air warfare gun support.

He said:

“As a Falklands veteran I think it’s only right that 40 years ago is remembered, as it sometimes appears to be the forgotten conflict. 255 British servicemen paid the ultimate sacrifice and some have no grave but the sea. How many will be around for the 50th anniversary?”

Steve Churchill, homecoming, Swanage Carnival 1982
Steve Churchill

Steve Churchill, now chair of Swanage Royal British Legion, back home at Swanage Carnival in 1982 after the conflict ended

Effects of trauma

He is also keen to highlight the after effects of conflict, like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which was not recognised at the time.

He said: 

“It’s a sad fact that more ex-servicemen of this conflict than those killed in action have since committed suicide due to PTSD.”

Steve Churchill was aboard HMS Antrim and went ashore at South Georgia island after the surrender of Argentine forces on Sunday 25th April 1982.

Bomb in the toilet on HMS Antrim, 1982
Steve Churchill

An Argentinian bomb lodged in the toilet but didn’t go off

Bomb failed to detonate

Later, on Friday 21st May 1982, the ship was hit by a thousand-pound bomb as it sailed through San Carlos water in what was known as ‘Bomb Alley’, a strip of water between East Falkland and West Falkland.

The bomb came to rest in a toilet, after passing through the missile loading bay into the missile magazine then heading upwards towards the flight deck.

The ship sailed around for ten hours with the bomb onboard under constant air attack before eventually it could be removed and ditched safely into the sea.

Swanage War Memorial

Swanage War Memorial, where the ceremony takes place

All are welcome to attend

Other veterans are also expected to take part in Saturday’s commemoration service, including local Steve Overall who was on the ill-fated HMS Coventry, a type 42 destroyer, which was sunk by an Argentinian missile on Tuesday 25th May 1982 with the loss of 19 crew and 30 injured.

All are welcome to attend the commemoration at 2.30 pm on Saturday 11th June 2022 at the Swanage War Memorial.

Falklands War service of commemoration
Steve Churchill

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