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Last Updated: Monday, 11 June 2007, 15:59 GMT 16:59 UK
Soldier recalls Mt Longdon horror
Thelma Etim
BBC News, Hampshire

Mark Eyles-Thomas
Mark Eyles-Thomas on board the SS Canberra

One of the youngest soldiers to serve in the Falklands war believes services personnel should get medical treatment separately from civilian patients.

Mark Eyles-Thomas, his friends Neil Grose, Jason Burt and Ian Scrivens of 3 Para, were all 17 when they fought in the battle of Mt Longdon in June 1982.

Mr Thomas was the only survivor - his best friend Mr Grose, from Hampshire, Mr Scrivens and Mr Burt were shot.

He says forces personnel in hospital should be surrounded by their comrades.

"Traditionally, forces personnel have always been looked after independently and that is how it should be," said Mr Eyles-Thomas, whose best friend, Mr Grose died in his arms on his 18th birthday.

Neil was shot in the chest and had a terrible wound but he never complained once during the two and half hours he lay dying
Former soldier Mark Eyles-Thomas

Mr Eyles-Thomas was one of a number of soldiers who, having survived what became the bloodiest battle of the Falklands War, suffered from post traumatic stress when he returned to the UK.

Noting the contrast in public attitudes to the Falklands War in comparison with the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, he said: "The British public always stood behind us."

Mr Grose, from Gosport, Mr Burt, from Walthamstow in London and Mr Scrivens, from Yeovil, Somerset, were among the 23 paratroopers killed in the bloody land battle of Mount Longdon on 11 June.

For 25 years, Mr Eyles-Thomas, a married father-of-two, who now runs his own security company, has lived with the horror of that night when he lost his friends.

Neil Grose was shot in the chest
Neil Grose, from Gosport, Hampshire, was shot in the chest

In sub-zero temperatures, the 3rd Battalion Parachute Regiment launched a silent attack under the cover of darkness on the Argentinean position.

All four had been Junior Paras - they had joined up with their parents permission at 16.

Recalling how he had only just passed out in February 1982, before being dispatched to the Falklands on board the SS Canberra, Mr Eyles-Thomas, from Essex, said: "We were excited, we wanted to go with the battalion."

Recalling that night, he added: "It was pitch black, there were explosions and I could hear the men screaming.

"Neil was shot in the chest and had a terrible wound but he never complained once during the two and half hours he lay dying.

"I was absolutely devastated when he died, we were great friends - boy soldiers.

"A day does not go by when I don't think about the lads - I am painfully aware of the life experiences they will never have."

Mr Eyles-Thomas has written a book about his friendship with Mr Grose called "Sod That for a Game of Soldiers".


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