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EDITIONS
Monday, 11 November, 2002, 17:47 GMT
'Back to the Falklands to grieve'
Troops making for safety as Sir Galahad blazed in 1982
Ian lost three comrades on the Sir Galahad
Ian Fletcher, wounded on the Sir Galahad, is one of the 150 Falklands veterans going to Port Stanley for Remembrance Day. Yet the government has refused to help them get there.

I was only in the Falklands for a week during the war. My unit, Five Brigade, was with the Welsh Guards on the way to Port Stanley for the final push. As everybody knows, our ship got bombed.

Ian at the Falkland Islands Defence Force HQ, with Stanley harbour and Mt Low behind
Ian has since made it to the Falklands
My unit took quite a bit of the brunt of that. We lost three men - from a 30-strong unit, this was quite a blow.

I didn't see the Argentine jet coming. My unit was below deck at the time, which was where the bomb hit. We were all sat just waiting to get off the ship when a load of people's heads peered over and started shouting: 'Take cover, take cover!'

I could feel the panic in the air. There was a load of kit bags piled up in the centre and I just ran towards those when I was blown off my feet.

'My war ended'

I was injured - dislocated shoulder, cuts, bruises and minor burns. I was airlifted off the ship, evacuated to a hospital ship, and that was the end of it for me.

This will be my first trip back since 1982. I've got mixed feelings - it'll be a very emotional experience.

It will be a pilgrimage for us, so we'll be visiting the memorials and battlefields as well as taking part in a Remembrance Day service. It's an emotional time for us anyway, but this year even more so as it's the 20th anniversary of the conflict.

Troops being rescued from the Sir Galahad
"I was airlifted off the ship"
My veterans' association have had to raise all the money because we've been unable to get any official funding from the military or the government.

The Islanders themselves have put a lot into it - fundraising, organising events, putting us all up - and they don't know us from Adam.

The only route into the islands is by civilian aircraft through Argentina, which isn't viable for us, or by RAF aircraft. We were unable to get an RAF plane - probably because the government doesn't want to set a precedent of flying veterans around the world - or even negotiate civilian rates for the flight.

'Fly our own plane'

So we've chartered our own plane, which will be flown by a couple of Falklands veterans who are pilots.

It'll be a busy week, an entertaining week, an emotional week. A group of us will make a point of going to where the Galahad was hit. I'm going to take a little poppy cross - just something symbolic and not too flamboyant - and have a little time for reflection.

Argentine troops surrendering
Ian didn't see the British victory
Like many of my former comrades, I have a pension for post-traumatic stress disorder, and I have had problems with depression.

I chose to leave the army the year after the war. I'd already served nine years even at that young age - I was 24 - and I also decided that I'd been fairly lucky to come out alive.

But I'm also looking forward to going around the island, seeing the places and meeting the people. I only saw a small part before, and what I did see wasn't in its best light.


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Ian Fletcher
"We were on the Galahad with the Welsh Guards"


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