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Monday, 11 November, 2002, 13:05 GMT
NI vets put Falklands ghosts to rest
Veterans marched to Port Stanley
Veterans marched to Port Stanley on Sunday
Veterans of the Falklands war travelled back to the islands where they fought the Argentinians 20 years ago to attend a special Remembrance service.

Some of them told BBC Northern Ireland correspondent Mike McKimm that the journey was also about exorcising personal ghosts as part of a process of trying to overcome the trauma of what they saw and did.

As the 200 veterans wandered the battlefields in search of the place where so many of them had lost colleagues and friends, Paddy Burton played the piper's lament.

The Royal Marine from Lurgan in County Armagh said he was trying to come to terms with the terrible events he had witnessed.

"There are wounds that no-one ever sees except those that are closest to you, like my wife. I am up every night with nightmares and things.

"I have come down here and it is helping me to put a few ghosts to rest," he said.


People talk about psychosomatic things, and as a Royal Marine I would say what a load of rubbish, but there is something happening there physically

Royal Marine Paddy Burton

Mr Burton was with the first wave of troops onto the island in 1982.

"When the two Sky Hawks came into San Carlos settlement, they bombed Ajax Bay and then came across the water and bombed us.

"I very distinctly remember taking cover and the aircraft coming overhead. I can remember seeing the silhouette of the pilot with his mask looking down at us and dropping this 1,000 lb bomb and I thought: This is it, I am dead now.

"As it happened, it landed just bedside my buddy's trench - Marine Stephen McAndrews- and killed him.

"When I ran over to see what I could do I was thinking: I am glad that is not me.

"That really broke the unspoken code of comradeship, but I have learned since that that is just part and parcel of coping with a traumatic incident.

"I am learning to put these things into perspective and it will probably take the rest of my life to do so."

Surgeon remembers

The South Atlantic Medal Association which organised the special visit encouraged the veterans to talk about what had happened to them and to relive the events.


I had to turn away 80 young men with skin hanging off their faces and fingers

Army surgeon Rick Jollie

Rick Jollie, a surgeon who treated many of the badly injured when the ship Sir Galahad was bombed, has grim memories of triage - trying to decide who he could treat and who he could not.

"I had to turn away 80 young men with skin hanging off their faces and fingers," he said.

"And I will never forget, as I rather guiltily told them I couldn't treat them, their sing-song Welsh voices saying: Don't worry about me, sir. You look after my mate. Have you seen him?

"They behaved in a very self-disciplined and splendid way."

On Remembrance Sunday at Stanley Cathedral, locals gave up their pews to the veterans in the small church as a gesture of their thanks.

They had raised 30,000 towards the cost of the trip, with the veterans paying about 500 each.

The veterans stayed at homes of islanders and many were offered transport to the battle sites.

Islanders' thanks

Tony Smith was living on the Falklands in 1982 when the Argentinians invaded.

"Everyone feels honoured to have all the pilgrims here," he said.

"The least we can do is to host them and look after them while they are here after the great commitment they made to us in 1982."

The emphasis of the pilgrimage was to help those whose lives had been destroyed by the stress of those few weeks in the Falklands.

Paddy Burton said the short visit had brought dramatic changes for him.

"The lifting of a lot of stress and anxiety has eased off a lot of the pain in my knee and my shoulder," he said.

"People talk about psychosomatic things, and as a Royal Marine I would say what a load of rubbish, but there is something happening there physically."

More than 250 British soldiers lost their lives in the Falklands campaign.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC NI correspondent Mike McKimm
talks to veterans about their attempts to overcome the trauma they have suffered since the Falklands war
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