Falklands War: Remembering the friends who never made it to breakfast

·2-min read

Standing in front of the list of service personnel who died in the Falklands, veteran of the conflict Bill Haley sees names he recognises.

"To people passing through, they're just names on a wall" he says. "To me, they're people that I probably passed on the way to breakfast.

"There are names on here of three very good friends of mine who I'll never forget. They were wonderful people."

The names of all 255 British service personnel who died in the conflict are inscribed on the Armed Forces Memorial and the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire.

On Tuesday, 40 years on from the end of the conflict, veterans and bereaved relatives gathered at the Arboretum for a service of remembrance.

Bill Haley was in his thirties and nearing the end of his time in the Royal Navy when he was sent to the Falklands.

"My job was to go minesweeping" he says, recalling the day he lost one of his friends during the war.

"I had to put him in a body bag. A very good, close friend. And when you do that, you realise life is very short, very quick and it can be over very, very quickly.

"You can have breakfast on the Monday morning and you won't see the same guys again on the Tuesday morning. There's somebody missing.

"But you never actually say what has happened. You automatically know what has happened. And you just try to carry on and do the best you can for the people that are no longer here.

"That's what our job was."

Four decades later, many veterans still bear the scars, both physical and psychological.

Mr Haley finds the memories difficult to deal with. "I talk to people," he says. "I talk to people and tell them what I'm doing and I hope they're ok and it sort of gets you through things."

But he added: "I hope it continues to affect me because it means I'm thinking about them guys all the time. And they need to be remembered because I certainly won't forget them ever."

Some 30,000 sailors, marines, soldiers, airmen and merchant mariners took part in the Falklands War, along with many civilians who helped with the war effort.

The conflict lasted 74 days, during which seven British ships were lost to enemy action and nine aircraft were shot down.

A service of commemoration is also taking place on the Falkland Islands, at the 1982 Liberation Memorial in Port Stanley, with a live link to the veterans marking the occasion in Staffordshire.

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