Today marks the 30th anniversary of the landing of Argentine troops on the Falklands – but for Blackwood man Denzil Connick the memories of the conflict are still as clear as if it was yesterday. RUTH MANSFIELD reports.
IF the rest of us remember those who lost their lives in the Falklands war on anniversaries and Remembrance Sunday, Denzil Connick carries his memories with him every day.
The ten-week war saw 255 British and more than 645 Argentine troops killed.
The 55-year-old veteran of the Parachute Regiment is a survivor of the bloody battle for Mount Longdon, a day when he saw 23 of his comrades lose their lives.
And it was a battle which left him permanently disabled, losing a leg and almost losing another in a mortar attack.
Mr Connick said: “Obviously anniversaries do bring up strong memories but, for me, my memories are as fresh today as they always have been.
“I remember it every single day – it was such a lifechanging thing.
“There were such an awful lot of losses and although I think of myself as one of the lucky ones as I survived, there is a burden that goes with survival – that I survived something that would kill most people.
“But I would never have survived without such welltrained mates who battled to save my life and the excellent military care in the hospital.”
Mr Connick had joined the Third Parachute Battalion in 1972 after leaving school at the age of 15.
While based at Salisbury Plain in 1982, the news came in that Argentina had invaded the Falkland Islands.
A week later, he was amongst the first troops to arrive at Port San Carlos, who then ‘yomped’ 70 miles across the north of the island carrying all their weapons and ammunition.
They arrived at the edge of Port Stanley on June 11 and were set the mission to take Mount Longdon and secure it, which they did in 12 hours.
But the fierce fighting saw heavy losses – with 23 of Mr Connick’s comrades killed.
It was during this continual shelling, just two days before the ceasefire, that Mr Connick was hit by a mortar bomb.
He lost his left leg which had to be amputated from the hip.
His other leg was also badly damaged but doctors on the hospital ship Uganda saved it.
But despite his injuries and losses, Mr Connick says it was worth fighting and that he is proud of what he did.
The former lance corporal said: “You have got to stand up to bullies and we did that.”
Mr Connick, who has suffered from post traumatic stress disorder, now campaigns for the welfare of veterans and founded the South Atlantic Medal Association for veterans of the Falklands war which now has around 4,000 members.
Members across the country have helped raise around £60,000 for a Falklands memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum in Alrewas in Staffordshire and Mr Connick will be at the memorial dedication in May.
He will also be attending a service and march in Aldershot in June.
His history has inspired sons Matthew, 27, and Stephen, 26, who serve in the Royal Navy and 1st Battalion Royal Welsh respectively.
Mr Connick said: “I still sometimes have low periods but I’ve learnt to cope with it.
“That’s the burden of being a professional soldier. I take my hat off to every soldier serving today.”
For more information on the South Atlantic Medal Association or to donate visit sama82.org.uk