THEY fought hand-to-hand, eyeball-to-eyeball in the bloodiest and costliest land battle of the Falklands War but, at the end of it, Mount Longdon belonged to 3 Para.

Twenty-three men of the Third battalion, the Parachute Regiment died in the fighting and six more were to die of their wounds.

Denzil Connick, pictured, a young lance-corporal from Blackwood, left his right leg on that bleak and distant mountain.

"It was at dusk on June 13, 1982. I was a radio operator with the fire support team and fire support company when the Argentinian shell came and took off my leg.

"The other two guys with me were killed. I lost a lot of good mates on that mountain. You could say I'm the lucky one" he says,laconically.

It was a bloody and savage engagement and every so often the flashbacks come, even after 20 years.

"Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a rather sneaky condition but there's nothing ambiguous about it at all. You either have it or you haven't, and I have it.

"It comes after the horrendous experience of battle which, in the case of Mount Longdon, was hand-to-hand fighting.

"With some guys it comes straight away. Others may not show any of the symptoms for years but when they come there is no mistaking then.

"You're nervous and jumpy and in a high state of preparedness for something awful long after the reason for that feeling has gone.

"There are flashbacks and mood changes. A lot of people become moody and violent or have trouble with relationships. I knew Teresa, who later became my wife, before the Falklands conflict and after I came home she was able to see changes in my mood.

"Divorce for men with PTSD is just about 100 percent. I'm the only one I know whose marriage hasn't suffered. Alcohol and drugs are usually resorted to when sufferers feel they can no longer cope and a very high proportion of people who suffer end up in one of Her Majesty's hotels.

"I know men who cannot bear November 5 because of the bangs and the smell of the cordite which sets off memories.

"And, men die. I estimate that there are at least ten suicides a year among Falkland veterans, which means that in the 20 that have elapsed 200 men have killed themselves.

"That's a very conservative estimate but it does mean that as many men have killed themselves since the war as actually died in battle."

Since the mid-1990s Denzil has been engaged in a battle against a lingering reluctance in official circles to diagnose and treat PTSD.

"The 'stiff upper lip brigade' who deny the very existence of PTSD. It's interesting that this particular brigade has usually seen service putting up tents somewhere but has little if any actual experience of battle.

"In other respects we have made great strides in helping those who suffer from PTSD but the facts are that the National Health Service has little experience of handling it and the military hospitals which did have the experience have all been closed.

"If you've got a guy who is on the edge of topping himself he has to be got to a GP who then has to make a referral.

"To keep down the costs the temptation is to keep treatment within the NHS Trust. Even when patients were referred to Combat Stress, which is an organisation specialising in treatment, there can be a waiting list of three months.

"The worst thing that can happen is that veterans can end up on a ward in a mental hospital".

The 'we' Denzil Connick refers to is the South Atlantic Medal Association 1982 ( SAMA) which has 1,700 of the 30,000 men who were awarded the South Atlantic Medal on the books and of which he is secretary and co-founder.

They are men who have seen the bloody reality of modern combat at first-hand without a single armchair warrior among them. A group picture of SAMA's key staff and advisers reads like a Who's Who of the British military including Lieutenant-General Sir Hew Pike, who at the time of the conflict was commanding officer 3 Para and therefore Denzil's boss.

But right in the middle of the official picture is Denzil Connick himself, the former lance-corporal whose little office on an industrial estate a mile from his Oakdale home is SAMA's HQ.

"SAMA isn't the biggest ex-service organisation and charity fighting for these men but it's a powerful hitter and we've already made some headway," he says.

"The government has appointed Dr Lewis Mooney Minister of Defence with special responsibility for veterans and there is definitely something happening.

"We aim to promote and maintain a sense of pride and comradeship among veterans of the South Atlantic campaign and to ensure that due consideration is given to their welfare. In particular, we want a system of fast-tracking treatment for those with PTSD.

"This time we are not going in with all guns blazing. Remember. We are talking about men who are suffering because they were willing to put their life on the line for their country."

Denzil Connick and the other members of SAMA will fight a subtle campaign on behalf of the Falklands veterans but when the occasion demands they will kick up a fuss. In 1984 Denzil Connick was demobilised, otherwise the Army might have been his lifelong career. They can take the man out of the Paras. But, as his fighting record as the secretary of SAMA has proved, you can't take the Para out of the man.