NEARLY fifty of his regiment were lost when troop ship Sir Galahad was bombed during the Falklands War, but Corporal Howard Moulton-Hawkins fought on to Port Stanley, where British forces recaptured the capital from Argentinian hands.

When Mr Moulton-Hawkins returned a few weeks later to take prisoners of war home and help clear Port Stanley of booby traps left behind by Argentinian soldiers, the last thing he expected to find was a friendship that would endure for nearly three decades.

But local man Neil Ford not only gave Mr Moulton-Hawkins, now 51, a room for his two month-long stay in 1982, he made him godfather of his newborn son, Marvin and most recently, in June this year, made him best man at his wedding to new wife, Christine.

The Fords have been on holiday in the UK and stayed with Mr Moulton-Hawkins in Constable Drive, St Julians.

They have visited nine times since 1982 and keep in touch regularly through the internet, with Mr Moulton-Hawkins admitting one of his greatest friendships was formed from the most unlikeliest of circumstances.

He served in the Welsh Guards for 10 years from 1974 to after the Falklands War finished, around 50 of his regiment were sent to make the streets of Port Stanley safe by clearing booby traps and unexploded grenades.

They had no accommodation and slept on the streets, in peat sheds and even in dustbins. But, after Mr Moulton-Hawkins helped Mr Ford’s first wife, Penny, carry her shopping home, they offered him their spare room.

They cooked for him, ran him hot baths and because he was so good with Marvin, left him as his babysitter and then made him godfather.

Mr Moulton-Hawkins, who has two children Jemima, 15 and Teddy, 14, returned to the Falkland Islands for the first time in June for Mr Ford’s second wedding.

That was also the first time he had seen his godson, Marvin, now 28, since his visit in 1982.

Mr Moulton-Hawkins said: “Falkland Islanders are extremely friendly and grateful for what British soldiers did for them. The conditions were tough for everyone in 1982 and we came together in the aftermath of all that happened.”

Flights from the Falkland Islands to the UK are expensive and cost around £2,000 from RAF Brize Norton, but he is hoping his godson will be able to visit Newport soon.

'My home was booby-trapped by Argentinians'

Following the Argentinian invasion of Port Stanley, Mr Ford, now 47, fled the area with his family, finding refuge in Fitzroy.

He returned when the conflict ended to find his home ransacked after being occupied by Argentinian soliders.

"They had used my deep freezer as a toilet and left traps everywhere, such as hand grenades under upturned tea cups," he said.

The Welsh Guards took him home and with many of these sleeping rough as they made the area safe, Mr Ford's gesture was initially "a way of showing appreciation for being liberated".

But he became close with Mr Moulton-Hawkins - who shares the same birthday as him - and they stayed in regular contact after he left.

Mr Ford said: "We've been close ever since, phoning on birthdays and Christmas. But, it took us getting married to get him over again. Hopefully, it won't be as long until next time and we can have a joint birthday celebration."