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Falklands veteran on emotional return trip
A VETERAN of the Falklands War flew out to the islands last night to take part in Remembrance Day services for his fallen friends.
Paul Graves, 49, from Witney, was a private in 2nd Battalion The Parachute Regiment, which was the first to land on the island and suffered the most casualties during the conflict.
The pilgrimage comes 30 years after the war and Mr Graves will take part in a Remembrance Day service as a guest of the Falkland Islands government with 50 other veterans.
He joined the Army in 1980 and took part in conflicts in Northern Ireland and the Falklands.
Later, as an RAF Regiment Gunner, he fought in the First Gulf War in 2003.
He left the forces in 2004 and now works for a private security firm.
The married father-of-one, who was 19 during the Falklands War, said: “It was cold, wet, miserable and we sometimes ran short of food, ammunition and support, but I guess it was like any war – bloody and dangerous.
“But we were paratroopers and the best infantry unit in the best army in the world, and in our minds the result was never in doubt.”
He was involved in the Battle of Goose Green, for which Lieutenant Colonel Herbert Jones, who commanded 2 Para, was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.
Mr Graves said: “It was pretty horrific stuff.
“The role of the infantry is to seek out and close in on the enemy, to kill or capture him, to seize and hold ground, and that was exactly what we did – mostly at night with bayonets fixed.
“All men are afraid in battle but you have to overcome your fear. You fight for your friends, unit and the sense of duty.”
As part of the pilgrimage, they will lay wreaths at the San Carlos War Cemetery, attend an official government reception, visit a military airbase and take part in a service of remembrance at Port Stanley’s liberation monument on Sunday. Mr Graves, who has not visited the country since he left the forces, said: “I want to go back and see how things have changed and if it was worth the sacrifice, speak to the locals and see their perspective.
“Two hundred and fifty-five servicemen were killed, with the Parachute Regiment suffering the most casualties – 40 men killed and 68 wounded. It will be an emotional visit for all of us but we will all be together.”
He urged Oxfordshire residents to turn out and pay their respects on Sunday.