Falklands veteran leads tributes aboard RFA Argus

A Falklands veteran paid an emotional tribute to his comrades as the flagship of the Navy’s Caribbean task group honoured the men of 1982.

Sailors, soldiers, marines and airmen gathered on the flight deck of RFA Argus for a service of thanksgiving for the lives lost liberating the South Atlantic islands 38 years ago.

Most personnel who put their lives on the line for the freedom of Falklanders are now in civilian jobs or retired, but a small number are still serving their nation, including Leading Hand Malcolm ‘Wilf’ Pickles.

Today he’s a seaman specialist aboard the aviation training ship, but in 1982 he was in the Royal Navy serving aboard frigate HMS Penelope, one of the vessels sent to the South Atlantic to liberate the Falklands from the Argentine junta.

He shared his experience aboard the Leander-class frigate with his Argus shipmates during the service.

He told them about the effectiveness of the Argentine Air Force, of the ships which were lost, and of the fear when an Exocet missile was fired and locked on to Penelope. Wilf and his shipmates were spared that day thanks to the ship’s chaff anti-missile defence. He summed up this chilling tale of survival with two words: “Chaff works.”

His experiences also sparked his creativity, prompting a poem on the subject of remembrance and the sacrifices made for freedom which he read out as part of the ceremony:

The Fallen

They gave their lives for freedom without a question why; their names now etched on monuments that reach up to the sky.

They may have died on Normandy Beach, or for the Falklands liberation. We thank you for your sacrifice for each coming generation.

Freedom comes, but at a price, that sometimes can be high. Never forget the ones who paid, the ones who had to die. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we’ll remember you, everyone.

Your sacrifice was not in vain. Your memory will live on.

The service, led by Royal Navy chaplain Olusegun Balogun, allowed the congregation to reflect on wider sacrifices by the Forces past and present and task group commander Captain Phillip Dennis thanked NHS staff and other key workers in the UK who have been fighting to limit the impacts of the Covid.

Argus plus new patrol ship HMS Medway are on stand-by to provide immediate assistance to British and Commonwealth citizens should a hurricane strike the region, courtesy of a specialist air group of Wildcat and Merlin helicopters, a team of disaster relief specialists, planners, Royal Marines and Royal Engineers.