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Falklands veteran from Corby receives South Atlantic Medal at reunion

A Falklands veteran from Corby has joined his former crewmates for a special reunion.

Veterans of aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious’ 1982 personnel gathered at Portsmouth’s Guildhall to exchange memories and greet old friends.

But the main reason was for the veterans to be presented with their South Atlantic Medal, recognising their vital work in the aftermath of the Falklands War.

It has taken 33 years for the crew to receive the medal after prime minister David Cameron extended the honour to them last year.

But for many of the ship’s company, it arrived in the post and they thought a real ceremony should be organised for them to be presented with it.

Craig Haldane being presented with his medal by Admiral Sir Jock Slater

Craig Haldane being presented with his medal by Admiral Sir Jock Slater

More than 100 of the crew were at Portsmouth Guildhall on April 11 for the ceremony and even more joined the celebrations in the evening.

Among those was landlord of The Cardigan Arms Craig Haldane, 50.

The ship’s former captain Admiral Sir Jock Slater said the reunion was a great chance for the men to exchange memories about the rush they had to get HMS Illustrious ready for the war.

He said: “That was a unique experience for them.

Ex-crew members of HMS Illustrious

Ex-crew members of HMS Illustrious

“Many of the ship’s company joined me when we left the Tyne in Newcastle.

“The ship’s deployment was brought forward by three-and-a-half months which was a remarkable achievement.

“It took 70 days and 70 nights of leaving the Tyne for us to be fully operational in the South Atlantic.

“It was tremendous experience for me and the ships company so it is great to see them again.

The crew of HMS Illustrious at the Guildhall in Portsmouth

The crew of HMS Illustrious at the Guildhall in Portsmouth

“Most people thought it wasn’t achievable for us to complete the ship in the timeframe we had.

“But we managed to do it and that is one of the great memories I have of Illustrious.”

HMS Illustrious arrived in the South Atlantic to relieve HMS Invincible after the Falklands War had finished in August to help with dangerous clean-up work.

And the ship played an important role of providing air defence until the airbase on the islands was operational.