The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall have met veterans of the Falklands war during a reception to mark the 40th anniversary of the conflict on board the Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth.
The couple were greeted by the president of the South Atlantic Medal Association 82 (SAMA82), Commodore Jamie Miller, and received the royal salute from a Royal Navy guard of honour accompanied by an army band on the jetty at Portsmouth Naval Base.
As they arrived on the ship, they were met by the carrier’s commanding officer, Captain Ian Feasey, and Defence Secretary Ben Wallace.
Charles and Camilla then had a chance to meet veterans of the Falklands war, serving personnel and their families during a reception in the carrier’s vast hangar.
The UK is as determined to defend our values now as we were 40 years agoDefence Secretary Ben Wallace
The reception concluded with a flourish by buglers and the royal couple were given “three cheers” as they signed the visitor’s book before leaving the ship.
Charles became the royal patron of the SAMA82 when it was founded in 1997 to recognise the role of all three services in the conflict.
Mr Wallace said: “Forty years ago, 30,000 service personnel made the 8,000-mile journey to help protect the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands. Today, we thank every one of them for their efforts and honour the 255 who paid the ultimate sacrifice.
“I am heartened that veterans from the Falklands conflict have had the opportunity to spend time with, and continue to inspire, serving members of our armed forces.
“The UK is as determined to defend our values now as we were 40 years ago.”
Cpt Feasey said: “It was humbling for our sailors and officers to meet veterans of the Falklands conflict and to remember the sacrifices made by the UK armed forces and Merchant Navy personnel during the Falklands conflict, in which aircraft carriers played a vital role.”
The reception on board HMS Queen Elizabeth is one of many events being held across the country to commemorate those who fought in the war and the 255 service personnel who lost their lives.
Mr Miller, who survived the sinking of destroyer HMS Coventry, said: “We have already enjoyed around 25 major events around the country to commemorate the 40th anniversary to remind people of what we achieved, celebrating the success of Great Britain’s armed forces and strengthening our association’s membership.
“To have Their Royal Highnesses present aboard the nation’s flagship – a reminder of the importance of sea power and the vital role of aircraft carriers in the Falklands – is a fitting end to this year’s events and we are truly honoured by their presence.
“It is vital that we remember the past to get the present and future right.”
Engineering Technician (Weapons Engineering) Lewis Merckel, 20, whose first ship in the navy is the HMS Queen Elizabeth, attended the reception with his father Martyn, 60, who served as an able seaman aboard HMS Yarmouth during the Falklands conflict.
Mr Merckel said: “I was keen to get the experiences and see the things my dad did, there are a lot of traditions that haven’t changed.
“The world is in a similar state to how it was when my dad went to war, we have all talked about it, we have had the conversation, it’s what I signed up for, I want to do what my dad did.”
Mr Merckel, from near Kendal in Cumbria, said: “It’s all very emotional, it brings back memories and I’ve met people I haven’t seen for 40 years.”