Hartlepool Falklands veteran in emotional reunion with old shipmates

Dennis Wake was a 19-year-old when he served on HMS Active.
Dennis Wake was a 19-year-old when he served on HMS Active.

A Hartlepool man has been reunited with his former Falklands conflict colleagues for the first time in 35 years.

Dennis Wake was a 19-year-old when he became part of the ship’s company on board the type 21-class frigate HMS Active. He never forgot the drama of war, or the people he served with.

Raising a glass in tribute. The former crewmates back together once more.

Raising a glass in tribute. The former crewmates back together once more.

Former shipmates met up once more in a reunion at the Royal Corinthian Yacht Club in Plymouth. There were 78 of the original 171 crew there, as well as wives and girlfriends and Dennis admitted: “It was quite emotional. Seeing people for the first time and recognising them was the hard part.”

Back then, Dennis was a Marine Engineer Mechanic and had not originally been called up as part of the fleet which sailed with Active among it.

But he was drafted to Active to replace two other people - and had to sail towards the war zone on board the QE2 to catch up with Active.

He headed to Georgia and then took the SS Canberra from South Georgia before being transferred to Active in San Carlos Waters.

It was quite emotional. Seeing people for the first time and recognising them was the hard part

Dennis Wake

But Active was no standby ship which saw no action. By day, she patrolled the outer perimeter zone. By night, she moved in close to the island and gunned Argentine positions. More than 100 shots per night would be fired on enemy positions.

All he could do, said Dennis, was “try and relax and close your mind to what was happening.”

Dennis remained in the Falklands for around two months and said it was a “life changing experience” - one which only someone who had experienced it for themselves would understand.

Those who did understand finally got together after 18 months of efforts to organise a reunion.

It paid off for all who took part - and the date it was held coincided with the anniversary of HMS Active returning home from battle.

He said it was great to meet like-minded people and other ships’ companies “that knew exactly what was happening. We had a good chinwag and talked over old times.

“It helped because civilians don’t understand it unless they have been through it themselves.”

The reunion went so well that organisers are hoping to organise a 40th anniversary get-together. It could be held at one of two venues. One could be Plymouth again or it may be Burnley (the town which adopted the ship).

Those who attended the 25th anniversary event were presented with a letter from Queen, one from the Mayor of Burnley, and one from the Commissioner of the Falkland Islands to thank them for what they did.

If you have your own piece of nostalgia you would like to share, email chris.cordner@jpress.co.uk