A FORMER Royal Marine who fought in the Falklands says it would be a “national humiliation” if the islands ever fell into Argentinian hands.
Tony Green was 19 when he put on his green beret and headed to the South Atlantic to help reclaim distant patches of land that have been the subject of decades of dispute.
Today marks 30 years since the start of the bloody conflict that began when the military Junta government of Argentina claimed the Falklands.
Thousands of troops landed on the islands the South Americans call Las Malvinas and swept through the streets and fields.
WHAT DO YOU THINK? Email the newsdesk or telephone the newsdesk on (01429) 239380.
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher ordered the land be retaken and the fierce fighting that followed claimed the lives of 255 British servicemen, 649 Argentine servicemen and three civilian Falklanders.
Hartlepool-born Tony, 49, was part of a British military task force that travelled 8,000 miles to do battle on the islands from April 2 to June 14 – when white flags were finally flown in the capital Stanley by the Argentinians.
Recently, the economic blockade of the islands has been tightened by Argentina as tensions mounted prior to today’s anniversary, and Argentinian politicians have repeatedly said the Falklands belong to them.
Tony, who served in the Royal Marines for eight years, has called on politicians to do more to support the islanders amid the uncertainty.
Speaking from his home near Blackhall, Tony said: “I think after all that effort and blood and treasure that was expended in 1982, to let them go now or to lose them would be a national humiliation.
“If it happened, I would blame no-one but the politicians. Talk is cheap. We have a depleted Navy and I’m not even sure if we could defend them now.
“It would be a betrayal for them to become Argentinian. They count themselves as British through and through.
“The Argentinians thought they were going to liberate them. I think they got a bit of a surprise as the islanders are all British and owe their allegiance to the Queen.”
The short but fierce battles back in 1982 saw planes shot out of the sky, gigantic boats sink to the bottom of the ocean and mortars and bombs tear chunks out of the islands.
Tony, as part of 45 Commando Group, was part of a hardy group of men that stormed up a rocky outcrop called Two Sisters in the dead of night.
It was part of the Argentinian defence ring around the Falkland’s only city, Port Stanley.
Tony’s unit crept up the hill and were confronted by a barrage of machine gun fire.
They charged onwards and Tony threw a grenade into the machine gun’s bunker while shells landed only feet away.
Tony, who grew up on Hartlepool’s Headland and also served in the police force, where he rose to the rank of inspector in Hartlepool before retiring in February, said: “We knew we were part of a historic venture. I don’t think we ever doubted we would win.
“It subsequently transpired that it was a close-run thing.
“There were moments of immense fear, when I thought ‘I’m going to die in this foxhole and I hope my mum isn’t too grief stricken forever’.
“You didn’t know if you would be alive in the next five minutes.
“But your adrenaline and everything else takes over. You become a killing machine and all you can think about is winning. You suddenly just live on that knife edge.”
They stormed to the top of the hill and secured the Two Sisters, which helped lead to the Argentinian surrender just three days later.
Tony’s unit was then given the responsibility of looking after hundreds of Argentinian soldiers.
“When it stopped, you realised they were just like me,” said Tony.
“They were young lads who had been conscripted and just wanted to do what young lads do.
“There was a strange understanding between us. We had all been through the same thing and I hope we don’t have to again.”