NIGEL Fielding said he will always remember the moment an Argentine exocet missile scored a direct hit on his ship, the HMS Glamorgan, off the Falkland Islands in 1982.
As flames ripped through the ship and his boots melted from the heat, Nigel, fought desperately to reach trapped crewmen.
His efforts were in vain.
In the attack, at 6.31am on June 12, 13 crewmen died, another later died from wounds and 42 were injured.
Nigel, 54, who works at the Newton Park hotel, in Newton Solney, said he thinks about the attack every day.
He said: “It’s something that stays with you.
“You don’t forget it – there’s not a day that goes by when I don’t think about what happened.”
Nigel is speaking after the latest bout of sabre-rattling from the Argentine Government over the future of the Falkland Islands.
On Wednesday, Hector Timerman, Argentina’s foreign minister said the Falklands will be under Argentine rule in 20 years.
His belligerent claim comes almost 31 years after the Glamorgan was ordered to spearhead Britain’s military response to the Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands in 1982.
On April 2 1982 Nigel, then 24, was stationed in Gibraltar when news filtered through that Argentina’s military junta had invaded the islands, which had been under British rule for 150 years.
The Glamorgan, the British task force’s flag ship, was ordered to the Ascension Islands in the mid-Atlantic. From there the ship was went onwards to the South Atlantic to take the fight to the Argentine forces dug in around Port Stanley.
When the Glamorgan fired the war’s first salvos in a daylight attack on May 1, it was the first time Nigel had seen action.
Nigel, whose job was to control the breathing apperatus of onboard firemen, said: “Suddenly two Mirage jets appeared and fired at us. We realised this wasn’t a game.
“We started making attacks at nights from then on.”
By June, the British were preparing to attack strategic Argentine mountain positions called the Two Sisters.
Nigel said the struggle for the mountain summits was crucial in the fight to secure the islands.
He said: “We knew if we didn’t win, the war would be a long trek.
“The ships had been down there a long time and we would not have been able to go for much longer.
“The lads on the shore had trekked 60 miles across inhospitable country and then had to fight against overwhelming odds.”
The Glamorgan had been supporting the Royal Marine’s attack on the Two Sisters when it was struck by the deadly exocet.
Nigel said: “The marines had been held up in the attack so that meant we were late getting back to the carrier group.
“That’s when we were attacked.
“I was stood on a hanger with the fire fighters trying to get the hatch open because we knew people were trapped in there.
“Unfortunately we weren’t successful.”
The Glamorgan was so badly damaged in the attack the ship was reported as sunk.
But for five hours, Nigel, and the rest of the crew fought the flames and saved the ship.
He said: “It was not until then we knew we were going to survive.”
Two days later, the Argentine forces surrendered - the war over.
But for Nigel, and many other veterans, the memories remain.
He said the sabre-rattling by Argentine Government, under Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, brings the memories back.
Nigel, who now lives in Tamworth, said: “I understand why they are saying it.
“They are politicians and have to say that sort of thing.”
A referendum on the political status of the Falkland Islands will be held in March.
Nigel said: “If the vote is less than 100 per cent British I would be very surprised.
“I know we have given islands back before but I don’t think it will ever happen with the Falklands.”
Nigel said the shocking truth is more veterans of the Falklands War have committed suicide than were killed in the conflict.
He said: “We were offered a few beers and told to forget about it. But some are still having those beers and haven’t forgotten.
“People have to bear in minds that people’s lives were lost.
“That is the real politic.”