Former Welsh Guardsman Simon Weston sustained life- changing injuries when his ship the Sir Galahad was bombed by Argentinian aircraft during the 1982 Falklands War. Now aged 55, he’s an author, motivational speaker and has been awarded a CBE for his charity work. On Saturday he presents a documentary on BBC2 about the Imperial War Museums – here he reflects on his life after the war.
I’ve never wanted to be defined by the Falklands War. Without the war my life would be very different, but I’m not in the public eye today because of what happened then; rather, because of what I’ve done since. People can’t and shouldn’t still be expressing sympathy 35 years on. It’s what you do with your life after that counts.
We shouldn’t have been on the Sir Galahad when it was bombed. There was a catalogue of disasters, but that’s war. Lieutenant Colonel Rickett [the Guards’ commanding officer] lives with the sadness of what happened because we were his boys. He was desperate to get us off, but the communications were shocking. Things just went wrong. I have spoken to him about it a couple of times and it’s hard to see a grown man you like and respect with tears in his eyes. He lost people. The reality was that he had no control of the situation.
I remember the past, but don’t dwell on it. Thirty-five years might not seem a significant anniversary, but to those who survive it is notable. We are still here and those we left behind would love to be here with our aches and our pains. I celebrate the fact that I was privileged to know so many brave people. They weren’t all the best or the brightest, but they were some of the most wonderful, funny and lovely people to be around.
I have no hate for the pilot who bombed us. I’ve met him since and we remain very good friends. We shared a split second in time. Our countries were at war. Having spoken to him, he didn’t know there were as many people on the ship as there were [48 men were killed]. Unlike terrorists, this guy wore his country’s uniform and he was very good at his job – he should have been, the RAF trained him.
I don’t see myself as a victim. I’ve never said, “Why me?” – always “Why shouldn’t it have been me?” If you see yourself as a victim, that’s all you’ll ever be.
People do still stare. But I don’t notice as much as I did. I’m not as self-conscious about my appearance as I was. I think that’s something that comes with age. I am too busy doing my own thing – the last thing I’m doing is taking notice of other people.
I spend a lot of time doing motivational speaking. I understand all there is to know about self-doubt. For a long time I was down and depressed and suffering terribly with PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder]. But I realised the best thing anyone can do in life is believe in who you are, like who you are, and be confident. As long as you do the right things and try to live your life the right way, you’ve got a chance.
My family is the most important thing to me. But I have no interest in my natural father. He left home when I was quite young. He came to see me once in hospital immediately after the Falklands War, but I’ve had no further contact with him. My mum is still fighting fit and as good as gold. But not him, no.
I count my blessings every day. My life is wonderful. I never for a moment thought I’d end up where I’m at. I feel so blessed and so incredibly privileged.
I love being with my family. Seeing my three kids succeed is really important. I have a grandson of five and a granddaughter on the way. My glass isn’t half-full – it’s completely full.