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Portsmouth dock workers recognised for Falklands War role

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image captionThe task force was hastily readied for action in April 1982

The role played by Portsmouth dock workers in preparing the taskforce to recapture the Falkland Islands has been recognised at a ceremony.

Thousands of civilians helped ready the fleet of ships to depart from Portsmouth in 1982 following the Argentine invasion of the islands.

The city's naval base was being wound down following a defence review when it was called into action.

Workers were described as "forgotten heroes" at a ceremony held at the base.

image captionThe plaque was unveiled at Portsmouth Naval Base by the city's lord mayor

Within hours of the Argentine invasion in April 1982, prime minister Margaret Thatcher announced a taskforce of more than 100 civilian and military ships would be prepared to sail from ports around the UK.

Many civilian personnel in Portsmouth were under threat of redundancy following the previous year's defence review.

Former dockyard worker Graham Willcocks said: "A lot of people were getting their redundancy notices, the next thing is we were told the Falklands was starting and people were asked to work overtime and late shifts.

"The all buckled to and worked right through until the September.

"The atmosphere and camaraderie was superb at that time".

image copyrightMirrorpix/Getty Images
image captionThe task force aircraft carriers sailed from Portsmouth in April 1982

Fellow worker Dennis Miles said: "A lot of the guys took the view, if we can prove what we're worth and let the nation see what we can do here in Portsmouth, then we might get a reprieve."

Speaking at the unveiling of a plaque, Commodore Jeremy Bailey, the current commander of Portsmouth Naval Base, said the invasion of the Falklands "would not have been possible" without the civilian effort.

"There is a danger they become the forgotten heroes of this remarkable national maritime effort," he added.

Two hundred and fifty five British personnel were killed in the conflict in the South Atlantic, as well an estimated 650 Argentines and three Falklands civilians.

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