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Simon Weston interview: "Today’s enemy can be tomorrow’s friend"

Falklands survivor Simon Weston on his "amazing mother", his experiences in Northern Ireland, and finding love

I was relatively shy at 16, very immature. I played a bit of rugby but didn’t take advantage of the talent I had. I wish there had been greater focus in school on helping people make decisions, rather than focusing on ABCs and one-two-threes. Some teachers told me I was thick and I knew I wasn’t.

My mam was an outstanding mother. She was a single mum, my dad had left and she was working two jobs. I was an idiot that made poor decisions but she always stood by me, was always disciplined. She was amazing. My home life was wonderful in many ways.

I left school around 14 or 15 to work with metal fabricators. Even though it was illegal [at that age] it was far more rewarding. I was working with men who demanded I was able to do the job. It could kill people if you didn’t do it properly. I got into a spot of bother when I was 14, going down the wrong path, and needed to get away from where I was. The military came at just the right time.

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When I joined the army I realised I wanted to make my mother proud. Everything I’ve done, I always think: what would your mother think about you doing this? I would tell 16-year-old Simon the feeling of letting someone down is awful and you never want to do it again.

I served in Berlin, Kenya and Northern Ireland before the Falklands. It was an incredible experience. Each was so different, with unique problems. Northern Ireland added a lot to my life and taught me a lot about tolerance, understanding, not hating people for some perceived difference.

I’d tell my younger self: after the injury, there is a light at the end of the tunnel [Simon suffered 46 per cent burns after his ship, Sir Galahad, was bombed in the Falklands War in 1982]. Don’t feel despondent, don’t become depressed. There are ways and people that will help you but you must know how to ask. Don’t beat yourself up because you survived.

Everything I’ve done, I always think: what would your mother think about you doing this?

It took me a while but I did eventually feel lucky that I survived when others didn’t. A great friend of mine said when I was learning to run marathons to stop running from milepost to milepost. Run from lamppost to lamppost: there’s less distance and you can see where you’re going.

I had to meet Carlos [Cachon, the Argentinian pilot who bombed Simon’s ship]. I had an image of this soulless demon, this figure with no eyes. We met in Argentina and Carlos is now someone I admire immensely. I’d tell my younger self that today’s enemy could be tomorrow’s friend. Don’t bear grudges or harbour resentments; don’t hate or you will remain a victim.

I was engaged before I went to the Falklands but we split after I got injured. I completely understand her reasoning and bear the girl no malice but I was filled with self-doubt. I wondered whether anyone was going to want me. I’ve never really liked what I looked like but I always liked me. I like who I am – a nice, hardworking person who would never do you a bad turn. I’d tell my younger self to believe and trust in himself: things will come good and you’ll find love that will last a lifetime. That’s all he would need to know. I met Lucy when I was doing stuff for other people and she came to help. We fell in love; the rest is history.

If I could go back and relive one day, it would have to be my wedding. I’d do it all again and do it more! We’ve been married 24 years, been together 27, and I’d love to get married again to the same girl. That put in place the happiness I’ve had since.

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