A SHORT but bitter war followed the Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands on April 2, 1982, as Britain attempted to regain the territory it had ruled for 150 years.

A British taskforce of 28,000 troops and more than 100 vessels fought against 12,000 soldiers and 40 ships from Argentina on land and sea.

The cluster of islands, 8,000 miles from Britain in the south Atlantic, was home to 1,800 people who Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher described as being ‘of British tradition and|stock’.

During the 74-day conflict, 655 Argentines, 255 British and three islanders died.

To mark the 30th anniversary of this brief but significant episode in British history, the County Gazette hears from Somerset people who served, lost friends and now remember the Falklands War.

ADMIRAL Sir Michael Layard, 76, who lives in Aller near Langport, served as a captain in the Royal Navy during the conflict.

He was in tactical command of the converted container ship the Atlantic Conveyer, which sank after coming under attack from Argentine forces on May 25, 1982.

He received a CBE in 1983 for his contribution in the Falklands War.

Sir Michael said: “The day before we were due to go in and offload stores at San Carlos there was a raid from some Argentinian aircraft with Exocet missiles and we were caught by a couple of them.

“The ship set on fire very badly – it started at one end and very soon we were a raging inferno.

“We had lots of bombs and such on board so I suggested in the evening that we should get off. It was beginning to get dark and the sea was rough.

“We abandoned ship but 12 people lost their lives in the process.

“We were rescued by a number of ships, including HMS Hermes and HMS Alacrity. They were very brave, they got close enough to us to throw lines to the rafts.

“Once rescued, we watched all night as she burned very brightly.

“I was more angry than sad that our mission had come to an end before we had completed it but there was also a feeling of sadness that we had lost so many men, including my good friend Ian North, the captain of the ship.”