GB News 12th August 2021
Simon Weston (Veteran)
Nigel Farage (Broadcaster)
Venue: Pints of View
On the ‘Pints of View’ segment of his Nigel Farage Show, the ebullient host welcomed Falklands veteran Simon Weston. Farage was enjoying his usual pint, supped from a GB News logo embossed beer glass. Simon had been presented with a generous red wine.
Mr Farage began by congratulating the former Welsh Guardsman both on his recent 60th birthday and his CBE.
Simon replied he felt like the luckiest man alive.
Farge mentioned the Falklands war. On the 8th June 1982, his guest had been nearly 8000 miles from his native South Glamorgan waiting to disembark from RFA Sir Galahad at Port Pleasant (usually referred to as Bluff Cove), when it was bombed.
The resulting injuries, which included suffering 46% burns, Simon informed us, had meant 97 operations and a total of 6 years in hospital.
Unphased, he continued that with his sixty years had come wisdom. He had a simple philosophy. What are you prepared to do? Sink or get on with it?
He told a story of his time in military hospital. “Ah,” interrupted Farage, “we don’t have military hospitals anymore.” Both men agreed they were a sad loss.
In the military hospital, Simon had shared a ward with Grant, a paratrooper who had lost a leg. Grant had a simple philosophy too. He was going to make the most of a bad job.
What a refreshing antidote to the endless self-indulgent, victimhood television usually force-fed to us.
Your humble author’s favourite motivational quote also comes from a military man. Usually attributed to former Navy Secretary and Commander in Chief, President Theodore Roosevelt, it actually originates from a certain Squire Bill Widener of Wideners Valley Virginia. Squire Bill (not his real name) was a prominent community figure who worked as a millwright, teacher, Sunday School Superintendent, Justice of the Peace, spiritual advisor and Confederate soldier.
With a similar theme of self-help and initiative, his inspirational motto reads, “Do what you can, where you are, with what you have.”
Simon told of the journey back to Britain after his injuries in the Falklands. Firstly, he was evacuated from the bay to one of the Task Force’s hospital ships. I’m afraid I missed the name but it sounded as though it began with an ‘H’. Presumably either HMS Hecla, Hydra or Herald.
However, reference to a Mail on Sunday article by Lord Ashcroft suggests he was actually operated on aboard the SS Uganda, a vessel once used in peacetime as an educational cruise ship. Puffins of a certain vintage and minor public school heritage may have become familiar with the Uganda while touring the Crusader castles of the Levant.
After three and a half weeks at sea, there was a change of plan with Simon being taken to Montevideo to be flown back to the UK via Ascension Island.
If we may indulge in another well known saying, “As one door closes another one slams in your face”, this trip became fraught. Technical troubles resulted in, as Simon put it, “One of the engines dropping off’.”
Decades later, this seemed an appropriate anecdote to tell at an Air Ambulance fundraising event. At the end of which Mr Weston was approached by a tall thin impressive looking chap (perhaps with a handlebar moustache?) who introduced himself as the RAF maintenance engineer who, all those years ago in Montevideo, had been responsible for keeping Simon’s plane in good repair!
More recently, in 2012, he stood to be Crime and Police Commissioner for South Wales. However, the process became too political and he had to pull out, confiding to Farage that as a candidate he had not been thick-skinned enough.
As a fourteen-year-old, a conviction while a passenger in a stolen car was dragged up by some media. Although fined rather than jailed, it was a jailable offence and was used politically against him as the Crime and Police Commissioner election approached.
In conversation with Farage, Simon was generous towards the then Home Secretary Theresa May who had encouraged him to stand anyway although he was an independent rather than a Conservative. She also informed him such convictions expired at age 18. Despite this, some media were determined to pursue the matter resulting in Simon withdrawing his candidacy, disappointed with the politicisation of the post and wary of the possible toll this might take on his family.
In the event, the election was won by the Labour Party’s Alun Micheal who is still holding the position nine years later.
Simon observed you become a different person as you get older. Joining the Army at 16 had been formative and eased the Caerphilly teenager away from trouble. What happens in your teens should be set aside, he sensibly observed, “As long as you’re still not stealing sweeties in your fifties.”
Nigel mentioned Simon’s CBE. Modestly, the war hero said he hadn’t expected it and it meant more to his parents than to himself. He had been especially thrilled for his mum.
There is a heartrending story of his mother and his grandmother after the problematic flight home from Montevideo. Simon recounted it in his own words in an address to the Association of Directors of Social Work’s Dunblane conference in 2003.
My first encounter with a really low point was when they wheeled me into the transit hospital at RAF Lyneham and I passed my mother in the corridor and she said to my gran, “Oh mam, look at that poor boy” and I cried out “Mam, it’s me!” As she recognised my voice her face turned to stone.
Farage moved on to a project that never came to fruition which might have seen himself and his guest paired off on reality TV. The programme in question was Celebrity Hunted. The suggestion was Simon and Nigel be contestants on the run from a team of expert hunters.
Although no one doubts Simon’s courage and resolve, one suspects after setting off with (and more importantly having to listen to) the former UK MEP, the Falklands veteran might have been tempted to surrender to the first passing civilian.
Farage noted that presently Simon keeps himself fit and busy, but what comes next?
His guest mentioned a new agricultural product that he is involved in. Besides this he had what I heard as his own security and cleaning company. With his business partner doing much of the heavy lifting, Simon was keen to do more TV.
Bear in mind, the sound on GB News isn’t pin-sharp and my ears are about as reliable as a bullet hole riddled Rolls Royce Conway lashed to the tail of a VC-10 after a Uruguayan schoolgirl has attached it with a rusty spanner.
Further investigation suggests, Simon is involved in screen printing and signage through his Billboard Marketing company in Blackwood near Newport.
If you need and boards printed or vinyls applied to a van, you know who to contact.
Farage asked of more recent British military engagements. Afganistan is in the headlines again following the recent coalition withdrawal and a resulting recapture of much of the country by various factions, hostile to ourselves, for convenience bundled together and labelled as ‘Taliban’.
Weston was critical of the coalition invasion of Iraq in 2003 and claimed it had taken place because of ‘false judgments’ with those who made them knowing full well they were wrong. People lost their lives because of this.
Two hundred and fifty-eight British servicemen and women were killed in the conflict along with over four thousand Americans and many more thousands of Iraqis, the majority of whom will have been civilians.
However, the former serviceman’s perspective on Afghanistan was very different. The Taliban and Al Quida had required a call to arms.
The Taliban regime was barbaric and provided a base from which Al Quida terrorists could operate.
We need service people, Simon reminded us, as there are those out there that cannot be reasoned with.
Nigel Farage mentioned the Falklands again. When you look back do you have any doubts?
No, Simon Weston didn’t. There were two thousand people living on the Falklands at the time. They lived under self-determination and democracy, things denied them by an occupying Argentinian military junta.
Although time forbade as they were close to the end of the interview, it’s worth adding that in the broader scheme of things the Falkland Islands war benefited the Argentinian people. Following their defeat, the regime in Buenos Aries was removed. A democracy was established and has lasted nigh on forty years.
When in the South Atlantic, Simon had not been concerned with the politics but with a job to do. He expressed disappointment he had not been able to fight beside his comrades as he had been injured.
He recalled his admiration and pride in our forces, both because of the way they serve and because of the way they show how life should be lived after their service.
Although too self-effacing to say so himself, Simon Weston sets such an example. Thirty-nine years after Bluff Cove, Lord Ashcroft concluded his Mail on Sunday piece thus,
Today, Simon is at peace with his former demons. A family man who works out in the gym three times a week, he no longer suffers nightmares. With his wife of 31 years, Lucy, he has three grown-up children and two grandchildren. He is content.
Farage ended the interview by reminding viewers that Simon Weston CBE is an inspiring role model for all who face adversity. He is an institution.
“Better than living in one!” Quipped the ever modest Welsh hero.
© Always Worth Saying 2021
The Goodnight Vienna Audio file