Monday, January 16th 2012 - 19:32 UTC

Falklands’ conflict gunner meets Skyhawk pilot he shot down, at his home in Argentina

A Royal Navy veteran from the Falklands War has completed an extraordinary journey to meet the Argentine pilot he thought he had shot down and killed during the 1982 conflict.

HMS Intrepid anti aircraft gunner Wilkinson and Air Force pilot Velasco during the emotional meeting

Neil Wilkinson met his former enemy Mariano Velasco at his home in Argentina - and was welcomed inside with open arms.

The emotional meeting - just weeks before the 30th anniversary of the moment they clashed in battle - was filmed for a BBC Inside Out Yorkshire and Lincolnshire documentary to be screened this week.

Mr Wilkinson, from Leeds, told the program: “It's too massive to put into words. Part of it is closure really, but meeting him in the flesh I now know he is alive and we are friends.”

Mr Wilkinson was a 22-year-old anti-aircraft gunner serving on HMS Intrepid when he opened fire and hit an enemy Skyhawk fighter jet during the conflict in 1982.

The image of the stricken plane disappearing from view trailing a plume of black smoke - along with the assumption that the pilot had lost his life - haunted Mr Wilkinson for years after the conflict. He went on to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder as he struggled to adapt to life outside the Services:

“Your job is to deter them to protect your ship,” he said. “I thought about it many, many times. It's not something I gloat over. I just see the aircraft every day in my brain.

”I thought he's dead, there's no way anyone could get out of that aircraft“.

But a chance viewing of a TV documentary to mark the 25th anniversary of the conflict in 2007 raised the possibility that he had not killed the Argentine pilot after all.

Mr Wilkinson heard the story of the Argentine serviceman Mariano Velasco, describing his part in the Falklands War as a 33-year-old Flight Lieutenant. Velasco told how he took part in the attack on HMS Coventry on 25 May 1982, which resulted in the loss of 19 British servicemen.

The pilot also relived the moment his aircraft was hit during an attack two days later, forcing him to eject and trek for ten miles over the Falklands with a badly injured ankle to reach a deserted farmhouse where he eventually got help and returned to an Argentine base on West Island.

The dates tallied and Mr Velasco's description of the incident also matched Mr Wilkinson's recollections:

”I knew it was him,“ said Mr Wilkinson. ”I was the only weapon that fired that day.“

Further checks with military records also confirmed that Mr Velasco's plane was the one hit by Mr Wilkinson's anti-aircraft gun and he decided to make contact by e-mail.

The two veterans, while agreeing to disagree about the reasons and justifications for the war, went on to become good friends.

Now Mr Wilkinson has completed an emotional journey back to the Falklands, visiting the crash site of the aircraft he shot down on 27 May 1982, with the crater and wreckage still visible today.

As he approached the crash site Mr Wilkinson said: ”It's a very strange feeling to look at this. There's bits strewn all over the place and it's still here and I just don't know how really he got out of it. I know he did eject and luckily for him he did. It's just unbelievable.

“It's a brilliant feeling. Not to look and gloat over a crash site and think 'this is what I did'. The feeling inside is that he got out and he did survive it and I'm really, really pleased.”

Mr Wilkinson also went on to Argentina to the remote rural village where Mr Velasco lives with his family after retiring as a Commodore in the Argentine Air Force.

Mr Velasco embraced Mr Wilkinson with a hug and said:

“Hello Neil, welcome to my house”.

“It's an honour,” replied Mr Wilkinson.

After the emotional meeting, Mr Wilkinson said: “For all this time I've had the build-up… not knowing he was alive for 25 years then finding out he was alive then eventually got here after five long years of trying to get here and I'm so ecstatic. He welcomed me with open arms and that's all I wanted.”

Mr Velasco added: “Good soldiers should be able to forgive each other and afterwards why can't they be friends… be good friends.”

Over 900 people died during the 74-day war, including 255 British servicemen, 655 Argentines and three islanders.

The documentary produced and presented by Nicola Rees is a special Inside Out to mark the 30th anniversary of the Falklands War. This article has been supplied to the UK Ministry of Defence by BBC Lincolnshire.
 

42 comments Feed

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1 xbarilox (#) Jan 16th, 2012 - 08:01 pm Report abuse
Shocking reality for the Malvinists and look-alike species. I can think of an eagle flying over the storm, while crawling beasts are dealing whith their pitiful lives on this planet. This is something the Malvinists will never understand. Glad to see something like this happening.
2 Kelper San (#) Jan 16th, 2012 - 08:09 pm Report abuse
I have just watch this on the BBC it is good to see two men from different sides, that are able to put the past to rest, and become friends, two men that have respect for each-other, all I will say is that I hope there friendship last the test of time.
3 O gara (#) Jan 16th, 2012 - 08:42 pm Report abuse
Likewise a very good piece.Good luck to the two veterans.What is the Videla supporter on even cocaine wouldnt drive someone that mad would it?
4 xbarilox (#) Jan 16th, 2012 - 09:20 pm Report abuse
@ 3 This one makes ya sad, confess it, ya bloody paddy :)
5 Artillero 601 (#) Jan 16th, 2012 - 09:26 pm Report abuse
what is Videla have to do with Malvinas?
6 Kipling (#) Jan 16th, 2012 - 09:29 pm Report abuse
O gara, u know too much!!!! Perhaps, u will probably fin a job as history teacher (PhD) in Oxford University. K ls pariu! sos mas burros que una obeja!
7 xbarilox (#) Jan 16th, 2012 - 09:31 pm Report abuse
@ 5 He loves moustaches :P
8 Artillero 601 (#) Jan 16th, 2012 - 09:36 pm Report abuse
siempre hay alguien con un cometario pedorro, que lo pario!!!
9 xbarilox (#) Jan 16th, 2012 - 09:51 pm Report abuse
@ 8 che, mañana cruzo el charco con la mia family, van a ser varias semanas sin el foro, I'll see what has changed when I return, my bet is on will things change a little bit around here? nah
10 Artillero 601 (#) Jan 16th, 2012 - 09:52 pm Report abuse
Have fun !!
11 Kipling (#) Jan 16th, 2012 - 10:01 pm Report abuse
bue, put the battery on, enjoy in your trip and good luck. Artillero, vamu a darle al tintero.
12 Kiwisarg (#) Jan 16th, 2012 - 11:23 pm Report abuse
It is very cool. The beenies should learn to be more friendly to the Argentine, and even when it comes time to recovery of sovereignty, please be more fun! Ok!!
13 BJK (#) Jan 17th, 2012 - 12:02 am Report abuse
the only one who keeps the doors closed to dialogue is the English government. It does not because he knows that his interests in the islands are dark, have no basis to take to an international court and for that manipulates its population by managing information and sanctions for opposing the government. No bitterness, no hatred, no interests to wage war again, The field is ready to end this conflict of sovereignty. The time is now.
14 Kipling (#) Jan 17th, 2012 - 12:18 am Report abuse
Intellectually, the Islanders don´t have any way. Just go out! After that everything is capricious. The Islanders want to be here thru fragil international arguments that it gonna be so heavy against England.
15 Kelper San (#) Jan 17th, 2012 - 12:54 am Report abuse
this story just go's to show that not all Argentines are as blind as some of you on here, and with mindless dribble that you lot spout, all you do is burn the Bridges that brave men like the two who this is about build,
I pity you, and I doubt if ether of the two would have any respect for any thing you say.
16 BJK (#) Jan 17th, 2012 - 12:57 am Report abuse
that said James Peck, the islander that became argentine, in an article he said, there is a fictional patriotism that does not exist even in the real britain, and if a kelper go to London nobody knows that they are british, it is funny. All is a fiction that hide behind fear to change and false basis. Do you know that there is a law that if you publish something against the falklands government you could be censored and lose your job without explanation? there is something strange in all this, and we all realize, unless the islanders, they have their eyes blinded by imposed fallacies.
17 zethe (#) Jan 17th, 2012 - 01:49 am Report abuse
“Do you know that there is a law that if you publish something against the falklands government you could be censored”

Perhaps you could prove this.
18 Britishbulldog (#) Jan 17th, 2012 - 07:14 am Report abuse
BJK (#)----- And once more we see from your comment how brainwashed you all are. You are full of shite as expected, put up or shut up. And what's your comment to do with two brave men who fought for their country's against each other and are now friends?????? Like I said moron your full of shite.
19 Tigre2000 (#) Jan 17th, 2012 - 07:23 am Report abuse
Its great and empoweringto see how two opposing forces united in the spirit of friendship andunderstanding even if they continue to have diffirent views about the past conflict. On another note during World war 2 plenty of Argentine pilots volonteered to fight for England and its cause some of Argentine Brittish descent and others, Besides the past conflict Argentina and
England do have reasonably good relations considering the vast amounts of Brittish and welsh, and scotts who immigrated to Argentina and to some extent
influenced Argentina's rail and infrastucture network, I know some great pommie mates but we leave the falklands out of the conversation no wonder.
20 Kelper San (#) Jan 17th, 2012 - 09:23 am Report abuse
BJK
you gave a good description of the Argentine there, but you mist out that you can also be Considered a Terrorist in the Argentine if you don't follow the government line. I pity people that have a mind set like you.
21 BJK (#) Jan 17th, 2012 - 02:41 pm Report abuse
no lads! please watch this... is short

www.youtube.com/watch?v=u1SYV0AkxfM&feature=player_embedded#!

mmm... its strange, is only one example of the pseudo-democracy , there is only one form to think accord to the gevernment

my point is that there is no bad relationships with you and we, but the problems is the falkland government, they want to deny the dialogue, they want both societies be fought.
do you want this? I dont
22 Artillero 601 (#) Jan 17th, 2012 - 02:52 pm Report abuse
From an amazing story to bullshit as always .....
23 zethe (#) Jan 17th, 2012 - 05:08 pm Report abuse
“do you want this?”

Yes, it is the islanders wishes not to discuss sovereignty with Argentina.
24 Kelper San (#) Jan 17th, 2012 - 06:01 pm Report abuse
BJK

No one in the Islands want's to talk to your government, maybe one day we will, but that day is not here yet, but this post is not about the Falklands, It's about two brave men, and how they respect each other.
25 briton (#) Jan 17th, 2012 - 11:04 pm Report abuse
16 BJK (#)
James Peck////
is this man the only human being in the world to become an argentine citizen,,,
If so the your story is unique
But on the only hand, if he is not the only human to become argentine
Then your item is as bad as your ego, childish,
being anti, will get you nowhere

one day you indocronoughts will understand the real meaning of freedom to choose,
,
26 JustinKuntz (#) Jan 17th, 2012 - 11:33 pm Report abuse
#22

Inciteful as always, just read the articles and ignore the REM.
27 Forgetit87 (#) Jan 17th, 2012 - 11:49 pm Report abuse
Feel-good garbage.
28 Kiwisarg (#) Jan 18th, 2012 - 12:56 am Report abuse
25 briton
you are a donky!! you do not have any idea about Argeninien, Argentina, Malvinas islands Agentina and James Peck, mate!!! I think it is time to know more our culture before we get the sovereignty of our Islands again, The time is over!! time to discuss .....23 zethe
29 Artillero 601 (#) Jan 18th, 2012 - 01:09 am Report abuse
@26

Will do Mr Kuntz :-)
30 johnfarrel2050 (#) Jan 18th, 2012 - 01:13 am Report abuse
Of course, there aren´t any doubt that the Malvinas Islands are Argentinian.
31 BJK (#) Jan 18th, 2012 - 01:16 am Report abuse
the background of the story talks about no bitterness and dialogue.

do you think that in the English government, your opinions matter?

get tested and remember the movement occupy Uk

There is no dialogue, not by you but on its own will and interests of the English government. You can not influence anything. The point goes beyond you so what remains is that ordinary people like us just talking and we respect each other, when I say talk I do not say on behalf of any government but of ordinary people. that, says the article.

P.S.25 briton!, i missed you!.
has no relation your comment, but you be interested in reading this article as this, has no connection but it is to get an idea. We need people like you in my company.

www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/dec/22/young-europeans-emigrate-argentina-jobs
32 Think (#) Jan 18th, 2012 - 05:24 am Report abuse
(27) ForgetIt 87

I fully agree with you.
Emotional- porno at its best.

Message being…..
Let’s kill each other and become good friends afterwards……..
Like “real man” do!

Ps:
Please notice the “good taste detail” of the sunken ships silhouettes painted on the side of the plane….
33 Forgetit87 (#) Jan 18th, 2012 - 07:12 am Report abuse
Yes, Think, and it's curious that Mercopress chose to publish that, since it does its best to release the maximum amount of stuff to provoke mutual hostility between Argentines and Brits, and feed paranoia regarding the safety of the inhabitants of the disputed islands. As you suggest, this story does look like a coatrack, to borrow from Wikipedia terminology, an article that on the surface is about two men who can symbolize inter-national reconciliation but is actually about supposed British military and moral superiority.
34 Artillero 601 (#) Jan 18th, 2012 - 02:02 pm Report abuse
@32 & @ 33

Only people who served in the Armed Forced would understand the concept
35 Conqueror (#) Jan 18th, 2012 - 04:33 pm Report abuse
Hello argie bludgers. Is it the 30th century yet? If not, why are you whittering about fairy tale places and fairy tale events? The Falkland Islands, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands are properly and legally British. And they will remain British until the legal inhabitants of the Falklands Archipelago decide otherwise. That is why British forces went to those Islands 30 years ago. And there have been plenty of posts over time that they are willing to go there again for the same reason.

Now if any of you have any valid reason for believing the contrary, you are totally welcome to take the matter up with the only court that has jurisdiction. Strange how you never want to do that, isn't it? Bit short of bottle, are you?

Now off you go and visit one of those tens of thousands of argie psychriatrists.
36 exocet-82 (#) Jan 18th, 2012 - 07:31 pm Report abuse
hello Brutish Conqueror: do the best you can and try to sing this song..... till...April the 2nd comes...

www.youtube.com/watch?v=vGYA0lzLneU&feature=related

San Lorenzo (marcha)

Febo asoma; ya sus rayos
iluminan el histórico convento;
tras los muros, sordo ruido,
oír se deja de corceles y de acero.
Son las huestes que prepara
San Martín para luchar en San Lorenzo;
el clarín estridente sonó
y la voz del gran jefe
a la carga ordenó.

Avanza el enemigo
a paso redoblado,
al viento desplegado
su rojo pabellón.
Y nuestros granaderos,
aliados de la gloria,
inscriben en la historia
su página mejor.

Cabral, soldado heroico,
cubriéndose de gloria,
cual precio a la victoria,
su vida rinde, haciéndose inmortal;
y allí, salvó su arrojo
la libertad naciente
de medio continente,
¡Honor, honor al gran Cabral!

not only hitler used this march to “march” triumphant when he got into France ... but also the English Government asked for authoritation to argies`governement to be used when King Jorge V was crowned,June1911.
Isabel II was crowned,injune 1953, while listening and singing,may be, “Argies`militar song” . There s something worse than that yet, IT IS the march San Lorenzo, the one usually during changig the guard in the Buckingham Palace.
Is isnt it .... beautiful?????
37 ChrisR (#) Jan 18th, 2012 - 08:28 pm Report abuse
36 exocet-82
Another fantasist then>

The march was written by a German, Carl Albert Hermann Teike (February 5, 1864 – May 22, 1922) who wrote over 100 military marches and 20 concert works, this being just one of them.

Get back in the box exocet.
38 briton (#) Jan 18th, 2012 - 09:08 pm Report abuse
28 Kiwisarg (#) Jan 18th, 2012 - 12:56 am Report abuse
25 briton
you are a donky!! you do not have any idea about Argeninien,

And you are an ass, with two cheeks,
I know more about Argentina than you ever will,
And ive never been their, but all con men are the same, they all want something they never owned,
You may think James is your hero, but he is just a porn to be used by the Argies,

They are British islands, and will remain British,
And as david camaron said today,
You are just a bunch of wanabe imperialists, looking for an empire,
Even if you have to steal it,

So get on your bike, and vroom off

.
39 Forgetit87 (#) Jan 18th, 2012 - 10:43 pm Report abuse
@34 I don't question their feelings; I question Mercopress's motivations. Article reeks of British triumphalism with a happy end for me.
40 briton (#) Jan 18th, 2012 - 11:23 pm Report abuse
and more to come, 2012 will haunt you for ever .
41 kelperabout (#) Jan 20th, 2012 - 12:12 am Report abuse
The coming together of two people who through no fault of their own tried to kill each other in war shows just how little their respective politicions care about their people.
Always there is someone in a Country who will do anything to entice their fellow citizens to fight. The bottom line is always because of the human greed factor.
I personally knew young Argentine children my own age who like me were just ordinary people going about their own lives. One day a militry dictator decided to rape our Country with no thought for our feeling or that of the young Argentine boys and girls to which I became very good friends with. These young people were conscripted into the Argentine army to be sent back to our Country to tear it apart. How do you think those innocent young people felt knowing that it was not of their making but that of their Countries leader.
How many of those friend of mine perrished in that time or afterwards I will never know.
Friendship is made by like minded people regardless of race or culture and they/we care for each other and are usually the ones that have to rebuild a country after bieng devestated by war.
The polititions simply could not give a damb as to the outcome because their prime role in life is to exercise their power over the little guys like you and me.
Falkland Islanders and Argentines would very likely be good neighbours given the chance but that will never happen while we still have the likes of CFK throwing her weight around as she does. I bet behind the scenes she is a very nice person but as a politician she must be seen to wave here sword that's what they all do
42 exocet-82 (#) Jan 20th, 2012 - 01:37 pm Report abuse
@37-
no worries mate! I will always be back ........home!

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