Falklands War: 40-years on daughter continues to learn more about father who never came home

Claire Kemp was just 13 months old when her father Gary Nelson was killed in the Falkands. She has spent much of the last 40 years building a picture of him. A man she loves but has no memory of meeting. ITV News' Wales and West England Correspondent Rupert Evelyn reports.

Each and every page of her treasured album about him is an insight into his life and even now she says there is still more to learn “It's being inquisitive to find out a part of your identity.

"It's what's made you as a person. It's the genetic side, finding out if I laugh like him or if I write like him. My mom has often said that I have a certain walk."

Gary Nelson was a sailor and a Physical Training Instructor.

He knew the crew of his ship HMS Ardent well and as she sailed south and into war 40 years ago he made sure they were ready for action. 

In a last letter, Gary wrote to his parents he spoke of high morale on-board and said he was itching to get down south.

The letter Gary Nelson sent to his parents. Credit: ITV News

He wrote “don’t worry about me coz I’m probably in the safest place on-board”.

It was the last time his parents heard from their son.

Claire says she recognises her father’s strength in herself and after four decades she is as close as she can be to him “there is part of me that I feel like I know him.

"I often feel him around. There have been some really difficult times in life.

"People have told me how strong he was as a man.

"I think that I have got that element of strength within myself as well, to just keep going and override anything that is really challenging to make it better." 

The Argentinian occupation of the Falkland Islands in 1982 prompted the dispatch of a naval Taskforce to reclaim the British territory.

It took 74 days and 255 British soldiers died.

A memorial overlooking Plymouth Sound is where annually those connected to HMS Ardent gather to remember.

It’s also where Claire first met Stephen Earp.

Claire Kemp and Stephen Earp. Credit: ITV News

He served with her father and like many of those who were there has helped her fill in some of the blanks.

Mr Earp said: "I think every year it is difficult, it doesn't matter if its the 30th year or the 40th, it is in your mine everyday really."

The value of reunion cannot be underestimated.

It’s why the Royal British Legion have this year placed emphasis on the mental well bring of bringing the Falklands Generation together.

For Claire Kemp it has helped her to get to know her father even though he died while she was still a baby.

She said: “He will always be a hero in our eyes and I'm sure that he'll always be a hero in a lot of other people's eyes.

"I wish it wasn't him. I wish he was coming home. I wish he came home.

"Not that I wish that it was somebody else's father that didn't come home. It's just the nature of the beast. I think that you always think what if.”