Falkland's 40: Plymouth veteran says survivor's guilt 'took 35 years' of his life

Plymouth veteran Nick Martin spoke to ITV News about the "hero" who saved him but never made it home Credit: ITV News Westcountry

A man who was on the Atlantic Conveyor as she was hit by Argentinian missiles during the Falklands conflict has spoken out about how survivor's guilt took over his life.

Nick Martin, who left the Royal Navy as a Leading Hand, had just gone to bed after 36 hours on duty when the ship was hit.

It left him concussed, with a broken shoulder and completely disorientated - but he soon realised he was trapped as the force of the strike had buckled the floor of the room he was in so its door would not open.

  • In his own words: Nick Martin remembers the Falklands War 40 years on

"I remember thinking about a baked potato and thinking 'I'm going to bake alive in here'," he said.

"I guess somebody must have heard the banging that I'd made with the fire extinguisher on the clip, because I heard banging on the other side.

"And there was, my hero, a Cornish guy called Davey Hawkins, who eventually went and got a large piece of pipe and he used that to lever the clips open.

"He got me out of the compartment. He, without a doubt, saved my life."

Nick was then met with thick, black and toxic smoke.

"I didn't really know where the upper deck was, but Davey obviously did," he said. "He steered us through this horrible fog of smoke and burning debris and took me up to the upper deck.

"He got me in a survival suit - which is a big, bright orange rubber thing - and helped me over the side and into the water.

"But that was the last I saw of Davey. He didn't make it back home.

"I like to think that maybe he went and saved somebody else.

"He was somebody I'd never met before. Until he got me out of the compartment and told me what his name was, I'd not met him at all. I don't know whether he felt the need to come back or whether he heard the banging and came back on purpose, but you know, he's my hero."

In the years that followed the conflict, after his rescue, recovery and repatriation, Nick struggled to come to terms with what happened.

He described how his "survivor's guilt" made him sabotage anything good in his life and he became estranged from his family.

"For a long, long time, I thought all those lads that never came back, even the Argentinian boys, have never had a chance for a birthday, a Christmas, to get married, to be happy and content. And so I shouldn't either."

The Falklands War saw 255 servicemen lose their lives and there have been countless other lives lost in the intervening years as people struggled with their mental health following the war.

Nick credits the work of Help for Heroes for starting to turn his life around. He was picked to represent Team GB in the Invictus Games and is reminding himself to enjoy his life.

Nick Martin with Theresa May Credit: ITV News

He regularly visits the war memorial in Newquay which bears the name of Davey Hawkins, the man who saved him and urges anyone struggling with their mental health to seek help.

He said: "You've got to take that first step. You've got to ask for help. I'm glad that I've got here, because there have been times, even over the last couple of years, when I haven't wanted to be here.

"There's so much that's positive now and it's nice to be able to share that with Davey as well."