Falklands veteran Simon Weston on his battle with the 'broken man in the mirror' as he speaks at Harrogate Literary Festival

There used to be a broken man in the mirror, says Falklands veteran Simon Weston CBE, who came as close to killing him as the bombs ever did.

A face he didn't recognise, which people would turn away from, aghast. It took its toll, he adds. And over time, he began to act as terrible as he felt he looked.

Simon Weston CBE at Crown Hotel in Harrogate, where he was the speaker at the Yorkshire Post Literary Lunch part of the Raworths Harrogate Literary Festival. Image: Gary Longbottom.

Simon Weston CBE at Crown Hotel in Harrogate, where he was the speaker at the Yorkshire Post Literary Lunch part of the Raworths Harrogate Literary Festival. Image: Gary Longbottom.

Speaking at the Raworths Harrogate Literary Festival, he doesn't shy away from the brutal trauma he's endured.

His strength today comes not from what happened to him, he tells a crowd at The Yorkshire Post literary luncheon, but what he's done about it.

"The simple matter, between winning and losing, is attitude," he says. "If you believe in yourself, or you don't. If you like yourself, or you don't.

"I generally like who I am. I just had a problem, remembering who I used to be."

File photo dated 08/06/82 of the Landing Ship Logistic RFA Sir Galahad ablaze after the Argentine air raid on June 8th at Bluff Cove near Fitzroy settlement on East Falkland. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo: Martin Cleaver/PA Wire

File photo dated 08/06/82 of the Landing Ship Logistic RFA Sir Galahad ablaze after the Argentine air raid on June 8th at Bluff Cove near Fitzroy settlement on East Falkland. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo: Martin Cleaver/PA Wire

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Explosion aboard Sir Galahad

File photo dated 08/06/1982 of survivors of the attack on RFA Sir Galahad coming ashore in life rafts at San Carlos Bay as the supply ship blazes in the background. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo.Martin Cleaver/PA Wire

File photo dated 08/06/1982 of survivors of the attack on RFA Sir Galahad coming ashore in life rafts at San Carlos Bay as the supply ship blazes in the background. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo.Martin Cleaver/PA Wire

At 58, Mr Weston is a man of presence, self-deprecating, witty, with carefully chosen words delivered in distinct Welsh rhythm. In 1982, aged 20, he suffered 46 per cent burns after an explosion aboard the craft Sir Galahad.

Forty-eight of his fellow Welsh Guards died that day. Mr Weston was the closest to the bomb who lived, and the worst injured of the entire war to survive.

He jests lightly about his many surgeries, and pilots' fears at transporting him to hospital in case he died en route. But there is a stark reality in his words.

"When that bomb went off, to me it was like Hiroshima," he said. "Everybody was on fire, including myself. I ran and ran.

Falklands veteran Simon Weston CBE, speaking at The Yorkshire Post Literary Lunch part of the Harrogate Literary Festival. Image: Gary Longbottom.

Falklands veteran Simon Weston CBE, speaking at The Yorkshire Post Literary Lunch part of the Harrogate Literary Festival. Image: Gary Longbottom.

"It only took a few months of pain, the effects will simply last forever. It's what you lose in that split second, when a bomb blows it all away."

Recovery and resilience

His own mother hadn't recognised him in hospital after his burns, he says, her face 'turning to stone' when she realised the 'poor boy' doctors were wheeling past was her own son.

He credits her strength, and his grandmother's, in helping him to find his own. Through his recovery, Mr Weston spent six years in hospital. He underwent 97 operations.

He was to develop extreme depression, post-traumatic stress disorder. While we are better than we once were at recognising mental trauma for veterans, he tells The Yorkshire Post, there is a long way to go.

Mr Weston, who has written a book on his experience, set up a foundation in 1988 to give young people work and training, and was awarded a CBE in 2016 for his charity work.

Simon Weston, who has written a book on his experience, set up a foundation in 1988 to give young people work and training, and was awarded a CBE in 2016 for his charity work. Pictured at the Raworths Harrogate Literary Festival. Image: Gary Longbottom.

Simon Weston, who has written a book on his experience, set up a foundation in 1988 to give young people work and training, and was awarded a CBE in 2016 for his charity work. Pictured at the Raworths Harrogate Literary Festival. Image: Gary Longbottom.

The 'scruffy kid' from a Welsh mining village who enrolled at 16 is gone, he says, lost to the bomb and the flames.

He doesn't recognise the man he once saw in the mirror; he is no longer that man.

"I'm not a victim, and I refuse to be one," he says. "I'd rather have respect. Life goes on. If I was going to be a part of it, I was going to have to accept who I was.

"To me, the only failure in the world is to make no attempt," he adds. "I faced change, in the most traumatic manner, and I made it work.

"People have said I was unlucky, but I will take unfortunate," adds Mr Weston. "I'm very fortunate to have survived."