As HMS Invincible sailed into Portsmouth at the end of the Falklands War, Richard Farrand was too busy celebrating with the crew to notice that his hat had disappeared.
But, almost 40 years later, the former sailor has finally been reunited with it after a dealer in military artefacts came across it and managed to track him down.
Lost and Found
Mr Farrand, now 60, had worked as an engineer on the light aircraft carrier — and believes his hat went missing amid the excitement of sailing back into port after 166 days at sea.
The father of two from West Yorkshire said: “You know what sailors are like.
“It all passed in a bit of a haze and somewhere along the way the hat went missing. I had forgotten all about it. It never crossed my mind until one day a week or so ago a bloke I work with said: ‘You had better come and have a look at this.’”
Mr Farrand believes his hat went missing amid the excitement of sailing back into port after 166 days at sea.
The dealer, who works in sport and military antiques, had read the name inside the hat and after discovering Mr Farrand on the professional networking website LinkedIn, sent a note to the company he works for.
It stated that if the hat belonged to him, he would be “happy to reunite the two of you” and added that there would be no charge.
Mr Farrand said: “I was completely bowled over. I couldn’t believe how generous he was. “I told him I would pay whatever the hat cost him and the postage but he would not hear of it.
“He said he sold everything else in the lot and made a profit and so I could have the hat for nothing and the postage was on him. It has restored my faith in humanity. What a gesture.”
The hat has brought back memories of his 14-year naval career, including being part of the 1982 conflict between Britain and Argentina over the Falkland Islands.
Mr Farrand joined up as a fresh-faced teenager in 1976 after leaving school. He almost lost his life within weeks of enlisting after his ship, the minesweeper HMS Fittleton, collided with HMS Mermaid and sank in the English Channel.
Life on HMS Invincible during the Falklands conflict was also traumatic for the young sailor with the constant fear of air attacks. “I remember once hitting the deck under an attack and you could feel the front of Invincible dip violently as her sea dart missiles went off,” he said. “But I was a leading marine engineer mechanic back then and most of the time I was down in the bowels of the ship.”
After leaving the navy he spent 25 years in the police force before becoming a commercial diver.