According to the English version

 

 

 

Summary:

Fought in 1982, the Falklands War was the result of the Argentine invasion of the British-owned Falkland Islands. Located in the South Atlantic, Argentina had long claimed these islands as part of its territory. On April 2, 1982, Argentine forces landed in the Falklands, capturing the islands two days later. In response, the British dispatched a naval and amphibious task force to the area. The initial phases of the conflict occurred mainly at sea between elements of the Royal Navy and the Argentine Air Force. On May 21, British troops landed and by June 14 had compelled the Argentine occupiers to surrender.

When was the Falklands War?:

The Falklands War began on April 2, 1982, when Argentine troops landed in the Falkland Islands. Fighting ended on June 14, following the British liberation of the islands' capital, Port Stanley, and the surrender of Argentine forces in the Falklands. The British declared a formal end to military activity on June 20.

Prelude and Invasion:

In early 1982, President Leopoldo Galtieri, the head of the Argentina's ruling military junta, authorized the invasion of the British Falkland Islands. The operation was designed to draw attention away from human rights and economic issues at home by bolstering national pride and giving teeth to the nation's long-held claim on the islands. After an incident between British and Argentine forces on nearby South Georgia Island, Argentine forces landed in the Falklands on April 2. The small garrison of Royal Marines resisted, however by April 4 the Argentines had captured the capital at Port Stanley.

British Response:

After organizing diplomatic pressure against Argentina, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher ordered the assembly of a naval task force to retake the islands. Commanded by Admiral Sir John Fieldhouse, the task force consisted of several groups, the largest of which was centered on the aircraft carriers HMS Hermes and HMS Invincible. Led by Rear Admiral "Sandy" Woodward, this group contained the Sea Harrier fighters that would provide air cover for the fleet. In mid-April, Fieldhouse began moving south, with a large fleet of tankers and cargo ships to supply the fleet while it operated more than 8,000 miles from home.

First Shots:

As the fleet sailed south it was shadowed by Boeing 707s from the Argentine Air Force. On April 25, British forces recaptured South Georgia Island after sinking the submarine ARASanta Fe. Five days later, operations against the Falklands began with the "Black Buck" raids by RAF Vulcan bombers flying from Ascension Island. That same day Harriers attacked various targets, as well as shot down three Argentine aircraft. As the runway at Port Stanley was too short for modern fighters, the Argentine Air Force was forced to fly from the mainland, which placed them at a disadvantage throughout the conflict.

Fighting at Sea:

While cruising west of the Falklands on May 1, the submarine HMS Conqueror spotted the light cruiser ARA General BelgranoConqueror fired three torpedoes, hitting Belgrano twice and sinking it. This attack led to the Argentine fleet remaining in port for the rest of the war. Two days later, they had their revenge when an Exocet anti-ship missile, launched from an Argentine Super Étendard fighter, struck HMS Sheffield setting it ablaze. After attempts to stop the fire failed, the ship was abandoned. The sinking of Belgrano cost 323 Argentines killed, while the attack on Sheffield resulted in 20 British dead.

Landing at San Carlos Water:

On the night of May 21, British forces landed at San Carlos Water on the northwest coast of East Falkland. The landings had been preceded by a Special Air Service (SAS) raid on nearby Pebble Island's airfield. When the landings had finished, approximately 4,000 men, commanded by Brigadier Julian Thompson, had been put ashore. Over the next week, the ships supporting the landings were hit hard by Argentine aircraft. HMS Ardent (May 22), HMS Antelope (May 24), and HMS Coventry (May 25) were sunk, as was MV Atlantic Conveyor(May 25) with a cargo of helicopters and supplies.

Goose Green, Mount Kent, & Bluff Cove/Fitzroy:

Thompson began pushing his men south, planning to secure the western side of the island before moving east to Port Stanley. On May 27/28, 600 men under Lt. Col. H. Jones outfought over 1,000 Argentines around Darwin and Goose Green, ultimately forcing them to surrender. A few days later, British commandos defeated Argentine commandos on Mt. Kent. In early June, an additional 5,000 British troops arrived and command shifted to Maj. Gen. Jeremy Moore. While some of these troops were disembarking at Bluff Cove and Fitzroy, their transports, RFA Sir Tristram and RFA Sir Galahad, were attacked killing 56.

Fall of Port Stanley:

After consolidating his position, Moore began the assault on Port Stanley. British troops launched simultaneous assaults on the high ground surrounding the town on the night of June 11. After heavy fighting, they succeeded in capturing their objectives. The attacks continued two nights later, and British units took the town's last natural lines of defense at Wireless Ridge and Mount Tumbledown. Encircled on land and blockaded at sea, the Argentine commander, Gen. Mario Menéndez, realized his situation was hopeless and surrendered his 9,800 men on June 14, effectively ending the conflict.

Aftermath & Casualties:

In Argentina, the defeat led to the removal of Pres. Galtieri three days after the fall of Port Stanley. His downfall spelled the end for the military junta that had been ruling the country and paved the way for the restoration of democracy. For Britain, the victory provided a much needed boost to its national confidence, reaffirmed its international position, and assured victory for the Thatcher Government in the 1983 elections.

The settlement that ended the conflict called for a return to status quo ante bellum. Despite its defeat, Argentina still claims the Falklands and South Georgia.

 

During the war, Britain suffered 258 killed and 777 wounded. In addition, 2 destroyers, 2 frigates, and 2 auxiliary vessels were sunk. For Argentina, the Falklands War cost 649 killed, 1,068 wounded, and 11,313 captured. In addition, the Argentine Navy lost a submarine, a light cruiser, and 75 fixed-wing aircraft.

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One of the Argentinian admirals who sent his country to war with Britain over the Falkland islands has admitted that he dispatched a team of saboteurs to sink a Royal Navy ship in Gibraltar.

Admiral Jorge Anaya, a former military junta member who commanded the Argentinian navy at the time of the war, said he expressly ordered the mission. It was foiled by Spanish police hours before the team planned to attach limpet mines to a British ship.

"The operation was carried out in total secrecy," the admiral told the makers of a documentary that went on show in Spanish cinemas last night.

Operation Algeciras came very close to sinking a British ship with Italian-made mines that had been brought to Spain from Argentina in a diplomatic bag.

The team arrived in Spain and based itself on the south coast near Gibraltar, where it spent almost a month eyeing possible targets and awaiting permission to attack.

Admiral Anaya said he turned down three separate requests to blow up different vessels in Gibraltar before finally giving the go ahead.

On one occasion, the team was refused permission to attack a Royal Navy transport ship and a frigate in case they spoiled talks, led by the US secretary of state Alexander Haig, to solve the crisis.

"We decided that we might stop some kind of peace agreement if we went ahead," said Maximo Nicoletti, one of the four-man team of divers who was interviewed for the documentary.

Mr Nicoletti was a former anti-government guerrilla who once blew up an Argentinian navy ship but was captured, became a military agent and was living in Miami.

A few hours after the team passed up the chance of attacking the frigate and transport ship, a British submarine sank the Argentinian cruiser General Belgrano, killing more than 320 sailors and effectively ending peace negotiations.

The team waited almost a month for another target to appear. They posed as fishermen in a small rubber dinghy as they floated off the Spanish town of La Linea, which is beside the Rock of Gibraltar.

They finally saw a Royal Navy frigate enter the harbour and agreed to strike the next day. "Our aim was to place the charges, give them time to explode, get the cars, drive to Barcelona and from there cross into France. We were going to fly back to Argentina from Italy," Mr Nicoletti said.

But when the team went to renew their car hire in the morning, they found Spanish police waiting for them.

"It was the same day that I had authorised them to go-ahead [with the attack]," said Admiral Anaya.

The divers had been given strict instructions, in the event of capture, to say that they were acting on their own initiative.

Nigel West, a British writer who specialises in covert operations, told the documentary team that Britain had known about the plot because of telephone-taps of conversations between Argentina's embassy in Madrid and Buenos Aires.

He said that, after tense discussions by the war cabinet about whether Spain could be trusted, the information was passed on to Madrid.

The documentary, however, claims that the police officers who arrested the Argentinian team had no idea who the members were, or why they were there.

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The land war in the Falklands opened on the 2nd April 1982. The Argentine forces landed 120 commandos at Mullett Creek at about 4.30am , who attacked the British Marines' barracks. Fortunately the Royal Marines were already deployed and thus avoided heavy loss of life. The Argentine commandos then joined the force marching on Government House with the intention of seizing the British Governor Rex Hunt. A fierce battle ensued and the British were pinned down by the Argentines. A second group of British marines overlooking the harbour managed to hit one of the Argentine landing craft with an anti-tank weapon before withdrawing back to Government house. 

With Argentine Armoured Personnel carriers and guns coming ashore, Rex Hunt, The Governor ordered a surrender. The 84  marines and Governor were flown to Montevideo and from there home, but not before giving a good count of themselves. See Naval Party 8901 And the Argentine Invasion

On South Georgia, another marine detachment  led by Lieutenant Keith mills with twenty-three men put up vigorous resistance to the Argentine invasion when the Argentine forces attempted to land troops with a Puma helicopter. The Puma was fired on with every weapon the marines possessed. They then fired on an Argentine corvette in the bay, hitting it with three anti-tank rockets and more than 1200 rounds of small arms fire. After the Argentines had established a much superior force ashore, the marines surrendered and were returned to Britain. Lieutenant Mills received a hero's welcome and the Distinguished Service Cross. See Fairly Famous Mills and the Red Plum

The British government were swift in their decision to send a task force to recapture the islands. A large part of No.3 Commando was aboard the refitted Canberra when she left port on Good Friday to the strains of 'Rule Britannia' from the quayside. A small squadron of SAS went ahead aboard H.M.S. Antrim. By mid April the task force arrived in the South Atlantic. The Task forces first objective was the recapture of South Georgia. In very bad weather Wessex helicopters took off carrying the Mountain Troop of D Squadron SAS. 

 

The landing site was dangerous and a Scientist who had evaded the Argentineans urged against the landing where the weather defied human reason. After one failed attempt when snow forced the helicopters back to the ship, the SAS were set down to reconnoitre the island in preparation for the arrival of the marines. The SAS were bogged down by the weather and eventually had to ask to be withdrawn. The first attempt by a Wessex helicopter failed and  the helicopter crashed. The second Wessex crashed trying to take off. A third overloaded Wessex airlifted seventeen men, including the crews of the crashed helicopters back to Antrim.

The following night, 23rd April, 2 Section SBS was landed by Helicopter and also 5 gemini inflatable craft set out with troops of D Squadrons Boat troop aboard. Two suffered engine failure, one of the crews were picked up by helicopter. The others got to shore. The Antrim group moved in again on the 24th April to drop off more troops and in doing so, located and beached the Argentine Submarine Sante Fe. The Antrims' small company of marines were landed following a hasty conference and the seventy five marines, SBS and SAS under naval gunfire support landed by Helicopter. When they reached the settlements of Grytviken they found white sheets fluttering form several windows. An Argentine officer complained to the SAS that they had just walked through his minefield. At 5.15am, The Argentine commander formally surrendered. The following morning, after threatening defiance by radio overnight, the small enemy garrison at Leith, along the coast, surrendered without resistance. The scrap merchants whose activities had precipitated the entire war were also taken into custody, for repatriation to the mainland. To complete the victory, a helicopter picked up a weak emergency beacon signal from the southernmost tip of the island, Stromness Bay. The helicopter homed in on it and found the lost three man SAS patrol from the missing Gemini. They had paddled ashore with only a few hundred yards of land left between them and Antarctica. No British troops had been lost. See Operation Paraquat

The Ships now brought the SAS and SBS from South Georgia back to the main fleet in preparation for the landings. While in London, The Foreign Secretary tried to argue that Britain should accept the American mediated peace deal, the Argentineans were not amused by the offer of 'peace' by the Americans and were smarting from the loss of South Georgia. Eventually, having been refused aid from the Organization of America States, the Argentinean government rejected the peace overtures made by the American negotiator Haig. The peace attempt failed. America now changed its tune and imposed military and economic sanctions on Argentina and offered aid to Britain (Which had already been flowing for some time in secret). Although politically America was trying for peace, its military were throwing everything they had.

The United Nations intervened, tried to negotiate a peace plan and failed, the European nations fell in behind Britain and Argentina was slowly left without friends, her Latin American neighbours offered little support and the UN appeared to bless Britain's' retaliation. On Thursday 20th May, The Prime Minister published the 'red, white and blue' the Falklands White paper, spelling the end of the negotiations and solidifying, It was war.

In the first days of May, by helicopter and fast inflatable boats, parties of SAS and SBS forces were landed on the Falklands to assess the state of the Argentine forces. Their mission was to hide up and observer the enemy with out making contact.


 
 

The British 3 Commando Brigade waded ashore at San Carlos a few minutes before 4 a.m. on Friday 21st May. 2 Para waded ashore an hour later and took their positions on the Summit of Sussex mountain to protect the approaches of Goose Green soon after first light. A few minutes after 2 Paras landing, 40 Commando came ashore a few hundred yards further north behind the Scorpion and Scimitar Armoured vehicles of the Blues and Royals to be met by the filthy SBS reception party who had been on the hill for days.

 A short time later, the British confirmed that there were no Argentine troops in the area. On the flagpole beside the local managers house, Men of C Company of 40 Commando raised the Union Jack at first light. See Troops Out

Across the water, 45 Commando had taken up positions in the abandoned refrigeration plant at Ajax plant without incident. 3 Para landed very late after delays. The whole of 3 Commando was ashore without significant loss. As 2 Para struggled up Sussex mountain, two pairs of Pucara ground-attack aircraft attacked. The first pair was blown out of the sky by handheld missiles and shipboard Sams, the second pairs attack failed to inflict casualties  on 2 Paras' B Company.

 
 

42 Commando was landed in the afternoon, this did not however improve the Task Forces air defense. The 12 Anti-Aircraft Rapier missile launchers, operated by 'T' (Shah Sujah's) Battery from 12 Air Defence Regiment Royal Artillery under the Operational Control of 3 Commando brigade, some of which were damaged after so long exposed to the salt water during the sea crossing needed some time to be set up and realigned. 

Surgical support teams were established ashore at the old refrigeration plant, but the build-up ashore was delayed as the supply ships put stores ashore in the dark but left for safer waters before daylight. Dawn and dusk were the favoured times for aircraft attacks, and one evening two skyhawks bombed 40 Commando's positions. Two men were killed and three wounded.


 

The 25th May saw the Exocet missile claimed the Atlantic Conveyor and with her the vital Chinook and Wessex helicopters along with the tentage for the entire landing force. All but one of the Chinooks were lost, ending the hopes of the Task Force for a fast overland hopping campaign. Instead the Landing Forces preceded with a two pronged attack on Port Stanley. The forces left the San Carlos on the 27th May. The northerly prong of 45 Commando advanced on and secured the unoccupied hamlet of Douglas before meeting 3 Para who had gone straight to Teal Inlet arriving there before everyone else, at Teal Inlet on the 29th May. From here the combined force headed to Mount Kent, west of Stanley. The marines and commandos were each carrying an average of 120 pounds of equipment on their historic march across East Falkland.

 
 

 The Southerly force, 2 Para headed to Darwin. Their mission was to capture the hamlet of Goose Green. Intelligence thought that there was a small Argentine garrison there. This proved to very wrong information. 2 Para soon encounter heavy oppression from a Argentine force over 1,200 strong. The battle was a hard slog for the Paras as they found the Argentineans were well dug in and waiting for them. After the Battle there were rumours that the BBC World Service had announced on their news that 2 Para were going to attack Goose Green just before the attack was to go in. 

This caused a lot on mistrust between the troops and the press for the rest of the war. The Battle went on all though the night of the 27th. As dawn came on the 28th the Paras looking over the ground they had sofa taken from the Argentines were shocked to see the well prepared defenses they had fought for all night. The battle went on thought out the rest of the day with the paras attacking and gaining one Argentine  position after another. After a fierce 12 hour battle the Argentine garrison  surrendered on 29th May at 1000 hours. It was only after the surrender that paras realized the size of the enemy forces. 200 Argentine soldiers lay dead on the battle field and over 1'000 surrendered to them. 2 Para had lost 16 killed and over 30 wounded. Unfortunately one of the casualties was 2 Para commander Lieutenant Colonel Jones, who was killed.

 Leaving their bergens behind, 3 Paras marched in fighting order with food and ammunition, their vehicles coping brilliantly with the adverse conditions. On the 31st May, K Company 42 Commando embarked on helicopters and landed on the slopes of Mount Kent to be greeted by the SAS OP party and immediately dived for cover when they spotted a fire fight taking place a mile north.

 

 The fire fight stopped and an SAS officer reported that they had destroyed one argentine patrol and knew of another which they had under surveillance. The Sole surviving Chinook airlifted in three 105 mm guns and 30 rounds of ammunition. It was damaged on its return flight and could not fly again that night. The following night, after no Argentine counter-attack helicopters ferried in the rest of 42 Commando to secure Mount Challenger. 45 Commando joined them on 4th June. The weather now deteriorated crippling both Argentine and British air power.

5 Brigade sailed from Britain on the Queen Elizabeth II on 12th May, with some but not all of the equipment they needed to go to war and little armour. The brigade transferred to Canberra and Norland for its final passage south at South Georgia.


 
 

 2 Para then continued overland past Swan Inlet house to Bluff Cove with a short helicopter hop by A Company to secure the northern bank and wait for 5 Brigade to arrive. 5 brigade were unable to march across the Falklands, having missed out on the vital six day acclimatization period 3 Commando had benefited from. So a second landing was staged in terrible weather, including 70 knot winds. The first units of 5 brigade were put ashore on the beaches. After much delay, the Guard of 5 brigade took over the positions of 2 Para who retied to the shearing sheds at Fitzroy to dry out. 

The Navy now pulled out the massive Landing Ships and instead sent in the light RAF ships to unload the Brigades supplies. The undefended landing ship Sir Tristram and Sir Galahad were kept in the close shore waters as they continued to unload and were bombed by Argentine aircraft during the following day. Both were hit badly and Plymouth was also bombed that afternoon cause a large lose of life particularly with in the ranks of the 1st battalion Welsh Guards aboard Sir Tristram. Aircraft and landing craft lifted survivors off.

Three days after this catastrophe, 3 Commando and 5 Brigade launched the battle for Port Stanley. The first act was to clear the mountains of Argentine soldiers and their snipers who were equipped with night vision scopes. The ensuing actions involved bitter fighting as 3 Para advanced over the mountains blasting Argentine positions with mortars and anti- tank weapons Storming argentine positions some times in bayonet charges. Ian Mackay, a Platoon sergeant led his platoon against an Argentine bunker, and lobbed in two grenades before he was killed himself. he was awarded a Posthumous Victoria Cross.

 

 
 

 No 45 and 42 commando captured Two Sisters and Mount Harriet, then the 2nd battalion Scots Guards moved on Tumbledown Mountain as the 1/7 Gurkhas attacked Mount William before joining the 1st Welsh guards in the assault on Sapper Hill. some of the most bitter fighting took place on the mountains surrounding Port Stanley. 2 and 3 Para advanced on Mount Longdon and through the old marine barracks at Moody Brook Barrack and into Port Stanley. On 14th June at 2100 Hours, the Argentine forces surrendered. 11,313 Argentines were taken prisoner and were herded aboard British ships for repatriation.

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The first RAF mission after the Argentine invasion was a reconnaissance sortie flown by a Nimrod MR1 of No.42 squadron from Ascension Island which surveyed the Argentine forces on and around the Islands in support of the submarines deploying ahead of the main task force. These mission continued until 15th April when No.42 was relived by Nimrod MR2s, some armed with self defense Sidewinder missiles from the Kinloss wing.

On the 21st April, Sea Harriers of No.800 Squadron intercepted an Argentine Air Force Boeing 707 carrying out a reconnaissance over the task force, it was escorted out of the area. Four days later British Forces recaptured South Georgia and a Royal Navy Wasp damaged the Argentine Submarine Sante Fe with AS12 missiles.


On 30th April, A Vulcan bombed Stanley airfield in the first of the Black Buck raids. Three Vulcans, drawn from Nos. 44 and 50 Squadron then on the verge of retirement, were deployed to Ascension and from there one flew 3,500 miles - with airborne refuelling - to drop twenty one 1,000lb bombs on the runway from 8,000ft at 0438 hours local time before returning to Ascension. It had been refuelled 17 times en route by Victor tankers and was airborne for 15 hours 45 minutes to complete the longest bombing mission on record at that time. The following dawn, Sea Harriers attacked the airfield at low level. One of the Harriers was damaged by ground fire.Pictured right is a Vulcan courtesy of Edd Draper from his Royal Air Force site


 
 
 

Recommended book

The Epic Story of the Most Remarkable 
British Air Attack since WWII 
Rowland White 
Bantam Press £16.99 (hb)

The first full account of the most ambitious British bombing raid since the Dambusters: the dramatic Vulcan attack on Port Stanley airfield at the start of the Falklands War When the Argentinian forces invaded the Falklands on 2 April, 1982, it took the British government under Margaret Thatcher completely by surprise. They needed a response, and fast. The military chiefs were ordered to come up with a plan of retaliation. Operation Black Buck, the plan to bomb Port Stanley airfield, was their only realistic option. And even that was fraught with difficulties and danger.

The following day, the Argentine Cruiser was spotted by Canberra PR9s of No.39 Squadron operating clandestinely out of Chile, and subsequently sank by H.M.S. Conqueror. meanwhile the Task Force entered the 300 mile Total Exclusion Zone around the Islands and attacked the airfield with naval gunfire. On the night of 3rd May, the Vulcans made a second 'Black Buck' raid on Port Stanley.

The 4th May saw H.M.S. Sheffield hit by an Argentine Exocet missile, she subsequently sank. The same day, the first Sea Harrier was lost to enemy ground fire. Meanwhile, nine Harrier GR3s from No.1 Squadron from the Uk to Ascension in 9 hours and 15 minutes, having been adapted to carry Sidewinders and naval 2 inch rockets. Two days later, the Task Force lost two Sea Harriers when they failed to return from a Cap and are presumed to have collided in bad weather.

The 7th May saw Britain extend the TEZ to within 12 miles of the Argentine coast and two days later an Argentine surveillance trawler was found within the TEZ and strafed by Sea Harriers, and sunk after the crew surrendered. A period of bad weather followed restricting flying for both sides, although the SAS destroyed a number of Argentine aircraft on the ground at the Pebble Island airstrip during the night of 
14/15th May.

The following day two Sea Harriers strafed Argentine supply vessels in Falkland Sound, damaging one so badly that it had to be beached. The 18th May, saw the RAF Harriers from Ascension arrive onboard the freighter Atlantic Conveyor, from where they transferred to the H.M.S. Hermes, the following day three of them dropped cluster bombs on a fuel dump near Fox bay. The main amphibious landing took place on 21st May, with the Harriers providing air defense and ground support. The Frigate H.M.S. Ardent was destroyed by rocket fire from Argentine aircraft, but the Harriers accounted for three Skyhawk and three Daggers with Sidewinder Air-to-air missiles and another two Pucaras with gunfire. Two pumas and a Chinook were destroyed on the ground in the mount Kent area. one Harrier was shot down by ground fire and its pilot captured.

More ground support sorties were flown on the 23rd, including bombings of airstrips at Dunnose Head and Pebble Beach, destroying a number of Pucaras. H.M.S. Antelope was crippled by A-4 Skyhawks in San Carlos water the same day. The next day saw Sea Harriers and RAF Harriers dropped 1,000lb bombs, managed to damage a number of aircraft despite exceptionally heavy fire. A Sea Harrier was lost when it crashed into the sea, killing its pilot. While Sea Harriers accounted for a Mirage and three Daggers. The following day, the Skyhawks were back in force, sinking H.M.S. Coventry. Argentine Super Etendards launched Exocet missiles which set fire to the Atlantic Conveyor and caused her to be abandoned later along with her precious cargo of Chinooks. Harriers destroyed an Argentine Puma near Douglas settlement using cluster bombs. Harrier raids on the airfields were repeated the next day and again on the 27th. Another Harrier was downed during the 27th, again by ground fire. the pilot was rescued.

The 28th saw three Harriers support 2 Para and encouraged 1200 Argentine troops to surrender on the following morning. The 30th May was marked byHarriers mounting 10 close support sorties, one used Laser Guided Bombs, although they were ineffective due to the failure of the Forward Air Controller to be in the correct position. A third Harrier was lost to ground fire, but the pilot was plucked form the sea within minutes by a helicopters. A third Black Buck mission hit Stanley Airfield that night, the Vulcan being armed with American Shrike missiles, which temporarily disabled the radar. Meanwhile, Argentine Canberras bombed troop positions at San Carlos with little success. The 1st June was opened with a series of raids on Stanley airfield, but a pair of Harriers failed to intercept some MB339s reported in the area. However, two Harriers of No.801 squadron attacked an Argentine Hercules and shot it down, a similar aircraft (if not the very same aircraft) was reported to have bombed a British Tanker two days previously.

A Second Black Buck anti-radar sortie was mounted on the night of 2/3 June, but failed because the Argentineans shut the radar down. The Vulcan was forced to land in Brazil and was impounded until the 11th June following damage to its refuelling probe. The remaining missile was confiscated. Bad weather again intervened until the 5th June

The next sorties were on 5th June, when Harriers flew eight close support and armed recce sorties in search of ground-based Exocets. On the same day, the San Carlos prefabricated airstrip went into operation. A Harrier was damaged by a near-miss with a Surface to Air Missile and landed roughly at the prefabricated airstrip. Heavy Argentine air activity provided the Sea Harriers with plenty of chance for Target practice on the 8th June, when they downed three Skyhawks. However, four others got through and bombed the troopships Sir Galahad and Sir Tristram, leaving 53 dead. Two more Harriers had arrived during the day, following a 3,500 mile flight. Another tanker was bombed by an Argentinean Hercules on the 12th June, but the bombs failed to explode. More close support sorties followed for the next few days, including the last Black Buck mission on the night of 12/13 June, with 1,000lb bombs.

The 13th June saw the first successful Laser Guided Bomb sorties against an enemy 155 mm gun, which was destroyed at Mount Tumbleweed. A similar sorties the following day was called off when negotiations began.

On the 14th July 1982, the Argentine troops surrendered. During the eight week conflict 28 Sea Harriers flew 1,435 operational sorties shooting down 20 enemy aircraft plus three probables, while 14 Harriers flew a total of 126 sorties and the Vulcans five. They were supported by 375 Victor Tanker, 111 Nimrod and more than 600 Hercules and VC10 sorties with countless helicopter missions.


  
  


When Argentina invaded the Falklands Islands and South Georgia on Friday, 2nd April 1982 a British task Force sailed within 72 hours comprised of H.M.S. Hermes and H.M.S. Invincible both carriers were equipped with the Harrier V/STOL fighter and Westland Sea King helicopters. Some of their escort vessels were carrying the Westland Lynx HAS Mk I or Westland Scouts and Wasps. The task force carried a sizeable detachment of Royal Marines and British Army units. The flexibility of the helicopter and harrier was what made the recapture of the Falkland Islands possible. The Task force also included the two assault ships H.M.S. Fearless and Intrepid, and several requisitioned merchant ships acting as troops transports and the Atlantic Conveyor which was employed as a make-shift aircraft carrier, and helicopter landing platforms were added to ships such as the Queen Elizabeth II, Canberra and Uganda. RAF Boeing-Vertol Chinook and Westland-Aerospatiale Puma helicopters were also carried.

Westland Wessex helicopters inserted and took off an SAS patrol on South Georgia, despite loosing two of their number in the appalling conditions. The pilot was awarded the DSO for taking off from South Georgia in such appalling conditions with a massive overload of seventeen soldiers and naval airmen (Crew of the two previously crashed Wessexes). Later, SAS and SBS units were transported by helicopter to take control of the principal settlement on South Georgia, Gritvyken without a shot being fired, almost 200 Argentine soldiers were taken prisoner.


Throughout the Falklands campaign the helicopter provided vital transport. Although several helicopters were lost in accidents, very few were lost to enemy fire due to the skill and courage of the pilots when faced with the Argentine Kfir, Mirage and Skyhawk fighters. Whereas the Argentine forces lost two Pumas and a bell UH-1 Iroquois to attack by Royal Navy Sea Harriers. The Helicopter enabled just 600 men of 2 Para to take positions held by almost 2,000 Argentine troops, in a complete reversal of normal military doctrine which calls for an attacking force of three or four times the number of the defending one. Helicopters also evacuated casualties from the stricken RFA Sir Tristram and Sir Galahad while both ships were burning, and their ammunition 'cooking off'.

The lack of Airborne Early Warning aircraft available to the British fleet following the scrapping of the Royal navy's conventional aircraft carriers and the subsequent sinkings of a number of Task Force ships convinced the Admiralty that such an aircraft was needed and Royal Navy ASW Sea Kings were converted after the war to serve this role.

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On Wednesday March the 31st 1982 British intelligence indicated that the Argentine fleet would be moving into position for a seaborne assault on the Falkland Islands within the next 48 hours. The Argentine force had sailed under the overall command of Vice Admiral Juan Lombardo. Most of the ships sailed on Friday 26th March from the port of  Puerto Belgrano. Rex Hunt the Governor of the Falklands, was informed by London of the Argentineans possible intentions. Governor Hunt immediately summoned the two senior Royal Marine officers on the island to Government House to discuss the defence of the Falklands. Saying " Sounds like the buggers mean it.


At the time of the Argentine invasion the islands were defended by Naval Party 8901 (NP 8901) that consisted of a Royal Marine garrison of about troop strength. It just so happened that NP 8901 was in the process of its annual rotation, with one troop arriving and one troop returning to the UK (a fact that the Argentine intelligence did not know). Major Norman's troop of Marines were being relieved by a troop commanded by Major Noott. This gave Rex Hunt a total of 67 Royal Marines to defend the Falklands. Major Norman, being the senior of the two Majors, was placed in over all command and Noott was made military adviser to the Governor.   12 of Major Noott's troop had already sailed to South Georgia aboard H.M.S. Endurance under the command of Lt. Keith Mills. They had been sent to keep an eye on some Argentineans at Leith.


Rex Hunt also sent calls out to the 120 members of the Falklands Islands Volunteer Defence Force, made up of local men. These men had never fired a shot in anger and had only been called into action once before in 1966, when 30 Argentinean nationalists, hijacked an Argentinean plane and landed it at Stanley race course to free the oppressed islands from the British. The Argentines were shocked to find they were not welcome. They were quickly surrounded and sent back to Argentina on a British ship.  The response to Governor Hunts "Call to arms " was very disappointing. Because of the distance, some of the members of the defence force had to travel, only 23 managed to reach Port Stanley to help in the town's defence. Two officers and nine men from H.M.S. Endurance were also in Stanley at the time. As Major Norman was taking stock of his limited forces Jim Airfield, an ex-Royal Marine Corporal, who had moved to the Falklands, arrived at the Marine barracks at Moody Brook and demanded to be given a weapon saying, "There's no such thing as an ex-Marine ". He was given a rifle and fought alongside the Marines. Also a Canadian, Bill Curtis, who was a former air traffic controller, was sent by Norman to Stanley Airport to deactivate the airports directional beacon.


On the morning of the 1st of April, at 11am, Major Norman briefed his forces, telling them " Tomorrow you're all going to start earning your pay. " The Marines took it well, but some of the members of H.M.S. Endurance became very wide eyed. Norman then deployed his troops ( see Map ). His basic plan was to disrupt any Argentine landing at the airport or harbour. No 5 Section, commanded by Cpl. Duff, and was placed south of Stanley Airfield, with a GPMG, covering the beach on that side of the town, after they had first placed various construction vehicles on the runway to prevent any Argentine troop transports landing. Marines Milne and Wilcox of No. 5 section were sent with a GPMG to cover the Yorke Bay beaches just north of the airport. They both had motorcycles to ensure a quick get away. At Hookers Point, No 1 section commanded by Cpl. Armor was placed with No 2 section commanded by Cpl. Brown, just behind them on the old airstrip. To the west of these two sections was Lieutenant Bill Trollope with eight men. Lt. Trollope placed his men on the edge of the old airstrip. These men were armed with a 84mm Carl Gustav and 66mm rockets. These weapons were just about the only heavy support weapons the Marines had. Earlier Major Norman was disgusted to find out the NP 8901's only 81 mm mortar, had a cracked tube and could not be fired. No 3 section was placed 1 km north of these positions.


No. 6 section, commanded by Cpl. York was deployed near Stanley harbour. They placed their Gemini assault boat in a hidden cove, with orders to resist any Argentine ships trying to enter the harbour, whether they were landing craft or aircraft Carriers. Finally Marine Mike Berry was sent on a motorcycle to the top of Sapper Hill.  From this height, with his radio, he would be able to report to Major Norman any Argentine attempts to land. The motor coaster Forrest, skippered by Jack Sollis, was place in Port William to act as a seaborne early warning radar. At Cape Pembroke lighthouse, Basil Biggs, the lighthouse keeper, turned off the lamp and stood look out for enemy shipping from his high vantage point. Chief Secretary Barker, Police Constable Lamb and a detachment of Royal Navy personnel under the command of Colour Sgt. Noone, rounded up all Argentine citizens in Port Stanley. About 30 Argentines were rounded up, mostly employees of the Argentina State Oil Company. No mention can be found to say if the islanders were ever informed as to the possibility of an Argentine invasion.  The Marines and the other defenders settled down and waited for the Argentine invaders to arrive.


At 9pm on the evening of Thursday the 1st of April the Argentines commenced Operation 'Rosario', the Argentinean code name for the "Liberation of the Malvinas"  ( see Map ). The destroyer Santisima Trinidad (an ex British type 42 destroyer) hove-to 500 meters off Mullet Creek, south of Port Stanley, and lowered 21 Gemini assault boats into the water containing 92 men of the Argentine Amphibious Commando, under the command of Lieutenant Commander Guillermo Sanchez-Sabarots. Lieutenant Schweitzer's small advance party went ashore first to secure a beachhead at Mullet Creek. They then waited to guide the main party in. The main party soon pushed off from Santisima Trinidad, but found the going hard.  The current had changed and started to push the boats to the north, driving them into a field of sea kelp. The kelp wound itself around the propellers of the Gemini's causing many of the outboard motors to splutter to a halt. It took a long time and a lot of swearing before the commandos managed to extract themselves from the kelp and it was 11pm by the time they landed near Lake Point and finally joined up with Lieutenant Schweitzer's advance party.  On Sapper Hill, Marine Berry had heard the sound of the Argentine commandos trying to extract themselves from the kelp and radioed Norman to say he could hear the sound of engines revving out to sea, but Norman judged them to be helicopter engines.

At 1.30 am the Argentine commandos split into two groups and moved off to their objectives. Sanchez-Sabarots took his group to attack the Royal Marine barracks at Moody Brook while Lieutenant Commander Pedro Giachino took the other group around Sapper Hill to attack Government House and capture Governor Hunt. Giachino, who was normally 2IC of the 1st Marine Infantry Battalion, had in fact volunteered to accompany the commandos on Operation 'Rosario'. By the end of the day's fighting his name was known in every Argentine household.

At 11pm, the Argentine submarine Santa Fe gently surfaced off Kidney Island. Unfortunately for her, she was spotted straight away by Forrest's radar and Jack Sollis reported the submarine's presence to Government House. Ten tactical divers left the submarine aboard three Zodiacs and headed to a beach just east of Yorke Point, code named " Red Beach " where they placed navigation beacons.


It took Sanchez-Sabarots and his group five hours to cover the six miles to Moody Brook Barracks. During the march Lieutenant Bardi, who was acting as lead scout, fell and broke his ankle. He had to be left behind. At 5.45 am the Argentine commandos reached the Marine barracks and proceeded to attack the buildings with heavy automatic fire and deadly phosphorous grenades. This appears to have been very violent tactics for troops who later claimed that they used blank ammunition in order to save lives. This assault soon stopped when it was realized that the barracks were in fact empty. Major Norman had decided the day before that there was no point in trying to defend the barracks and had moved his HQ to Government house. The Argentine commandos, now feeling very confident after the easy capture of their first objective, now moved to join Giachino's group for their second objective, Government House. The picture on the right shows the destruction caused to the Royal Marine barracks some time after the war.

The noise of the assault on Moody Brook barracks had alerted Norman that the Argentines had landed. At the time he was at Out Look Rocks near Government House. He immediately drove back to Government house and radioed all his sections to return to Government House. Realizing that he was being attacked from various directions, he had decided to centralize his defence around Government House.


Giachino's group, having arrived on a small hillock near Government House, using night vision aids, observed the Royal Marines preparing for an attack. Giachino's plan was to enter Government House from the rear and "Invite Governor Hunt to surrender". Earlier in the year, Rex Hunt had unwisely given a copy of the plans of Government House to a visiting Argentine, who claimed to be an architect. However, Giachino did not seem to be aware of these plans as he and his 16 men advanced on Government House thinking they were entering the back door, when in fact they were entering the servants annex. At 6.15am, Giachino leading four of his men, kicked down the door to the annex. Three Royal Marines had been placed by Norman to cover the annex, Cpls. Sellen and Fleet and Marine Dorey. As Giachino and his men burst though the door they came under a hail of fire from the Royal Marines. The Battle for Stanley had started.

Giachino was hit almost at once trying to throw a grenade. Another Argentine officer was also hit in the leg, while the others ran and hid in the maids' quarters. Governor Hunt and Chief Secretary Barker took cover under the Governor's desk while the defenders of Government House and the Argentine commandos exchanged fire. A stalemate now developed, with Giachino lying badly wounded in the annex, the grenade, with its pin removed, still in his hand. An Argentine medic tried to reach him but was also wounded by a grenade. The British tried to get Giachino to throw away the grenade so he could be helped, but Giachino refused to do so, thinking, possibly, that it grenade might bounce back at him. There was also a language problem, as none of the British spoke Spanish and none of the Argentines spoke English, so the three wounded men were left were they fell. Later after the surrender of Government house, Argentine medics tried desperately to save Giachino, but he had lost too much blood and died shortly afterwards. He was to be the fist Argentine to be killed in the conflict. Most Argentine soldiers through out the conflict carried a eulogy written for Giachino. It reads thus.

The Malvinas Are Argentine

Many hued skies, majestic above the sea, 
A rapid flight of white seagulls 
Fleeing from the infernal thunder of guns, 
Eternal witness, the Southern Cross,

Imposing white and blue standard, 
May you bless it, may all-powerful God, 
There is the silence of death round about us, 
The blood of brothers lives in grief.

Struggle of people, fervour, lamentations, 
Voices of the Anthem, flag on the balcony! 
A song of the brotherhood, glory and unction.

Impassioned verses of Pedroni 
Have anchored at your port, SOLEDAD.... 
"Come home to the Fatherland, to eternity!

Nidia AG Otbea de Fontanini


Around about the time Lieutenant Commander Giachino was kicking in the door to his own mortality, Sollis on Forrest and Lighthouse keeper Basil Biggs both reported seeing Cabo San Antonio, a former United States tank landing ship, enter Port William, about a mile North-East of Yorke Bay.  She was being escorted by the destroyer Hercules and the corvette Drummond. At 6.20 Cabo San Antonio's bow doors were opened and the leading wave of LVTP-7s  (Landing Vehicle Tracked Personnel) LVTPs of E company 2nd Marine Infantry Battalion  (Infantry de Marina) slid into the water and headed for the Yorke Beaches guided by the navigation lights placed earlier by the tactical divers. This first wave was commanded by Lieutenant Commander Santillans. At 6.30 am the LVTPs hauled themselves ashore onto the beach. Santillans reported that the beach was clear allowing the 14 remaining LVTPs of E Company to approach the beach. On board two of these LVTPs were Commander Alfredo Weinstabl, commander of the 2nd Marine Infantry Battalion and Rear Admiral Carlos Busser.  Second Lieutenant Reye's section advanced to capture Cape Pembroke lighthouse. D company also landed soon afterwards and joined Santillan's LVTPs as they started to advance down the road to Stanley.


As the LVTP column passed the old airfield, they came in range of Lt. Bill Trollope's section; he gave the order to open fire.  The LVTPs were each armed with a 12.7mm machine gun that made these amphibious troop carriers a formidable threat to Lt. Trollope and his small section of Marines. Marine Gibbs, armed with a 66mm anti-tank rocket launcher took aim at the lead Argentine APC and opened fire, but missed. An  84mm Carl Gustav round fired by Marine Brown found its mark and stopped the lead LVTP dead. The Argentine marines inside the LVTP were unhurt and quickly evacuated the vehicle. The other Argentine LVTPs now spread out and opened up with their 12.7mm machine guns on Trollope's section positions. Lt. Trollope ordered a withdrawal back to Government house, happy that at least one of the Argentines APC would not give the Marines any problems in the near future.

While this action was taking place, the defenders at Government House were still exchanging shots with the few Argentine commandos that surrounded the building. During this time Major Norman received a report from Cpl. York's No. 6 section, which was still covering the harbour in a Gemini assault boat.  Cpl. York came over the net (radio) saying he had three possible targets to engage and wanted Major Norman to tell him what his target priorities were. " What are the targets? " Norman asked York over the net. York replied, " Target number 1 is an aircraft carrier, target number 2 is a cruiser... " At that moment the radio went dead.

After his radio died on him, Cpl. York, decided it was time to pull out. His men first booby-trapped their Carl Gustav using grenades. York then tried to send a final message to Norman, saying " I'm going fishing " a cryptic reference to a comment he had made earlier the day before to Norman when asked what he intended to do if the Argentines did invade. York's section paddled their Gemini out over the kelp before starting the engine and headed north across Port William. Not long after starting the engine, York was horrified to find an Argentine destroyer chasing his small boat.  He quickly made for the shadows of a Polish fishing factory ship that was anchored near the shore, then headed into shore and pulled up on a small beach. The section hid the Gemini and melted into the hills, with only their fighting order. For three days York and his Marines traveled slowly northwest, knowing that the rest of NP 8901 had been captured by now. They went undetected by Argentine helicopters. On the 4th of April York and his
 men reached a small shepherd's hut near Estancia owned by Mrs. Watson. York had no radio or supplies and was now concerned for Mrs. Watson's safety if the Argentines found them and a firefight started. Reluctantly he decided to surrender to the Argentines. Using a kelper's radio he advised the Argentines where his section was, then ordered his men to destroy and bury their weapons. A Major Dowling (of Irish decent with a hatred for all things British) accompanied by men of the 181 Military Police Company flew to the shepherd's cottage by helicopter. After landing the Argentines roughly searched York and his men, then tied them up with wire. The Marines were then placed aboard the helicopter and flown to Stanley where Major Dowling had them thrown into cells at Stanley Police Station, where they remained until they were repatriated back to the UK. Major Dowling overstepped his authority on several other occasions and was eventually sent back to Argentina in disgrace.


Rear Admiral Busser was starting to get a little concerned by the fact that the British had managed to hold up his advance on Government House and he had not yet linked up with the Commandos. He now ordered the 1st Marine Battalion to be flown in by helicopters from Almirante Irizar along with a section of 105 mm rocket launchers. Marine Berry on Sapper Hill reported seeing these helicopters heading for Stanley. Meanwhile at Government House, the three survivors of Giachino's section were still hiding in the maids' quarters, their presence unknown to the British, until they decided to try and break out and reach the attacking forces around Government House. As they were preparing to move they were heard by Major Noott, who opened fire into the maids' room ceiling. The three Argentines came tumbling down the stairs and surrendered to the British. They became the first Argentine POWs of the war.


At 8.30 am, Governor Rex Hunt and Major Norman faced up to the fact that the Argentines had landed in force and the defence of Government House could not last much longer so they discussed what to do next.  One suggestion was that the Marines should now disperse into the island's interior and carry on the fight in guerrilla style warfare. After a little thought this idea was thrown out because it would be impossible for the Marines to survive on the island without heavy support that would be a long time coming.  While this discussion was taking place, the battle for Government House was intensifying and Rex Hunt was starting to get very worried about civilian casualties if the fighting continued into Stanley itself.  He now invoked the 1939 emergency powers that named him Commander in Chief of all Her Majesties Forces in the Falkland Islands and ordered the now vastly out numbered Marines to surrender to the Argentineans, saying he was doing this to save lives.



Hunt then sent for one of the local Argentineans, an ex-Argentine Air Force officer called Hector Gilobert who worked for the Argentinean State Air Line LADE (Linea Aerea Del Estado). Chief Secretary Barker had been unable to find him when rounding up other Argentines the day before. It was generally thought by most islanders that Gilobert was in fact an Argentinean intelligence officer and he had supplied the invasion planners with information about NP 8901. Gilobert was soon found and sent to Government House where Hunt asked him to negotiate a cease-fire so that the civilians in Stanley would not be harmed.  Gilobert left Government House, passed though the Argentine lines and delivered Hunt's message by radio to Major General Garcia aboard Santisima Trinidad, who was in overall command of the Malvinas Theatre of Operations.


General Garica passed on the proposal to Admiral Busser in Stanley, who agreed to the cease-fire. Busser relayed that he would meet the British out side St. Mary's Church. The Argentines had thought to bring a white flag for the use of such meetings, but it could not be found, so they used white plastic bin bags instead.  Busser and his aides were taken to Government House where they were met by Hunt, Noott, and Norman.  Hunt refused to shake Busser's hand saying, " This is British property. You are not invited."



Bussers was visibly upset when the former Governor refused to shake his hand. Negotiations proceeded at a very civil level, apart from the interruptions by the anti-British Major Dowling, who later mistreated Cpl. York's section. After talking to Busser, Hunt consulted Norman and Noott and agreed to surrender. At 9.30 am, 149 years of British Colonial rule came to an end, the Falkland Islands were now in Argentinean hands. The Argentine flag was raised over Government House to cheers from the Argentine troops.  Hunt was allowed to change into his official ceremonial regalia and was driven to the airport in his official car. (a London taxi) At the airport he was placed aboard an Argentine C130 Hercules and flown to Montevideo and from there he was flown back to London.



No such niceties for the members of NP 8901. The Royal Marines were stripped of their weapons and webbing and forced to lie face down on the ground in front of Government House with their hands behind their heads.  They were not physically mistreated by the Argentines, but the humiliation they all felt was terrible.  The Argentine press took many photos of the Royal Marines lying face down on the ground with Argentine marines guarding them.  The Argentines did not realize it at the time but by taking these photos of the defeated Royal Marines they had just added smoke to the fire that was now burning in the heart of the British public back in Britain.  When these photos were later published in newspapers in Britain there was an outcry of support for the British Government to take back the Falkland Islands.



The Royal Marines of NP 8901 and the members of the Island's Defence Force were moved to the playing fields where more pictures were taken.  On the picture on the right at least one member of the Defence Force can been seen as well as several Royal Navy personnel. Also, at least three of the sitting men are making rude gestures towards the photographer. The Royal Marines were later marched to the airport and placed on a C130 Hercules heading for Montevideo. As one of the Royal Marines was being marched onto the aircraft he turned to his Argentine guard and said " Don't make yourself too comfy mate, we'll be back ". He wasn't wrong. After returning to the UK and giving much valuable intelligence to the Task Force commanders, Major Norman and his men returned to their Moody Brook barracks 76 days later as part of 42 Cdo RM.

Cpl York and his section of five Marines who were isolated on the western side of the narrows saw from their position that the Argentines were laying an ambush for them. As they had a Gemini hidden on the opposite side of the headland, they decided it was time to make a tactical withdrawal. Loading their kit into the the Gemini, and in order to avoid detection paddled their way to make good their escape. Suddenly round the headland came an Argentine Destroyer at full speed. It quickly spotted them, and in the words of Marine 'Butch' Urand 'I think we did 100 mile per hour!'. And to its everlasting credit the Johnson outboard motor sprang into life, and they made good their escape, first hiding behind a Polish Fishing vessel and then running their Gemini into the shallows out of reach of the Argentines. They lived in caves on diddle-do-berries for three days before their final capture. When taken, the Argentines were a little confused as to what rank three badge Marine Urand was (three Badges being long service stripes) because is chums had nicknamed him 'The General'. Being older than the rest, The Argentineans decided that discretion was the better part of valour and introduced him to 'The General' to the local naval commander, an Argentine Admiral.

Marine Jeffery Urand and the rest of NP8901 were flown to Argentinia, Marine Urand and his little party were kept separately from the remainder and intensively interrogated. Although no physical violence was used, the technique was aggressive and at times threatening. Their heads were shaved and they were kept in solitary confinement, before eventually being sent home. Now back again with the task force, Now suddenly he heard the  unforgettable voice of his interrogator again. A officious Argentine captain was addressing a company of forlorn conscripts before dispersal on to the airfield. Marine Urand strolled up behind and tapped the Argentine captain on the shoulder:' 'Allo My Darlin', Fancy us meeting like this again,' The military police officer paled, Gulped and quickly disappeared into the ever changing throng of POWs.

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22nd April 
Two Wessex's lost 
During the operation to retake South Georgia bad weather trapped SAS men on a glacier and a Wessex 3 and two Wessex 5's were sent to retrieve them. The first Wessex from H.M.S. Tidespring lifted off as the wind whipped up the snow but the pilot lost his bearing in the snow and crashed, skidding for some 50 yards and finally tipping over. The other two helicopters had now embarked their troops, so they lifted and landed next to the crashed Wessex and took on her aircrew and soldiers. Both aircraft dumped fuel to carry the extra load.

Visibility by this time was practically zero and the wind and snow had not abated. The helicopters lifted off. The Wessex 3, equipped with radar, took off with the Wessex 5 following astern and made their way down the glacier. Seconds later the helicopters traversed a small ridge and the Wessex 5 flared violently and struck the top of the ridge. It rolled onto its side and could not be contacted by radio. The remaining overloaded helicopter returned to the ship, some 30 miles away to the north and disembarked is passengers. The Wessex 3 returned to the crash site but was unable to land. They made contact by radio and confirmed there were no serious casualties.

 

The Wessex 3 returned to H.M.S. Antrim to wait for a break in the weather. An hour later an opportunity presented itself and the Wessex 3 flew back, embarked the survivors and flew back to H.M.S. Antrim piloted by Lt-Commander Ian Stanley RN, who was awarded the DSO.

23rd April 1982 
Sea king lost 
A Sea king HC.4 of No.846 sqn, carrying out a night  vertical replenishment mission from Hermes, ditched in the sea. The pilot was rescued but PO Air crewman Casey drowned.

4th May 1982  
Sea Harrier lost. Lt. N. Taylor, RN killed  
During an attack by Sea Harriers of No. 800 Squadron operating from H.M.S. Hermes against the airfield and installations at Goose Green, Lt-Commander Nick Taylor was hit by gunfire, almost certainly from batteries of twin 35mm anti-aircraft guns. His Harrier burst into flames and crashed into the ground killing Taylor instantly. His body was recovered by the Argentines troops at Goose Green and given a full military funeral. Taylor was the only pilot of a Harrier or Sea Harrier killed in action by enemy fire. 

 

6th May 1982 
Two Sea Harrier losses; Lt. W.Curtis and Lt-Commander J. Eaton-Jones Killed. 
Two No.801 Squadron Sea Harriers crashed in fog. It is thought that the two aircraft collided with each other in the fog

12th May 1982 
Sea King lost 
A Sea King HAS.5, of No 826 NAS from H.M.S. Hermes, ditched in the sea east of the Falklands after a systems malfunction. All the crew were rescued.

17th May 1982 
Sea King Lost 
A Sea King HAS.5, of No 826 NAS from H.M.S. Hermes crashes into the sea after having altimeter problem. All crew rescued. 

 

19th May 1982 
Sea King Lost 
A Sea King crashed while moving a large group of SAS troops from H.M.S. Hermes to H.M.S. Intrepid killing 22 men. The Sea King had taken off from H.M.S. Hermes at dusk. The Aircraft was slightly over loaded but because it was short fight the pilot reduced his fuel load to lighten the helicopter. At 300 ft the Sea King started it's decent towards H.M.S. Intrepid. those on board heard a thump, then another from the engine above them. The Sea King dipped once then dived . Within four seconds it hit the water. Some men were killed instantly and other knocked unconscious in the initial impact. Amazingly 9 men managed to scramble out of the open side door before the helicopter slipped below the waves. They were the only survivors. Rescuers found bird feathers floating on the surface were the helicopter had impacted the water. It is thought that the Sea King was the victim of a bird strike. One theory is at the Sea King was hit by a Black Browed Albatross which has a 8 ft wing span. The SAS lost 18 men on this night. The regiment had not lost so many men at one tine since the end of the second world war. The accident killed a member of the Royal Signals and the only RAF casualty of the war Flt Lt G.W. Hawkins.

20th May 
Sea king Destroyed on the ground by crew Much mystery still sounds the loss of this Sea King HC.4 ( ZA290) and why the aircraft and her crew had landed  near Punta Arenas in Southern Chile. We will be trying to unearth some of the mystery in a later chapter on BSW. 

 

21st May 1982 
On the morning of the San Carlos landings a Sea King helicopter carrying Rapier missiles and escorted by a light Gazelle helicopter, armed with a pintle-mounted machine gun and pod mounted SNEB rockets, flew straight over an Argentine party, which had evacuated Port San Carlos when the landings started. The Argentines opened fire and heavy accurate machine gun fire struck the Gazelle, mortally wounding her pilot Sergeant Andy Evans. Even so, he managed to turn away from the fire and ditch in the water.  The two crew men were thrown from the aircraft when it hit the water. As they struggled in the water, the same Argentines who had shot the helicopter down, opened fire on the two crew men in the water, despite their officer ordering them to cease fire. The Argentine troops continued to fire on the two helpless men struggling in the water for 15 minutes. When the shooting stooped Sergeant Ed Candlish, managed to drag Evans ashore, where he died in his arms. The Sea King they were escorting had managed to avoid the fire. This incident had marked effect on the British troops in the Task Force.


Minutes later a second Gazelle, unaware of the peril ahead, followed the same route and was raked by machine gun fire from below. The helicopter crashed to the ground in flames. When rescuers dragged the crew, Lt. Ken France and Lance Corporal Pat Giffin, from the wreckage they found them dead. Surgeon Commander Rick Jolly arrived at the crash site soon after in a Wessex from Canberra. There was nothing he could do for the France or Giffin, but he decided to return the bodies of the two men back to the task force, which was against orders, but he did so out of respect. That evening aboard the landing ship Sir Galahad, the Brigade Air Squadron held a memorial service for their three dead colleagues and all three were buried at sea. Sergeant Ed Candlish recovered form his ordeal abaord HMS Uganda.

21st May 1982 
One Harrier GR3 lost; Flight Lt. J. Glover captured. 
Harrier shot down by Blowpipe near Port Howard. Lt. Glover managed to eject from his doomed aircraft but broke his arm and collar bone while ejecting. He was soon captured my Argentine troops and flown to the military hospital at Comodoro Rivadavia in Argentina. Glover was released on the 8th of June.

 

23rd May 1982 
One Sea Harrier lost; Lt-Commander G. Batt killed. 
On a night mission to bomb Port Stanley, Sea Harrier crashes into the sea and blows up after takeoff. Lt-Commander Batt did not have time to eject and died in the crash.

25th May 1982 
A Westland Lynx, six Westland Wessex HU5s and three Chinooks lost 
When the Argentines bombed and sank the Atlantic Conveyor. Six Westland Wessex's of FAA 848 Squadron, three of five Chinooks of RAF 18 Squadron and a Lynx of FAA 815 Squadron were lost.

27th May 1982 
One Harrier GR3 lost. Squadron leader G. Iveson evades capture. 
Shot down by cannon fire, Ivesons Harrier was one of two aircraft that attacked Argentine positions near Goose Green. His Harrier was shot down by Argentine AAA. Iveson safely ejected over West Falkland and went into hiding. He was picked up by helicopter 4 days later.

 

28th May 1982 
Scout Helicopter lost 
Pilot Lt. R. J. Nunn flying a Scout of B Flt, 3 CBAS and his Air Gunner Sergeant Belcher were operating in Direct Support to 2 Para during the Battle of Darwin and Goose Green. He was flying as a pair with his Flight Cdr, Capt J Niblett and Sergeant Glaze in another Scout from B Flt. Casualties from both sides were being flown back to Ajax Bay and small arms and mortar ammunition was flown forward to the Battalion. About 11.55 hrs, Niblett & Nunn, with their crewmen, were tasked to fly forward and pick up Col. "H" Jones, CO 2 Para, who had been wounded. As the pair of Scouts left Camilla Creek House at very low level, heading towards Darwin, they were attacked by two Argentine Pucaras flown by Lt. Giminez and Lt. Cimbaro. These two had left Stanley earlier and descended through low cloud into the Goose Green area and by chance met the two Scouts head on. Despite avoidance turns and evasive flying, Nunn's aircraft was hit by a short burst of cannon fire and then he was killed with a burst of machine gun fire during a second attacking pass from Giminez. The aircraft crashed immediately and burst into flames. Sergeant Belcher survived the crash despite having one leg severed by cannon fire and being thrown clear during impact. Niblett and Glaze evaded the attack from Cimbaro through application of skilful and violent evasive flying and later returned to the scene to evacuate Sgt Belcher. Nunn was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and was buried along with other members of 2 Para who died on that day. After the attack the two Pucaras headed back to Stanley. They flew so low that stones and mud from the ground shattered Cimbaro's canopy. Both aircraft flew into low cloud and Cimbaro lost radio contact with Giminez. He never returned to Stanley. Sadly his body was not found until 1986 when the wreckage of his aircraft was discovered on Blue Mountain. He had flown straight into the mountain in zero visibility. Lt. Giminez was buried at Goose Green by his family. They were the first Argentine relatives to visit the island since the end of the War. Capt Niblett was awarded the DFC for his distinguished flying on the 28th and later in the campaign. Sgt Glaze was given a C in C's Commendation for his contribution during Op Corporate.

29th May 1982 
Sea Harrier lost. Lt Commander M. Broadwater ejected and picked up. 
No.801 Squadron Sea Harrier slides off deck in high winds. Pilot ejects and is picked up.

30th May 1982 
Harrier GR3 lost. Squadron Leader J. Pook ejected and picked up.  
During an attack on troops and artillery near Port Stanley, a GR3 (one of two) is hit by ground fire and losing fuel, the pilot ejects and is picked up 31 miles from H.M.S. Hermes. Pook was only in the water for ten minutes. 

1st June 1982  
Sea Harrier of No.801 Squadron shot down by Roland SAM off Port Stanley. Flight Lt. I. Mortimer ejected and spent 9 hours in a raft in the South Atlantic before being picked up by a Sea King. By the end of the war Mortimer had flown 63 combat missions

 

5th June 1982 
Gazelle lost 
A British Army Gazelle was shot down near Port Fitzroy, possibly by Sea Dart from H.M.S. Cardiff. 
The Gazelle  was carrying two aircrew and two members of 5th Infantry Bde HQ and Signal Squadron (the OC, Major Mike Forge, and the squadron Quartermaster Sergeant). It is believed that the chopper was shot down by the Royal Navy as the aircraft was exceeding the speed/height restrictions imposed on friendly aircraft. The practice was that all friendly helicopters flew below 100 feet and at less than 100 knots (or something similar). Any aircraft exceeding these limits would therefore be hostile and could be engaged. It was some years however before the MOD admitted that it was a blue on blue contact and we all thought at the time it had been shot down by ground fire.  ( Thank you to Barrie lovell for the information on the above 5th of June incident ) 

Guy Smith writes: 
I flew over the wreckage that morning. We knew that day that one of our ships had shot it down with a missile. I recall hearing at the time that they had made the flight at night, and so we assumed that perhaps they had flown high to avoid terrain. We had been briefed that we would be shot down by our own side if we flew more than 2000 feet (two thousand feet) above sea level.  However, communications and information for those of us camping ashore were spotty at best, and I would not be surprised if the Gazelle crew had not been briefed on this.

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During the Falklands war, British submarines were the first warships to reach the islands and began to enforce the Exclusion Zone around them. Of these vessels, H.M.S. Conqueror (Arrived 16th April) was the one to gain fame, becoming the first nuclear powered submarine to sink an enemy ship in combat. The diesel powered Oberon/Porpoise class H.M.S. Onyx (Arrived 28th May) served in a patrol area along with the two Swiftsure submarines: H.M.S. Spartan (Arrived 12th April) and H.M.S. Splendid (Arrived 19th April). As well as patrolling against Argentine submarines, these warships kept the Argentine carrier in dock, along with most of the Argentine Navy. Of those ships and submarines which made sorties against the Task Force, the British submarines prowled for Argentine ships outside the Total Exclusion Zone.

On 12th April, a 200-mile Maritime Exclusion Zone came into operation around the Falklands, this being changed to a Total Exclusion Zone on 30th April. Any Argentine vessels found within the zone were liable to be sunk without warning. The 26th April saw helicopters from the destroyer Antrim, the frigates Brilliant and Plymouth attack, damage and force the Argentinean submarine Santa Fe to run aground and surrender.


On the afternoon of the 1st May, H.M.S. Conqueror sighted the cruiser General Belgrano, a World War 2 US-built warship lacking sonar, and its escort of two Exocet-equipped destroyers, which were a pre-eminent threat to the task force. The 2nd of May saw the War Cabinet clear the Conqueror to remove the Belgrano from the theatre. H.M.S. Conqueror fired a pattern of torpedoes from around 2,000 yards and scored two hits. The Argentine cruiser sank rapidly thereafter, although her escort did try to sink the Conqueror with depth-charges they were unsuccessful. The loss of one of its most prestigious units probably caused the Argentine Navy to recall its other units, including their only aircraft carrier, the Veinticinco de Mayo to port.

Argentine submarines continued to pose a threat to the task force, but no successful attacks were carried out. Although some confusion during the landings did include sightings of possible torpedo tracks, no attacks were confirmed. The fleet's helicopters provided constant anti-submarine cover; a task for which they were designed with the Royal Navy's anti-submarine role being pre-eminent within NATO.

All Submarine images are curtsey of Andrew Arthur who runs H.M.S. Andrew, a virtual encyclopedia of the Royal Navy since the 1930's until today, and onwards..

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3 Para's Battle for Mount Longdon


With the weather closing in and resupply becoming a problem, the high ground of Mount Longdon was a key objective of 3 Commando Brigade's plan of advance. On the night of 11-12th June, having been under bombardment from the Argentine 155mm artillery, 3 Para were ordered to take it. The mountain was defended by B Company, 7 Infantry Regiment reinforced by specialist elements and snipers from 501 Company of the Argentine Special Force and from the Marines. Numerous minefields and bunkers also protected the feature. 120mm mortars, numerous machine guns and 105mm recoilless guns and anti-tank missiles supported the position. Each of the positions turned out to have been pre-registered as defensive fire targets and the feature was the linchpin of the Argentine defences of Port Stanley and they were prepared to fight long and hard to keep it.


The feature had to be taken piecemeal from the west, and the summit was such that only one company could fight along it at a time. Outflanking was not an option as a large minefield was to the south and known enemy positions were to the east on Wireless Ridge. The summit dominated the open ground around it for several thousand yards, increasing the risks of night movements. The reconnaissance patrols had surveyed the hill for nearly two weeks and were fairly certain of the locations of the antipersonnel mines. Two principle positions defended the mountain; on the east one was called Full back and on the west was Fly Half. The latter was an enemy command post and well defended, whereas Full Back was known to be heavily defended by machine guns and snipers. The northern side of the summit was code named Wing Forward and the start line for the attack, which also served as a report line, was called Free Kick. This was located on the forward edge of the forming up point, on the far bank of a stream that runs south to north onto the Murrel River.


The companies would move by independent routes under D Company patrol guides. A Company would take on Full Back, B Company was to attack Fly Half and C Company was in reserve. Fire support was provided by HMS Avenger and 79 Battery RA. The Battalion's own machine guns and mortars of the support company would establish two fire bases; one at the 300 foot contour west of the mountain and another at Free Kick. 2 Troop, 9 Parachute Squadron RE would provide engineer support. The sappers also provided defence for the 300 ft contour firebase by manning a .30in Browning machine gun, to neutralize a similar weapon operated by the Argentines on Two Sisters to the southwest.


The intention after the attack was to pass C Company through and onto Wireless Ridge, but proved impossible to do so as Tumbledown was not captured that night and dominated the ground and the ridge. The attack began at about 2100 hours and the approach required a four-hour long night infiltration march under a good moon, revealing the jagged nature of the feature and the extent to which it dominated the surrounding countryside. Major Mike Argue, B Company commander, altered his approach when one of the fire support groups cut the B Company column with the result that part of Five Platoon and Six Platoon lost contact with the rest for about 30 minutes. As a consequence of the lost time, Major Argue decide to approach the objective directly, traveling well south of the original route and well to the right of A Company. The picture on the left shows Support 
Company 3 para getting their brief to go on Mount Longdon, Major Dennison OC SP COY, is standing on the right giving the brief, on the floor is a rough model of Longdon, the tall thin man in the front is Cpt Tony Mason Anti Tanks.


The excellent night vision provided by the moon allowed the platoons to move closer to the rocks for better cover in the fight through. Three rifle platoons were formed with the Company HQ slightly to the left and rear. Six Platoon was on the right attacking from the southwest of the feature. Four and Five Platoons were to the west and northwest with Four Platoon on the left. Once the rocky ground was reached, Five Platoon fanned out and upwards into improved cover but Four Platoon were still 700 yards away from the first Argentine trenches and on low ground. At this point, the section commander of Four Platoon stepped on an anti-personnel mine and received serious leg injuries, losing the element of surprise. The Argentines responded with mortar, artillery and machine gun fire, which fortunately was somewhat inaccurate. Five Platoon was in good cover behind the rocks and Four Platoon raced forward through the minefield to close the enemy. Six Platoon made contact at the same time, having occupied Fly Half without any fighting, but having grenaded a number of bunkers on their way through. In the dark they missed a bunker and the enemy within opened fire in the Platoon's rear inflicting some dead and wounded before they were dealt with.


Six Platoon now advanced through Fly Half and came under accurate fire suffering eight casualties, four of them fatal. The Platoon commander asked to be allowed to pause to reorganize and treat the wounded. This was granted but he was informed that he might have to move forward to support Four and Five Platoons with fire support. Four Platoon had moved up on the left of Five Platoon and one of its sections had become intermingled with the other platoon for a while. Five Platoon came under heavy fire from Argentine machine guns as they advanced up the hill. A GPMG team was pushed farther up the rock face to fire into the enemy positions and the Argentine GPMG was taken out with 66mm LAWs and 84mm MAW fire. Enemy fire now came from the 0.50in Browning further east and was dealt with by a section attack. The gun group gave covering fire as Privates Gough and Grey charged forward and grenaded the position. At this time Four Platoon was still to Five's left and slightly to the rear but was engaging targets to Five's east and above Five's forward elements.


 

Pictured right is L/cpl John Kennedy. One our readers wrote to us recently saying : The man holding the drip on Mount Longdon ( in the regimental aid post) deserves a mention he was an excellent battalion medic who helped save many  lives as did all the battalion medics including Chris Lovett who was killed  administering first aid, the medic in the photo is L/cpl John Kennedy. 

 


The two platoons arrived at an area forward of the summit of Fly Half where the rock ridges started to break up and the ground began to slope away to the east, while the Full Back feature could be seen in the distance. Both platoons came under fire immediately. Their immediate problem was a well-sited platoon position reinforced with at least two FN MAG 7.62 GPMGs, a 105mm Recoilless gun and a 0.50in heavy machine gun. The position also had a number of snipers equipped with passive night sights. The commander of Four Platoon had been hit in the thigh in the initial burst of fire and the signaller of that platoon had been hit in the mouth. They continued to fire from their position and the signallers carried on transmitting until relieved some time later. It was while attempting to take out the heavy machine gun that Sergeant Ian McKay VC was killed. McKay and his team managed to reduce the enemy resistance but failed to neutralize the gun.

From the start of the advance, the artillery guns had been firing on recorded targets from Fullback while the guns and mortars had been pounding the targets throughout the action with rounds landing sometimes only 50 yards away from their own troops. The Battalion commander had also arrived by this time and had brought a fire support group under Major Peter Dennison, which had occupied a position on the summit of Mount Longdon and was bringing down fire on the enemy further east along the ridge.

B Company HQ was in an OP overlooking the enemy position and was laying heavy automatic fire on them. Everyone available plus artillery and mortars provided covering fire for the withdrawal from contact of the two platoons. The casualties were recovered and one fatality was sustained during the withdrawal as well as several minor casualties, with the withdrawal supervised by the company sergeant major.


A left flanking attack was mounted on the 50-cal position supported by machine gun fire from the summit of the mountain and mortar and artillery fire. Four and Five Platoons were merged into a composite force and accompanied by a small group from Company HQ, they approached along the route just used for the withdrawal as this was known to be clear of mines. They moved up the ridge to the north and waited while the final fire for effect hit the enemy positions. As the artillery moved east, the composite force moved forward and immediately came under fire from point blank range, having only gone some 30 yards. The muzzle flashes could be seen by company HQ but not the Platoon. The commander ordered the artillery to fire a 66mm round at the position to identify the target. The Platoon commander was still not sure where the fire was coming from and extracted himself and his radio operator while being covered by his rear section throwing grenades, which silenced the position. No more fire came from the position, so the Platoon commander and a rifleman both fired 66mm LAWs into the position and ran forward firing their rifles. Three enemy dead were found immediately and more after first light.

The 50-cal had been quiet for some time and it was hoped it had been neutralized. As B Company left cover to move forward they came under fire from two flanks, one from a position further east than the 50-cal and the other from the northeast where a number of enemy trenches were known to be. It was decided to move back and up onto the ridge and try and come at the enemy from behind. As this move was being carried out more fire came down, causing three more wounded. B Company's numbers were now critical and it was decided to pass A Company through to continue the action eastwards.


A Company approached their objective from the north, coming under increasingly accurate fire from the Argentine positions at the east of the feature due to a lack of cover. They moved forward to a series of peat banks with One Platoon to the left and Two Platoon on the right. Tac HQ was behind One Platoon and Company HQ to the left and rear. Three Platoon was on the right rear. Seeking the peat banks cost the Platoons their first casualties. The initial Argentine fire had been into planned defensive position and soon began to adjust to indirect fire back onto A Company and C Company positions. A Company could not move forward across the very open ground without sustaining more casualties from the accurate machine gun and sniper fire from the very high ground to their front. A Company pulled back and moved round to the western end of the mountain, passing back through B Company to assault Full Back from the west.


B Company's attack had established that outflanking the Argentines from the north would be too costly. A Company decided to attack along the ridge and Company HQ Support Group moved forward to position their GPMGs to cover the advance. The Forward Observation Officer began to call down artillery fire on the enemy positions. The Platoons moved across the ridge crawling on their stomachs towards the Argentine positions. The advance was slow and under accurate enemy fire. The lead section had to use all their own and the following sections, 66mm LAWs and grenades despite the covering fire as they moved forward. As the third section of the leading platoon crossed the crest, the enemy began to withdraw. As One Platoon followed Two Platoon over the crest the supporting fire stopped to prevent friendly fire casualties. The Two Platoon fixed bayonets and proceeded to clear the Argentines with bullet, grenade and bayonet. As the Platoons advanced more of the enemy withdrew and the support groups engaged these.


After a ten-hour action, Mount Longdon was in British hands. Daybreak brought a heavy mist that shrouded the mountain from Argentine guns as the Companies were reorganizing on the mountain. The cost of victory had been high, as the Paras had lost 23 killed and 47 wounded, 8 being killed in the actual battle and the rest during the following 36 hours of shelling. The Argentine casualties had been much higher. The mist later cleared and Argentine guns claimed six more lives and many wounded on Mount Longdon. The picture on the right shows Lance-Corporal James being lifted from 3 Paras forward aid post at the base of Longdon. The 3rd Parachute Battalion suffered the most losses for a single unit lost with 23 killed during the Battle of Mount Longdon and two days of shelling. 

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" Troops Out "

The San Carlos Landings


On the 13th of May Brigadier Julian Thompson, commander of the 3rd Commando Brigade, gave his first briefing on "Operation Sutton", the code name given for the first stage of the repossession of the Falkland Islands. The commanding officers and their staffs of the various units were all in attendance. The briefing was held in the wardroom of H.M.S. Fearless, which along with other ships of the Task Force was steaming south towards the Islands. Thompson stood before his officers and simply said, " Gentleman, Orders".


The briefing started with Major Southby-Tailyour RM. giving a short briefing on the terrain the battalion commanders could expect to find on the Falkland Islands. Southby-Tailyour had commanded NP 8901 from 1977 to 1979. NP 8901 was the small Royal Marine detachment, which had been the unit stationed on the Falklands before the Argentine invasion. Southby-Tailyour had spent many hours exploring the Islands from a small boat during his posting to NP 8901 and had gathered crucial information about the lay of the land. He had mapped every major bay on the Falkland Islands 10,000-mile coastline placing the information in a 126-page notebook. Thompson had asked Southby-Tailyour to hand over the notebook to his staff before leaving the UK, but Southby-Tailyour refused to do so unless he was allowed to accompany the Task Force. Thompson made sure Southby-Tailyour was part of his planning staff before 3 Commando sailed south. Southby-Tailyour had been instrumental in choosing the location of the landing of troops on the Islands. The location picked by Thompson and his planners was San Carlos on East Falkland.

After Southby-Tailyour's briefing, Thompson's Intelligence Officer, Captain Rowe, gave a briefing on the known 
locations and strength of the Argentine troops on the Islands. Next Thompson's Chief of staff, Major Chester, gave all the officers present a briefing on the air and naval forces that would be available during the landings. The mastermind of the whole amphibious landing was Commander Clapp RN.


After these briefings Thompson stood up and  gave the main briefing for the landing of 3 Commando at San Carlos. "Mission. To land at Port San Carlos, San Carlos and Ajax Bay to establish a beachhead for mounting offensive operations leading to the recapture of the Falkland Islands". He then repeated what he had just stated and continued "Design for battle, a silent night attack by landing craft with the objective of securing all high ground by first light". Thompson then addressed each of his unit commanders individually, regarding their units' role in the landings. The plans were thus:

The SBS would be the first in to secure the landing beaches and mark them for the approaching landing craft.

First Wave 
would consist of 40 and 45 Commandos. 40 would land on "Blue Beach" at San Carlos from H.M.S. Canberra 
while 45 would land on "Red Beach" at Ajax Bay from Stromness

Second Wave 
would consist of the 2nd and 3rd Parachute Battalions. 2 Para would come ashore from H.M.S. Norland and 
pass through 45 to secure Sussex Mountain and resist any Argentine attempt to attack the beachhead from Goose Green. 3 Para would come ashore from H.M.S. Canberra and land on "Green Beach" and secure Port San Carlos.

42 Commando would act as a floating reserve aboard H.M.S. Canberra.

D Squadron of the SAS would cause a diversion for the landing by flying ashore from H.M.S. Intrepid and using noise and heavy fire power would try to convince "Task force Mercedes" (the Argentine troops stationed at Goose Green) that they were being attacked by a regiment, keeping the Argentines occupied while the landings took place.

Various other members of Thompson's staff then took over the briefing to give detailed instruction on logistics 
and landing craft arrangements. Thompson then closed the briefing by reminding his officers that in the event of an opposed landing, the killed and wounded were to be left, otherwise the momentum of the assault would be lost. He went on to say, " May I remind you that this will be no picnic. Good Luck and stay flexible" With that the two hour long briefing ended. The only thing Thompson had not shared with his officers was the date and time of the landings.


By the next morning Thompson's plans were out the window. During the night Northwood (the operations centre for the task force in England) intercepted an Argentine radio signal from "EC Hermes" The signal originated from Port San Carlos. Thompson's staff was worried by this information. What was EC Hermes? Had the Argentines discovered the location of the British landings? Before now British Intelligence had thought that San Carlos was unoccupied by the Argentines. A 4-man SBS team had been active in the San Carlos area since May the 1st and reported no signs of Argentine activity. Captain Rod Bell came up with the answers. Bell was one of 3 Commando Brigade's Spanish interpreters. He had been raised in Costa Rica and Spanish was his first language. Bell suggested that EC stood for "Equipo Combate" or Combat Team, which would be no more than a company in strength.


Combat Team Eagle (EC Hermes) was in fact only platoon strength. It was commanded by 1st Lieutenant Carlos Esteban of the 25th Infantry Regiment. His unit consisted of 60 men. Esteban had been ordered to set up an OP overlooking San Carlos Water to observe any attempt by the British to land there. Combat Team Eagle had been flown into the San Carlos area by helicopter from Goose Green on the 14th of May. Their arrival was confirmed later in the day by a SBS sergeant making a covert recon of the landing beaches. Esteban made his headquarters at Port San Carlos and sent 20 men under 2nd Lieutenant Roberto Oscar Reyes to Fanning Head to set up an OP over looking San Carlos Water. This group of Argentineans became known as 'The Fanning Head Mob". They were armed with an 81 mm mortar and 105 mm recoilless rifle. Reyes and his 'Fanning Head Mob' were to remain a thorn in the side of the British bridgehead for the next week. Reyes had also made himself known to the civilian population at San Carlos when he struck the manager of the settlement, Alan Miller, in the face with the butt of his pistol. See Map

Unknowingly, Esteban had put a spanner in the works and Thompson and his staff had to re-think their plan. Over night they re-wrote the plans to "Operation Sutton" The new plan was as follows.


 

First wave 
2 Para would land at "Blue beach 2" from H.M.S. Norland 
and advance 8 km to Sussex Mountain. 
40 Commando would land at "Blue Beach" from H.M.S. Fearless.

Second wave 
45 Commando would land at "Red Beach 1" from  Stromness and secure Ajax Bay 
3 Para would land at "Green Beach" from H.M.S. Intrepid and secure Sandy Bay


Click on Map to enlarge

3 SBS would be put ashore well before the main invasion to deal with the 'Fanning Head Mob'.

D squadron SAS would stick to their original role of keeping  "Task force Mercedes" (the Argentine troops 
stationed at Goose Green) occupied.


Thompson now issued his new orders to his field commanders and set the date for D-Day as Friday the 21st of May. H-Hour would be 3.30am local time. The next day 3 Para suffered the unpleasant experience of being transferred by landing craft from H.M.S. Canberra to the assault ship H.M.S. Intrepid. 40 Commando also transferred from H.M.S. Canberra to H.M.S. Fearless. The troops had to lower themselves by rope from a side door on H.M.S. Canberra into the swaying landing craft below. Each man had to time the moment just right because one moment the landing craft would be just 3 feet away; the next it might be 15 feet away. One Royal Marine got it wrong and fell into the sea; Luckily he was quickly plucked out of the cold water unharmed.


 


Just after midnight 3,000 troops aboard a fleet of eleven ships entered the narrows guarding San Carlos Water. H.M.S. Antrim launched its Wessex helicopter to make a quick reconnaissance of what the 'Fanning Head Mob' was up to. The Wessex (in fact the same aircraft that had played a major roll in the re-taking of South Georgia) was fitted with a thermal image camera. After a quick sweep of San Carlos the Wessex returned to H.M.S. Antrim and the SBS viewed the videotape from the thermal image camera. Several clusters of what looked like bright glow-worms were observed, giving the exact location of the Argentines. The SBS set off to deal with them. Captain Bell (one of 3 Commando Brigade's Spanish interpreters) accompanied them armed with a battery driven loudspeaker he had found aboard H.M.S. Antrim. The plan was for Bell to try and persuade the Argentines to surrender without blood being spilled.

 

Around 12.30 the troops started to board their landing craft. Almost at once the detailed invasion plans started to go awry. H.M.S. Fearless's ballast pump packed up. The pump controlled the water levels in the landing dock allowing the LCUs to enter and depart safely. With out water in the dock the LCUs remained high and dry. Reacting quickly, H.M.S. Fearless's Captain Jeremy Larken knew there was no time to waste waiting for the pump to be repaired and ordered the ships dock gate to be opened allowing the sea to rush in and float the LCUs. This was a very dangerous thing to do but Larken knew he had few other options. The LCUs were soon able to pull out from the dock and head for the beaches.

 


Meanwhile the other landing ship H.M.S. Intrepid anchored and her four LCUs (Tango 1, 2, 3 and 4) left the dock and headed for H.M.S. Norland to pick up 2 Para. Because of the enforced radio silence the LCUs had a hard time locating H.M.S. Norland amongst the ships in San Carlos Water. Colour Sergeant Davies at the helm of the leading LCU, Tango 1, had to identify each ship with shielded signal lamp before he located H.M.S. Norland. While the other LCUs circled waiting their turn, Davis pulled along side H.M.S. Norland only to find that there were no mooring points for the LCUs to use. The helmsmen had to constantly keep station alongside H.M.S. Norland as the Paras climbed down several ten-foot rope ladders onto the LCUs. Because of their late arrival at Ascension Island 2 Para had missed out on the rehearsals for this type of troop transfer. Now here they were in the dark, loaded down with equipment, trying to do something they never expected to have to do and on top of all that their mortal enemies, the Marines, were in charge. It took time and a lot of swearing but 2 Para started to slowly board the LCUs. One Para fell into a LCU breaking his pelvis.


The plan had been for 2 Para's boats to cross the start line at 1.45am but due to the embarkation problems on H.M.S. Norland, Thompson slipped the schedule forward by one hour. After what seemed like an age, the last LCU, Tango 4 commanded by Csgt Kiwi Sherrin ( Second coxn Cpl Mick Angel ), pulled along side H.M.S. Norland to embark the last of 2 Para. While this was happening, the other three LCUs circled waiting for Tango 4 before heading for the beaches. Southby-Tailyour, whose task was to guide the landing craft in, located Col. "H" Jones, 2 Paras CO, onboard Tango 1, which was carrying B Company. Southby-Tailyour suggested to Jones that if they left now without Tango 4 and steamed at full speed with the other three LCUs they would be able to beach only forty minutes behind H-hour. Jones replied, "let's go"


Meanwhile the SBS were having their own problems. The Sea King aboard H.M.S. Antrim, which was going to fly the SBS in, was going nowhere. The aircraft could not lift off because of the weight of all the gear the SBS wanted to take with them. A quick reorganization of men and equipment had to take place before the load was lightened. The pilots told the SBS that it would still take four lifts to get all 35 men and their equipment to the drop off point, which was only 10 minutes flying time from H.M.S. Antrim. Eventually the SBS were landed 2,500 meters from their target. Equipment was sorted and the men headed in single file towards Fanning Head. See Map

The noise of the helicopters depositing the SBS alerted the 'Fanning Head Mob' and one of the sentries awoke Lt. Reyes saying that something was happening in the bay. Reyes ordered the recoilless rifle to be fired into San Carlos Water, but there was no reaction. He then radioed Esteban at Port San Carlos telling him that there was possible British activity in San Carlos. After speaking to Esteban, Reyes went back to sleep.


The march to Fanning Head was proving to be hard going for the SBS and by 2.15 they were still 1,000 yards short of their objective. Captain Hugh McManners radioed H.M.S. Antrim to open fire on Fanning Head with her 4.5 main gun. Unfortunately the weapon refused to cooperate so the SBS opened fire with their 60 mm mortar. At 4.30 am H.M.S. Antrim informed McManners that the 4.5 was now operational again. He ordered twenty air bursts to be laid over the Argentineans. Reyes was fully awake by now and after failing to contact Esteban, decided to abandon the OP. McManners spotted them as they moved towards Partridge Valley. The SBS formed a fire line and opened up on the Argentines with everything they had. Some of the Argentines were killed before McManners ordered cease-fire and handed command over to Captain Bell and his loudspeaker. Bell cleared his throat and began to speak into the loudspeaker, but nothing came out. The batteries were dead. Throwing the loudspeaker aside in disgust Bell shouted as hard as he could in Spanish telling the Argentines to surrender. Four of the Argentines raised their hands but Reyes and the rest of his men slipped into the darkness back towards Fanning Head were they opened fire on the SBS with a MAG. McManners ordered more shelling from H.M.S. Antrim, which forced four more Argentines to surrender. Reyes now moved further away from Fanning Head taking what was left of his platoon with him. Bell and some of the SBS gave chase but lost them in the darkness.


The troops heading towards the beaches witnessed the firefight going on at Fanning Head as they rowed towards the shore. 2 Para were having a rough time in the LCUs that "H" Jones had packed with as many men as he could. One soldier accidentally discharged his weapon wounding another Para in the foot. As Southby-Tailyour approached "Blue Beach 2" he started looking for the prearranged signal from the SBS who had gone in ahead to secure the beach. The SBS were to use a red light flashing pre-arranged signals in Morse such as:

Alpha: Beach safe 
Bravo: Be careful 
Charlie: enemy on beach 
No light at all: Cock up or enemy on beach.


Southby-Tailyour searched the landing beach but could see no light at all. Did this mean the enemy was waiting for them, or had the SBS not made it to the right beach? Southby-Tailyour walked up to the bridge of Tango 1 to speak to "H" Jones about his problem, but found that Jones had already made his decision for him. Jones said although he could not see the SBS, the enemy were nowhere to be seen. There fore he gave the order, "Prepare to beach" Colour Sergeant Davies drove Tango 1 onto the beach, lowered the ramp and shouted, "Troops out" Nobody moved. He shouted again " Troops out ". Still nobody moved. The order, "troops out" would be understood by a Royal Marine but to a Para it means nothing. Realizing what the trouble was, a Para officer screamed, "GO" See Map

At 4.30am local time B Company 2 Para stormed ashore at "Blue Beach 1". The British had returned to the 
Falklands. B Company's CO, Major John Crossland, was one of the first ashore. As he walked ashore he was confronted by a member of the SBS saying, "Who the hell are you?" 
"2 Para, who the bloody hell are you?" 
"3 SBS .We thought you were coming on the 24th." 
This did not go down well with Crossland, nor did it improve relationships between the Paras and the Marines.


Tangos 1, 2 and 3 disgorged their troops onto "Blue Beach 2". Tango 4 soon arrived after steaming at full speed from H.M.S. Norland. There was much confusion on the beach as the troops poured shore and were separated from their units. Jones was so angry about the delay in getting ashore that he broke radio silence and ordered his company commanders to get the Battalion sorted out. The Paras soon sorted themselves out and C Company led the way as the Battalion headed towards Sussex Mountain. See Map


 


40 Commando, who had been waiting offshore, now headed towards "Blue Beach 2". The Marines landed without any problems and C Company secured San Carlos settlement and raised the Union Jack flag. The Marines found 30 Islanders at the settlement. A and B Companies checked out the area to their front before climbing Verde Mountain to establish defensive positions on the reverse slope, while C Company checked the area of the settlement. Lt Col. Hunt and Capt. A. Pillar knocked on the door of Mr. P. Short to announce their arrival. The two officers were somewhat surprised when Mr. Short opened the door and said very calmly, "Oh! You're here. We wondered when you were going to come".

The Recce Troop moved forward to establish OPs on Verde Mountain but found progress slow due to their heavy loads and difficult terrain. The SAS diversion at Darwin had proved effective and the San Carlos Landings continued undisturbed. See Map


45 Commando was put ashore at Ajax Bay and 3 Para at the Port San Carlos settlement. Darkness gave way to clear blue skies as the amphibious ships moved into San Carlos Water while everything was going to plan. The Rapier air defence systems started to come ashore with the 105 mm light artillery batteries. A dawn bombardment of the Goose Green airstrip prevented Argentine Puccara aircraft from taking off, but a lone Aermacchi, bravely flown by Lieutenant Guillermo Crippa from Port Stanley, strafed H.M.S. Argonaut inflicting casualties among the men on the upper deck, one of whom lost an eye. Every gun and missile now opened up on Crippa's aircraft as he calmly flew the length of the bay counting the Task Force's ships. He then banked and returned unharmed to Port Stanley. Crippa was awarded Argentina's highest award for gallantry.

Combat Team Eagle at Port San Carlos was retreating in front of 3 Para. Some Argentineans managed to evade capture for the next few days. The Argentine Air Force started to retaliate against the task force at about 0900 hrs, with a series of sorties flown from Stanley and long-range sorties from the mainland. H.M.S. Ardent and H.M.S. Argonaut were singled out for attack with both being badly damaged. The Ardent had to be abandoned, and the Argonaut, with two 1,000 lb unexploded bombs aboard, was towed into San Carlos Water.


2nd Lieutenant Reyes and what remained of the 'Fanning Head Mob' were still at large in the area and soon pulled off the only Argentine success of the day. A Sea King helicopter, carrying Rapier missiles and escorted by a light Gazelle helicopter armed with a pintle-mounted machine gun and pod mounted SNEB rockets, flew straight over Reyes party as they fled the area. The Argentines opened fire and heavy accurate machine gun fire struck the Gazelle, mortally wounding her pilot Sergeant Andy Evans. Even so, he managed to turn away from the fire and ditch in the water.  The two crewmen were thrown from the aircraft when it hit the water. As they struggled in the water, the same Argentines who had shot the helicopter down opened fire on the two crewmen in the water, despite Reyes ordering them to cease-fire.  The Argentine troops continued to fire on the two helpless men struggling in the water for 15 minutes. When the shooting stopped Sergeant Ed Chandlish, managed to drag Evans ashore, where he died in his arms. The Sea King they were escorting had managed to avoid the fire.

Minutes later a second Gazelle, unaware of the peril ahead, followed the same route and was raked by machine gun fire from below. The helicopter crashed to the ground in flames. When rescuers dragged the crew, Lt. Ken France and Lance Corporal Pat Griffin, from the burning wreckage they found them dead. Surgeon Commander Rick Jolly arrived at the crash site soon after in a Wessex from H.M.S. Canberra. There was nothing he could do for France or Griffin, but he decided to return the bodies of the two men back to the Task Force, which was against orders, but he did so mainly out of respect. That evening aboard the landing ship Sir Galahad, the Brigade Air Squadron held a memorial service for their three dead colleagues. See Map

This shooting of unarmed men in the water had a marked effect on the British troops in the Task Force. Reyes and his party made it back to Goose Green four days later although stragglers from the 'Fanning Head Mob' were still being rounded up around the San Carlos area a week after the landings.


After enduring the cramped conditions aboard H.M.S. Intrepid, 3 Para had landed safely, if not a little wet at "Green Beach". As the lead LCU neared the beach, the Paras watched in horror as the Royal Marine Coxswain tested the depth of the water with a white stick. This brought the comment from one Para, "F### me, he's bloody blind"! Some of the LCUs were unable to get right in and some of 3 Para ended up getting wet as they waded ashore. These men claimed that from that moment until the end of the war, their feet never fully dried out. See Map


 


Col. Hew Pike of 3 Para was ordered by Thompson to clear the area of any remaining members of Combat Team Eagle. Pike sent out patrols from his A and C Companies to hunt down the Argentines. Sadly this brought about the first "Blue on Blue" incident of the campaign when A Company opened fire on a group of figures in the dark who had failed to respond to a challenge. They poured small arms fire into what they thought was the enemy and even called for 105 mm fire support. Two Scimitars of the Blues and Royals opened up with their 30 mm cannon as well. At 3 Para HQ Pike, who was listening to the reports, suddenly realized that two of his companies were firing at each other and ordered an immediate cease-fire. By then the firefight had been going on for 62 minutes. The enemy turned out to be a patrol from C Company commanded by Lieutenant Peter Osbourn.  Two of his Toms (Paras) lay badly wounded. Col. Pike flew in a helicopter to the contact area and was nearly killed when the Sea King he was flying in crashed. 3 Para sorted themselves out and managed to round up what was left of Combat Team Eagle over the next few days. The picture on the right shows a captured NCO from Combat Team Eagle being escorted by Sergeant Watson of  3 Para. The Argentine NCO is still wearing a Royal Marine jersey that he had looted from Moody Brook Barracks in Port Stanley.


Combat Team Eagle was not the only Argentine unit in the area that week. On May the 23rd Lieutenant Commander Dante Camilettie and ten Argentine Marines had landed by helicopter on Chata Hill. Their task was to destroy British anti-aircraft defences on Mount Usborne. Camilettie and his Marines laid up for one day trying to observe the British but saw nothing. He then moved his patrol nearer to San Carlos. Camilettie spread his men out around the beachhead and installed himself on Mount Verde. From here he observed the British beachhead and reported back to Stanley all he saw, until he was captured, while hiding under a rock, by a patrol from 40 Commando.  The Royal Marines "invited" Camilettie back to 3rd Commando Brigade HQ to have a little chat about what he was doing in the hills.


 


May 22nd was clear and fine over the Falklands and no Argentine sorties were flown from Goose Green or Stanley. 3rd Commando Brigade took full advantage of this break to establish a Brigade support area with hundreds of tons of ammunition and stores ferried ashore and a casualty clearing station was set up in a disused mutton factory. Responsibility for the defence of the Rapier battery was given to A Company on Lookout Hill. The landings had been achieved. Now for the Breakout!

-------------------------------------------------------------------

Mountain and Arctic Warfare Cadre

The Battle for Top Malo House


A specialized training unit of the Royal Marines was formed from the Cliff Assault Wing of the 3 Commando Brigade from the cadre normally trained in winter Warfare. These specialists were highly skilled in military skiing and Arctic survival techniques. They were experts in deep penetration patrolling in adverse conditions, particularly in mountainous terrain. Brigadier Thompson was to use the cadre as the Brigade reconnaissance troop where they became a vital tactical reserve and were to fight the only daylight action against Argentinean Special Forces at Top Malo House.

Captain Boswell RM. and nineteen of his men of the M and AW Cadre were about to undertake a task that had originated from a report made on May 27th by a four man patrol from the cadre, sitting on Bull Hill. They had been in position since D-Day, 21st May, one of a number of small patrols that were the eyes and ears of the Commando Brigade. The four man patrol on Bull Hill, well forward on the route to Teal and Stanley, reported back to say that this may be their last message because two Argentine UH-1 helicopters were hovering over the OP. Eventually, and to the relief of the patrol, the UH-1s lifted and hovered and then flew in the direction of Mount Simon.


The Sgt. i/c of the patrol reckoned that they had probably deposited troops of the Argentine Special Forces on the lower slopes of Mount Simon. The message sent back to Commando Brigade Headquarters alerted the Brigade of the threat of Argentine Special Forces sitting on the high ground to the approaches of Teal Inlet and beyond. The Commando Brigade was about to move forwards to Teal Inlet, so this threat to their security must be eliminated. Boswell was to undertake this task with his men. On the evening of 30th May he received a message from one of the patrols in an OP on the lower slopes of Mount Simon, that they had just seen two UH-Is deposit a patrol of sixteen men at Top Malo house 400 meters from their position and that they had heard several other helicopters in the vicinity. It was this Argentine Special Forces patrol that Boswell was told to eliminate. He planned to arrive by helicopter about one hour before first light at a landing site about 1,000 meters away and in dead ground from Top Malo House, he would approach in the darkness and assault at dawn.


In a helicopter from the 846 Naval Air Squadron, the nineteen men piled into the helicopter with their rucksacks heavily loaded with supplies and ammunition to last for a week in the field without re-supply. Overloaded, the helicopter took off to deposit the assault force on exactly the right spot after a 45 kilometre flight, only possible by skilful flying and typical of the pilots and aircrew of the 846 Naval Air Squadron. The assault force set off and moved 1,000 meters away. A seven man fire group moved off to the left about 150 meters from Top Malo House, from where they would support the twelve man assault group led by Boswell. As Boswell approached the house he called the section commanders to him for a final check. As they lay looking at the target, Boswell realized that their dark uniforms on the snow covered ground would be a give-away to an alert sentry, and being Special Forces the enemy would surely have sentries out. The whole assault group crawled forward, only too conscious that the ground over which they were moving was overlooked by a window in the upper floor of the building.


When Boswell judged they were close enough to the house and in full view of their support fire group, he gave the order 'fix bayonets'. Boswell fired a green mini-flare, the signal for the fire group to fire six 66 mm light anti-armour rockets at the house. As the first rocket was fired, an Argentine sentry moved to the window on the upper floor. A Corporal, armed with a sniper rifle, shot him. As the 66 mm rockets slammed into the house it burst into flames; Boswell and the assault group charged forward, halted, fired two 66s into the house and charged again. The enemy ran from the house into a small streambed about 50 meters away, firing as they ran. One Marine Sergeant fell, hit through the shoulder, and then a Corporal fell hit through the chest. The ammunition stacked in the house exploded as the assault group ran forward and the smoke from the burning building shielded them from the enemy lying in the stream firing at them. The firefight went on for a few minutes as the assault group worked their way towards the enemy. The officer commanding the Argentine force tried to run off and was killed by two 40mm rounds fired from M79 grenade launchers. The Argentines stood up and threw away their weapons. It was over.


Five Argentines had been killed, seven wounded and the remaining five were taken prisoner. The British had three wounded. The whole operation had been a brilliant success by good field craft, good planning, and excellent flying by the pilot from 846. Unknown to the British the assault had been watched by two other Argentine OPs who, having seen the treatment meted out to their comrades, decided to call it a day. One OP stationed on the summit of Mount Simon walked into Teal Inlet where 45 Commando picked them up. The other group walked towards Lower Malo House and surrendered to 3 Para.

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With most of 5 Infantry Brigade entrenched in the Bluff Cove-Fitzroy area on 9th June, Brigadier Tony Wilson assembled the battalion commanders to plan the Brigade's part in the advance on Port Stanley. 3 Commando Brigade would attack Two Sisters and Mount Harriet, and 3 Para would take on Mount Longdon. 5 Brigade was assigned Mount Tumbledown, Mount William, Wireless Ridge and Sapper Hill. Wilson's first idea was for the Brigade to attack on the 12th June, with 2 Para attacking Wireless Ridge and the Ghurkhas undertaking active patrols on Mount Tumbledown and Mount William on the same night as 3 Commando attacked. The Scots Guards, with a company of Ghurkhas under command, would move in step with 3 Commando Brigade, covering their south flank. If Tumbledown and William did not fall to the Ghurkhas, the Scots Guards would go in at first light on 12th or 13th June. The Welsh Guards were down to only two effective companies and were intended to be kept in reserve by Brigadier Wilson.

A recce platoon of 2nd Btn, Scots Guards, was forward of Bluff Cove at a covert patrol base during the conference, and on his return, Lt-Col. Mike Scott recalled the platoon. Before it could withdraw they were brought under mortar and small arms fire.

Platoon Sergeant Allum gave the order to pull out, under intense fire, which wounded three men including Sergeant Allum. The casualties were taken to an emergency rendezvous and were lifted by helicopter direct to the main dressing station in Ajax Bay. The remainder of the platoon picked their way through a minefield that barred their retreat, the platoon then got a ride to Bluff Cove, courtesy of Scimitars and Scorpions of the Blues and Royals Troop, which was with 5 Brigade. The action showed that the Argentines were well prepared to face any threat from the south.


This made Lt-Col. Scott unhappy with a southern attack on Tumbledown and in a planning meeting with his company commanders, supporting battery commander, adjutant and ops and intelligence officers, they came to the conclusion that southern attack, in daylight across the harsh ground of Tumbledown's southern slope, would be suicidal. Scott went back to Wilson and with Wilson's agreement changed plans, to attack Tumbledown from the flank at night, using positions already secured by the Commandos to the west.

The new plan was once Tumbledown had been taken, the Ghurkhas would assault Mount Williams, and then the Welsh guards would pass through and seize Sapper Hill.


Scott issued his orders on the afternoon of 10th June. The attack would be silent and mounted in three phases, each based on a company attack, with companies passing through one another until the Mountain was secured. Supporting fire would be in the form of close air support from Harriers, five batteries of 105mm light guns, the mortars of 42 Commando and the Welsh guards. Naval gunfire support would come from HMS Active and HMS Yarmouth. A diversionary attack was planned to precede the main assault and draw Argentine attention to the direct they expected the assault to come from, the south.


The attacks were now scheduled on the night of 12th June, the Scots Guards were to be airlifted to their assembly area west of Goat Ridge at 0800 hours that day, but no helicopters arrived. When Lt-Col. Scott went to Brigade headquarters he found out about 3 Commando's successes of the previous night. In view of the delay, his attack would be delayed to the following night. However, he was able to take his company commanders forward, by helicopter, and give them a good look at Tumbledown form Goat Ridge.

The following morning the helicopters arrived and the men were airlifted into position. Sangars were dug and the Argentines shelled the position for most of the day, although they only wounded one man. The platoon and section commanders got a good look at the objective during the day and at 1400 hours, Scott gave his final orders.


The initial estimate placed Argentine strength at a company occupying Tumbledown, probably well dug in. The battalion would advance down Goat Ridge in a line-ahead formation by companies, with G Company leading, followed by 'Left Flank' and then 'Right Flank'. G Company would take the most western part of Tumbledown, which was thought to have one Argentine platoon on it. 'Left Flank' would then pass through to deal with the next part of the Mount, and finally 'Right Flank' would seize the remainder. H-Hour was fixed for 2100 hours. Each man was in light order, leaving his rucksack in the assembly area, but six sleeping bags per company were carried to help casualties. The assault would be made wearing berets; the helmet would be carried, as it was awkward for difficult terrain, and would be donned for the close assault.

The diversionary attack started at 2030 hours. Major Richard Bethell commanded the attack with three four-man assault sections from the recce platoon and a fire support group from Battalion headquarters with A1 echelon, the battalion's immediate logistics element. In support were the Blues and Royals and two sappers, a forward observation officer, and mortar fire controller.

Signs of the enemy had been seen earlier, but now none were apparent. Bethell sent the Blues and Royals off towards Stanley to draw fire, the lead vehicle running over a mine, but luckily not sustaining any injuries to the crew and without attracting the attention of the Argentines. A sangar was spotted as the assault group advanced. The fire support group took up position and the assault group closed in. They spotted further sangars and snoring could be heard. The group split up to deal with these dugouts and came under heavy fire. Two men were killed immediately and four more wounded. After two hours' hard fighting, the position was eventually secured and then came the withdrawal.

Major Bethell, and the piper with him, was providing covering fire for the withdrawal and both were wounded by grenade shrapnel. Four more men were badly wounded in a minefield. Argentine artillery opened fire. It had little effect as the shells buried themselves deep in the soft peat. The dead had to be abandoned and the party reached the starting point just after midnight, in time to see Tumbledown lit up by artillery fire and 0.5in tracers form Mount Harriet.

G Company advanced in two parallel columns for the three kilometres from the start line to their objective. Despite sporadic snow flurries, artillery, and mortar fire, as well as star shells, they managed to get onto their objective, only to find that the Argentines had abandoned it, but they heard Spanish being spoken further up the hill and remained undetected. The 'Left Flank' passed through G Company at 2230 hours and G Company provided supporting fire. This drew mortar and artillery fire onto their positions and they suffered some casualties. Meanwhile, the two platoons of 'Left Flank' closed with the enemy.


The right-hand platoon came under accurate artillery and machine gun fire and began to take casualties, while the left-hand platoon under Second Lieutenant James Stuart, had problems negotiating the rocks. His platoon sergeant, and one other man, was killed and two more were wounded including the company sergeant major. Both platoons tried to dislodge the enemy with mortar fire, grenades launchers, and light anti-tank weapons but the Argentines, regulars of the 5th Marine Battalion, would not budge. The FOO and MFC called down fire but had problems getting it to fall in the right place.


The Company Commander, Major John Kiszely, spoke to Battalion headquarters just before 0230 hours and informed them he was going to lead a charge. He led his men in a fixed bayonet charge, overrunning the sangars and killing the enemy in tough fighting. Major Kiszely, himself, had a lucky escape when an enemy round lodged in his belt. The move forward, guarding the prisoners, and clearing out the sangars, saw most of Major Kiszely's men absorbed and he found himself on top of the mountain with only six men, three of whom were wounded. Major Kiszely had some anxious moments, but the Argentines did not counter-attack. The attack had taken seven hours hard fighting and had cost 'Left Flank' seven men killed and 18 wounded.

The enemy were still holding onto the last part of the Mountain, and at 0600 hours 'Right Flank' moved to deal with them. Major Simon Price planned to do a right flanking action with two platoons, the third to provide covering fire. He had only half an hour until daylight. There was no artillery support and little mortar fire.


He attacked with the leading sections, firing their anti-tank LAWs as they went. Ricochets off the rocks flew in all directions and the enemy returned heavy fire. The Guards did manage to secure a forward position, and many acts of bravery were recorded. By 0800 hours, the objective was secured with several Argentines killed and 14 captured. 'Right Flank' had lost five wounded, including Lt. Robert Lawrence, who was awarded the MC.


  
 

Tumbledown was a very tough nut to crack and a remarkable achievement for a battalion that two and a half months before had been on ceremonial duties in London.

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3rd April 1982 

Puma SA330l of CAB601 brought down by heavy small arms fire from Royal Marine party defending Grytviken South Georgia. 1st Lieutenant Alejandro Villagra piloting a Puma Helicopter lifted off from the Bahia Paraiso carrying another 15 argentine Marines to reinforce the seven already ashore. Villagra brought the Puma too close to Mount Hodges, and Mills gave his men the order to open fire. A hail of fire hit the Puma. Two Argentinean Marines  were instantly killed and several wounded, but Villagra and his co-pilot were amazingly unhurt and managed to stop the helicopter from dropping out of the sky. Both pilots managed to coax the smoking aircraft across the bay to the Hummocks were it crashed and rolled over on its side, injuring more Marines.

1st May 1982.

08.25 hours 
One Pucara of FAA Grupo3 destroyed and two other Pucara's damaged beyond repair at Goose Green after a bombing attack by three Harriers of No. 800 Squadron, flown by Lt-Cdr Frederiksen, Lt Hale and Lt McHarg RN. Lt Jukic was killed in the destroyed aircraft as he tried to take off.

1200 hours. 
Lt. Commander "Sharkey" Ward and Lt. M. Watson in Sea Harriers of No.801 Squadron on CAP engage three Turbo-Mentors. One is damaged by cannon fire from Ward's Aircraft.

1528 hours. 
No.801 Squadron CAP, Lt. S. Thomas and Flight Lt. P. Barton, engage two Mirages of FAA Grupo 8 in a turning fight. Flight Lt. Barton destroys one with a Sidewinder and the pilot, Lt Perona (I-015), managed to eject.  Lt. S. Thomas damages the other Mirage flown by Capt Cuerva. Cuerva try's to fly his damaged aircraft to Stanley Airfield. He is shot down and killed by Argentine AA over Stanley.

1640 hours 
A Dagger of FAA Grupo 6 is shot down by Flt Penfold fly a No 800 Sea Harrier over East Falkland using a Sidewinder. The pilot of the Dagger, Lt Ardiles is killed.

1647 hours. 
No.801 Squadron CAP (Lt-Commander M. Broadwater and Lt. W. Curtis) intercepts three Canberras 50 miles from H.M.S. Invincible. Lt. Curtis destroys one (B-110), B62 of FAA Grupo 2, with a Sidewinder. The Argentine crew, Lt. Ibanez and Gonzalez are seen to eject, but are never found.

These attacks inflicted the following damage: 
3 Daggers attack 3 ships in front of Stanley/Argentino, causing various degrees of damage to the ships

Official Argentine Sources state: 
May 1st: 
8:25 Jukic's plane(A-527) destroyed and pilot killed when trying to start the engines. Another Pucara(A-502) damaged but recovered (see below). No other Pucara damaged on the ground during this action. 
15:28 Garcia Cuerva's plane (I-019) was not hit by Thomas, as far as conversations I've had with members of the Argentine Air Force that saw his plane approaching and talked to him on the radio. He dropped his missile to lighten his plane when trying to land low on fuel after the air combat, Army gunners mistook him with a Harrier dropping a bomb and shot at him. Flew over the town shedding pieces and catching fire while other gunners joined the Army ones (that's what was seen by the townsfolk) before crashing. Even Thomas in the book by Hobson says that he did not see his missile explode or hit GC's plane. 
16:40 Ardiles (C-433) was flying alone in this mission and fought against 2 Sea Harriers. He was flying a Dagger (no radar)

9th May 1982. 
Two A-4C Skyhawks of FAA Grupo 4, flown by Lt Casco (C-313) and Lt. Farias (C-303),  did not return, presumed crashed in poor weather. Wreckage from one of the aircraft was later found on South Jason Island.

H.M.S. Coventry destroys Puma, SA330L of CAB 601, while flying over Choiseul sound with Sea Dart SAM at a range of over 10 miles. All three crew members are killed.

Official Argentine Sources state: 
May 9th: 
Yes, they crashed in bad weather. According to recent information, the 2nd plane has been found in shallow waters in the same island (South Jason). While trying to defuse the bomb of Casco's plane, a fire caused by the explosion burnt 90% of the island.

12th May 1982. 
1244 hours. 

Four A-4B Skyhawks of FAA Grupo 4,  attack H.M.S. Brilliant and H.M.S. Glasgow, 15 miles south of Port Stanley. Brilliant destroys two with Seawolf missiles and a third crashes into the sea while trying to evade missile. All three pilots, Lt Bustos(C-246), Lt Ibarlucea(C-208) and Lt Nivoli(C-206) are killed.

1304 hours. 
One A-4B Skyhawk, in a group of four, destroyed by Argentine anti-aircraft fire at Goose Green after attacking HMS Glasgow and HMS Brilliant. Pilot, Lt Gavazzi (C-248), is  killed.

Official Argentine Sources state: 
May 12th: 
13:04 hs. HMS Glasgow was damaged and retired from the Theater

14-15 May. 
Six Pucaras, four Turbo-Mentors and a Skyvan transport lost, destroyed by the SAS during a raid on the Pebble Island airstrip.

Official Argentine Sources state: 
14-15th: 
2 destroyed, 4 damaged but not recovered (see details below) 
Pucara A-502 and 520 destroyed, damaged 523, 529, 552 and 556.

21st May 1982.

08.00 hours 
Chinook CH-47c of CAB 601 destroyed on the ground near Mount Kent by Flt Lt. Hare RAF. Flying a Harrier GR3. 
Hare destroyed the Chinook using his 30mm cannon. In the same attack Sqn Ldr Pook badly  damaged a Puma ( SA 330L ) of CAB 601  also on the ground near Mount Kent, again using his GR3s 30mm cannon. Pook returned to finish the job of on the 26th of May, destroying the helicopter.

0840 hours. 

Pucara of FAA Grupo 6 shot down by Stinger SAM near San Carlos. Pilot, Captain Jorge Benitez (A-531),  ejects and walks back to Goose Green, which was still in Argentine hands at this time. The Stinger was fired by a senior NCO of D Squadron Air Troop SAS. The shot turned out to be a lucky one because the operator of the weapon had had no training on the Stinger before. The Stingers had been supplied to the SAS by the United States Government. Staff Sergeant O'Connor of the SAS had been trained on the weapon and it was intended that he would teach other troopers how to use the weapon. Sadly O'Connor was killed along with 21 others when the Sea king he was aboard crashed into the sea on the 19th of May. He was carrying all the Stinger training manuals at the time. The pilot of the Pucara, Capt. Benitez, ejected safely from the aircraft.

0930 hours. 

Three Mirage Daggers attack H.M.S. Broadsword and H.M.S. Argonaut causing slight damage. One Dagger is destroyed by either H.M.S. Broadsword's Sea wolf or H.M.S. Plymouth's Sea cat. The pilot, Lt. Bean(C-428), is killed. In addition to her Sea wolf missiles,  H.M.S. Broadsword had another secret weapon. Her upper deck small arms battery, a mixed crew of sailors and Royal Marines, who fired at the passing Argentine aircraft with the ships 40 mm Bofors, machine-guns and rifles. The team was lead by Royal Marine Sergeant Leslie. Boardswords small arms party shot down two Argentine aircraft and damaged two others. Sergeant Leslie was awarded a DSM for his actions during the Falklands War.

1045 hours. 

Two Pucaras intercepted by No.801 Squadron CAP ( Lt. N. Ward, Lt. S. Thomas and Lt. A. Craig ). One destroyed by cannon fire from Ward's Harrier and the pilot, Major Carlos Tomba(A-511),  ejected and walked back to Goose Green. Ward later complemented Major Tomba on how he continued to fly his aircraft after Ward had filled it with so many holes.

 

1205 hours. 
No.800 Squadron CAP (Lt.Cmdr. N. Thomas ad Lt.Cmdr. M. Blissett) intercept four A-4C Skyhawks. Thomas and Blissett destroyed one A-4C each with Sidewinders and Blissett  damages another with cannon fire. The pilots of the two downed aircraft, Lt. Lopez(C-309) and Lt. Manzotti(C-325),  were both killed.

1335 hours. 
No.800 Squadron CAP (Lt.Cdmr. R. Fredriksen) vectored towards four Mirage Daggers. Fredriksen destroys one with a Sidewinder missile. The pilot, Lt. Luna(C-409),  ejects.

 


1350 hours. 
No.801 CAP (Lt.Cmdr. N. Ward and Lt. S. Thomas) vectored towards three Mirage Dagger As of FAA Grupo 6  north of Port Howard. In a turning  fight, three Daggers were destroyed with Thomas accounting for two and Ward for one, all with Sidewinders, All three pilots, Maj Piuma(C-404), Capt. Donaldille(C-403) and Lt. Senn(C-407), were seen to  eject from thier aircraft. 

1406 hours. 
Three A-4Q Skyhawks of CANA 3  attack H.M.S. Ardent. They are intercepted after attacking the ship by No.800  
Squadron CAP (Lt. C. Morrell and Flight Lt. J. Lemming). All three aircraft are destroyed. Morrell accounting for one with Sidewinder and another, flown by Lt. Arca(312),  with cannon fire Lemming shoots down the third Skyhawk with cannon fire. One pilot, Lt. Marquez(314), is killed. Lt-Cdr Philippi(3-A-307) ejects. Lt. Arca fly's his damaged aircraft towards Stanley, hopping to land there. His undercarriage had suffered damage in the attack and his is forced to eject.

These attacks inflicted the following damage: 
HMS Antrim seriously damaged by an unexploded bomb 
HMS Ardent sunk by attacks from A4-B (Carballo), Dagger (Mir Gonzalez, Berharndt, Robles - and Luna shot down before reaching the target) and then the A4-Q from the Argentine Navy. 
HMS Argonaut damaged and retired from theatre of operations. Only damage to the 5 attacking Skyhawks was the loss of the end of the drop tank of the leader (Filipini) when it touched one of the masts of Argonaut. That's on top of Owen Crippa's MB339 attack with guns and rockets. 
HMS Brilliant was slightly damaged by cannon fire. 
HMS Broadsword was slightly damaged by cannon fire.

Official Argentine Sources state: 
May 21st: 
9:30 hs HMS Broadsword did not shot down any plane using small guns. 
12:05 No gun damage to the 2 surviving Skyhawks 
13:35 The other 3 Daggers hit HMS Ardent with 2 bombs 
13:50 Both Donadille and Piuma Justo fired their guns to Ward

23rd May 1982. 

0930 hours. 
No.800 Squadron CAP (Flt.Lt. J. Leeming and Flt.Lt. D. Morgan) encounter four helicopters near Port Howard. One Puma, SA330L, of CAB 601 fly's into the ground while trying to evade Morgan. A second Puma is also damaged with cannon fire. An Augusta A109 is also destroyed on the ground by Morgan and Flemming using cannon fire.


 

1245 hours. 
Two flights of A-4B Skyhawks attack HMS Broadsword, HMS Antelope and HMS Yarmouth south of Fanning Head. Antelope hit by two unexploded bombs, one of which later explodes while being defused. HMS Antelope sank the next day. One A-4 destroyed, possibly hit by Seawolf from Broadsword or Rapier from land. Pilot, Lt. Guadagnini(C-242), is killed.


 

1405 Hours. 
No.800 CAP (Lt.Cmdr. A. Auld and Lt. M. Hale) encounters three Mirage Daggers over Pebble Island. One is destroyed by a Sidewinder from Hales' aircraft. The pilot, Lt Volponi(C-437), is killed.

Official Argentine Sources state: 
May 23: 
12:45 Guadagnini killed when trying to recover his plane (after missile hit) and crashed against HMS Antelope's mast.


 

24th May 1982. 
1005 hours. 
Four Mirage Daggers attack HMS Fearless, HMS Sir Galahad and HMS Sir Lancelot off Ajax Bay. Two Daggers damaged.


1015 hours. 
No.800 Squadron CAP (Lt.Cmdr. A. Auld and Lt. D. Smith) vectored towards four Mirage Daggers A's of FAA Grupo 6 north of Pebble Island. Two destroyed by Auld using Sidewinders and  Smith accounted for another again with Sidewinder. Maj Puga(C-410) and Capt Diaz(C-430) manage to eject but Lt Castillo(C-419) is  killed. The picture sequence on the right was taken from Aulds gun camera as he destroyed one of the Daggers.


 

1045 hours. 
Five A-4B Skyhawks attack HMS Sir Galahad, HMS Sir Lancelot and HMS Sir Bedivere. All ships were hit and some A-4Bs were hit.

1215 Hours. 
Three A-4C Skyhawks attack ships in Falkland Sound. All aircraft damaged and one later crashes into King George Bay, West Falkland while trying to reach the main land. The Pilot, Lt Bono(C-305) was killed. 
RFA Sir Galahad and RFA Sir Lancelot damaged by unexploded bombs. RAF Sir Bedivere damaged by a glancing bomb hit.

Official Argentine Sources state: 
May 24: 
1005: No Daggers were damaged 
1045: No Skyhawk hit


 

25th May 1982. 
0837 hours. 
HMS Coventry shoots down an A-4B Skyhawk of FAA Grupo 5 with Sea Dart west of West Falkland. The pilot, Lt Palaver(C-244),  was killed.


 

1130 hours. 


Four A4C Skyhawks attack shipping in San Carlos Water. Two were destroyed; one by H.M.S. Coventry's Sea Dart and another by H.M.S. Yarmouth's Sea Cat. Both pilots ejected, one, Lt. Ricardo Lucero(C-319) is found. Lt. Garcuia's(C-304) body is never found. The image on the right shows one of the Argentine Pilots who ejected. Lt. Ricardo Lucero of the Argentine Air Force . He was picked out of San Carlos Water and taken aboard H.M.S. Fearless where his wounds were treated by Cmdr White, a Naval Surgeon aboard Fearless. He had dislocated his left knee as he ejected.


  
 

1400-1419 Hours. 
No.800 CAP called down on A-4B Skyhawks but is called off twice by HMS Coventry. HMS Broadsword is hit and HMS Coventry sunk. HMS Fearless damaged. Possibly HMS Avenger was damaged, seeking confirmation.

Official Argentine Sources state: 
May 25: 
11:30 Capt Garcia's body found in 1983 North of Pebble. Lucero had both his legs injured. 
Carballo's C-225 slightly damaged under one wing during attack to HMS Broadsword (he damaged the ship with his 1000 lb bomb)

27th May 1982. 
1550 hours. 
Four A4B Skyhawks bomb shore units on north shore of San Carlos. One destroyed and three damaged, by HMS Fearless's 40mm guns. HMS Intrepid als claims the kill. The pilot of the destroyed aircraft, Lt. Velazco(C-215), ejects.

Official Argentine Sources state: 
May 27: 
15:50 Velazco's plane was shot down. Two of the others were damaged.

28th May 1982. 
0800 hours. 
Three Pucaras attack troops at Darwin. One shot down by Royal Marine Defence troop Blowpipe SAM.


 

1100 hours. 
Two Pucaras flown by Lt. Giminez(A-537)  and Lt. Cimbara(A-555) attack RM Scout helicopters near Camilla Creek House. Lt. R Nunn flying one of the helicopters is killed with a burst of cannon from Giminez and crashes. After the attack the two Pucaras evaded Blowpipe missiles and headed back to Stanley. They flew so low that stones and mud from the ground shattered Cimbaras canopy. Both aircraft flew into low cloud and Cimbara lost radio contact with Giminez. He never returned to Stanley. Sadly his body was not found until 1986 when the wreckage of his aircraft was found on Blue Mountain. He had flown straight into the mountain in poor visibility. Lt. Giminez  was buried at Goose Green by his family. They were the first Argentine relatives to visit the island since the War.

 

1600 hours. 
Two MB.339s attack Darwin. One is destroyed by Blowpipe and the pilot, Lt. Miguel,  is killed.

1609 hours. 
Two Pucaras attack Darwin. One is damaged and the other destroyed by 2 Para small amrs fire . The pilot, Lt. Cruzado, ejected and captured by 2 Para.

Official Argentine Sources state: 
May 28th: 
0800 No Pucara shot down during this mission. 
1100: It's Lt Cimbaro, who damaged the second Scout with his rockets once the helicopter had landed to evade the Pucara's attacks.


 

29th May 1982. 
1135 hours 
Two Mirage Daggers attack ships in San Carlos. One destroyed by Rapier and the pilot, Lt. Bernhardt(C-436),  is killed.


 

30th May 1982. 
1331 hours. 
Two Super Etendards and four A-4C Skyhawks from FAA Grupo 4 attack task group from south. Two A-4s destroyed probably by Sea dart fired from HMS Exeter. HMS Avengers 4.5inch gun also claimed one of the aircraft. Both pilots, Lt. Varquez(C-301) and Lt. Castillo(C-310), are killed.

1st June 1982. 
0950 hours. 

No.801 Squadron CAP (Lt. N. Ward and Lt. S. Thomas) destroy Argentine C-130 Hercules 93 km north of Pebble Island. Wards first AIM-l9 Sidewinder he fired fell short of the C-130, but the second started a fire between the port engines,  Ward then fired 240 rounds of 30mm, which broke the aircraft's wing of sending it crashing into the sea killing the 7  crew members. This particular C-130 is believed  to have been trying to repeat a bombing attempt made by another C-130 the previous day, when an Argentine C-130 made a bombing attack on a British tanker well north of the total exclusion zone. One bomb struck the ship, but bounced off to no effect.

Official Argentine Sources state: 
June 1st: 
The C-130(TC-63) was looking for sea targets using the on board weather radar. During the attack you mention to the tanker, bombs were dropped from TERs installed under the wings of the C-130! Not dropped from the back door.


 

7th June 1982. 
0810 hours. 
Two reconnaissance Argentine Learjets  of FAA Photo Reconnaissance Grupo 1 are engaged at 40,000ft by Sea Dart from HMS Exeter over Pebble Island. One of the Learjets, T-23 is  destroyed and Wg Cdr de la Colina and his crew are killed.


 

8th June 1982 
1535 hours. 
Four A4C Skyhawks attack Fitzroy area with no hits. All aircraft damaged.

1540 hours. 
Four A4B Skyhawks attack LCU F4 in Cholseul Sound. One bomb hit and the LCU sank later. No.800 Squadron CAP (Flt.Lt. D. Morgan and Lt. D. Smith) intercepts and destroys three. Morgan destroys two with Sidewinders and Smith another with a Sidewinder. All three pilots killed. Lt. Arraras(C-226), Lt. Bolzan(C-204) and Ensign Vazquez(C-228) 
Sir Galahad seriously damaged and sunk, Sir Tristam seriously damaged, Foxtrot 4 sunk, Plymouth damaged (one Dagger hit by shrapnel but not shot down)


 

13th June 1982. 
1121 hours. 
Seven A-4B Skyhawks attack 3 Command HQ on Mount Kent. Some hits. Three A4Bs were damaged by ground fire.

2155 hours. 
Canberra B-108 of FAA Grupo2  destroyed over San Carlos by HMS Cardiff's Sea Dart. Of the two crew men, Capt Pastran ejects, but Capt Casado is killed

Official Argentine Sources state: 
June 14th: 
Pucara's captured in flying condition: A-515, 522, 533, 549 (where armed and ready to carry out an attack mission and then return to the continent to avoid capture).

---------------------------------------------------------------

OPERATION PARAQUAT

Galtieri's seizure of the Falklands could not have been worse timed for Margaret Thatcher. Race riots in English cities, high unemployment and back bench grumbling had eroded her dominance over the Conservative Party and the House of Commons. After the Falkands fell she fired her Foreign Secretary, useful and necessary under the circumstances, but had to accept as a replacement Francis Pym(1)whose hawkishness towards the Argentineans remained in doubt until war's end. Thatcher and Pym shared a mutual dislike and mistrust. Her Foreign Office had commited that gravest of burocratic blunders, it had gestated a minor perplexity into a major crisis. She could not repose confidence in her intelligence community after its failure to assess accurately Argentina's overt preparations for war. A new political party, the Social Democrats, had risen to a 40% approval rating in nation wide polls and threatened a major victory over the Conservatives at looming local elections. Unlike Churchill, Hume or Macmillan she had never participated in a war let alone led her country in an armed conflict(2).

As soon as the very visible and expensive preparations for war were put in train allies and opponents alike clamored for quick results(3). But Galtieri and his captured kelpers were not Thatcher's sole points of concern. It was not altogether clear that Britain's professional military were of one mind about the repossession's chances of success(4). Senior military men abroad issued mordant warnings about an operation for which British forces had neither the equipment nor the expertise to complete. Setting aside her allies' skepticism and her enemies' hostility Thatcher plunged her dwindling political capital into a distant venture of whose causes and possible results few knew much(5). A war cabinet was formed(6) and the dogs of war began to bay.

Major fleet units homebound from spring exercises near Gibraltar reversed course, loaded war stores and sailed southwards. Other Royal Navy ships were put on four hours notice to move. The navy's tiny amphibious staff, moribund after cuts in its budget, cobbled together ships, men and plans for an opposed landing over unknown beaches. The Royal Marines' 3 Commando Brigade, Britain's sole amphibious force, was put on 72 hours notice to move and all its officers and men recalled from leave, schools and even a marriage. With all of that many weeks would pass before troops could assault Port Stanley. Meantime Thatcher needed a dramatic event to keep her cabinet with her, to put Galtieri on the defensive, to still her domestic opponents, to preserve US support, to rally the free world to her side and to convince the captive kelpers that they might get their freedom back. The cur dogs already nipped at her heels(7). James Callaghan, Labor's spokesman on defense, accused Thatcher of a "gross blunder" in letting the Falklands fall(8). From Thatcher's own party the Falkland Islands lobby shouted: "I told you so" so stridently that a Foreign Office spokesman was moved to retort that: "Air Commodore Frow (the lobby's spokesman) has no official standing whatever.The crisis is entirely a matter for the British government."(9) There was the Argentinean angle too. If despite his self-adulatory bluster Galtieri could be persuaded that Thatcher meant business he might heed the provisions of UN Resolution 502 and quit the islands before bloodshed began.

Anthony ParsonsBy 3 April 1982, Anthony Parsons, Britain's delegate to the UN, had shepherded through the UN's Security Council Resolution 502. That called for Argentina's immediate removal of its armed forces from the Falklands as a condition precedent to negotiation about Falklands' future sovereignty. Parson's brilliant diplomacy at the UN, a bare few hours after the Argentina's invasion, put the Falklands center stage in world affairs and convinced a heterogeneous assortment of 3rd world, industrialized and non English speaking states to oppose in public the junta's military adventurism. Parson's diplomatic triumph was complete. Absent Argentina's removal of its military forces Britain could now take military steps to retake the Falklands.The Soviet Union failed to veto the British resolution and non-aligned states mutely resisted the Argentinean ambassador's pleas for their help. Much to the surprise of Argentina's foreign office settlement of border disputes by armed force was not a precedent modern nation states could stomach. The reasons were clear. Even passive approval of Argentina's invasion would condone military initiatives almost anywhere else along the Amur River for example where China and the Soviet Union contested in a not always cold war(10). Thenceforth Argentina's diplomacy remained tentative and defensive.

Passage of Resolution 502 gave Thatcher room and time to maneuver, but not much. She could sequester Argentina's holdings in London, stop trade between the two countries and lobby for other nations' support. Yet no cheap or easy answers to repossession of the islands presented themselves. She could not attack Argentinean ships on the high seas because no war had been declared. She could not bomb the Argentinean mainland because so disproportionate a response would turn new found allies against her and she could not yet seize the Falklands because Britain's military was not in place(11). Parson's victory at the UN gave his Prime Minister a decaying asset that delay or a false step could quickly squander. Now that Thatcher had negotiating momentum she had to follow up Parson's triumph with military accomplishment that could not await the month long marshalling of Britain's invasion force. The British middle classes whose wrath at Argentina's theft the Prime Minister had so deftly exploited could not long exist on rhetoric; they needed blood. In twenty predominantly labor boroughs 24% of potential Tory voters considered the Falklands crisis as the most important or an important factor in the upcoming elections(12). Had it not happened Argentina's invasion of South Georgia would have to have been invented.

Captain James CookThe seismic forces that split South America from Africa eons ago forced layers of material upwards from the earth's crust; a few broke the oceans' surface. One such is South Georgia, a mountainous mass of 1450 sq. miles shaped like a North West to South East hot dog, half permanently covered in ice. Although a merchant captain, de la Roche, may have sighted the island in 1675 Captain James Cook RN in Resolution was first to set foot on it. He named that desolate mass and claimed it for the crown on January 17,1775. At 54 deg S and 36 deg W South Georgia falls victim to some of the world's worst weather. "The wild rocks raised their lofty summits till they were lost in the clouds and the valleys laid buried in everlasting snow. Not a tree or shrub was to be seen, no not even big enough to make a toothpick. I landed in three different places and took possession of the country in his Majesty's name under a discharge of arms(13)." Until the late 20th century no one else coveted the island and the name and ownership stuck.

South GeorgiaPitiless weather and jagged topography, many mountains surpass five thousand feet, make the island impassable for most of its length to all but the most intrepid. Storms with 100 MPH winds are common. Violent downdrafts swoop from peaks down to ground level with little warning and savage one part of the island while leaving others in frigid calm. Ice bergs calved from sheer cliffs compete in size and menace with their larger cousins floating up from the Antarctic. Because these formations do not always show on radar screens navigation inshore, especially at night when chunks of ice slink in unnoticed, is a hazardous affair. Rubble from the wind scoured mountain sides renders them unstable underfoot. Climbers are few. Trees do not grow. Tussock grass feeds rats and a few thousand reindeer while seals, penguins and a few dozen species of bird live off the riches of the sea.

By 1960 modern methods of capturing whales en masse ended South Georgia's only economic role because there were few whales left to kill and little whale blubber left to be rendered in Grytviken's giant stills(14). A benign if unintended consequence of this sad practice occurred here. Killing whales beyond their rates of reproduction caused an overabundance of krill, a nutritional bonanza for South Georgia's seals and penguins whose numbers have soared. By 1965 the whalers, mostly Norwegian some Japanese and Russians, had left for good; their machinery rusted into scrap. Scientists from the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), the odd lost mariner and a few daring travelers clustered around Grytviken, Husvik, Leith and Stromness, the only settlements worth the name. The Survey's head was the island's de facto chief magistrate, port captain, post master and immigration agent. All in all South Georgia was not a fortuitous place to begin a war.

Argentina's capture of South Georgia, its small Royal Marines party and scientists from the BAS was at first blush a public humiliation for Thatcher. (see The Argentine Invasion of South Georgia ). In fact Argentina's occupation presented her a needed benison because recapture of that island became an immediate possibility. The defeat of ten thousand Argentinean troops in East Falkland eight hundred miles to the north would take blood, treasure and time. A hundred or so unwary Argentinean troops skulking out of the wind in wooden houses was another matter. A good chance existed that South Georgia could be repurchased on the cheap.

Admiral FieldhouseThatcher ordered Admiral Fieldhouse on 7 April 1982 to reestablish British presence on South Georgia(15). The order was based on a false premise because British subjects, members of the British Antarctic Survey, remained at large in several posts around the island. A backward look at British military policy in the 1970's is needed here. It must be recalled that the costs of maintaining large ground and air forces on NATO's central front and ballistic missile submarines at sea had foreclosed solo British operations outside Europe. The men, equipment and planning for such ventures simply did not exist. Successive governments and their Treasuries had not given the Ministry of Defense enough resources to match commitments, a free Falklands for example, that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office had kept in place. As a consequence the fragile command and control structure for the forces intended to seize the Falklands was an unpracticed expedient. The recapture of South Georgia burdened an embryonic organization, itself unsure of its specific goal and the means at hand to achieve it, with a task that had not been tried since WW2, the expulsion of invaders from British territory(16).

On 7 April 1982 Colonel Richard Preston, Chief of Staff of the Royal Marines' Commando Forces, telephoned LtCol. Nick Vaux CO of the Royal Marines' 42 Commando to set aside one infantry company, equipped for Arctic warfare, with supporting elements for a move on six hours notice to Ascension Island(17). From there the tiny marine force, all arctic trained, with additions from the Special Boat Service (SBS) and the Army's Special Air Service (SAS) would sail south into winter waters in order to recapture an unfamiliar island from a hostile force of unknown size and capability. Vaux nominated his second in command Major J. M. G. Sheridan RM as land commander of this force.

Major J. M. G. Sheridan RMThough best suited for the job, Sheridan's absence from Vaux' command as it organized itself for the attack on Falklands deprived his unit and 3 Commando Brigade of a critical human asset. Vaux sensed that invasion of the Falklands, if it came to that, would be a boots in the mud affair and that victory would hang on basic soldiering in the wet and cold rather than on the high-tech gadgetry bought for combat on the North European plain. Vaux' 2nd in command fit Preston's requirements precisely. Sheridan, son and grandson of Indian Army officers, was the quintessential field grade infantry officer. He had entered the Royal Marines at age eighteen, received his commission and led troops in Aden, Borneo, Malaya, Oman and in the UK. He was a graduate of Camberly Staff College and had helped to organize and train a Commando for the Imperial Iranian Navy. A world class mountaineer and skier, he had been a member of the British Olympic Biathon team from 1969 to 1972.

Recapture of South Georgia was a zero sum game. Victory would be a thumb in Galtieri's eye. Failure in South Georgia, or even a tepid lack of success would delay or eliminate capture of the Falklands, solidify Argentina's claim to those islands and almost certainly end Thatcher's tenure as Prime Minister. Britain's inclination to interfere in military affairs outside Europe was moribund after Suez; defeat in the Falklands would bury the notion. Even in Europe Britain's position as America's best ally there would be questioned if not doubted. She could not afford a picture in the world's press of a second group of captured Royal Marines lying face down in the mud. Margaret Thatcher had never met Major J. M. G. Sheridan RM, but she had unknowingly put her political future in his hands.

On 7 April 1982 Admiral Fieldhouse ordered Captain Brian Young RN in HMS Antrim to proceed at best speed to Ascension Island. Young was concurrently placed in charge of CTG 317.9 the navy, marine and army force intended to recapture South Georgia. Sheridan was the commander land force (CLF). Besides Sheridan's marines Young had four ships: HMS Antrim and HMS Plymouth and a tanker RFA Tidespring. The fourth ship, HMS Endurance, had been the Falkland's station ship and its Captain, Nick Barker, had lengthy tactical experience in the amphibious operating area.. Young had no air support but did have a Wessex 3 ASW helo on Antrim, a Lynx utility helo on Plymouth and two Wessex 5 light helicopters on Tidespring.

Fieldhouse' directive of 9 April 1982 laid out the chain of command for Operation Corporate the name given to the retaking of the Falklands. Fieldhouse followed standard US, NATO and Allied command and control procedures for amphibious operations: the battle fleet commander, amphibious commander and land force commander are equals whatever their rank and pay grade.The Amphibious Group commander directs the amphibious force until the troops complete a secure landing and the land force commander can take up his units' fighting in a coherent and sustainable way. From that moment the land force commander orders fire support missions, logistics over the beach or by air and the host of military tasks that let him complete the operation. In fact the naval commander's only job is to get the troops and equipment onto the beach with as little damage as possible to either so that the ground mission gets done quickly with the fewest casualties(18). Sheridan's tiny force was the sole justification for Young's naval group and the point of the British spear.

The choice of Brian Young to lead CTG 317.9 was as odd as the mission he was asked to complete. He was a successful aviator and commanding officer with no over the beach amphibious experience. Both he and his hard used ship(19) were on the point of retirement when ordered to head south. He had little experience of working with Royal Marines(20). His scant knowledge of the proposed operating area came from books and briefings. Many observers then and since believe that Captain Nick Barker in HMS Endurance, the Falklands station ship, was the better choice. He had commanded a combat ship (HMS Arrow) equipped with Exocet missiles, the surface weapon that the Argentinean navy would most likely use against him. He had watched the Argentinean buildup from close at hand and knew his patch of the South Atlantic. He had landed on South Georgia and walked about. His helicopter pilots were the only British flyers competent to give the amphibious force first hand guidance on South Georgia's unique terrain and awful weather. He knew personally, not by message or letter, many of the British Antarctic Survey's staff including those few still living free on the island. A permanent detachment of Royal Marines lived aboard Endurance and had ship's duties as well. One marine was a ship's cook and another the ship's butcher. Mutual respect had flowered. Barker knew the Argentinean Navy's strengths and weaknesses better than any other Royal Navy officer. He had met and sized up many of the Argentinean officers who were now his enemies. Endurance had a full set of communications gear and regularly intercepted Argentinean military message traffic. Tactical reasoning supported the choice of Barker, too. Managing a ship in combat is difficult enough without ordering other ships and troops; it would have been more efficient if it came to a sea fight to let Barker command the squadron while Brian Young fought his own ship without the need to care for other combatants. Still Young enjoyed Fieldhouse' confidence and a close relationship with Rear Admiral Woodward CTU 317.8 his senior officer during the just finished spring exercises.

Right. Captain Brian Young HMS AntrimYoung and Sheridan, the land force commander, faced unique problems that had little to do with their Argentinean opponents. The efficacy of a system to command, control and communicate with a patch work force operating 8000 miles from London was unproven and questionable because the British military had trained for years almost exclusively to fight a NATO war in concert with US and German allies. Staffs, logistics and battle plans, communications' links, weapons' purchases, training and intelligence efforts were aimed at convincing Soviet leaders that an attack by the Warsaw Pact would fail and that in the event their tank armies would be destroyed. The logistics of fighting an air, land and sea war 8000 miles from London had never been seriously pondered. The Royal Navy was not prepared to fight a battle whose loss could sunder the Anglo-American relationship that Britain's seaborn nuclear deterrent was meant to preserve. No standing orders existed to fight a war that involved amphibious landings a few hundred miles north of the Antarctic circle. As it turned out, neither 3 Commando Brigade nor its follow on 5 Infantry Brigade knew best how to load their gear for an amphibious assault i.e. stow the most needed equipment on top and the least necessary on the bottom. Priceless training time, was lost in reloading both amphibious and supply ships at Ascension Island and on the run south. For that matter success in Paraquat and in the whole Falklands venture hung more on the intelligence, courage and drive of rather junior infantry officers and their NCOs than on staffs' directives.

In contrast to the fleet's grand sendoff from Plymouth, Operation Paraquat was conceived and set in motion under great secrecy. Clandestinity usually wreaths military moves with importance, sometimes efficiency gains, and Paraquat was no exception. Fieldhouse established a Paraquat cell at Northwood separate from other Falklands communications and knowledge of ships' movements was restricted to a dozen or so people. On 8 April 1982 Sheridan's men, Captain Chris Nunn's M company from Vaux' 42 Commando, were sequestered in the unit's gymnasium and allowed no contact with the outside world. By 10 April 1982 two VC-10s had flown Sheridan's force of 132 men and their equipment to Ascension Island. Any thought that the repossession of South Georgia was to be a sideshow ended with Fieldhouse' message on 11 April 1982 to Thompson and Clapp that stipulated repossession of South Georgia as of equal importance to repossession of the Falklands: "as current intelligence indicates clear advantage in landing South Georgia earliest(21)." Thatcher was in a hurry. Woodward was of a different mind. He called Sheridan, the land force commander, back from Antrim yet failed to see the Royal Marines Major. Apparently Woodwardfailed to realize that Sheridan's success justified his ships' and crews' efforts. To this day the reason behind this fruitless trip remains obscure(22).

Modern warfare on the ground demands more than men firing their personal weapons. Vaux and Sheridan assembled as much of a balanced force as they could on such short notice. Awaiting departure from the gymnasium they added two .81MM mortar teams, four signalers, two sections from the commando's reconnaissance troop and three medics including a surgeon. Sheridan was also told that a section of SBS and a troop from the 22 SAS Regiment would join his force as reconnaissance elements. These additions were especially useful because they could land and reconnoiter from their small boats while fleet units remained undiscovered at sea. Sheridan's force still lacked artillery and air support without which it could be isolated and ultimately destroyed by any opponent possessing weapons heavier than .5 caliber machine guns. This deficiency was to be remedied in part by Captain Brian Young's CTU 317.9 which contained two of the Royal Navy's last gun ships, Antrim and Plymouth. Their 4 x 4.5" guns gave Sheridan a sustained firing rate, if both ships acted in concert, of 24 rounds per minute, enough to keep defending forces down in their trenches while his force made their landing. A Naval Gunfire Support Party (NGS)(23) assigned to direct the navy's gunfire gave Sheridan some confidence that he would not be out gunned at least as long as decent weather let the ships remain close ashore.

Sheridan's force as it arrived at Ascension contained 132 officers and men plus 24 Special Warfare troops. His problems had just begun and they were serious. A Royal Marines officer who had arrived at Ascension before Sheridan had set up a small arms range where troops could reset their weapons' sights after the bumpy trip from Britain. While there Sheridan learned that Northwood had ordered an entire squadron of SAS, D Squadron (60 men) commanded by Major Cedric Delves, and two more SBS teams to join his force(24). Northwood wanted seven patrols to scout the island. Common sense shouted that a reduced company of Royal Marines did not need and would have trouble finding valid employment for a reconnaisance force nearly half the size of the original force. More worrisome was the fact that Sheridan had to learn this critical fact informally on a scrap of torn paper from a fellow officer rather through his chain of command. He was not asked if he could use additional help; it was landed on him without discussion or the courtesy of a message.

Ordering seven patrols to infiltrate South Georgia, an island which none of the service chiefs in London knew, demonstrated micro management at its most meddlesome and most risky. Inserting seven patrols ashore instead of two increased the possibility of compromise geometrically. The horrible weather that might mask the patrols' insertions could also prevent them or prevent the men's exfiltration. The decision of when, where and how many to put ashore might better have been left to Young and Sheridan. Not one of Young's force had either adequate space or water or transport to the beach for these additions. Unlike buildings on land, ships at sea cannot add more room. The extra SAS men and their gear thrust an almost intolerable burden into Brian Young's once tranquil world. The ships' evaporators could not keep up with the boilers', crews' and passengers' need for fresh water and rationing began. This wretched excess fueled speculation that senior military persons at Northwood and perhaps Thatcher herself believed that the Falklands matter could be concluded in Britain's favor by a successful attack on South Georgia and that the SAS craved a major part of the action and the credit. Northwood's interference with decisions that should have been made on scene by the tactical commanders began a practice that continued throughout the war and did nothing to hasten its end.

HMS AntrimLoadout for Operation Paraquat was a microcosm of the Falklands campaign. Sheridan's force was split immediately because no one ship in Young's squadron could carry all the personnel and their kit. Most of M Company, the core assault force, went to RFA Tidespring, a tanker, while the mortar crews, communicators, medics and naval gunfire support team went with Sheridan to HMS Antrim. Tidespring was put in the unenviable position of carrying volatile fuels and live ammunition with the immediate prospect of unloading both in rough seas. By 13 April 1982 Captain Young had been told what Sheridan knew informally: that three troops of D Squadron, about sixty men with its command element, would join his force. Through the heroic efforts of both crew and the on board marines Air Troop and Mobility Troop along with Major Delves and their great amount of kit were made safe aboard Antrim. Captain John Hamilton and his Mountain Troop went aboard Plymouth. Delves had black box communications with SAS headquarters that Sheridan did not see. It was clear that the unrequested SAS manning imposed upon Sheridan had the potential of making Operation Paraquat an SAS operation dispite the fact that he was the nominal commander of the landing force. Unity of command was to be observed in the breach.

Young's squadron rendezvoused on 14 April 1982 south of Ascension and began its run south with his assault force riding a tanker while the command elements of the three embarked military organizations lived aboard an ancient destroyer commanded by a naval officer who had never been ordered to complete an opposed amphibious landing. Neither Young nor Sheridan had a trained amphibious staff to work out problems among the very different organizations. No troop reinforcements, logistics support or air support were available. Young and Sheridan would fight hopefully the same war 8000 miles from home with what they carried. If either Tidespring or Antrim suffered major battle damage or mechanical failure the mission would abort. No unanaimous support came from the homefront either. Unbeknownst to Sheridan or Young Fieldhouse told his task group commanders at Ascension Island on 17 April 1982 that the Army's staff "remained unconvinced of the necessity and likely success of an amphibious operation. ....He told us he might be required to repossess the Falkland Islands but only when sea control was firmly established and South Georgia recaptured(25)." No one questioned the military competence and drive of Young's and Sheridan's force. It was their seniors' waffling and the improvidence of the budgeteers that put their success in question. Seldom has so much weighed on a gim-crack military force slapped together in a few days(26).

Endurance's reliable but plodding thirteen knots limited Young's force to about 350 miles advance per day. The travel time was well spent. A makeshift operations room with adequate ship to shore and ship to helicopter communications was installed aboard Antrim. Maps and charts blossomed on available bulkheads. The young marines trained incessantly in their cramped quarters and on Tidespring's more capacious decks. They consumed months of training allowances firing at targets thrown over the side(27). A major problem had to do with getting the reconaissance and assault forces ashore. Young's four ships carried no landing craft and his crews did not know how to use them anyway. Antrim carried a Wessex 3 Anti-Submarine (ASW) helicopter; Plymouth had 1 Wasp ASW helicopter and Endurance had 2 Wasps. Tidespring carried 2 Wessex 5 used mainly to transfer cargo between ships. The helicopters, none built or configured to handle more than a few passengers were already overworked from cross decking men and equipment. Cargo transfers and ASW patrols are placid affairs. Now the pilots had to train themselves for the covert insertion and recovery of the SAS and the landing, perhaps under fire, of a Royal Marines' assault force(28). Flying low under electronic silence and popping up to do a visual and brief radar search of hostile seas was as novel for the pilots as was the prospect they might be fired upon by ground troops hiding behind the next snow covered hill. Ever resourceful maintainers fitted a few GPMG in helos' doors for self protection and a modest capability for suppressive fire.

There was a very human side to this expedition, too. Naval ships are run by a hierarchy. The freshest faced seaman knows his place in the system. When the skipper or the officer of the watch orders: "Come left15 deg." the person at the wheel turns the wheel 15 deg to port and no questions are asked. On the other hand ground operations are more collegial. COs take full responsibility for their missions but usually seek their juniors' and seniors' views and occasional objections. Foolish is the young officer who does not discuss his plans with his senior sergeants. Captain Brian Young had aboard Antrim besides himself 4 commanding officers: Sheridan, Commander Land Forces (CLF); Delves, CO of D Squadron SAS; Eve, head of the Naval Gunfire Group and a junior but veteran head of the SBS detachment. In addition Antrim carried a senior helicopter pilot who headed the crews and maintainers of the embarked Wessex 3. It is a tribute to the sheer professionalism of these very competent and necessarily strong minded men that their different worlds did not fatally collide and that they all strained towards the mission's success.

Northwood's orders to Captain Brian Young to repossess South Georgia on 21 April 1982 were stipulated in his warning order of 14 April 1982 to Major Sheridan(29). With minimum damage to facilities and personnel Sheridan was to:

Recapture Grytviken and Leith.

Neutralize Argentinean Communications.

Capture or kill Argentinean military.

Arrest and remove Argentinean civilians.

Sheridan turned to his reconnaissance force and on 16 April 82 ordered D Squadron: "to establish covert patrols to determine enemy strength and disposition in Stromness, Husvik and Leith(30)." The SBS was similarly ordered to cover Grytviken and King Edward Point. It was at this point that misadventures compounded by misjudgments nearly prevented South Georgia's recapture(31).

Captain John Hamilton commanded 19 Troop (Mountain Troop) of the 22 Special Air Service Regiment (SAS). His Mission Order: "Operations Center 21 April 1982 BK 1 Ser 087" para 7 stated: "To recon Leith, Stromness, Husvik and E. Fortuna Bay for a Squadron sized attack." The Mission Orders' tasks were: "To find routes across Fortuna Glacier, Breakwind Ridge and Konig Glacier." Major Delves, the D Squadron commander insisted on an eight kilometer covert approach to the reconnaissance targets for fear of warning the Argentinean garrison. It could just as well have been argued that a blatant landing preceeded and supported by naval gunfire would frighten green, frozen and isolated troops into quick surrender.

Captain John Hamilton SASBAS members who had been to Fortuna Glacier insisted to Delves and to Hamilton that Fortuna was virtually impassable especially with winter just breaking. Sheridan, an experienced Himalyan climber who had been head of the Royal Marines Mountain and Arctic Cadre joined the voices raised against landing on the glacier(32). Other opponents of this venture, crew and pilots from Endurance who had foot on the ground experience on South Georgia, argued that crevasses as big as London buses made it virtually certain that the SAS men could not drag their pulks (sleds) any meaningful distance even in fair weather(33). If a storm broke, as was likely now that winter had just begun, Hamilton's men would have no choice but to hunker down for an unpredictable period perhaps more than the five days allocated for the reconnaissance. The pragmatic pessimists did not sway him and he sought affirmative advice where he knew he could find it. Delves went aboard Endurance and used its satellite communications to speak with two very experienced Himalyan climbers, Stokes and Peacock, at SAS Headquarters in Britain who advised Hamilton and Delves that Fortuna Glacier could be conquered. Peacock later said he would not have gone against Sheridan's judgment if he had known that it was indeed Sheridan who opposed taking that route(34). In the end Major Delves and Captain Hamilton decided to lift mountain troop onto Fortuna Glacier.

Delves' and Hamilton's insistance that their recon mission be clandestine and thus traverse Fortuna Glacier was a counsel of perfection. Had they looked at their military problem from their opponents' point of view a different picture would have appeared(35). If the Argentine garrison considered a British attack possible or probable it had three choices besides flight by sea or surrender: first, dig in against an attack, second; get destroyed by gunfire from Plymouth and Antrim in their trenches or in BAS quarters; third flee without tactical integrity into the mountains there to die of exposure and starvation. Delves' requirement for a wholly clandestine mission fit standard SAS practices. It was a laudable but disengenuous goal. Soviet satellites overflew the area regularly and Captain Nick Barker in HMS Endurance took scheduled precautions against them(36). Admiral Fieldhouse had already warned his subordinates against transmitting when American satellites were overhead. BAS' Director signalled in the clear to his men on Lyell Glacier that: "Moving to Grytviken possibly involves risk of involvement in later fighting."(37) It is a good rule in such matters that when two parties besides the annointed know hitherto secret information many others almost certainly have an inkling of the matter at hand. By 21 April 1982 it is very likely that several thousand people of different nationalities, except perhaps Argentinean, knew what was about to happen to the well chilled garrisons in Grytviken and Leith(38).

Young and Sheridan knew, on the other hand, almost exactly what they might face once British troops had landed. No ships had reenforced the Argentinean garrison who had no air cover and no artillery. The island could not support more than a few hundred persons, in winter probably fewer. The quality and fighting spirit of the Argentineans was unknown but reasonable men could assume that their1st line troops, always in short supply, were posted either on the Chilean border or on the Falklands themselves and that those few on South Georgia were not assiduously patrolling the mountains now that winter had begun, but rather had esconced themselves in BAS' snug wooden houses(39). South Georgia had no airfield. Troops could not be flown in and no hostile naval activity had been noted. No naval fueling facilities, magazines or repair shops existed for modern warships. The Argentinean occupiers would defend their conquest if they chose to do so, with what little they had at hand. Winter would argue against their retreat into the sub-freezing hinterlands. In short South Georgia was a primitive and isolated military outpost with wretched living conditions eight hundred miles from Falklands that posed no threat to the outside world. It was scarcely defensible. Thatcher and her advisors had got that right.

As Hamilton and Delves planned their clandestine insertion from the ships at sea teams from the BAS who were on the ground performed their own reconnaissance. BAS' Peter Stark who had lived on South Georgia for two years was flown back from the island to HMS Endurance for the express purpose of dissuading Hamilton's troop from trying the Fortuna route. The BAS parties, thirteen plus two wildlife photographers, at Bird Island and Schliepper Bay at the northern tip of the island, at Lyell Glacier and at St. Andrew's Bay, south of Grytviken, traversed their areas on foot and met no Argentinean military. On 20 April 1982 Tony North and Myles Plant watched Cumberland Bay from Barff Point and discovered nothing. Ian Barker and Damien Sanders stood on the high ground between East and West Cumberland Bay and saw neither Argentinean ground nor naval activity. They found no trace of any Argentinean patrols ever having surveilled those likely pieces of military ground. No planes were heard either. The watchers, although not military, had surveyed all but a small area of likely Argentine ground and naval activity and more if the foul weather were considered. It was clear to them that the Argentinean invaders had confined themselves to the comforts such as they were of village life. The BAS patrols, all of whom had useful but short range radios, reported their findings back to Northwood with great speed in a complex radio arrangement that went through South Orkney to Ascension Island thence to BAS headquarters in Cambridge. There Dr. Bernard Law transferred the data to Rear Admiral Tony Wheatley RN at Northwood. At Cambridge BAS headquarters entertained, prior to the the Fortuna Glacier incident, a constant flow of visitors from the Royal Navy, SAS, SBS and various other parties all eager to learn what the intrepid researchers on South Georgia daily took as normal existance. Counsel was freely given(40).

Given the plethora of current data available to SAS headquarters and to Capt. Hamilton his mission order astounds: "To date only information is available from studying maps, air photos and limited local knowledge from BAS personnel and the members of the crew from HMS Endurance."(41) This statement, though patently erroneous, formed the basis for the SAS' plan to take the hazardous route across Fortuna Glacier. In the interests of a clandestinity that was clearly unnecessary Delves and Hamilton rejected first hand information of crucial tactical importance gained by trained scientific observers and by the crew and pilots of HMS Endurance. The cruel fact is that on board Antrim and Endurance, on South Georgia itself and lurking in the British intelligence system were good information and mature judgment on it that most reasonable leaders would have taken as cause to change routes for observing Husvik, Leith and Stromness. Delves and Hamilton were men of their time and exemplars of a splendid bellicist culture. In the matter of Fortuna Glacier they went beyond reason and common sense.

Three helicopters took D Squadsron's Mountain Troop to Fortuna Glacier: Lcdr. Ian Stanley's Wessex 3 from Antrim and from Tidespring's C Flight two Wessex 5s flown by Lt. Mike Tidd RN and Flight Lt. Andy Pulford RAF. Stanley's helicopter was equipped for ASW and had excellent radar, sonar and navigational gear. It carried doppler radar that permitted the pilot to fly safely even if he lost eyeball contact with his reference points on the ground. The two Wessex 5s whose pilots had some experience with covert insertions of troops were utility helicopters and lacked Stanley's sensitive navigational equipment. Stanley was to navigate for all three helicopters in the poor weather and white outs that are the bane of flying through snow.

At 0930 on 21 April Ian Stanley lifted off from Antrim to find a landing site. Taking Cape Constance on his port side he flew SE over Possession and Antarctic Bays and saw no military activity. After vetting Fortuna Glacier he returned to Antrim and loaded up his passengers from Mountain Troop. Accompanied by the two Wessex from Tidespring that carried the rest of the troop they made for Fortuna only to be turned back by a snow squall near Possession Bay(42). Bear in mind that it is not only distance that is critical in such insertions but the weather between helicopter and landing site. Five hundred yards behind a snow squall that prevents accurate navigation is as good as a hundred miles in preventing a safe landing. Stanley took Delves and Hamilton on a second recon, this time in deceptively decent weather and Delves ordered a second try. Day light was slipping by and it was best to land the troop and to get off the glacier onto firm ground by darkness. The second try at landing succeeded. By early afternoon sixteen men from Mountain Troop and three pulks (sleds) were safe on Fortuna Glacier. Just after the landing the weather worsened and the troop progressed barely a half mile before darkness forced a halt to the their tortuous slogging.

The night of 21/22 April 1982 saw the worst of South Georgia's weather. Off shore Antrim lashed down its gear as winds rose to one hundred miles per hour. A Force11 sea broke waves over the tired old ship and the barometer registered 965 millibars, lower than most seamen experience in a lifetime. Even worse the helicopters secured to Antrim's and Tidespring's decks shuddered almost to their break points. On the glacier Hamilton's men and their kit were safe but buried cold in the snow. Winds wrent tent poles and fabric alike. The horrendous weather continued and the men's physical condition began to deteriorate. Military operations even passive reconnaissance became impossible. At 1100 on 22 April 1982 Hamilton radioed Antrim: "Unable to move. Environmental casualties immanent."(43)

Snow squalls delayed Stanley's rescue attempt for forty-five minutes. Even then storms made him order the two Wessex 5s to wait on Cape Constance eight kilometers from the glacier while he found the SAS men and a landing site from which it was safe to rescue them. The weather foiled even Stanley's sophisticated navigational gear and his helicopter's air frame began to take on ice. Stanley scrubbed the mission and all three helicopters returned aboard Tidespring and Antrim.

Refueled, the three helos took off at 1330 for a second rescue attempt. This time breaks in the weather and orange smoke grenades brought rescuers and exhausted soldiers together. Tidd, the first pilot to land, quickly loaded his Wessex 5 with six SAS men and their kit and took off. A few minutes later he ran into the dreaded whiteout and without Stanley's helo to guide him crashed into the glacier. His unwanted landing site was cushioned in snow and while the helo was destroyed its occupants emerged by a fluke of fate shaken but alive. Ian Stanley in his Wessex 3 guided the second Wessex 5 to the crash site. The crash's survivors minus their heavy equipment crawled into the two helos and took off for the ships' warm bunks. The Wessex 5 flew close astern Stanley's mother hen but lost sight of it over the glacier's rim. By ill chance it flew into another whiteout and crashed. Stanley's helicopter already fully loaded had no choice but to head back to Antrim. As the thin Arctic sunlight disappeared two helicopters were lost, two of the SAS men had been rescued and two helo crewmen joined the fourteen SAS men stranded on the glacier. Sixteen valuable men found themselves unharmed but unable to perform any military mission and facing another night on the glacier in ever worsening weather. Any hope of completing the reconnaissance had ended. Young the amphibious force commander (until the land forces were firmly established ashore) knew no more about his target at the end of the day than he had at its beginnning. He did know that some troops under his command were in mortal straits, that he, a senior and experienced aviator, had lost two helicopters and that the goal of seizing South Georgia was in jeopardy. Sheridan the land force commander could do nothing unless and until the SAS problem got ressolved. Upon being told of the men marooned atop Fortuna Thatcher commented: "My heart was heavy.....How was I to conceal my feelings? I wondered if the task we had set for ourselves was truly impossible."(44) On Endurance Captain Nick Barker was more direct: "In military terms the whole operation had become a monumental cockup."(45)

Young and his operations crew aboard Antrim faced calamity. A two man emergency rescue team from the Royal Marines' Mountain and Arctic cadre was alerted on Tidespring where another problem surfaced. "I... had checked through their kit with them. In my view it wasn't very good. It was standard army issue - not as good as our stuff. There are recognized techniques for getting yourself out of a crevasse......it was my opinion those guys just didn't have that sort of gear, that they would not be able to haul themselves up the insides of a crevasse."(46)

wessex crashBy now a reconnaissance operation had degenerated into an odds against rescue operation. Stanley had few assets: a battered helicopter, the only Wessex left, and two hours of daylight to fly through awful weather in order to rescue sixteen men in terminal condition. Taking a new route to the glacier he found the survivors huddled inside inflated rafts used as tents and landed, the last hope for rescue that day. As the weather worsened he piled in all sixteen men --- the SAS men reluctantly left their kit and weapons except for sidearms --- and took off fifteen hundred pounds above the helicopter's maximum design weight. Stanley made his way back to Antrim, his sixth trip from Fortuna Glacier, and landed on Antrim's pitching deck in a controlled crash.

Military operations succeed or founder on judgments made about the enemy his size, equipment, numbers and location. Not so the Fortuna Glacier affair because no opposing forces were involved. Delves and Hamilton misjudged the data they possessed about Fortuna and overestimated their own capability. A clandestine insertion had become an air-ground mob scene, its central purpose compromised, its participants in jeopardy. This most unusual episode occurred despite the fact that Special Warfare operatives rank among the best intelligence gatherers and the most realistic analysts of tactical situations(47). No military objective had been reached during the preceeding twenty-four hours but Stanley had delivered Young and his force from disaster, saved sixteen lives and spared Margaret Thatcher another acute embarrassment. Stanley received a DSO for his extraordinary feat of technical flying and for his bravery. His passengers concluded that was little enough.

Cindy Buxton and Anne Price2 SBS came south on Endurance and it was their turn to reconnoiter Sheridan's possible landing sites from south of Leith and Grytviken ie from across Cumberland East Bay. Hound Bay, at the seaward neck of Barff Peninsula, was the insertion point for three SBS patrols. They were to make their way on foot half way up the peninsula, pick up two Gemini rafts dropped from helicopters and cross the bay to Brown Mountain. That low mountain was one of the two pieces of vital ground whose seizure was necessary for any attack on Grytviken. The mountain also provided a point from which Argentinean activity, if any, could be closely scrutinized. That two BAS men, Myles Plant and Tony North lived in the proposed patrol area and had seen no Argentine military activity did not deter the SBS leader from mounting his operation. He was of course safe from superiors' direct advice and criticism because Sheridan and Young were on Antrim many miles away. Ellerbeck flew his helicopter from Endurance to Cindy Buxton and Anne Price's hut on St Andrew's Bay to warn them of incipient military activity. They too had seen nothing of the Argentinean invaders.

Ellerbeck delivered only one patrol, four men and their kit, before bad weather prevented more flying. The ashore SBS patrol met the two BAS men, Plant and North, who reaffirmed that no Argentinean military lurked in the vicinity. The SBS patrols still on Endurance were not to be thwarted and went ashore by Gemini courtesy of Captain Nick Barker who brought his ship as close to shore as prudence allowed - under 1000 meters. The Geminis' motors then failed the three patrols as they tried to cross Moraine Fjord to get to their lookout point atop Brown Mountain(48). The night of 22/23 April 1982 the marines slept a frigid sleep behind rocks on Dartmouth Point. In the morning the patrol leaders reluctantly concluded that their unreliable outboard motors and ice-punctured Gemini hulls had ended their military mission. They decided on exfiltration.

A confluence of untoward events occurred here. The SBS patrols on Dartmouth Point could not reach by radio either Antrim or Endurance. They could not return to Endurance nor could they complete a military mission. Unproven reports of an Argentinean submarine's presence had prompted Young to withdraw Antrim beyond the SBS' radio's range; Endurance lacked the code books to decrypt SBS messages anyway. True they could go to ground for days if necessary but the fact was that the SBS men were stranded(49).

Santa Fe's Flag"South Georgia op seems bogged down for fear of Arg submarine (conventional, Sante Fe)."(50) Santa Fe's torpedoes were a potential risk for Young's force but they did not present a clear and present danger. Santa Fe's submerged speed approximated Tidespring's thirteen knots; its sustained surface speed just that. The tactical offense posed by two twenty-five knot destroyers and their embarked helicopters with active sonars in use against an ageing diesel submarine with generic electrical problems is lethal(51). Because of its low top speed and the noise it would emit at that speed it was extremely unlikely that Santa Fe could gain a position that allowed a high probability of a successful attack on any of the British ships. True Endurance's radio crew had intercepted messages from an overflying Argentinean aircraft giving that ship's position to an Argentinean submarine. That coordination made sense because Endurance's loud diesel engines could be easily picked up by the submarine's sonar and because Endurance had no sonar of its own to warn of impending attack. Worse Barker's ship could not turn handily to avoid an observed torpedo. Yet a quick read of the tactical situation showed that a submarine attack seemed very improbable; Santa Fe's job was to land troop reenforcements on South Georgia and not to brawl with British surface ships and ASW helicopters. A diesel submarine manned by an unblooded crew and burdened by a motley crowd of landsmen is most unlikely to prosecute an attack, risky in itself, that would draw the mortal attention of a British nuclear submarine captain trained to hunt down Soviet nuclear boats.

In fact one overriding reason should have prevented the undeserved deference that the Royal Navy paid to Santa Fe. Amphibious ships, purpose built or not, are meant to sail in harm's way in order to get the troops to the assault area. Men of war that carry amphibious forces cease being independent military assets and become ancillary to the troops' mission. Such ships become subordinate to the specific military task of occupying defended ground. Whatever Young's assessment of the risk to his own ship and crew putting Sheridan's marines ashore was his sole reason for being in South Georgia's waters. Then too excessive caution breeds its own potential for disaster. If any British ship had sunk fifty miles NE of South Georgia the crew and passengers would all have drowned. If disaster had occurred close aboard Grytviken or Leith some at least might have lived. Many seafarers still believe that a ship sunk going towards the fight causes no dishonor but that damage suffered away from the conflict raises questions about sound planning and tactics.

Finally on 23/24 April night Antrim picked up the SBS signal and after some discussion Endurance was ordered to rescue the isolated marines from Barff Peninsula. Barker's two small utility helicopters, piloted by Ellerbeck and Finding, removed the men minus their wretched Geminis and mal functioning motorsto Endurance' warmth; a second reconnaissance effort had misfired(52). The communications debacle that had marooned the SBS team ashore on Barff Peninsula was only a part of the muddle that permeated Young's operations. In separating Tidespring to refuel from Brambleleaf and in dividing his force up into two sub units: Plymouth and Endurance; and Antrim and Tidespring, Young lost defensive advantage against the putative diesel submarine, communications among the forces he was supposed to put ashore and Barker's and his pilots' valuable advice. Discreet military accomplishment would have justified this maritime hurly-burly, but by 24 April 1982 nothing of value had been gained, no ground recon completed and certainly no military objective gained. In fact only the prodigious flying feats of his helicopter pilots had saved Young's force from disaster. Sheridan remained a ship's guest rather than the commander of a landed infantry force.

D Squadron had one more reconnaissance card to play. Captain Timothy Burls' Boat Troop set out from Antrim at 0300 on 22 April 1998. They were to reconnoiter Leith, Husvik and Stromness from positions on Grass Island. A small but potentially bothersome garrison was thought to be guarding Leith Harbor and its disused whaling station. Because reconnaissance of Leith from Fortuna had failed an observation of Leith from Grass Island, a few thousand meters west in Stromness Bay seemed a good alternative especially as the presence of kelp precluded other feasable landing sites. Fifteen men deployed in five boats. Remember helicopters had come into short supply. Immediately after launching, three motors failed and the two working Gemini that remained took the three stalled boats in tow. When Endurance and Fort Austin had met at sea on 12 April Boat Troop had exercised its Gemini inflatables and their motors had also failed at that time. The continued failure of these motors in critical evolutions stymied the efforts of hundreds of millions of dollars of complex military equipment manned by thousands of trained operators. It remains a mystery why the SAS chose to go to war with a system of proven unreliability.

About 0400 wind and water combined in a ferocious storm that nearly swamped all the boats. Tow lines were broken, each crew struggled on its own. Three boats, including Captain Burls', made Grass Island and were buried. The nine men then established an OP from which they could see Leith and Stromness and Burls radioed his reports back to Antrim. At this point he had lost two of his five boats with no knowledge of whether they had drowned, put up on a distant shore, blown out to sea or been captured by the Argentineans. The control team on Antrim feared the worst. Because of a waterlogged motor and fierce winds one lost boat, Delta, was blown far off the route to Grass Island and just managed to paddle to safety near Larsen Pt. Inexplicably this Gemini lacked a radio beacon and could not transmit the crew's location. The other stray, Bravo boat, its motor inoperative and its crew exhausted, blew steadily eastward away from South Georgia out to sea. It, too, lacked a rescue beacon with enough range to contact Antrim but by luck contacted Burls on the troop's tactical network. He in turn radioed Antrim whose pilots and meteorological officers worked out Bravo's possible position. The ever resourceful Ian Stanley took off at 0800 in his Wessex 3 and at altitudes under two hundred feet conducted a classic box search. Just as his fuel supply left him no choice but to return to Antrim, Stanley's crewman Fitzgerald spotted the drifting raft, winched up its crew and returned them to the comforts of Antrim's wardroom. There Bravo boat's crew owned up to the fact that the troop had enjoyed no pre mission inspection of equipment and did not have an agreed upon rendezvous point (RV).

Yet much had been accomplished. Now one recon team of nine SAS men could observe, without discovery, Argentine activity in and around Stromness Bay. But this view from afar did not afford an accurate count of the Argentinean soldiery. At night on 23 April the Burls' nine men attempted to cross from Grass Island to the mainland, a few hundred meters. Again two of the three motors failed and the Geminis returned to Grass Island. A second try failed for the same reason and in the end the team crossed by paddling. That early morning Boat Troop or three teams of it completed the task towards which so much effort had been directed. Doing what it does best Burls' diminished troop reported back to Delves aboard Antrim the existance of a garrison of sixteen Argentinean marines and no supporting artillery. One sentry stood languid watch during the dark hours(53).

By the afternoon of 23 April 1982 Endurance's listeners and Spanish language translators had intercepted transmissions from an Argentinean C-130 to and from a submarine whose signal strength indicated it was a hundred miles from Endurance(54) and perhaps closer to Antrim. This information prompted Northwood and Young to send the two tankers, escorted by Plymouth, 200 miles NE out of harm's way. Antrim followed shortly. This decision left Endurance unprotected and the main assault force aboard Tidespring heading away from South Georgia(55). True HMS Conqueror was headed south to intercept the Santa Fe but the meeting would take many hours. Simultaneously Northwood detached and sent to South Georgia HMS Brilliant with its 1st class sonar and two ASW helicopters. Further intercepts by Captain Barker's crew disclosed that the Argentine submarine was to attack Endurance and deliver reenforcements to the Garrison at Leith.

Here both sides erred. At 0300 on 24 April 1982 Young ordered his force to clear South Georgia's waters and to rendezvous two hundred miles NE(56). This odd direction scattered Young's force and lost its ability to bring the fight to the Argentinean submarine. Antrim, Brilliant, Plymouth and Conqueror acting in concert could have destroyed or sent away the Santa Fe in very short order. The Argentine navy's move was equally strange. Knowing that sooner or later the Royal Navy would have at least one nuclear sub in the area the Argentinean navy imprudently sent only one antiquated submarine without air cover to target a non-combatant when it should have sought to destroy a ship, either Antrim or Plymouth, that could destroy it. Santa Fe's small size, its slow underwater speed and the onset of nasty winter weather mandated only one mission at a time, transport troops or find and kill Endurance, not both. There is little doubt that HMS Conqueror working alone could have made short work of a WW2 diesel submarine(57).

On the British side Young had lost the capacity, at least for the moment, to deliver Sheridan's force to the beach --- his sole reason for being around South Georgia. At 1600 on 24 April 1982 Captain Barker communicated to Vice-Admiral David Halifax at Northwood his concern about being the Santa Fe's target and was told: "There's really very little to worry about."(58) Northwood, now aware of the Santa Fe's approximate position and certain that the tankers carrying the force's fuel and assault force lay out of harm's way, ordered Plymouth to return from its protective duties. Barker's concern for his ship's safety was justified but by this time the six helicopters on Brilliant, Antrim, Plymouth and Endurance, however underequipped to prosecute an attack on a clever sub skipper, were positioned to search for Santa Fe as it brought its troop reenforcements to Cumberland Bay. Their home ships were still too distant from Grytviken to form the ASW screen that would bar Santa Fe from landing its troops.

helicopter and boatAt dawn on the 25th the helicopters began their search. Once again Ian Stanley from Antrim found the target, dropped two old fashioned depth charges and damaged the Santa Fe enough to make her an easy surface target for machine gun, missile and ASW torpedo attacks by any British ship or helicopter in the neighborhood. Santa Fe did not dive; Stanley's depth charge attacks were so accurate that the sub's ballast tanks were terminally damaged and she became easy prey for ensuing attacks by Young's helicopters. Captain Bicain limped back into Grytviken harbor, tied up his boat alongside the BAS jetty at King Edward Point and watched as its flooded stern sank below the surface. This drama fit the bizarre side of the Falklands war. Submarines are accurately typed; in war zones they navigate under water where layers of differing salinity and temperature protect them from direct observation and hostile sonar. That Bicain did not take advantage of the hundred or so fathoms of cold water under his keel in order to elude British attackers meant that he could not dive because his boat had ovewhelming mechanical failure(59). Nor did his limited speed allow him to break off the action. Bicain could not fight, hide or run; he was a sitting duck. He could honorably have struck.

The helicopters' attacks proved equally odd. Bicain's boat was initially and as it turned out terminally damaged by depth charges so named because they function best at depths of water where an explosion close to a hull causes water pressure to burst the hull. The trick is to get this very low tech weapon to explode near the sub's hull. Used against a surfaced craft much of a depth charge's force vanishes ineffectually into the air. Ian Stanley's splendid airmanship and good fortune continued. Battered into unseaworthiness Santa Fe turned back to port and on the way got hit by helicopters' AS -12 missiles whose fuzes did not detonate their missiles' warheads because the sub's plastic sail did not offer sufficient resistance. ASW torpedoes fired at Santa Fe's screws were ineffective because these do not detonate unless the target is more than thirty feet underwater and Santa Fe was surfaced. The British attacks had laudable intent --- the idea behind war is to destroy the enemy --- but the better part lay in getting Bicain to surrender his boat and crew intact once he began his limp back to shore. Code books, live prisoners and captured weaponry are far more valuable than bodies and metal on the sea bottom.

Prior to this dramatic diversion Northwood had repeatedly taxed Sheridan, the land force commander, for his lack of progress in recapturing South Georgia. The reasons for Sheridan's restraint were clear. Delves and Hamilton, not Sheridan, made the decisions, calamatous as they turned out, about SAS' insertions, a condition precedent to the main landing. While wishing a speedy end to South Georgia's recapture Northwood had ordered the bulk of Sheridan's landing force away from the landing sites to protect it from the Santa Fe, reconnaissance had not been completed and two of his helicopters had been lost on on imprudent mission that he had opposed. In this instance the Royal Navy had showed greater concern for a wimpy submarine threat that did not exist anyway than for its task of getting a coherent body of troops ashore. Indeed up to 25 April Sheridan had not had Antrim and Plymouth together for gun fire support on Argentinean positions. By 1100 on 25 April 1982 everything had changed. Plymouth with its twin 4.5" guns stood offshore nearby Antrim. Sheridan sensed that the defeat of the Santa Fe, now a leaking hulk at Grytviken, would have demoralized the original garrison and that the reenforcements just debarked from Santa Fe would be in no condition to fight.

Sheridan knew that disabling the Santa Fe was only an intermediate step and not the victory he had been sent to obtain. The jackpot was ownership of Grytviken. He waited upon Young, the amphibious force commander, outside his cabin door to ask that the ships be positioned so that helicopters could lift a scratch force of seventy five men to attack and seize Grytviken. Tidespring carrying his main assault force was more than fifty miles away and the remnants of Boat Troop remained esconced on Grass Island. Sheridan judged that his command element, the mortar teams, Delves' few SAS men, the marines from Endurance and SAS men from Plymouth could break the Argentinean defenses if landed quickly with naval gunfire support. It was a bold judgment made without computers or any other form of high technology; rather it was the gut feeling of a long time infantryman, comfortable in his own skin, who knew what heartens or demoralizes green troops holding positions against whom or what they could not know. Delay in landing British troops could mean hardened Argentinean defenses. Sheridan had to wait for three hours for Young's approval - he remained overall commander until the troops landed - while Young and his aviators replayed the attacks on Santa Fe, ascertained who engaged first, (it was Stanley) and who might get the decorations if any. The helos had returned victorious from their attacks by1030 but it was not until 1330 that Young agreed to put ashore the landing force. Without the formality of an O Group, Sheridan gave hasty orders to his officers at 1345.?

Sheridan's plan was simple and quick of execution. His landing force, seventy-five men, was less than half its intended size. Because he had only five helicopters --- two were destroyed on Fortuna Glacier but two small Lynx had arrived on HMS Brilliant --- he could land only twenty men at a time. Landings are best made at dawn to use a full day's light; circumstances gave Sheridan at most five hours from takeoff to win the battle. He had, however, regained one precious asset, the four naval guns on Antrim and Plymouth.The marine's plan encompassed two pieces of vital high ground: Brown Mountain is eleven hundred feet high, it lies south from Grytviken and a few hundred yards across King Edward Cove; and Bore Valley Pass that lay west and behind Grytviken. Seizure of these two dominating points virtually guaranteed Grytviken's submission. Sheridan ordered Delves' SAS group to secure the landing site, Hestesletten a morain at the base of Brown Mountain. As soon as the second wave had landed and established its position Delves was ordered to "advance to contact" that is engage hostile forces and seize the top of Brown Mountain. Sheridan and his command element would land after the second group had secured the landing site from which Delves should already have pushed off. At this point helicopters would lift the remaining troops from Plymouth and Endurance to Bore Valley Pass in order to give supporting fire to the main body as it advanced from Brown Mountain into Grytviken.

GunfireSheridan's fire plan, worked out with LtCol Eve RA, was critical to his mission's success. The four guns on Antrim and Plymouth were his only artillery. Ten minutes before the first element landed, at1335, British 4.5'' shells rained in great profusion on Hestesletten, the landing site, a flat patch of rocky earth at the foot of Brown Mountain. Hestesletten though small was the only flat surface close to Brown Mountain that was suitable for helo landings and troops' assembly. It had to be made safe. Fifteen minutes later the fire switched to the top of Brown Mountain as the SAS men emerged from the helos to secure the landing site. No enemy fire greeted Delves' men then or later that day. The naval gunfire killed no one and destroyed no positions but it was a precisely timed demonstration of accurate shooting well seen and heard by the Argentinean garrison(60). Sheridan ordered in his second group, Royal Marines, and then arrived himself at1535 with his command element and medics. Already short of daylight Sheridan was livid with rage at Delves who had not obeyed orders to advance to contact enemy forces in the direction of Brown Mountain and to seize its summit. Delves replied that an Argentine position lay at the mountain's top. Sheridan ordered Delves again to advance and Delves moved forward over stony ground onto and up Brown Mountain. As a preliminary to their attack, the SAS men fired Milan missiles at a suspected enemy position only to discover that they had killed two seals who were disporting themselves on the banks of the Penguin River. No Argentinean troops awaited Delves and his men on Brown Mountain.

Sheridan's advance met no opposition nor was a hostile shot fired at the advancing British troops. While the British scurried to the top of Brown Mountain naval gunfire shifted to its third phase. Sheridan had been ordered to avoid whereever possible damage to BAS buildings and to persons. Accordingly his fire plan's third phase directed ships' gunfire to land over and behind the BAS buildings and the Argentinean defensive positions. The defending Argentinian troops then realized that only a slight adjustment meant heavy fire onto them. Before South Georgia the Argentine marines had never been under fire let alone that of accurately registered naval guns. At 1705, ninety minutes after his arrival, Sheridan saw two white flags fluttering from the main buildings in Grytviken. He called off the landing in Bore Valley Pass and began the three kilometer march in Grytviken. Delves' SAS men leaped forward and he declined to answer Sheridan's call to halt. Sheridan called Antrim for a helicopter that took him into Grytviken to accept the surrender from the Argentinean commanding officer, LtCdr Luis Lagos. Sheridan took the surrender himself ashore as light failed.

Signing of the surrenderOn 26 April 1982 a bare three weeks after Port Stanley fell, the commander of Argentine forces on South Georgia Lt Cdr Lagos had signed the formal instrument of surrender in the BAS base at King Edward Point. Dispite the delays, the navy's unfamiliarity with amphibious operations, the failed reconnaissance, the threat real or imagined of submarine attack, the ramshackle command structure, the dispersion of his assault force, the SAS' faulty motors on their gemini boats and the near disaster of Fortuna Glacier Sheridan put the best face on the nasty business of war. He had completed his military mission with no casualties to his own men or to the enemy either(61).

Just after Lagos' surrender of all Argentine forces (130+ Men) on South Georgia, Lcdr. Astiz who commanded the fifteen Argentinean marines at Leith was told to lay down arms prior to the arrival of a British force on the morning of the 26th or to accept the consequences. The surrender of the main Argentinean garrision, the sound and fury of the naval guns and the certain presence of British troops quickly extinguished his prolix bravado and he yielded. The picture shown in the world's press of Astiz signing an instrument of surrender aboard Plymouth in Leith gave a false impression that Astiz was surrendering Argentinean forces on South Georgia. In fact the garrison's surrender under law took place on the previous day ashore in BAS quarters. Astiz signed only for the fifteen Argentinean marines in Leith; his act duplicated unecessarily Lagos' capitulation to Sheridan of all Argentinean forces on South Georgia the day before(62). Even in defeat Astiz sought and was granted the limelight.

ThactherSheridan the land force commander was stunned to receive from Northwood a message asking his list of those to be decorated for the victory. Thatcher held a jubilant al fresco press conference outside No 10 Downing Street: "Just rejoice at that news and congratulate our forces and the marines ... Rejoice"(63). South Georgia was not a victory for which combat decorations might have issued because there was no ground combat. Sheridan's landing force had received no incoming fire and suffered no casualties(64). In fact the operation was a string of blunders rescued from utter disaster mainly by the moral and physical courage of Major J. M. G. Sheridan RM and Lcdr. Ian Stanley RN. True many others had been cold, wet, tired and in danger of losing their lives to the weather but none had shown valor in the face of enemy fire because there had been no military opposition. That would come later.

Operation Paraquat was a slip shod affair conducted by a high command that did not pair adequate human or material resources to the task. It diverted resources from the main goal, seizure of Port Stanley. The excuse could be made that a first try at amphibious warfare was bound to be difficult but that does not vindicate dispersing the assault force before a World War 2 diesel submarine away from its target beach nor does it justify the poor decision making that went into the Fortuna Glacier incident or the Grass Island reconnaissance. The SAS failed in South Georgia because they used equipment known to be faulty, because they did not credit mountain men with more experience than they and because fate and nature do not care how clever or strong humans claim themselves to be.

Flag raisedSheridan's capture of Grytviken and Leith showed the many sides to this small war. A small and bloodless military affair metamorphosed into a major political victory. If ever the Royal Marines had proven their worth to the politicians this was the occasion. Thatcher was not yet the Warrior Queen, that would take blood, time and Port Stanley's seizure, but she had restored British sovereignty to a tiny bit of hijacked property. She could, moreover, hold a cabinet together long enough to gain a much needed victory because a few Royal Marines took the initiative and won a dicey military engagement 8000 miles from home. For the first time since Suez a British Prime Minister undertook diplomatic/military responsabilities outside NATO, risked blood, treasure and her job and prevailed dispite a clumsy military command and control system about which she knew very little. British professional military, especially pilots and infantry, finished the job, heroically so in some instances, despite their seniors' lapses. The Argentine military, on the other hand, had no rationized plan for the defense of their new holdings. The Argentine Navy demonstrated strategic and tactical incompetence in the loss of Santa Fe. It would not come out again to fight in the face of submarine and surface opposition.

Systemic flaws surfaced, too. The reconnaisance practices of the Special Warfare units needed refinement and equipment up to their tasks. The SAS was willing to overman an operation, compromise the operation's command and control system, overburden ships and logistics and risk incomprehensably in order to gain a place in the sun. Too many of those involved refused to accept perfectly good intelligence because it did not oringinate from within. The Royal Navy did not have a grip on the essence and purpose of amphibious operations, getting troops ashore. Yet these shortcomings did not overwhelm. Down deep in the Corps of the Royal Marines, far from desks and parade grounds, rather junior officers and enlisted men possessed a competence and an obduracy that would overcome enormous obstacles even those posed by their own side.


  
  

Notes:

  1.  On 18 April 1982 Francis Pym told the House of Commons that force would not be used as long as negotiations continued. That policy would have prevented Operation Paraquat. Either Pym had not been told of the plans to retake South Georgia by force or he had decided to formulate his own policy on the war. The former is more likely. Pym was forced to return to the House later that night and to withdraw his remarks. Downing Street Years p 204. 
  2. "On June 28 there was talk of changing all senior commanders." Allan Clarke p 70. Certain proof of the naivete of those who had never warred. 
  3. "The press was very hostile." Thatcher p 185. 
  4. "John gave the MoD's view that the Falklands could not be retaken once they were seized." The Downing Street Years, page 179. Galtieri's junta agreed. 
  5. Thatcher herself erred when in her opening statement to the House of Commons on April --, 1982 she mentioned the "Falkland Islands and their dependencies." South Georgia ia a dependency of Great Britain itself and administered from the Falkland Islands. The Downing Street Years, page 183. 
  6. The War Cabinet consisted of: Margaret Thatcher, Francis Pym forced on her by the House; John Nott the scapegoat for all that gone wrong; Willie Whitlaw the ubiquitous gray man of conservative politics without whom nothing significant could occur and Cecil Parkinson, narrowly defeated by Thatcher for Prime Minister and ready to assume that job when Thatcher stumbled. Sir Terence Lewin, Chief of the Defense Staff, needed to pull Thatcher's fat from the fire and the Attorney General Michael Havers ready to offer legal fig leaves for military action also attended. From time to time sundry FCO and military people like Brigadier Peter de la Billiere, head of the Special Warfare community a firm believer in the coup de main to solve the knottiest of problems abroad. Quite properly no delegate from the Treasury was present because Thatcher wanted no niggling about the war's costs. At least one meeting was held each day. Thatcher. Downing Street Years p 188-9. 
  7. "The mob was always ready to wack MT if things went wrong especially Timothy Kitson, Chairman of the Select Committee on Defense, a prey to blandishment from every quarter."."Allan Clarke ---- p 64. 
  8. Page A12 NYT April 8, 1982. 
  9. Page A15 Washington Post April 11, 1982. 
  10. "The successful seizure of territory by force, in lieu of negotiations, could not be allowed to become the lesson derived nor the final conclusion drawn. With the history of western weakness in the recent past, it probably would have sent a very serious signal around the world, especially to the Soviet Union." Alexander Haig quoted in "The Little Platoon p 15. Michael Charlton, Basil Blackwell, 1989. 
  11. 40 Commando and the Air Defense Troop were stood down on 31 March 1982 and were told: "no units are required." Clapp and Tailyour. "Amphibious Assault Falklands." London: Cooper. 1996. P 14. 
  12. R.W.Apple in the New York Times May 6, 1982. 
  13. Captain James Cook RN in "Captain James Cook" by Richard Hough. New York: Norton, 1997. 
  14. Grytviken, South Georgia's chief settlement, means "Pot Harbor" in Norwegian. To this day Norwegian sailors remember the stench of hot blubber. 
  15. Thatcher p 205: "It was on this day (19 April) that the War Cabinet authorized the operation to repossess South Georgia..." Given the 7 April order to Vaux' 42 Commando to get up a force to invade South Georgia Thatcher may be seen as marching ahead of her War Cabinet. 
  16. "We had no advance planning figures whatsoever. .... Aapparently even they (the marines) didn't know what they were to get." Captain Shane Redmond commenting on RFA Tidespring's loadout for Operation Paraquat in Perkins p 116. 
  17. Vaux was told that the Argentinean forces on South Georgia had "heavy naval support." No capability for heavy support existed anywhere in that navy. Poor intelligence got Britain into the war and bedevilled it throughout the conflict. Vaux p 17. 
  18. Allied Tactical Publication 8 the US, British and NATO bible for amphibious operations was the governing document for the Falklands war. 
  19. HMS Antrim, a County class destroyer of 5500 tons, was launched in October 1967. It carried 2 X 4.5" guns, a modest ASW capability and excellent communications gear. 
  20. When LtCol Richard Eve RA the artillery officer assigned to Operation Paraquat boarded Antrim he was given an Admiral's cabin because Young knew him to senior to Major Sheridan. Eve pointed out to Young that whatever their ranks Sheridan, as land force commander, was automatically senior to all other ground officers and graciously relinquished his spacious quarters to Sheridan. 
  21. Clapp p 54. 
  22. Interview LtCol Sheridan 21 Sep 98. 
  23. The NGS contains two highly trained types of men drawn from the Royal Artillery and Royal Navy; one observes fall of shot either on the ground or from a heliocopter and the second works aboard the firing ship as liaison with its gunnery officer. Movement of the firing ship and possible movement of the target make this a complicated affair. 
  24. X Files. 
  25. Clapp paraphrasing Admiral Fieldhouse. Clapp p54. 
  26. "Apart from the Royal Marines everyone was learning the amphibious trade as we went along." Captain Brian Young RN in Perkins p 121. 
  27. It surprised the young marines and their officers that Captain Young showed so marked a lack of interest in them and in their activities during the trip south. He was until they landed their commander. 
  28. Lieutenant Mike Tidd RN and Flight Lieutenant Andy Pulford RAF had troop experience from Northern Ireland and with Commando forces in Norway. Neither the SAS nor the Royal Marines had dedicated aircraft as integrated members of their forces. US and Soviet special forces did enjoy this luxury. 
  29. HMS Antrim 250/3/1 14 April 82. X Files. 
  30. Interview LtCol Sheridan 27 Oct 1982. 
  31. Freedman claims p 220: "In this one exceptional case....Britain did have satellite pictures from the United States, taken on a satellite's final orbit. This made it possible to identify the location as well as note the weaknesses, of Argentine defenses." If this statement is true the entire SAS & SBS recon effort was duplicative and unnecessary. 
  32. "I gave him the job and could not tell him how to do it. I advised against the Fortuna route but they thought they could do it." Interview LtCol. Sheridan 27 October 1998. 
  33. " I could tell right away we were not convincing him (Delves) that the Fortuna Glacier was a rotten option......The truth is that it matters little if you are experienced or a novice. The weather that constantly changes the mood of the glacier is utterly indifferent." Barker p 180. 
  34. Interview LtCol. Sheridan 27 October 1998. 
  35. "It is widely accepted that Argentina would not make a significant effort to hold South Georgia against a determined assault." James Markham writing from Buenas Aires in the New York Times, April 14, 1982 a week before military action began around South Georgia. It is not known if this view percolated through the British command structure and if it did what was made of it. 
  36. Barker p ---. 
  37. Falklands/So. Georgia Conflict as seen from Signy Island. P.41 A.D.Hemmings typed manuscript submitted to BAS 2 July 1984. 
  38. "Argentine planners concluded immediately (21 April 1982) that the British were planning to retake South Georgia. On 24 April it was reported that two destroyers and a tanker were near the island. The British Chiefs of Staff assessed that an attack was imminent." Freedman Signals of War p 219. Professor Freedman did not divulge the source of this information. 
  39. Although it could not be known before British forces landed, Argentinean troops failed to dig new defensive positions but simply occupied abandoned Royal Marines' trenches. 
  40. Interview with BAS personnel Nov. 1997 
  41. Op. Cit. 
  42. Mountain Troop inserted from three helicopters not two as stated in Times Team "War In The Falklands" p 149. 
  43. X Files 
  44. Thatcher Op.Cit. p 205. 
  45. Barker p 183. 
  46. Sergeant Mac Lemann RM, Mountain Leader 1st Class, quoted in Perkins p 140. 
  47. Author's experience. 
  48. Brown Mountain was with Bore Valley/Mountain a piece of ground whose seizure by Sheridan would be essential to the recapture of Grytviken. 
  49. BAS maintained caches stored in caves for their own members use. Neither SAS nor SBS knew their locations. 
  50. Woodward p 105. In view of the importance attached to Paraquat's success it surprises that Woodward did not order Young to engage the Santa Fe with his two experienced destroyer captains in Plymouth and Antrim and the overwhelming technological superiority of the nuclear HMS Conqueror. 
  51. Santa Fe was a "Guppy 2" conversion from an older US submarine class. The conversion was not widely believed to be successful. 
  52. Barkers statement p 184: "We, too, decided to call off the operation, and, as darkness fell we recalled the troops." is inaccurate. The SBS had been trying for more than a day to exfiltrate. Anyhow it was not Barker's decision but Young's, Sheridan's and the SBS'. 
  53. While Burls' group would, if discovered, have been compelled to fire upon and perhaps kill Argentinean marines, the task force remained under stern injunct from Northwood not to fire upon the Argentinean C-130s that now shadowed the sea force in what Thatcher proclaimed to be British air space. Northwood seemed uncomprehending of war's essential purpose, destruction of the enemy's will to fight. 
  54. Barker p 185. Captain Barker seemed upset at the submarine's presence and omitted the fact that even plodding Endurance could outrun its ancient diesel foe as long as they both floated. 
  55. Barker p 188. and Thompson, No Picnic p 30. 
  56. Lt Col Guy Sheridan "Operation Paraquat" in The Elite Vol. 5 Issue 56. 
  57. Barker, who had commanded an ASW ship, is adamant on this subject. See Barker p 188. 
  58. Barker p 187. 
  59. After the war Bicain admitted that a damaged hatch compromised Santa Fe's water tight integrity. To have submerged would have sunk the boat. 
  60. The naval gunfire spotters, one aloft in a Wasp from Endurance and another at Dartmouth Point, called the fall of shot very accurately. The job is not glamorous and extremely important. 
  61. One Argentine sailor on Santa Fe suffered a leg wound from the air attack at sea. The medical officer in Sheridan's command element lacked the equipment to assist the seriously distressed man. A helicopter evacuated him to Antrim where his leg was amputated. 
  62. Thatcher was also confused about the garrison's head: "A certain Captain Astiz had been in charge of the garrision there ( Grytviken)." Downing Street Years p 208. 
  63. Ibid p209. 

In "Looking For Trouble" p 344 General de la Billiere wrote: "...a combined force of Royal Marines, SAS and SBS fought their way into the former whaling base of Grytviken and recaptured South Georgia in the first victory of the war ...." This statement is wholly erroneous because disabling the Santa Fe was the first victory and because there was no fighting on South Georgia leading up to its recapture.

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SAS Operations

When Argentina invaded the Falklands on 2nd April 1982, both Brigadier Peter de la Billiere and Lieutenant-Colonel Mike Rose, the Commander of 22 SAS, fought hard to have the regiment included in the task force. By early April, members of both D and G squadrons were on their way.

South Georgia

During the operation to retake South Georgia, bad weather trapped SAS men on a glacier and a Wessex 3 and two Wessex 5s were sent to retrieve them. The first Wessex lifted off as the wind whipped up the snow. The Wessex from RFA Tidespring lifted off, but the pilot lost his bearing in the snow and crashed, skidding for some 50 yards, with the Wessex tipping over. The other two helicopters now embarked their troops. They lifted and landed next to the crashed Wessex and took on her aircrew and soldiers. Both aircraft dumped fuel to carry the extra load.

wessex crashVisibility by this time was practically zero and the wind and snow had not abated. The helicopters lifted off, and the Wessex 3, equipped with radar, took off with the Wessex 5 following astern and made their way down the glacier. Seconds later, the helicopters traversed a small ridge and the Wessex 5 flared violently and struck the top of the ridge. It rolled onto its side and could not be contacted by radio. The remaining overloaded helicopter returned to the ship, some 30 miles away to the north, and disembarked its passengers. The Wessex 3 returned to the crash site, but was unable to land. They made contact by radio and confirmed there were no serious casualties. The Wessex 3 returned to Antrim to wait for a break in the weather. An hour later an opportunity presented itself and the Wessex 3 flew back and embarked the survivors and was flown back to Antrim by Lt-Commander Ian Stanley RN, who was awarded the DSO.

The following night, 23rd April, 2 Section SBS was landed by helicopter. Five Gemini inflatable craft set out with troops of D Squadron's Boat troop aboard and two suffered engine failure. One of the crews was picked up by helicopter while the other crew got to shore. The Antrim group moved in again, on the 24th April, to drop off more troops and in doing so, located and beached the Argentine submarine Sante Fe. The Antrim's small company of Marines was landed following a hasty conference and the seventy-five Marines, SBS and SAS, under naval gunfire support, landed by helicopter. When they reached the settlement of Grytviken, they found white sheets fluttering from several windows. An Argentine officer complained to the SAS that they had just walked through his minefield. At 5:15am, the Argentine commander formally surrendered. The following morning, after threatening defiance by radio overnight, the small enemy garrison at Leith, along the coast, surrendered without resistance. The scrap merchants, whose activities had precipitated the entire war, were also taken into custody, for repatriation to the mainland. To complete the victory, a helicopter picked up a weak emergency beacon signal from the southernmost tip of the island, Stromness Bay. The helicopter homed in on it and found the lost three-man SAS patrol from the missing Gemini. They had paddled ashore with only a few hundred yards of land left between them and Antarctica. No British troops had been lost.

Goose Green Diversionary

The SAS mounted a diversionary raid at Goose Green on the night before the main landing at San Carlos. 60 men of D Squadron hit the garrison at Goose Green with the aim of simulating a battlion-sized attack. The soldiers marched for 20 hours to reach the hills north of Darwin before attacking the Argentines with LAW and MILAN missiles, machine gun and rifle fire. The enemy were taken completely by surprise and were unable to pinpoint the SAS positions and responded with only sporadic fire. Early next morning the SAS withdrew, the main landing complete.

Pebble Island


On the night of 14-15 May, the SAS carried out a daring raid on the Pebble Island Airstrip on West Falkland. Twenty members of Mountain Troop, D Squadron, led by Captain John Hamilton, assaulted the airstrip to destroy all eleven aircraft. The attack was supported by fire from HMS Glamorgan, while the SAS used 81mm mortar, M203 grenade launchers, 66mm LAWS, and small arms fire to drive the Argentinians to cover. The Argentines were forced to take cover and the SAS moved onto the airstrip ad fixed explosive charges to the aircraft. The assault destroyed six Pucaras, four Turbo-Mentors and a Skyvan transport before the party withdrew.

Despite some last minute hitches, the aircraft had all been destroyed or rendered irreparable and one Argentinian lay dead. Two of the Squadron were wounded by shrapnel when a mine exploded, although not seriously hurt.


 
Raid on Pebble Island  
by David Pentland  
© David Pentland / Cranston Fine Arts 
The above painting is available  
on line at http://www.war-art.com/

Please note that BSW dose NOT profit from any sales of this painting. 
We are very grateful to the people at Cranston Fine Arts 
for allowing us to display David Pentlands work

 

The Sea King Crash

On 19th May, the Regiment suffered a tragic loss when a Sea King crashed while cross-decking troops from HMS Hermes to HMS Intrepid and killed 22 men.  The Sea King had taken off from H.M.S. Hermes at dusk. The Aircraft was slightly over loaded but because it was short fight the pilot reduced his fuel load to lighten the helicopter. At 300 ft the Sea King started it's decent towards H.M.S. Intrepid. those on board heard a thump, then another from the engine above them. The Sea King dipped once then dived . Within four seconds it hit the water. Some men were killed instantly and other knocked unconscious in the initial impact. Amazingly 9 men managed to scramble out of the open side door before the helicopter slipped below the waves. They were the only survivors. Rescuers found bird feathers floating on the surface were the helicopter had impacted the water. It is thought that the Sea King was the victim of a bird strike. One theory is at the Sea King was hit by a Black Browed Albatross which has a 8 ft wing span. The SAS lost 18 men on this night. The regiment had not lost so many men at one tine since the end of the second world war. The accident killed a member of the Royal Signals and the only RAF casualty of the war Flt Lt G.W. Hawkins.

West Falkland

On June 5th five Four man SAS patrols were inserted onto West Falkland to observe and report the movements of the two large Argentine garrisons on West Falkland. One of these patrols was commanded by Captain Gavin John Hamilton, formerly of the Green Howards. Although Hamilton had only been with the Regiment for 5 months he was in command of G Squadrons Mountain troop.  He had proved himself to be a excellent SAS officer during Operation Paraquat and the raid on Pebble Island. 

 


On the 10th of June Hamilton and his four man patrol were using a well established OP near Port Howard when they were surrounded and out numbered by Argentine forces from the 1st Section 601 Combat Aviation Battalion. Two SAS men managed to get away but Hamilton and his signaler, Sergeant Fosenka, were pinned down. Hamilton was hit in the back by enemy fire and told Fosenka to get out while he covered him. " You carry on, I'll cover your back" Moments later Hamilton was killed. Sergeant Fosenka was later captured when he ran out of ammunition.  Fosenka was not badly treated by the Argentines and Hamilton was buried with full military honors by the Argentines.  The senior Argentine officer praised the heroism of the SAS officer. Hamilton was posthumously awarded the Military Cross. Some think he should have been given a VC. But because no British Officer was present during  this action (apart from Hamilton himself ) no VC was awarded.

Thank you to Julian M Taylor for some of the above information on Captain G. J. Hamilton

Mount Kent

Using Mount Kent, some 64 km behind enemy lines, as a forward operating base under the noses of the Argentine 12 Regiment, also on the mountain, the SAS continued their reconnaissance role until 26th May, when the Argentines were hurriedly airlifted to Goose Green by a mix of Huey and Chinook helicopters, leaving much personnel equipment behind. This sudden move left the mountain, which was dominant high ground, open to seizure by No.3 Commando Brigade. On 30th May, Sea King helicopters with Royal Marines aboard, took off but were forced by severe weather to turn back to San Carlos.

In the late afternoon of 31st May, elements of K Company, 42 Commando and two SAS officers, took off with the aim of arriving after dark. the helicopter pilots, using passive night goggles to mount a ground-hugging approach. This first liftoff had to land as many men as possible and were filled beyond capacity with men and weapons. They arrived behind a ridgeline about two miles from the summit of Mount Kent, where they were confronted by the sight of a night fire-fight in progress . The Marines quickly spread out and took cover and secured their landing zone as they offloaded their weapons and equipment. The firefight died down and Major Cedric Delves, of D Squadron, 22 SAS, appeared to assure his boss all was well. The SAS had encountered an Argentine patrol and had destroyed it.

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As the task force set sail from Britain in April 1982, to reclaim the Falklands, the Special Boat Service was already reaching the scene. At the time of the Argentine invasion, the SBS was engaged in winter exercises in northern Norway, 40 Commando was training at home, 45 Commando in Scotland and another company was in Brunei. 42 Commando was the only unit to go to Norway because of stringent cost cutting.

The SBS, returning from Norway, were due to go on leave as soon as they returned from Norway, but instead, their departure was blocked the night before the invasion, as the SBS OC, made the assumption that there could be trouble any second. The following morning his fears were confirmed and all his units were alerted to standby.

Within 24 hours of the signal ordering the SBS to stand to, on the 1st April, the SBS were on the move.

First came 2 SBS, setting off with a strong command team by air to Ascension Island, where they would catch either HMS Spartan or HMS Splendid to take them south. However, the plan was aborted en route and 2 SBS was picked up by RFA Fort Austin. At Ascension, D Squadron, SAS, joined them, bringing the force up to a combined total of around 50 men. M Company, 42 RM Commando, soon joined them. The men were at sea before they learned that South Georgia was their intended destination.

6 SBS joined HMS Conqueror at Faslane and set off for the South Atlantic. 3 SBS was the last section to leave, deployed aboard RFA Stromness with a further 12 men joining at Ascension. 1 SBS remained in Poole to deal with any emergency and Special Forces liaison groups.

The assault on South Georgia was codenamed 'Operation Paraquat'. On the way the SBS and SAS tested their equipment and practiced launching from Fort Austin. The elderly outboard motors failed often, and the men found themselves having to paddle back to the ship in these practices.

On 12th April, Fort Austin sighted HMS Endurance, and over the next day the SBS and SAS men heading for South Georgia were cross-decked to HMS Endurance along with their stores, equipment, boats, and supplies for the Endurance. Two Wessex helicopters helped with the shipping. HMS Endurance and Fort Austin were joined by HMS Antrim, HMS Plymouth and RFA tanker Tidespring. The reoccupation of South Georgia was planned aboard HMS AntrimEndurance would put the SBS ashore at Gryviken and King Edward Point, with the SAS landing at Fortuna Glacier to reconnoitre Leith Harbour, Stromness and Grass Island. For more details see 'Operation Paraquat'.

'Paraquat' concluded with a landing of a 75-man strong force made up of SAS, SBS and Royal Marines from Antrim, which was only half the strength of the Argentine garrison. When the force reached the Argentine garrison at Grytviken, the entire place was covered in white sheets and the Argentineans surrendered.

The 6 SBS from South Georgia joined 3 SBS in the advance fleet. The SBS would reconnoitre three separate areas of the Falklands and maintain patrols in advance of the main landings.

In addition to being in enemy controlled territory, the SBS had to send reports by Morse code instead of radio, and the beach recce reports and charts had to be delivered in person as these were far too complex for sending by Morse code. Sea King Mk 4 helicopters were used to fly the patrols in, although occasionally the Geminis were used to go ashore. Helicopter movements were only carried out at night, and once dropped off, the SBS teams dug into the coverless hillsides and remained hidden for days at a time, as the Argentine forces searched for them.

As the conflict progressed, the SBS had teams scattered throughout the islands, with patrols deployed to various locations for up to a week at a time before withdrawing to report and then being inserted to another location.

The teams usually numbered four men who, once landed, would proceed on foot to their observation side, lying up in temporary hides during the daylight hours. A trio of hides would be built, one for the men and the other two for the substantial supplies necessary for a seven-day recce.

Although the Argentine forces came close to discovering SBS patrols on numerous occasions, the worst incident of all was when two men went missing from a patrol, which caused concern to SBS control. The two corporals were part of a team that ran into an Argentine patrol and were split up, although they avoided actual contact with the patrol. The two corporals followed their procedures and were eventually, seven days later, picked up and returned to the ship.

The Argentine fish factory-ship provided another SBS task, 2 SBS were despatched to board and apprehend the vessel, but while they were en route, the ship was attacked by two Harriers and was listing badly by the time the SB arrived and boarded her. The SBS discovered charts and operational orders before setting charges, rescuing the crew, and blowing up the ship. The seized orders showed she had been shadowing the British fleet.

Immediately prior to the San Carlos landing, an Argentine company moved into the area and the SBS were tasked with clearing them out before the landing. Using a thermal imager, the SBS located the Argentineans from one of Antrim's Wessex helicopters and HMS Antrim bombarded the target with 4.5-inch naval shellfire for two hours, while the Wessex landed the SBS nearby. The SBS then moved in, calling for the Argentines to surrender, but receiving only gunfire in response. The SBS gave them one more chance to give up before moving forward, killing twelve, wounding three, and taking nine prisoners. The Argentineans had been on Fanning Head manning anti-tank guns and mortars, which would have been able to inflict damage on the British landings if they had not been put out of action. The remainder of the company were in Port San Carlos, sheltering in houses and were not discovered until after the landings began; two Royal Marine Gazelles were shot down by these Argentineans as the landings started.

The landings went on unopposed and on the north coast, by Port Salavdor Water, 6 SBS from HMS Fearless was inserted to establish a forward base on Green Island ahead of the Commando's advance. The section carried out reconnaissance of Port Louis and Green Patch before the Commandos arrived. 2 SBS joined them and operated in the Teal area, guiding 3 Para into Teal, before moving on to observe an enemy company on Long Island Mountain.

These operations were followed by the SBS removing an enemy observation post, during which one member of the SBS was killed in a friendly fire incident. This resulted in closer cooperation, the SBS team leader having strayed onto the SAS's Green Patch operational zone.

The SBS continued its operations, scouting West Falkland for enemy bases and airstrips.

An Argentine force was located on Pebble Island numbering between 30 and 50 men. The SBS planned an attack with 36 men and two Harriers, however the raid was overtaken by the Argentine surrender at Port Stanley. An SBS major took the surrender of  Pebble Island and its 112-strong garrison.

Final Action

As the main force advanced on Stanley, the SBS and SAS shared a joint action. On 12th June, 2 Para attacked Wireless Ridge, while five miles west of them a six-man team from 3 SBS formed a volunteer raiding party with D and G Squadrons SAS, to divert enemy attention from the main thrust by creating a diversionary assault from the sea. The task was unplanned and a spur-of the-moment operation.

The SBS team spent a day in an observation post, before moving across the Murrell River in Rigid Raiders with a troop from D Squadron, SAS, which were driven by men from the Royal Marines 1st Raiding Squadron. The raiders were hidden off Kidney Island until they were ready for the assault.

On the night of 13-14th June, the men approached the target area, bypassing the berthed Argentinean hospital ship Bahia Paraiso. As they did so, the hospital ship turned on its searchlights, spotting the raiders and opened fire with everything they had, certain they faced a full-scale sea borne assault.

The raiders withdrew, with one of the craft badly damaged. The raiders reached the shore, with an SBS corporal and two SAS troopers having been wounded. The effort provided the needed diversion for 2 Para and saved some lives by diverting Argentine attention from the Para's assault.

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Argentine Air Defenses
found at surrender in and around Port Stanley and Goose Green

  • 601st GADA Air Defense Artillery Group:
    • 1 Cardion TPS-44 long range radar.
    • 1 Roland SAM system from 602nd GADA.
    • 4 x Tigercat SAM triple launchers.
    • (6 x Contraves Skyguard fire control radars) controlling 12 x Oerklikon GDF-002 35 mm twin cannons. 
      (3 guns of "B" section later moved to Goose Green with one Contraves Skyguard FC radar.)
    • 3 x Oerlikon single barrel 20 mm anti-aircraft guns.
  • B Battery, 101st Anti-Aircraft regiment:
    • 8 x 30 mm Hispano Suiza HS-831 guns.
    • 10 x 12.7 mm machine guns
  • Airfield defence group.
    • Air Force Grupo 1 de Artillería Antiaérea:
    • 1 Westinghouse TPS-43F long range radar.
    • 1 Contraves Super Fledermaus fire control radar.
    • 1 Elta short ranged radar
    • 3 x Oerlikon GDF-002 twin 35 mm guns.
    • 15 x Rheinmetall Rh-202 twin 20 mm anti-aircraft guns. (9 x guns placed close-in to Stanley Airfield, 6 guns located around Goose Green airfield)
    • Numbers of SA-7 and Shorts Blowpipe man portable short ranged SAMs.
  • No. 1 Marine Air Defense Battalion:
    • 3 x Tigercat SAM triple launchers.
    • 12 x Hispano-Suiza HS-831 30 mm anti-aircraft guns.

Totals: (Approx: 53 x AA guns (20, 30 and 35mm) and 8 x SAM systems)

  • 15 x Oerlikon GDF-002 35 mm twin cannons
  • 6 x Skyguard and 1 x Super Fledermaus fire control radars
  • 15 x Rheinmetall twin 20 mm anti-aircraft guns.
  • 20 x Hispano Suiza HS-831 30 mm anti-aircraft guns
  • 7 x Tigercat SAM triple launchers.
  • 3 x Oerlikon 20 mm single barrel anti-aircraft guns.
  • 1 x Roland SAM system.

Argentine Army Artillery

  • 3rd Artillery Group (GA3), 3rd Infantry Brigade
    • 18 x 105 mm OTO Melara Mod 56 field guns (Stanley) Section of 3 guns moved to Goose Green).
    • 4 x CITEFA 155 mm guns airlifted from May 15th (from the 101st Artillery Group) (Stanley).
    • 4th Airborne Artillery Group (GA4), 4th Airborne Brigade (Stanley).
    • 18 x 105 mm guns (Stanley).

10th Exploration cavalry armoured car squadron (Esc. Expl. C. Bl. 10) (Stanley).

12 x Panhard APC 90 mm.

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It had gone midnight and the company made steady progress towards the objective.  It occurred about 0045hrs, when our progress came to a sudden halt.  Out of the depth of the darkness came the sound of an explosion to our rear, and it was soon followed by  a long eerie scream that filled the cold night air.  It was the sound of severe pain and hurt, and a scream that i will never forget.  It became apparent to us all that the stupid bastards had brought us through a minefield.  That poor Marine, would not be the only victim, as another explosion was heard, when another Marine went to his aid.  He hardly screamed, just threw curses into the night.  Our problems were not over, as the Argies fired several shells into our general area, thankfully, most fell short and to our flanks but that did not stop fragmentation whizzing past.

Credit must be given to the two helicopter pilots who flew to the aide of the injured Marines.  They had no marker, but landed within yards of them, and were taken away for medical attention.  Meanwhile we had some engineers clear a route out of the minefield.  This took 4hrs to complete, the longest 4hrs that I have had to endure.  When it came time to move we had to stay in single file, and be aware of our footing, not an easy task in the dark, in a minefield.  We did notice several white triangular markers, indicating location of anti-personnel mines.  We got out without any further casualties.  As a result of this hold up, the intended mission was aborted, instead we went off and dug shell scrapes.  Myself and Gdsm Kevans took cover in a natural dip in the ground, and here we settled for the night. Sentries were posted and we got some sleep.  In the distance the rattle of gun fire could be heard through out the night, which was 2 SG attacking Mount Tumbledown.

Around 1000hrs the company assembled and made their way back to the location that we occupied the day before.  While at this location we rested,  had food, and sorted out our equipment.  The Coy Comd, Maj Drewry, received orders, and he in turn informed the platoon commanders, and we eventually received our orders, of the tasks that lie ahead of us.

We, with 2 companies from the Royal Marines, under Command of our CO, Lt Col Johnny Ricketts, were tasked to attack the last objective before Port Stanley, that objective being Sappers Hill.   We were then put in "chalks" by the Adjutant, ready to fly out to Sappers Hill.

A small fleet of helicopters landed.  So this was it and onto the Wessex we boarded, 16in all with kit.  All sorts ran through my mind as we took the short flight along the coast line towards Sappers Hill.  It certainly got my adrenalin flowing, as well as the fear of dying, after all this could be my last moments on earth.  And yet at the same time the feeling of excitement was there.  Its what we are trained for, and here we are now, about to put all that training into practice, and hope to God that it all pays off and we are all able to survive the carnage ahead of us.


 

The helicopters landed on the main track road leading up towards Sappers Hill and into Port Stanley.  The company jumped off the helicopters, and spread out to cover the other aircraft landing.  We went in about 20m from the road, then we heard the shouts, " Stay were you are, do not go any further but remember where you walked and make your way back to the road."  We had unknowingly run into a minefield that lined the road towards Sappers Hill.  I soon made my way back as did the others.

As we gathered on the track, we stood and listened to a member of the FOO party say that "a white flag has been seen over Stanley and that they have surrendered." This news was met with great joy from the lads in the company.  In the meantime there was a moment of confusion that needed to be clarified.  So we waited, and out came the cameras and plenty of photos were taken.  At this point I took my cine camera out and filmed the lads, such as Gdsm James 55, he was crying, which was nothing to be ashamed of.  Any person who says that they were disappointed that they never went into battle, well I would have to call them a liar.  Nobody in their right minds wants to do such a thing, and we as a unit have suffered enough, without adding more losses.  Slowly the word got through there was a white flag over Port Stanley, so we were told we we would march towards Port Stanley, but to remain outside on the other side Of Sappers Hill.  Our weapons were to remain tight, and to be extremely cautious.  There was an incident when the Argies fired at the Paras when they appeared to have surrendered under the white flag.

As we made our way cautiously up the road, out came our berets to let them know who we are, a feeling of pride was amongst us to be able to wear that beret with "the Leek".  We had earned that right as Welsh Guardsmen.  It soon came apparent to us what lay ahead if we had indeed attacked Sappers Hill.............a mass of casualties.  The hill was well defended and they made good use of the natural cover amongst the rocks, and had built sangers that gave them good cover.  In front and along both sides of the road were minefields, this was marked out by them with wire.  On the road side there are two wounded Marines, who became casualties moments before the white flag was seen, and both were  taken well care of by the medics.

The closer we got to the top of the hill, we saw the debris that they had left behind as they fled to Port Stanley.  Equipment had been scattered about, ammo boxes, full and empty littered the area.  It reminded me of scenes that you saw from the old news reels of WW2.

As we approached the bend on top of the hill, there was a sight that I shall not forget in a hurry.  From a distance it just looked like a pile of old rags in the middle of the road but the closer you got, you soon realised that it was a dead Argentine soldier.  The body lay face down in the dirt, an arm was missing, and all that was left of his head was his hair that was settled in a pool of blood. Bits of brain and skull could be seen in the pool of blood, and his weapon was at his side.  Members of the company passed remarks, such as " Bet he's got a hell of a headache."  At the time I laughed along with them. They even took photos of the body, but even though I had my cine camera and camera I could not bring myself to take pictures of the body, I simply couldn't.

I just felt sorry for who ever that soldier was.  Like us he would have the same thoughts and fears, family and friends back home who will mourn his loss.  He is no different from us.......we are all the same underneath the guise of a uniform, a human being, but due to circumstances well beyond our control we find ourselves miles from home fighting a war that could have been avoided if the politicians had read the political signs correctly, and the other had no choice, as his country have been plagued by military coups for years.  I can't think of myself hating the Argentines as a result of this war.  The war may be over for those who survived, but for many the sounds and sights of the carnage that war inflicts will remain with them for the rest of their natural lives and as for the family, they will have that emptiness in their life of the person they loved, robbed by war.


 

As we came over the brow of Sappers Hill we could see the objective in the distance ........Port Stanley. Through the falling snow, we saw what we had come along way for.  It looked a colourfull town, with its buildings painted all colours, reds, green, yellows and blue.  I suppose that that's what the islanders wanted, after all the islands are fairly bleak.  I heard mutterings by some of the lads as they saw Port Stanley for the first time, "Was it worth it?"  A hard question to answer at that moment in time., but later on I say it was worth it.  We do live in a democracy, and these people are British, who had their liberty robbed from them by the invading Argentines.  A high price to pay in regards to the loss of life, but one that we all must be thankful for. Our subsequent governments should remember this, and they should make sure that these tiny Islands remain British, otherwise our friends that have died, would have died in vain.  And how do you explain that to their family?

Not far from the body, down the track and to the right, was an attempt by the Argies to fool us in thinking that they had a 155mm in situ.  It was constructed with old plastic tubes, a couple of empty barrels and wheels. and some hessian was used to disguise it but from a long distance it would have given the impression that it was the real McCoy.  Not far away, with its barrel pointing into the dirt, was the real 155mm, with several shells around it.

We were led to an area that the company would rest at for the night, I still took in the fact the Argies had prepared Sappers Hill well, they had depth positions that would have made the task of taking it very hard.  It will be a while before the feeling of knowing it's all over will sink in, but we do feel a bit more relaxed, and that did feel tremendous.  What bugs me at the moment, as I glanced over Port Stanley, the reports of up to 7000 Argentine troops in the town, but from what I saw, there was very few to be seen.

In the harbour, there were several ships one of which was the Argies hospital ship.  Helicopters were seen flying to it with casualties from last night's actions on Tumbledown.  It was during this attack, that two soldiers were captured by the Argies and Killed.  One was Dsgt Danny White and from what we have been told, the bodies were found by our Recce platoon, near a trench, with conscripts in it, and they were wearing clothing from those dead.  But I don't know if this is the truth or not.

I settled to get some hot food and a drink inside of me. My brother was with me and I shared my brew with him.  We catted about the events of the last few days, and to think there were several people within the company never shot a bullet in anger, such as Sgt Powell 01, and Gdsm Rob Hannan.  I managed to fire a few during last week's air attack on the Sir Galahad.  It was all over and we looked forward to the day that we got the order to go home, to our wives, girlfriends and family.  I will be pleased to see my parents, who have given a great deal of comfort and support to my brother and I, with their letters and parcels from home.

--------------------------------------------------------

 

In September 1980, fifty pilots and technician personnel of the 2ª Escuadrilla Aeronaval de Caza y Ataque (2nd Air Naval Fighter and Strike Squadron) of the CANA (Comando de Aviación Naval Argentina, Argentine Naval Aviation Command) arrived at Rochefort Naval Base, in France. Among the group of pilots were the unit's commander, Frigate Captain Jorge Colombo, and sub-commander, Corvette Captain Augusto Bedacarratz. The rest of the pilots were: Corvette Captains Roberto Agotegaray, Roberto Curilovic and Alejandro Francisco, and Warship Lieutenants Luis Collavino, Julio Barrraza, Juan Rodriguez Mariani, Armando Mayora and Carlos Machetanz. All the pilots had hundreds of hours flying A-4Q Skyhawks (the main type of combat plane used by the CANA by that time).

After three months of French language teaching, they were sent to Landivisiau Air Naval Base, where they flew training sorties in Morane Saulnier planes during 30 days and then began to know their future combat tool - the AMD-BA (Avions Marcel Dassault - Breguet Aviation) Super Etendard. Later, the Argentine pilots started to learn the basic flight lessons in the Super Etendard (a maximum of 50 hours of flight by each pilot) and basic notions about the weapon systems, especially the anti-ship missile AM.39 Exocet. The technical specifications of them are:


 
AMD-BA Super Etendard:
 
  • Engine: turbojet SNECMA Atar 8K-50 with a throtle of 5.000 kilograms.
  • Top speed at sea level: 1200 km/h.
  • Ceiling: 13,700 mts.
  • Range flying at sea level: 720 kms.
  • Weapons: two 30 mm cannons, and 2,270 kgs of weapons load (including bombs, air-to-air R.550 Magic missiles and anti-ship AM.39 Exocet missiles).
AM.39 Exocet
 
  • Type: airborne "fire and forget" anti-ship missile.
  • Lenght: 5.20 meters.
  • Diameter: 35 centimeters.
  • Wingspan: 1 meter.
  • Weight: 655 kgs.
  • Range: 70 kms (35 miles) Cruise speed: 1100 km/h (Mach 0.9)
  • Left: The Exocet family. The SM.39 is the submarine launched version, while both the MM.38 and MM.40 are the ship-to-ship versions. The last member of the family is the AM.39; the air-to-ship version. This was the type of missile used by the Argentine 2nd Air Naval Squadron.

To attack a ship with the AM.39 version is a work of two stages: first, the missile is guided by the plane's fire control system, which gives to the missile the target's coordinates and these coordinates are obtained by the plane's radar. When the missile is launched, it dives to an altitude of 30 meters, which is later fixed at only 2.5 meters by the missile's radio altimeter. In the few final seconds of flight, the missile activates its own radar and searches for the target. If it finds any, the missile locks on to it and guides itself to the impact point.

The Argentine pilots and technicians returned to Comandante Espora Air Naval Base (Buenos Aires Province, Argentina) in July 1981 and began the preparation for arrival of the first five Super Etendards, which finally happened in November 1981. The Argentine Navy had ordered a total number of 14 aircraft, and the same number of Exocets. The Argentine pilots tested the navigation system of the five planes as much as they could, and started to do the same with the weapon system.

The War Began

But on April 2nd 1982, when the 2nd Squadron was waiting the arrival of the French technical team to put the Exocets in an operational status, Argentina performed the military reconquest of the Falklands Islands - called Malvinas in Spanish language - usurped by the British government in 1833. One of the first acts of the French government was to declare a weapons embargo against Argentina until the conflict ended.

Of course, it deprived the 2nd Squadron of the possibility of being assisted by French technicians but the Argentine personnel of the unit, far from giving up, faced on their own the challenge to set up the Exocets. Two weeks later, the interface between airplane and missile had been solved, and the tests on anti-ship strikes began. Fortunately for the Argentineans, the country had bought from Great Britain two Type 42 destroyers (the same class used by the Royal Navy), the ARA Hércules and ARA Santísima Trinidad. In consequence, the unit's pilots tested and improved the attack tactics against these kinds of ships.

On May 1st 1982, The RAF and Royal Navy planes attacked the main Argentine airfields and positions in the islands. The Argentine Navy organized a combined strike against the British aircraft carriers: eight A-4Qs belonging to the 3rd Air Naval Fighter and Strike Squadron on board the Argentine carrier, ARA Veinticinco de Mayo, and two Super Etendards from Río Grande Air Naval Base would attack at the same time on May 2nd. But that day both arms of the attack had problems; the naval Skyhawks needed a minimum wind to help them take off from the carrier, and unexpectedly the wind, normally strong in the South Atlantic, did not blow. On the 2nd Squadron's side, both Super Etendards, piloted by the unit commander, Jorge Colombo, and his wingman Carlos Machetanz, were affected by problems that did not allow them to receive fuel from the KC-130H Hercules tanker. Later that same day the British submarine HMS Conqueror sunk the Argentine cruiser ARA General Belgrano and forced the Argentine Sea Fleet to come back to Puerto Belgrano Naval Base.


A recent photograph of the SP-2H Neptune 0708/2-P-112 in the Air Naval Museum placed at Puerto Belgrano Naval Base, within Comandante Espora Air Naval Base. On May 4th 1982 this plane, when piloted by Corvette Captain Ernesto Proni Leston, detected the destroyer HMS Sheffield and gave her coordinates to the Super Etendards armed with Exocets.


  
  

The End of the HMS Sheffield

At 5:07 hrs on May 4th 1982, a SP-2H Neptune, serial number 0708/2-P-112, call sign 'Mercurio', belonging to the Exploration Squadron of the CANA, took off from Río Grande Air Naval Base. The plane's crew was composed of three members, and the pilot was Corvette Captain Ernesto Proni Leston (the other members were the copilot and Operative Control Officer, surnamed Pernussi). Originally the mission was to detect any British naval activity to allow a group of C-130s to land on Puerto Argentino's airport, but even when the flight of the Hercules was aborted, the Neptune sortie stands. At 7:50 the Neptune had his first radar contact with a British warship, and Proni reported the news to the CANA. He was ordered to keep contact but with discretion. 'Mercurio' had two other contacts at 8:14 and 8:43. A few minutes later an order from the High Command of CANA arrived to evade any contact until 10:00 hrs. Proni guessed that an Exocet sortie was on the way, and set the Neptune's course to the area of the wreckage of the ARA General Belgrano, pretending to be part of a rescue mission searching for survivors.


 
This was the flight path followed by the Neptune of Corvette 
Captain Proni Leston on May 4th 1982.

The news about Captain Proni's findings arrived to Río Grande quickly, and it was the turn for Corvette Captain Augusto César Bedacarratz and Frigate Lieutenat Armando Mayora to fly the anti-ship sorties, and all the other pilots helped to prepare the flight paths, points of meeting with the KC-130H tanker, etc. Both Super Etendards took off from Río Grande at 9:45 hrs. Bedacarratz, the leader, (call sign 'Aries') flew the plane 0752/3-A-202, and Mayora, the wingman, (call sign 'Boina') did so with his plane 0753/3-A-203. At 10:00 hrs they met the KC-130H tanker provided by the FAA (Fuerza Aérea Argentina - Argentine Air Force) piloted by Vicecommodore Pessana and received all the necessary fuel to complete the mission.

At 10:35, Corvette Captain Proni did his last climb at 1,170 meters (3,500 feet) and detected a big contact and two medium-size in the coordinates 52º 33' 55'' South, 57º 40' 55'' West. A few minutes later he radioed both Super Etendards and gave the information to Bedacarratz. After that, Proni set his course to Río Grande and landed at 12:04 hrs. His long sortie had reached the end.

But the mission of the SUEs (nickname given by the Argentine pilots to the Super Etendards) had just begun. Flying at very low altitude, around 10:50 hrs they climbed at 160 meters (500 feet) to verify the coordinates given by Proni, but they found... nothing! Both pilots turned back to searching and Bedacarratz decided to continue. 40 kms (25 miles) later they climbed again and, after a few seconds of scanning, the targets appeared on their radar screens. Both pilots loaded the coordinates in their weapons systems, turned back to low level, and after the last minute check, launched their AM.39 Exocets. The exact time was 11:04 hrs.

During the flight back to the base, Bedacarratz realized that they would not need the KC-130H assistance, and called to Vicecommodore Pessana declining the refuelling. Pessano was then the first Argentine officer to know the success of the mission. Bedacarratz and Mayora landed at 12:04 hrs, exactly an hour after having launched the missiles. It is unnecessary to say that they were received by their happy comrades as heroes.


 

Argentine pilots belonging to the 2nd Air Naval Fighter  
and Strike Squadron of the Argentine Navy.

From left to right: Frigate Lieutenant Rodríguez Mariani, Corvette Captain Curilovic (who participated in the May 25th sortie when the Atlantic Conveyor was sunk), Frigate Captain Colombo (unit commander) , Corvette Captain Agotegaray, Warship Lieutenant Francisco (who hit the British carrier HMS Invincible on May 30th), Corvette Captain Bedacarratz (who participated in the attack on HMS Sheffield on May 4th), and Warship Lieutenant Collavino (who supported Francisco on May 30th). The Super Etendard behind them is the 0752/3-A-202, the plane used by Bedacarratz on May 4th 1982 during the mission against the Sheffield, and the aircraft flown by Alejandro Francisco on May 30th 1982.

What happened to the Exocets? According to British sources, Peter Walpole, an officer on the deck of the destroyer Type 42 HMS Sheffield, who was trying to identify visually a radar contact reported by the Operations officer of the ship, Nick Batho, saw a little smoke trail and finally identified it as an Exocet, but he did it when the missile was at only 1 mile away from the destroyer. Four seconds later the missile hit the ship with tremendous strength. It was one of the war's ironies that one of the most modern ships of the Royal Navy had only shouts as a missile warning. Some sources affirmed that what caused the fire in the Sheffield was not the warhead, but the remaining missile's fuel; but others, including the Sheffield's Captain, Samuel Salt, assert that the missile's warhead exploded, destroying the Operations Center and the engineering. Whatever the actual cause, the result remains the same; the destroyer HMS Sheffield had received a death wound. It was the first time that an airborne anti-ship missile was tested in combat.


 
 

One of the many photographs showing the burning HMS Sheffield. The Exocet missile hit the engines room, where the warhead exploded. The ship was left without electric supply instantly, and so the anti-fire system could not be activated. The fire soon expanded through all the ship. A total number of 22 British sailors died in the wreckage

Right: Another picture of the dying HMS Sheffield. The fate of the second Exocet remains a mystery, but according to British sources, it narrowly missed the frigate HMS Yarmouth and finally fell into the sea.

 

Changes in the Searching Method

A very important trouble appeared then. The 'eyes' of the Super Etendards were the Neptunes, but on May 15th these machines were deactivated from active service, due to the lack of spare pieces and the obsolescence of their radar crystals. After that, the Argentine Navy had the idea to use the services of the three-dimensional radar AN/TPS-43F and the surveillance radar AN/TPS-44 Alert IIA, both placed in Puerto Argentino. These radars were constantly following the movements of all the British planes, establishing with some accuracy the sites from where the British carriers launched their Harriers and Sea Harriers. Soon it was clear that these movements followed a certain pattern, and so they could be fairly predicted and anticipated.

With this information, on May 23rd two new sorties by Super Etendards attempted to attack the British carriers. The aircraft were piloted by Corvette Captain Roberto Agotegaray and Warship Lieutenant Juan Rodríguez Mariani, who took off in the first hours of the evening, and the meeting with the KC-130H was completed without problems, but when both planes reached the target area they did not find anything. Even when the Argentine pilots scanned the area carefully, they were unable to find a target and so decided to return at 17:50 hrs. But this unsuccessful mission did not invalidate the search method, which was tested again two days later.

14,946 British tons sink in the waters of the South Atlantic

On May 25th 1982, the Argentine radars in Puerto Argentino could define a possible target placed 176 kms (110 miles) Northeast of Puerto Argentino. At 7:30 this data arrived at Río Grande, and a mission was programmed for 9:00 hrs, but it was delayed until the evening due to the lack of a KC-130H to refuel the planes in flight. Finally both Super Etendards took off from Río Grande at 14:28 hrs and set their course to a meeting point with the KC-130H at 256 kms (160 miles) East of Puerto Deseado. The Argentine leader, Corvette Captain Roberto Curilovic, (call sign 'Tito') flew the Super Etendard 0753/3-A-203, and the wingman, Warship Lieutenant Julio Barraza, (call sign 'Leo') did so with the 0754/3-A-204.


 

The Super Etendard in the picture is the 0753/3-A-203. It was flown by Warship Lieutenant Armando Mayora on May 4th, and used again by Corvette Captain Roberto Curilovic on May 25th 1982 against the MV Atlantic Conveyor. The photograph was taken a few minutes before the beginning of the latter mission (you can see the AM.39 Exocet under the right wing of the aircraft).

 

Curilovic and Barraza met the KC-130H in the planned time and place, and after the refueling, both set their course to the South East, right to the target (at this time 480 kms away - 300 miles). When they were at 240 kms (150 miles) of the target coordinates began to fly in at only 8 or 10 meters over the sea. Both pilots found the target exactly where the radars had predicted (58º 38' South, 56º 8' West), and they loaded the coordinates in the weapon system, launched the Exocets at 16:31 hrs and turned back. After a second meeting with the tanker, they returned to Río Grande at 18:38 hrs. It was the longest range mission of the Super Etendard. They flew 2,592 kms (1,620 miles) during 3 hours and 50 minutes. According to British sources, the Exocets hit the cargo ship MV Atlantic Conveyor at 16:36 hrs and the ship caught fire and sank in a couple of hours. It was the greatest logistic loss suffered by the British Task Force 317, because the Atlantic Conveyor was carrying tents for 5,000 men, at least ten helicopters (three Chinooks HC.1 of the 18th Sqdn. RAF, six Wessexs HU.5 of the 848th Sqdn. RN, and one Lynx HAS.2 of the 815th Squadron RN), spare engines and pieces for the Harriers, a plant to make sea water drinkable, and the materials to build a mobile runway for the Sea Harriers. In the wreckage also 12 British sailors were killed, including Ian North, the captain of the Atlantic Conveyor.


  
 
 

The map shows the course of all the missions performed by the Argentine Super Etendards, including the aborted mission on May 2nd and the unsuccessful sortie on May 23rd. The date of each mission is indicated next to the path, and the small pictures of ships indicate which target was sunk/hit in each mission.

A drawing of the Super Etendard 0753/3-A-203 piloted by Curilovic on May 25th 1982.

 
 

The unit's badge, nicknamed 'La Lora' ('The Female Parrot'), though it actually represents a sparrow hawk armed with a stick. The picture also shows the marked silhouettes of the ships that this plane contributed to sink: the HMS Sheffield and the MV Atlantic Conveyor.

A photograph of Corvette Captain Roberto Curilovic taken when he was descending from the cockpit of his Super Etendard after the mission on May 25th.

 
 

This picture shows the aspect of the Atlantic Conveyor once the fire was finally extinguished, and it was evident that the ship could not be saved. While some sources assert that only one of the Exocets hit the cargo ship, others affirm that both missiles hit and exploded. A great amount of British military supplies sank with the ship, including three out of four HC.4 Chinook helicopters of the 18th Sqdn. RAF and six HU.5 Wessexs of the 848th Sqdn. RN. The loss of these helicopters delayed the British offensive against Puerto Argentino, the capital, and the main Argentine garrison of the islands.

The attack against the HMS Invincible

After the Atlantic Conveyor wreckage, the Argentine Navy had only one Exocet left, and the British carriers still were the main Argentine targets. For these reasons, on May 29th the CANA and the FAA decided to perform a joint operation. Four pilots of A-4C Skyhawk belonging to the Grupo 4 de Caza (4th Fighter Group) received the assignment -actually two of them, 1st Lieutenants Ernesto Ureta and José Vazquez, volunteered, and chose the other two pilots, 1st Lieutenant Omar Castillo and Ensign Gerardo Isaac- and were sent to Río Grande. The plan was that once the Super Etendards launched the remaining Exocet, the Skyhawks followed the trail of the missile and hit the carrier with their 227 kgs (500 pounds) bombs. Of course, the A-4Cs would face the worst of the enemy defences.

About 12:30 hrs on May 30th 1982, two Super Etendards took off from Río Grande; the SUE 0752/3-A-202, piloted by the leader, Warship Lieutenant Alejandro Francisco, took off first , and second was the SUE 0755/3-A-205, flown by the wingman, Warship Lieutenant Luis Collavino. Five minutes later, the A-4Cs, belonging to the Air Force, also took off. Francisco carried the Exocet, and Collavino provided support and verification. The call signs of the Super Etendards and Skyhawks were 'Ala' and 'Zonda' respectively.

All the planes climbed to an altitude of 7,000 meters (21,000 feet) and flew to the rendezvous point with the KC-130H, where all the fighters were resupplied with fuel for 300 kms. After this refueling the planes turned to the east, with both SUEs separated by 1,600 meters (1 mile) and two Skyhawks behind each. When all of them were at 304 kms (190 miles) from the target area, they dived to an altitude of 30 meters (100 feet). Around 14:32 'Ala 1', Francisco, reported they had locked the Exocet on the target. 'Ala 2', Collavino, confirmed the lock and so Francisco launched the missile. With this launch, the participation of the 2nd Air Naval Squadron in the war came to an end. Both Super Etendards turned back and headed towards the meeting point with the KC-130H, and after that arrived at Río Grande without problems.


This historical photograph shows the SUE # 0752/3-A-202 piloted by Warship Lieutenant Alejandro Francisco when refueling on its way to the target, HMS Invincible on May 30th 1982. The last AM.39 Exocet can be seen under the right wing of the SUE, and the four A-4C Skyhawks of the 4th Fighter Group of the Argentine Air Force can also be seen far behind, waiting for their turn to refuel.

After the Exocet's launching, the Air Force's Skyhawks followed the trail of the missile, and watched the appearance of a thick smoke column on the horizon, an so they headed for it. When they were at 12 kms (7.5 miles) a SAM destroyed Vazquez's aircraft and so did another to Castillo's Skyhawk at 2 kms (1.25 miles) to the target. According to British sources, they were Sea Darts launched by the destroyer HMS Exeter. Both pilots died. But the survivors, Ureta and Isaac 'Zonda 3' and 'Zonda 4' respectively, reached the target, dropped their bombs and fired all their gun's ammunition. After that, they turned back, performed evasive maneuvers against the British SAMs and AAA, and got out of the danger zone without damage. Both planes reached the KC-130H and refuelled, arriving at Río Grande 3 hours and 47 minutes after they had taken off. During the debriefing, both pilots described the attacked target as a carrier, and specifically as the HMS Invincible.

Note: There is not an official British version about the attack, but the theory exposed in the book 'Falklands, the Air War' is the following: the ship attacked by Ureta and Isaac was the frigate HMS Avenger, which was loosing white smoke as a curtain, and its helicopter's flight deck was wrongly mistaken as the flight deck of a carrier by the Argentine pilots. All the bombs of the Skyhawks missed. The problem with this version is the fact that the smoke seen by the Argentine pilots was not white, but black. It is also ridiculous that well trained pilots as Ureta and Isaac could misidentify the short deck of a frigate with the long and lateral one of a carrier. It is also suspicious that the Invincible appeared at Port Stanley almost two months after the attack, in August 1982 and when she returned to Portsmouth on September 17th 1982, a big strip on the port side looked as if it had been recently repainted.

The Argentine version said that the last Exocet missile was perfectly locked-on to the target (a big ship) by the Super Etendard pilot, who fired it  and turned back to Río Grande without troubles. The four A-4C Skyhawks of  4th Group followed the trail of the missile and finally saw in the distance  a big column of black smoke, possibly the place where the missile  impacted. Two of them were shot down, but the survivors confirmed that they  saw a carrier, and specifically the HMS Invincible with a thick black smoke  column coming out of it. They attacked it, firing their cannons and dropping their bombs, without confirming any results. After avoiding all the SAMs fired against them, the Skyhawks met their tanker and returned home.

The British version of this incident exposed that the Exocet failed its mark, the HMS Invincible, due to it being downed by a 114 mm shell from the frigate  HMS Avenger, or due to it being neutralized by decoys. Additionally, they asserted  that the ship attacked by the A-4C Skyhawks was the HMS Avenger, which was deploying a curtain of white smoke to hide the carrier from any attacker. Many specialists said that the Argentine pilots misidentified the small flight deck of the anti-submarine helicopter with the flight deck of the carrier, and wrongly thought that the smoke of the curtain was cause by the Exocet hit.

But from the Argentine point of view, the problems with such versions are:

1)  it is highly unlikely that a 114 mm shell could actually destroy a sea-skimming missile flying at 10 metres high at 1,000 km/h.

2) the decoys fully failed only five days before, when the MV Atlantic Conveyor was sunk, and why should they work that day?

3) the smoke seen by the Argentine Skyhawk pilots was not white, but black.

4) Even in a stress situation like being attacked with AAA and SAM fire, it is hard to mis-identify the big, lateral flight deck of a carrier with the small helicopter flight deck of a frigate.

5) Besides all that, HMS Invincible did not appear in Port Stanley until late July 1982, and when she returned to England in September 1982, it looked like a big stripe on the port side (the side attacked by the Exocet and the Skyhawks) recently painted.

All that made me think that the carrier, HMS Invincible was  actually hit that May 30 1982 (not seriously hit, but hit at last) and we have good reason to think that. Of course we could be wrong, but we truly  and sincerely believe that.´


 

The A-4C Skyhawk pilots belonging to the 4th Fighter Group, who survived the attack against the British carrier HMS Invincible, were 1st Lt. Ernesto Rubén Ureta (Left) and Ensign Gerardo Guillermo Isaac (Right). They are posing with WWII French Ace Pierre Clostermann (Center). Both pilots are completely sure that the ship which was hit by the Exocet, and later attacked by them, was the Invincible.

 

The lesson extracted from the war was that a small group of professional pilots and technicians can ruin the day of the most powerful fleet in the world. The Argentine pilots of Super Etendards taught that lesson to the proud Royal Navy in May 1982.

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Following reconnaissance patrols, in which two Marines in L Company lost their legs when they triggered anti-personnel mines, the 42 Commando Royal Marines located the minefields around Mount Harriet. K Company worked alongside L Company in this task, and was tasked with the route for the attack and to put out fighting patrols to ensure that the Argentine garrison remained in their bunkers.


 

A fighting patrol by 1 Troop worked its way to within 20 yards of enemy positions on Mount Harriet, where they came under fire. But their reply with 66 mm, 81mm anti-tank weapons and gunfire enabled them to withdraw without loss after killing six Argentines. Shell-fire from Argentine 105mm and 155mm guns and bitterly cold weather made life unpleasant for the men of the Commando as they prepared for the next phase. Diarrhoea and trench foot had already affected a number of men.


Lt.-Col. Vaux told his men; 'Surprise and absolute silence are vital. If necessary, you must go through the old business of making every man jump up and down before he starts to check that nothing rattles. Persistent coughers must be left behind. If you find yourself in a minefield remember that you must go on. Men must not stop for their opposite numbers, however great the temptation. They must go through and finish the attack, or it will cost more lives in the end. The enemy are well dug-in in very strong position but I believe that once we get in among them they will crack pretty quickly.'


 


The Reconnaissance Platoon of the Welsh Guards secured the start line along with J Company, but the Guardsmen failed to link up in the dark and there was an hour delay. Once they were in position K Company moved off. Lt.-Col. Vaux kept his men well spaced out as they weaved through a minefield to the south of the mountain. They reached a point 100 yards from the enemy position before they were detected. The fight began with grenades, small arms, 66 mm and 81mm fire all coming into use. HMS Yarmouth provided gunfire support and 105mm light guns and 81mm mortars hit the positions in front of the men as they advanced. The Commando had four batteries on call to give a 'full regimental shoot'. The CO of 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery co-ordinated fire support for the night action and had a list of 47 targets on call. During the night his guns fired 3,000 rounds with some shells falling only 50 yards from friendly forces.


The men of K Company recalled later that Corporal Newland appeared to be relaxing against a rock pulling on a cigarette. He had, in fact, been shot through both legs but continued to man the radio and command his section. Lance Corporal Koleszar had the surprising experience of finding that two 'dead' Argentine soldiers, whose boots he was trying to remove, were very much alive and jumped up to surrender. As the men reached the summit, an enemy hut caught fire and gave the Argentine gunners a good aiming point. Artillery fire wounded members of the Company HQ including the second in command. The shellfire also interrupted the firefight as each side dived for cover. With first light, the Sergeant Major of K Company collected nearly 70 prisoners.


L Company assaulted uphill through the rocks. Though artillery fire forced them to take cover, the real threat was from the .50in machine guns and groups of snipers with German bolt-action rifles. Royal Marine Mountain and Arctic Warfare Cadre had pinpointed many of the bunkers around Goat Ridge and Lt.-Col. Vaux was able to use Milan anti-tank missiles against them. By first light the men had overrun their objectives with two officers and five marines wounded.


J Company was ready to move off on the very cold morning of 12th June. All went well until they reached the slopes of Mount Harriet where enemy artillery fire was falling. It ceased before the Marines were on the upper slopes. At dawn, J Company began to sweep through the positions to clear the remaining enemy who seemed happy to surrender. Within three hours, 58 prisoners had been dispatched to Company HQ. J Company was made up of men who had been in Naval Party 8901 so the victory was a more personal triumph for them. Harriet yielded over 300 prisoners as well as very valuable documents, which were of great value to the intelligence staff at 3 Brigade.

Elsewhere on the mountain, among the bunkers, there was a litter of ammunition. In the simple shelters the Marines found foam rubber mattresses and ration packs. A battlefield radar set was found in an unopened crate near the summit.

42 Commando Royal Marines

(UNIT CITATION)

BATTLE OF MOUNT HARRIET 11-12 JUNE 1982

On the night 11/12 June 1982, as part of the night attack by 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines to break into the Argentine positions defending Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands, 42 Commando Royal Marines assaulted and captured the key Argentine position on Mount Harriet. This night attack by 42 Commando Royal Marines had been preceded by 9 days of intensive and brilliantly conducted night patrolling over very rough ground and extensive minefields in adverse weather conditions.

The information acquired so painstakingly by the Commando patrols was sufficiently detailed to enable the commanding officer to make a bold plan to outflank the enemy positions and assault them from the rear. This attack from an unexpected direction aimed to catch the enemy, consisting of the best part of the 4th Argentine Infantry Regiment and their Regimental Headquarters, by surprise. Further more it would avoid frontal assault through the main minefield and the enemy's planned killing ground.


After a long approach march, the assault started about 2 hours after midnight. K company, the leading company, got within 150 meters of the enemy before being fired on. The battle was on and the fighting was fierce. Bold and decisive leadership, combined with great aggressiveness, established K company on the crest of the feature and then the long process of winkling out the enemy began. L company then began their clearing operation through the heavily defended western end of the enemy position. Meanwhile J company, who had diverted the enemy's attention before the attack began, supported K and L Company on to their objectives.

Despite the stubborn resistance by the enemy machine gunners and enemy defensive artillery fire on the objective, the attack by 42 Commando Royal Marines was a brilliant success. The battle was fought with great dash and determination by the Commando, many of whom were suffering from cold and injuries sustained in the preceding 10 days of appalling weather on Mount Kent and Mount Challenger. For the loss of two killed and 26 wounded, the Commando secured this vital feature, killing at least 50 of the enemy and taking over 300 prisoners, including the Regimental Commanding Officer and great quantities of equipment.

For this great feat of arms the Commando was awarded the following decorations. 
One DSO, One MC, four MMs, One OBE, One MBE, Eight MIDs.

KILLED IN ACTION 
Acting Corporal J. Smith. 11th June. Mount Wall. Chest wounds. Buried in Devon. 
Corporal L.G.Watts. 12th June. Mount Harriet. Chest wounds. Buried in Scotland.

 

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An incident at Fitzroy on June 8th was the worst single incident involving the Task Force during the Falklands War. At Fitzroy, to the southwest of Port Stanley, the bombing of ‘Sir Galahad’ and ‘Sir Tristram’ left 54 men dead and 46 injured.

 

‘Sir Tristram’ and ‘Sir Galahad’ were anchored waiting to offload their cargo – mainly Welsh Guard Infantry soldiers (on ‘Sir Galahad’) and their equipment (on ‘Sir Tristram’).

 

A Royal Marine officer based onshore, Major Ewan Southby-Tailyour, was concerned about Argentine observation posts that were known to be nearby. He took landing craft out to the ships and urged the Welsh Guards to get on land as soon as was possible.

 

Without warning at 17.15 – ‘Action Stations’ was piped as the planes were attacking – bombs from A4 Skyhawks landed on ‘Sir Tristram’. Almost immediately, the ship was filled with smoke.

 

At 17.35, two Mirage aeroplanes attacked – ‘Sir Galahad’ was the primary casualty of this attack. A bomb exploded in the ship’s ammunition hold and caused a huge explosion. The soldiers on board would have been at the mercy of the flames on board the ship. Many of those injured suffered serious burns wounds. It is probable that many more Welsh Guards would have been injured if it had not been for the skill of nearby Sea King helicopter pilots who took their helicopters over the deck of ‘Sir Galahad’ despite the exploding ammunition on board to allow their winchmen to pick up the injured. When life rafts were seen drifting back towards to burning ‘Sir Galahad’, some  pilots took their helicopters to nearly sea level to use the wash from their rotor blades to drive the life rafts away from the ship.

 

The Welsh Guards were meant to have been part of the final drive on Port Stanley – however, the attack effectively knocked out their ability as a fighting unit as so much of their kit had been lost.

 

Many reasons have been forwarded as to why the ships and therefore the Welsh Guards had so little protection or warning against an attack. Some of the reasons are as follows but almost certainly a combination of events led to the devastating attack.

 

A Rapier battery had been set up to cover the anchor point but its electronics were not working by the time the attack took place – a similar experience to those who manned the Rapiers at San Carlos Bay.

 

Another reason given is that the helicopters that were going to be used to land the men from the ships (as opposed to the far more time consuming landing craft whose use depended on sea conditions) had been lost when the ‘Atlantic Conveyor’ had been hit by an Exocet missile. At the time when the Royal Marine officer urged the Welsh Guards to leave their ships as quickly as possible (about midday), he was told that the sea conditions made the use of the landing craft very difficult especially as some were carrying ammunition.

 

Another more controversial reason is that the government, fearful of more naval losses after all the ships that had been lost at San Carlos, ordered that there were to be no more. Therefore, the decision, on the back of this command, was that ‘Sir Galahad’ and ‘Sir Tristram’ were to sail to Bluff Cove without a naval escort. While there is no proof that a frigate or destroyer would have prevented the attacks, any Argentine observation intelligence sent back to base stating that both ships had no escort would have made both RFA ships a more tempting target. The skill of the pilots in the Argentine Air Force as witnessed at San Carlos Bay probably would have meant that some of the attacks would have got through. However, a Royal Naval escort might have made the Argentine high command think twice about ordering the attacks, especially in view of how the war was going at that moment in time.

 

One other issue that caused discussion at the time and after was whether that attack by either the Scots Guards at Mount Tumbledown or the involvement of the Welsh Guards was strategically required. Authors such as Hugh Bicheno have stated that the attacks by the Parachute Regiment and the Royal Marines aided by the gunfire of the Royal Navy were more than sufficient to defeat the Argentine forces on the Falklands and that the involvement of the Guards regiments were more a consequence of inter-military rivalry as opposed to any form of strategic value.     

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The Battle for Mount Longdon took place from June 11th to June 12th. Mount Longdon is situated to the northwest of Port Stanley, the Falkland Island’s capital, and had to be captured by the British forces as Mount Longdon gave the Argentine forces there a height advantage over the British and they would have continued to have threatened them if British troops had simply by-passed Mount Longdon on their advance to Port Stanley. The attack was co-ordinated with attacks on Mount Harriet and Two Sisters in an attempt to fully occupy all Argentine forces in the area so that one could not support the other.

 

3 Para, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Hew Pike, were tasked with capturing Mount Longdon. 29 Commando, Royal Artillery, who brought six 105mm artillery guns into use, assisted 3 Para in this task. ‘HMS Avenger’ used her 4.5inch gun to support 3 Para as they advanced. Facing 3 Para on Mount Longdon was B Company of the 7th Infantry Division. In crude terms, 450 British soldiers faced 278 Argentine soldiers. The Argentine force had used its time on Mount Longdon to dig in and had a system of well-prepared trenches to operate in. However, the static heavy machine gun posts were also vulnerable to shelling from ‘HMS Avenger’.

 

3 Para had set up their base near Murrell Bridge prior to the attack on Mount Longdon on June 3rd, just over a mile from the slopes of Mount Longdon. They then spent the next week patrolling the area. 3 Para advanced on their target in appalling weather – driving rain combined with a very cold wind to produce a wind chill factor that some members of 3 Para put at –40.

 

On June 11th, men from 3 Para moved to their Start Line. The attack on Mount Longdon started at 20.15. Pike had ordered a silent attack but as 3 Para advanced a man trod on an anti-personnel mine thus giving away their position. It was the start of a ten-hour battle.

 

The fighting was hard going for 3 Para. The men in the 7th Infantry Division had well dug-in heavy machine guns and sniper fire caused all manner of problems. For long periods of time, 3 Para was pinned down by accurate enemy fire and their advance up the slopes of Mount Longdon was halted. It was during one of these halts, that Sergeant Ian McKay led an attack on a heavy machine gun emplacement. The attack was a success and the advance regained its momentum. But McKay was killed. He was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross for his gallantry.

 

Even after Mount Longdon had been captured, 3 Para was not out of danger as accurate Argentinean artillery fire away from Mount Longdon killed a number of men.

 

By the end of the battle, 3 Para had lost 23 men killed and 47 wounded. The Argentine force lost 31 killed, 120 wounded and 50 men captured. 

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The Battle for Mount Harriet, along with the Battle for Two Sisters, took place on the night of June 11th and June 12th, 1982. Mount Harriet gave its Argentine defenders a great height advantage and the position had to be attacked and taken if British troops did not want their route to Port Stanley made more dangerous by being attacked in the rear. Once Mount Harriet had been captured, the march to Port Stanley was just miles to the east.

 

42 Commando, Royal Marines, fought the Battle for Mount Harriet. Artillery from the 7th Battery, 29 Commando, Royal Artillery supported them. ‘HMS Yarmouth’ was offshore and in a position to use her 4.5-inch gun to give further support to 42 Commando when required. Lieutenant Colonel Nick Vaux commanded 42 Commando.

 

Against 42 Commando were men from the Argentine 4th Infantry Regiment who had built secure defences on Mount Harriet.

 

On May 30th, men from 42 Commando started to gather at Mount Challenger. The process of getting all the men and equipment there took a week. Patrols by both 42 Commando and men from the Welsh Guards informed Vaux that the slopes of Mount Harriet were well defended. Vaux knew that an attack on Two Sisters would take place at the same time as his attack on Mount Harriet. Two Sisters was just to the north of Mount Harriet. Therefore, Vaux could not attack his target from the north as this could have interfered with 45 Commando, Royal Marines, attack on Two Sisters. An old fashioned frontal assault – which would have included going across a minefield - would have been costly in terms of men lost. Therefore, Vaux decided to launch his attack from the south.

 

The plan was for the Welsh Guards to secure the Start Line for both L and K companies. This was to the southeast of Mount Harriet. J Company was to remain on Wall Mountain, to the west of Mount Harriet, and attack from the front when the Argentine defenders were suitably engaged by L and K companies. The plan was for L Company to attack the southwest flank of Mount Harriet at 20.30 on June 11th. This attack was planned to draw away some Argentine defenders from their dugouts. When this occurred, K Company would attack the southeast flank of the mountain at 21.30. When both companies were fully engaged, J Company would advance from Wall Mountain after a suitable clearance had been made in the area where mines were known to be laid.

 

The Battle of Mount Harriet started out as a ‘noisy’ battle. Whereas other attacks were silent, the battle commenced with an artillery bombardment of selected targets on Mount Harriet. In theory, this should have been unsettling and would have damaged morale. Targets on the rear of the slope were well within range of HMS Yarmouth, so there was no safety there for the defenders stationed there.

 

However, there was a delay in the attack. Both K and L companies failed to meet up with the Welsh Guards securing the Start Line at the designated time.

 

K Company started its attack at 22.00. The Royal Marines got to within 100 meters of the first dugouts of the 4th Infantry Regiment before being seen. L Company attacked through more difficult terrain and found the going more difficult. Argentine snipers based on Goats Ridge proved to be more than just awkward. Men from L Company used Milans to take out both sniper nests and heavy machine gun posts.

 

Once the attack on the slopes of Mount Harriet started, the plan went as Vaux would have wished. J Company advanced from Goats Ridge and this unit included men from Naval Party 8901 – the men who had been captured and then repatriated by the Argentine Army on the first day of the invasion. Vaux had stated that:

 

“The enemy are well dug-in in very strong positions but I believe that once we get among them they will crack pretty quickly.”

 

This assessment proved to be correct. The combination of accurate and deadly artillery fire combined with the determination of the men from 42 Commando meant that the men in the 4th Infantry Regiment either surrendered or quickly withdrew. 42 Commando was greatly assisted in its attack by the accurate fire laid down by the 7th Battery, 29 Commando, Royal Artillery. During the attack, they fired 3,000 rounds of ammunition and many of the shells landed just 50 meters in front of the advancing commandos giving them excellent cover.

 

42 Commando captured 300 prisoners in the attack and suffered 2 fatalities themselves – one on Mount Harriet and one on Wall Mountain.

 

For the bravery shown in the attack on Mount Harriet, 42 Commando was awarded 1 DSO, 1 Military Cross, 4 Military Medals and 8 men were Mentioned in Dispatches.

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The Battle for Two Sisters, along with the Battle for Mount Harriet, took place on the night of June 11th and June 12th, 1982. Two Sisters gave its Argentine defenders a good height advantage and the position had to be attacked and taken if British troops did not want their route to Port Stanley made more dangerous by being attacked in the rear. Once Two Sisters had been captured, the march to Port Stanley was just miles to the east.

 

45 Commando, Royal Marines, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel A Whitehead, carried out the attack on Two Sisters. The 8th Battery, 29 Commando, Royal Artillery, supported them. ‘HMS Glamorgan’ was offshore to give more fire support with her 4.5-inch gun.

 

Opposing 45 Commando on Two Sisters were men from the Argentine 4th Infantry Regiment.

 

45 Commando ‘yomped’ from San Carlos Bay, via Teal Inlet, to Mount Kent. They reached Mount Kent on June 4th and spent another week (June 4th toJune 11th) collating their supplies and sending out patrols to reconnoitre their target. Their patrols and reconnaissance were helped by men from the Royal Marines Mountain and Artic Warfare Cadre. Such work was dangerous and a friendly-fire incident on June 10th led to the deaths of four Royal Marines based in a mortar group killed by other Royal Marines out on patrol.  

 

The attack on the Argentine positions was planned to start at 21.00 on June 11th. Whitehead had ordered a silent attack. Three companies made up the attack – X, Y and Z. In fact, because of the terrain, the attack started two hours late at 23.00 – the result of the difficulty in transporting heavy equipment over very difficult rocky ground.

 

Assisted by accurate artillery fire, 45 Commando made good ground. By 02.30 on June 12th, Z Company had reached its target – just three-and-a-half hours after the start of the attack. The whole of Two Sisters was taken before dawn. By any standards, the attack by 45 Commando had been a resounding success. The artillery fire of 29 Commando covered their advance up the slopes. ‘HMS Glamorgan’ also assisted in this – but paid the price for this later.

 

In all 45 Commando lost four men – three Royal Marines and a Royal Engineer Commando. Seventeen men were wounded. The 4th Infantry Regiment lost twenty killed and 54 men were taken prisoner.

 

For the bravery shown in the attack on Two Sisters, men from 45 Commando were awarded 1 DSO, 3 Military Crosses, 1 DCM and 4 Military Medals. A commando from 29 Commando received a Military Medal as did a man from the Mountain and Artic Warfare Cadre.

 

HMS Glamorgan stayed in her position offshore to support units from 45 Commando who were pinned down. HMS Glamorgan stayed where she was past the time she was meant to leave and was hit by a land based Exocet missile. Thirteen sailors were killed as a result of this attack.

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Mount Tumbledown is about 4 miles to the west of Port Stanley, the capital of the Falkland Islands. The height advantage that Mount Tumbledown gave to the Argentine forces based there, meant that no British troops could simply advance around it and leave it alone as they would be very vulnerable to their rear if the Argentine troops had been allowed to remain there. The Battle of Mount Tumbledown was to remove this threat.

 

The task of attacking Mount Tumbledown was given to the 2nd Scots Guards, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Mike Scott. 4 Troop, Blues and Royals, with their two Scimitars and two Scorpion light tanks, mortar troops from 42 Commando, Royal Marines and 1/7th Ghurkha Rifles assisted the Scots Guards. The frigates ‘Avenger’ and ‘Active’ were also offshore to give covering fire when required. They faced men from Argentina's 5th Marine Infantry Brigade.

 

As the Scots Guards advanced towards their target, they were helped by men in the Royal Marines Mountain and Artic Warfare Cadre. The attack started on June 13th.

 

A diversionary attack started at 20.30 in which the Blues and Royals participated. This attack gave the impression of being larger than it actually was because of the involvement of light tanks. While some Argentine troops were involved in fighting this diversionary attack, the bulk of the 5th Marine Infantry Division faced the main attack. By 22.30, the west end of Tumbledown Mountain had been taken but, as a result of fierce hand-to-hand fighting, it took another seven hours to reach the summit and it took until 08.15 on June 14th to secure the mountain.

 

The Scots Guards lost 8 men killed while the Royal Engineers lost 1 man. Overall, there were 43 British soldiers wounded in the battle. The 5th Marine Infantry Brigade lost 30 men killed and had another 30 taken prisoner.

 

The Scots Guards could have had more casualties in the attack but were saved by the soft peat over which they advanced. This effectively absorbed the explosion from Argentine mortar shells being accurately fired at them and greatly lessened their potential impact.

 

For the courage displayed in the attack, men from the 2nd Scots Guards were awarded 1 Distinguished Service Order, 2 Military Crosses, 2 Distinguished Conduct Medals (one posthumously) and 2 Military Medals. Men from 9 Para Squadron, Royal Engineers, were awarded 2 Military Medals and a member of the Army Air Corps received the Distinguished Flying Cross.

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The Battle for Wireless Ridge took place on the night of the 13th/14th June 1982 and involved 2 Para attacking Wireless Ridge supported by artillery from 29 Commando, Royal Artillery, and Scimitar and Scorpion light tanks from the Blues and Royals. Wireless Ridge was to the east of Mount Longdonand to the northeast of Mount Tumbledown. On the nights of the 11th, 12th, 13th and 14th June the Task Force made a decisive breakthrough in the defences of the Argentineans attacking Mount Harriet, Two Sisters, Mount Tumbledown and Mount Longdon. Part of this advance to Port Stanley included capturing Wireless Ridge.

 

Originally Wireless Ridge was going to be attacked by 3 Para after the fighting at Mount Longdon had ended. However, accurate Argentine artillery fire kept 3 Para pinned down despite the fact that the Argentine forces had surrendered at Mount Longdon. Therefore, 2 Para, at Fitzroy Bay, were airlifted to the battle area and ordered to attack Wireless Ridge. 3 Para were to help out 2 Para by providing mortar cover as 2 Para advanced.

 

Lieutenant Colonel D Chaundler now commanded 2 Para. He wanted a ‘noisy’ attack on Wireless Ridge. Therefore, while 2 Para moved to their Start Line, 105mm guns from 29 Commando, Royal Artillery, pounded Argentine positions on the Ridge. The actual attack by 2 Para started at 21.45, thirty minutes after the artillery bombardment had started.

 

The artillery fire was accurate and must have thoroughly demoralised the men of the 7th Infantry Regiment tasked with defending the ridge. By the time A, B, C and D companies had moved past their Start Line, the Argentineans were already leaving their positions. D Company actually attacked what is known as Wireless Ridge and found little opposition on the western side of it.

 

While A and B companies held what was called ‘Apple Pie’, D Company found that Argentine resistance grew more and more fierce as they moved from west to east over the ridge. Each trench and emplacement had to be fought for. However, by the morning of the 14th June, Wireless Ridge was in the hands of 2 Para. Despite this success, men from D Company were still susceptible to Argentine artillery. A brief counter-attack by an Argentine force in the morning of the 14th was swiftly repelled by accurate artillery fire from 29 Commando.

 

For the bravery shown at Wireless Ridge, 2 Para was awarded three Military Crosses, one Military Medal and one Distinguished Combat Medal. 29 Commando was awarded one Military Cross.

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The short but bloody Falklands Conflict of 1982 can be regarded as a conflict that came out of nowhere, mainly thanks to Government Ministries ignoring the complicated politics and history of the region.

As a ten year old, the editor can recall looking through a world atlas to find the location of these unknown and distant islands some 8,000 miles away in the South Atlantic; it appears much of the British Military and Government also had to do the same.

Operation CORPORATE, the British operation to recover the 'Malvinas' from occupying Argentinean forces could very easily have turned into a disastrous military adventure, considering the distance and logistics involved, and although ultimately successful it proved to be the last time Britain would be able conduct a military operation of any scale alone and relatively unaided.

The Harrier is an iconic image of the Falklands War, much the same as the Spitfire & Hurricane is to the Battle of Britain. Both the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy contributed much to the success of Operation CORPORATE and the current combined operator of the type, the RAF Cottesmore based Joint Force Harrier (JFH), began its commemorations of the 25th Anniversary of the Falkland Islands liberation on 13th June.

Three Harrier pilots who participated in Operation CORPORATE were reunited: Sqn Ldr Tony Harper, Sqn Ldr Jerry Pook MBE DFC and Lt Cdr David Morgan DSC. Details of these pilots service during CORPORATE can be found at the bottom of this article.

A Service of Commemoration and Remembrance, attended by HM Queen Elizabeth II and HRH Duke of Edinburgh, was held at the Falkland Islands Memorial Chapel, Pangbourne, on 14th June to mark the Anniversary. The service included a flypast of four Harriers, representing 1(F) & IV(AC) Sqns from the RAF and 800 & 801 NAS from the Fleet Air Arm.

 

Pete Thompson presents a day by day history of what was happening during the campaign to recover the Falkland Islands, with particular focus on the activities of 1(F) Sqn's role in the campaign.   

19th March 1982

Oddly enough many people simply overlooked the main news piece from the region on this day, when "scrap metal" workmen, accompanied by a military presence, land on South Georgia Island, hoisting an Argentinean flag.

The red faces in Whitehall, that this could occur, were, as usual, hidden behind the veil of "diplomatic efforts". If only it had been known then what was to unfold over the coming weeks... 

26th March

In Argentina the Military Junta under General Galtieri decide to invade 'Las Ilas Malvinas', The Falkland Islands. Operation ROSARIO is planned to take place on either 25th May or 9th July - both important Argentine national celebrations. 

However the mood in the country brings its own pressures to bear on the Junta and as a consequence the date of the invasion of the Falkland Islands is brought forward. 

In London the Foreign Office, under Lord Carrington, are still searching for a diplomatic solution. 

28th March

The Government receives reports that five Argentine warships have been sighted near South Georgia. Representation is made to the Junta in Buenos Aires requesting clarification of the Junta's position on this matter, but only a muted response is received. 

29th March

Diplomatic efforts by the Foreign Office continued on this day. 

Several 'Departments' began to gather, order, and evaluate a mass of intelligence that was pouring in from all over the region. Most was useless, some was of interest, and several items held very clear clues to what was likely about to occur. 

This information was either ignored or overlooked. It was almost as if while groping in the dark for a 'final note' solution, the tangible inevitability of conflict had been ignored.

 30th March

Despite evidence that the Argentine Navy had begun to assemble troops in Puerto Belgrano, the UK Joint Intelligence Committee's Latin American group stated on March 30 that "invasion was not imminent". 

British Foreign Secretary Lord Carrington states in Parliament "a diplomatic solution is being pursued". 

31st March

In what appeared to be a remarkable, but equally very delayed change of opinion, late on the 31st March British Intelligence leaned to the belief that an invasion of the Falkland Islands was imminent. 

The Governor of the Falklands, Sir Rex Hunt, was passed the information, as was the small detachment of Marines based in and around Port Stanley. 

1st April

Both the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Javier Pérez de Cuéllar of Peru, and the UN Security Council, meeting at Britain's request, calls for restraint and avoidance of the use of force with respect to the Falkland Islands. 

In Buenos Aires the Junta convinced of the lack of a strong political will, to intervene in any invasion, in the UK, ignore the call from the UN and make ready their troops for invasion. 

On the morning of the 1st of April, in Port Stanley the Governor Rex Hunt broadcasts to the Falkland Islanders informing them of imminent invasion, thereafter he spends time trying to form a hasty defence using the Royal Marines Naval Party 8901 (NP8901) and members of the indigenous Falkland Islands Defence Force. 

At 11am, Major Norman of NP8901 briefed his forces, telling them "Tomorrow you're all going to start earning your pay". 

2nd April

The Argentine Navy lands thousands of troops on the Falklands Islands. The Royal Marines based on the islands put up isolated but stiff resistance before Governor Rex Hunt orders them to surrender. A meeting with the Argentine commander Admiral Busser was arranged to formalise the surrender. Hunt refused to shake Busser's hand saying, "This is British property. You are not invited". Busser was visibly upset when the former Governor refused to shake his hand. 

News of the invasion began to reach London at around midday on 2nd April - 8am Falklands time, and was publicly announced in Britain that afternoon. 

The British Government immediately cuts diplomatic ties with Argentina and begins to assemble a large naval taskforce. 

Meanwhile for 1(F) Sqn at Wittering life continued almost as if nothing had happened. 

The Squadron had an AOC's Parade Rehearsal that morning, the Inspection being due on Thursday 29th April. They were also down to play in a five-a-side football competition that afternoon at 14:15. Never the less the crew room conversation is dominated by the news of the Argentinean invasion of the Falkland Islands. The GLO, Major John Moseley, is tasked to find a map to confirm the exact whereabouts of the Islands. The flexibility of the Harrier makes it a viable option to be used to regain the islands but the deployment options look very sparse. A popular choice would be to be held in reserve in Rio de Janeiro. 

3rd April

Argentine troops seize the islands of South Georgia and the South Sandwich group following a short battle, prompting enthusiastic celebrations in Buenos Aires. Royal Marines led by Lt Keith Mills didn’t surrender without a fight, downing a Puma, and damaging an Alouette with small arms fire and severely damaging a corvette with a 84MM Carl Gustav anti tank weapon, and small arms fire. 

The UN Security Council passes Resolution 502 calling for troops on both sides to withdraw and renewed negotiations for a peaceful solution. Argentina refuses to comply. 

In a House of Commons emergency session, unique in being held on a Saturday the first time since the Second World War, the British government faces criticism for not foreseeing the Argentine attack. 

The first Royal Air Force transport aircraft are deployed with stores to a small volcanic island in the Atlantic called Ascension, and its equally small but vital airfield called Wideawake. 

4th April

In New York the United Nations condemned the Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands in the strongest possible terms, which were unsurprisingly ignored by the Military Junta in Buenos Aires. 

In the UK the order to mobilise 3 Commando Brigade reinforced by 3 PARA and other Army units was given. Naval yards around the country went into over time to prepare vessels for sea. 

5th April

Lord Carrington resigned as Foreign Secretary today, stating he felt his position was untenable after losing the support of Parliament and Party colleagues over the Falklands crisis. 

The first Nimrod maritime patrol aircraft arrived on Ascension Island, forward deployed in advance of the growing task force to provide anti submarine protection to the fleet. 

Type 21 frigates Alacrity and Antelope left Devonport and later that day met Sir GeraintSir GalahadSir Lancelotand Sir Percivale. The landing ships carried up to 400 Royal Marines, Army, Naval and RAF personnel along with the 3 Commando Brigade Air Squadron. 

Four hours after the departure of the frigates, the aircraft carriers left Portsmouth under the full glare of the media. 

HMS Invincible passed the vast crowds which lined the walls of Portsmouth and Southsea seafront half an hour ahead of HMS Hermes. Sea Kings and Harriers lined the decks, both for ceremonial purposes and to allow the hangers deck below to be used as holding areas for the rapidly delivered extra stores. 

6th April

Francis Pym was appointed Foreign Secretary by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. 

US Secretary of State, Alexander Haig, begins a peace shuttle between London Washington and Buenos Aires. Leaving Washington later today, he and his party arrive in London on 7th April. The basis of this and all peace plans that are put forward are threefold - both sides' forces to withdraw from the islands, an interim administration to be set up, and a long term settlement to be negotiated. 

HMS Fearless departed Portsmouth, heading south to catch the carriers and on to Ascension island. 

7th April

The British Government says it intends to impose a 200 mile Maritime Exclusion Zone (MEZ) around the islands on 26th April. 

A group of ships known as the Antrim Group - HMS Antrim, HMS Plymouth and RFA Tidespring are ordered to "proceed with despatch" to Ascension Island to join up with, and accompany, RFA Fort Austin which is due to head south to replenish HMS Endurance.

The ocean liner Canberra arrives in Southampton for conversion and to embark stores and troops.

In Port Stanley Maj-Gen Mario Menendez is appointed Commander-in-Chief of Argentine forces, and Military Governor of The Falkland Islands. 

8th April

Ships of the Task force continued their steady progress south towards Ascension Island.

At RAF Wittering 1(F) had a quiet week preparing for the ferry flight of eight aircraft to Canada for Exercise MAPLE FLAG. They also had aircraft at Lyneham and Hullavington to film for the TV Series "Squadron".

That afternoon as everyone wound down for the Easter Grant, the Station Commander, Group Captain Pat King, received a signal asking for details of operational requirements to cater for possible involvement in the South Atlantic. It was proposed by Assistant Chief of the Air Staff(Ops) - AVM Ken Hayr, a Harrier man and a pioneer of the aircraft with 1(F), - that the Sqn undertakes DACT (Dissimilar Air Combat Training) with the French Air Force.

The response to the signal included a "yes" to the DACT, 'operational' weapon deliveries and Ultra Low Flying. It was also urged that consideration be given to the fitting of Sidewinder, a fit that the GR.3 had never worn before. 

9th April

The luxury liner Canberra, a vessel in Royal Navy parlance 'STUFT' (Shipping Taken Up From Trade) departs Southampton, with 40 and 42 Commando RM, and 3 PARA embarked, in the company of Elk, with 2,000 tons of ammunition on board.

US Secretary of State Alexander Hague continues his mediation efforts, with little visible result. 

10th April

Today the EEC banned imports from Argentina in support of Britain.

The group of ships led by HMS Antrim arrived in the waters off Ascension Island.

The P&O liner Uganda is 'STUFT', while on an educational cruise in the Mediterranean. Her passengers are put ashore in Naples and she is taken to Gibraltar for conversion to a hospital ship.

At RAF Wittering a further signal is received, this time warning of a possible deployment. As a result of this second signal, a recce of the container ship Atlantic Conveyor, which is currently in Liverpool Docks has to be carried out. The aim will be to see if the deck offers sufficient space for Harrier embarkment. Squadron Leader Bob Iveson (Flight Commander) and Bruce Sobey (SENGO) will do this. At the same time preliminary preparations and selections are made from the Harrier fleet by the Engineers as to which, if any, aircraft will deploy.

In the meantime, the wisdom of continuing with a deployment to Canada, planned for 13th April, is queried. HQ Strike Command confirms that the Exercise should continue. 

12th April

The Antrim Group departed Ascension with M Coy 42 Commando, and members of Special Forces units embarked, destination the waters around South Georgia.

Task Force Commander Admiral Sandy Woodward reached Ascension with his other ships and was joined on passage by RFA Appleleaf.

13th April

HMS Falmouth which was on the Royal Navy's 'sales list' was brought forward and recommissioned nine days later.

1(F) Sqn deployed as planned to Goose Bay with eight aircraft. For Wg Cdr Peter Squire, the OC of 1(F), it was his first long ferry flight using Air to Air Refuelling (AAR), and it proves to be a very useful dress rehearsal for what is to come. It is interesting to note that after the 6hr 40mins flight, the INAS (Inertial Navigation and Attack System) on Squires aircraft is less than 1.5nm out without any updates en-route. At Goose Bay the Harriers are handed onto RAFG pilots, and the following day 1(F) fly home in a Nimrod, arriving at Wittering around 22:00.

The recce of Atlantic Conveyor confirms that with some modifications, the deck can be used as a platform for both Harriers and helicopters. Furthermore, it’s five car decks can also be loaded with enormous quantities of stores.

14th April

Intelligence assessments puts Argentine strength on Falklands at 7,000 men.

US Secretary of State Haig continues his shuttle diplomacy.

At Wittering 1(F) are told the MoD is very keen to obtain publicity photographs of Harrier GR.3s using the ski-jump, the Sqn have aircraft ready to fly to Yeovilton but are as yet to receive CofA clearance.

At the same time, work is begun on a number of modifications that are essential if the GR.3 is to be operated from the deck of a Carrier. These include shackles on the outriggers, modification of the nose wheel steering and a means of aligning the INAS platform on a moving deck. 1(F) Sqns engineers under the Sqn SENGO Sqn Ldr Bruce Sobey are backed in this task by RAF Wittering's 625 man Engineering Wing under Wg Cdr Richard Fitzgerald-Lombard.

15th April

HMS Glamorgan with Admiral Woodward on board met with HMS Hermes. Admiral Woodward transferred his flag to the carrier. Hermes was now in the company of HMS AlacrityBroadsword and Yarmouth.

At Wittering with 1(F) Sqn, all postings from the Sqn are frozen and a request for pilot reinforcements to cater for a full deployment is put in to the MoD. The first four to be earmarked all have recent experience on 1(F). They are Sqn Ldr Peter Harris (CTTO), Flt Lt Ross Boyens (TWU), Flt Lt Jim Arkell (OCU) and Sqn Ldr Tim Smith (3[F] Sqn). In the meantime Lt Cdr Al Craig has been recalled by the RN and Capt Skip Beasley (USAF) ordered to take no part.

In the afternoon 1(F) receives the CofA release for the GR.3 to use the ski-jump, and the first three pilots deploy to Yeovilton to carry out training.

16th April

Both HMS Hermes and HMS Invincible arrived in Ascension Islands waters, while ashore Wideawake airfield was amongst the busiest in world that day.

At Devonport fitting out of the Cunard container ship Atlantic Conveyor began. Meanwhile at Wittering with 1(F):

Ski-jump training continued at Yeovilton while a planned deployment to Cyprus, filming for the BBC TV programme "Squadron" is cancelled.

Wittering is tasked to deploy up to 12 aircraft on or about 26th April. The modification programme for the aircraft starts in earnest to provide a carrier deck capability. The required modifications include an I-Band transponder (for IMC recoveries), deck restraint shackles on the main undercarriage, active nose wheel steering, hardened limiters for the JPTL (Jet Pipe Temp Limiter) system and anti-corrosion treatment. The possibility of an AAM fit is still being considered.

RAF Gütersloh is requested to provide additional aircraft so operational training can continue. Additional pilots will include Flt Lt Clive Loader as of 19th April.

17th April

US Secretary of State Alexander Haig had been holding Peace talks with the Argentine Junta. After further meetings today, the talks break down in deadlock.

C-in-C Fleet, Admiral Fieldhouse, and Major General Moore fly to Ascension to brief Admiral Woodward, Commodore Clapp and Brigadier Thompson on the forthcoming operations and fly back to Britain on the same day. It was decided that after a period of "blockade" and precursor operations an assault on the Falkland Islands would be mounted in San Carlos water before 24th May.

At Wittering:

In response to requests from higher authority for detailed operational requirements, 1(F) seeks more information on its likely employment. The questions needing to be answered include: what role (air defence or attack), split between CVs, rates of effort, possible basing ashore? As answers were not forthcoming 1(F) ends up trying to provide support packages to meet all eventualities.

At the same time, 1(F) continued to press for an AIM-9 capability; even if at this stage it was only a cardboard mock up, which if photographed and publicly displayed, could be advantageous.

18th April

The main Carrier Group left Ascension Island waters heading south. Vessels included were:

HMS Hermes 
HMS Broadsword 
HMS Glamorgan 
HMS Yarmouth 
HMS Alacrity 
RFA Olmeda 
RFA Resource

HMS Invincible was delayed leaving Ascension, awaiting urgently-required stores, but sailed later in the day and caught up with the main group with ease.

Six RAF Victor tanker aircraft of 55 and 57 Sqns arrived at Ascension from RAF Marham.

 

At Wittering 1(F) Sqn receive a signal confirming their deployment, first to Ascension Island and subsequently to the Falkland Islands.

19th April

The Carrier Group commences a routine of defence watches, basically ensuring all mission critical stations are manned 24 hrs a day.

At Wittering 1(F) receives the initial deployment plan. Nine aircraft are to deploy to Ascension Island between 26th and 28th April. Six will join the Task Force and of three will remain at Ascension Island for air defence duties. Eighteen of the Sqns NCOs will provide GR.3 expertise split between both Carriers, and remainder of the Squadron will follow for subsequent operations from ashore.

The requested reinforcement pilots began to arrive and the Sqn undertook a training programme of DACT with Hunters from Brawdy.

The eight pilots who are nominated to go south are; Wg Cdr Peter Squire, Sqn Ldr Jerry Pook, Sqn Ldr Bob Iveson, Flt Lt Tony Harper, Flt Lt John Rochfort, Flt Lt Mark Hare, Flt Lt Ross Boyens and Flt Lt Geoff Glover. Sqn Ldr 'Bomber' Harris and Sqn Ldr Tim Smith will remain at Ascension Island while Sqn Ldr Gavin Mackay commands the remainder of the Squadron.

20th April

The liner Canberra and the Elk arrived at Ascension Island.

Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher orders the recapture of South Georgia, under the name of Operation PARAQUAT. The retaking of the island will be led by the Antrim group consisting of: HMS Antrim, HMS Plymouth, HMSEndurance, and RFA Tidespring. To the south of this group by a days sailing, the Nuclear submarine HMS Conquerorwas also in the waters around South Georgia.

At 02.50 Ascension local time, four Victor tankers fully laden with 48 tons of fuel took off. Their plan was to place, six and a half hours later, a single Victor in the vicinity of South Georgia, some 2,850 miles away. The single aircraft that arrived, piloted by Sqn Ldr John Elliott, cruised to the island at 43,000 ft. Once in the vicinity of the Island the aircraft descended to 18,000ft, the optimum altitude to carry out a radar search. The search took just 90 minutes, but in that time the aircraft searched an area equivalent to England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and the Irish Sea, a total area of some 150,000 square miles. The aircraft returned safely to Wideawake in the afternoon of the 20th having been airborne for 14 hours 45 minutes and covering a distance of more than 7,000 miles making this, at that time, the longest recorded recce mission in aviation history.

The results of the search proved that there were no enemy Naval assets in the waters around the Island, and that there were no dangerous ice flows in the area that could interrupt the retaking of South Georgia, set for the morning of 21st May 1982.

In the meantime 1(F) Squadron carried out live BL755 Cluster Bomb Unit drops against a splash target off the east coast.

21st April

The Antrim Group arrived off South Georgia and began reconnaissance in preparation for landings to re-take the Islands. At first light Lt Cdr Ian Stanley of 737 NAS launched his Wessex from the deck of HMS Antrim to fly a reconnaissance of the area around the Fortuna glacier where later in the day it was intended to land British Special Forces Troops to watch the Argentine positions at Leith and Stromness.

Lt Cdr Stanley returned to Antrim and left later in the company of two transport Wessex from RFA Tidespring. The South Atlantic weather was as usual at its changeable worst and the three helicopters could find no way through the now low cloud and heavy snow showers, and consequently returned to their respective ships. Around noon conditions did improved and the three aircraft set off again but soon found themselves again in the grip of low cloud, snow and violent and sudden changes in wind speed and direction. In spite of this all three helicopters reached their objectives and disgorged their human cargo on to the Glacier.

For the helicopters the problem had abated, they had carried out their insertion successfully, for the troops on the ground it was the start of a nightmare. That night on the Glacier, winds rose to 80 MPH, as temperatures plummeted, and vital equipment was blown away. By morning with most of the men suffering from exposure they would signal their position was untenable and request picking up.

The liner Uganda Converted for use as a Hospital ship sailed from Gibraltar.

Wg Cdr Peter Squire attends a meeting at HQ 18 Group. He is briefed on the concept of an amphibious assault followed by the building of a Harrier site ashore. The employment conditions for the GR.3 are still uncertain but the following assumptions are made:

Sustained period of operations in cold climate from bare base 
Fuel/comms/ATC/catering provided 
Re-supply within 22 days 
12 aircraft in AD role armed with guns and AIM-9 
Initial weapons provision 48 AAMs plus 5,760 rounds 30mm 
Sortie length 45 minutes 
Eight sorties per day.

Notwithstanding the Air Defence employment, Wg Cdr Squire asks for the provisions of LGBs (Laser Guided Bombs).

22nd April

RFA Brambleleaf joins the Antrim Group. HMS Brilliant detaches from the Group she is leading with her two helicopters to support the Antrim Group at South Georgia. Captain J F T G Salt, commanding HMS Sheffield deputed to lead the Brilliant Group.

Wg Cdr Peter Squire and Sqn Ldr Bob Iveson fly to Yeovilton for a meeting with Captain Mike Layand, who will be the Senior Naval Officer embarked in Atlantic Conveyor. Also there was Lt Cdr Tim George, CO 809 NAS, whose Sea Harriers will also be loaded onto the ship for the journey south.

Early this morning the position of the Special Forces became untenable due to the atrocious weather conditions they were experiencing on the Fortuna Glacier. Lt Cdr Stanley departed HMS Antrim in the company of the two transport Wessex from RFA Tidespring. In the area of the Glacier the weather was found to be far worse than that encountered the previous day when dropping off the troops, with severe turbulence caused by the mountains by the Glacier causing wind speeds of 80 mph interspersed with lulls of a mere 10 mph; challenging conditions indeed. Fuel shortage required the three to return to their ships and then return for a further attempt at a pick up. This time they made the landing site, and began loading.

No sooner than they had done this than the weather closed in again whipping up the snow around the aircraft. One transport Wessex took off but straight away entered 'white out' conditions, with no visual references points. The wind took over and pushed the Wessex over far enough for the main rotor to touch the ground, the aircraft fell and slid 50 yards coming to a rest on its side. Remarkably no one was seriously injured. The personnel onboard made for the remaining two helicopters. Both took off but the second Wessex troop carrier met the same white out conditions, descended slightly, and stuck the top of a ridge, its rotor blades hitting the ground and smashing down on its side. Lt Cdr Stanley, his aircraft already overloaded, had little alternative and left the scene and returned to Antrim with his cargo. Having dropped off his human cargo, refuelled, and taken on blankets and medical supplies, Stanley departed Antrim for the Glacier. On the way in he made radio contact with the men on the ground and was amazed to learn that again there were no serious injuries, despite some of the troops having been involved in two aircraft crashes within a short space of time. Stanley stayed in the area and made several attempts to collect the men but the weather, in particular the wind, made landing impossible, so he returned to Antrim to wait for the weather to clear. About an hour later the weather did improve, and this time Lt Cdr Stanley was able to locate, pick up, and return the survivors to Antrim.

Remarkably with the level of activity that had been going on the Glacier the Argentineans were unaware of what went on, although being in the area did complicate matters for the rescuers.

For his determination, skill and bravery, Lt Cdr Stanley was later awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO)

Later that day British Special Forces were successfully inserted onto South Georgia by Helicopter and Gemini powered rubber dinghy.

Losses this day:

2 x Wessex of 845 NAS

23rd April

A Sea King helicopter operating from HMS Hermes crashes into the sea, south of Ascension Island, after dark - with the loss of Petty Officer K S Casey

1(F) Sqn is involved in DACT with Mirage and Etendard aircraft of the French Armed Forces. The Mirages operate from RAF Coningsby to retain some anonymity while the Etendard merely fly to a rendezvous point off the south east coast. It provides good experience and some crews got the chance to fly in the back seat of a Mirage.

Following the successful design, manufacture and fit of an AIM-9 capability for the Harrier GR.3, missiles are allocated for practice firings at the Aberporth Range.

Losses this day:

1 x Sea King of 846 NAS

24th April

Atlantic Conveyor completed her fitting out at Devonport. 
HMS Brilliant joined the Antrim Group off South Georgia, in preparation for the retaking of the island, however at the same time a fly appeared in the ointment in the shape of the Argentine submarine Santa Fe arriving in the waters around South Georgia.

1(F) Sqns deployment date is delayed until at least 1st May. This thankfully will give more time to complete the ongoing modification programme which is enormously manpower intensive. The whole of RAF Wittering’s Engineering Wing is working round the clock to modify an initial batch of 12 aircraft in order to get nine to Ascension Island. In addition to which the engineers have to support a daily flying programme, which, while not intensive, is very varied.

25th April

South Georgia is Re-taken

At 08:10 'Humphrey', the Antrim's Wessex, armed with depth-charges and piloted by Lt Cdr Stanley had taken off for an anti-submarine search. Once the Wessex had swept Cumberland Bay Lt Parry, Humphrey's observer made a single sweep with the radar. He immediately saw a 'blip' and the helicopter went to investigate. The 'blip' was the Santa Fe. The Antrim launched the first naval air attack on a submarine since World War II. One of the two depth-charges dropped exploded close to the port side of the Santa Fe, causing enough internal damage to prevent the submarine from diving. The Santa Fe turned to run for the safety of Cumberland Bay and was followed by the Wessex firing its General-Purpose Machine Gun (GPMG) and HMS Brilliant's Lynx, which first fired a homing torpedo and followed with more GPMG fire. HMS Plymouth's Wasp was scrambled following the Wessex's sighting of the Santa Fe but was beaten to a firing position by one of Endurance's helicopters piloted by Lt Cdr Ellerbeck. The helicopter, armed with AS12 missiles, got off her two shots, the first exploding inside the submarine's large fin. The helicopter had returned to the Endurance, reloaded and returned to the Santa Fe before the Plymouth's Wasp had time to fire. Again one hit and one miss was recorded by the Endurance's Wasp. The Plymouth Wasp had time to fire only one missile, the return flight to HMS Plymouth being 50 miles. Endurance's second helicopter, piloted by Lt T S Finding was on her way by 10:00 and after encountering machine-gun fire from King Edward Point scored another hit on Santa Fe's fin. Lt Cdr Ellerbeck's third attack was more strongly opposed with anti-tank rockets, rifle-fire from the shore and at least one machine-gun in action on the Santa Fe. The Wasp escaped damage and scored its most damaging hit, striking the periscope standards. At 11:00, the Santa Fe was alongside the pier, listing and apparently on fire.

The task group Commander decided to make the most of the offensive, and sustain the effort to recover the island. The first team ashore were a Naval Gunfire Support (NGS) team, landed by Lt Cdr Ellerbeck's Wasp. The team's spotting officer almost immediately called for gunfire against troops on Brown Mountain which the frigate provided for the next twenty minutes. The first wave of the assault was landed by HMS Antrim's Wessex and HMSBrilliant's two Lynxes about two miles from Grytviken. The remainder of the landing force was ferried ashore by the three helicopters, which were later joined by Lt Cdr Ellerbeck's Wasp. HMS Antrim and Plymouth provided fire when called to do so.

The troops stormed Grytviken and very soon the Argentines raised the white flag, sang their national anthem, and lowered the Argentinean flag after just 23 days of occupation at Grytviken.

In London the Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, uttered the famous phrase 'just rejoice at that news' to news men gathered outside 10 Downing Street.

26th April

HMS Intrepid and RFA Bayleaf departed UK for Ascension Island. The Argentine submarine Santa Fe, damaged during the recapture of South Georgia was moved from King Edward Point Jetty to the whaling station.

After a long and involved "battle", clearance is received from Command to carry out operational low flying (down to 100ft AGL). Considering that 1(F) had only recently worked up in preparation for MAPLE FLAG, where flying to this low level was allowed, this seemed to be a particularly petty problem which in the end required the AOC's personal intervention to overrule SASO (Senior Air Staff Officer) at Strike Command.

The Sqn flying programme also includes firing rockets from a very shallow angle at low level with level breakouts to avoid the debris hemisphere. 1(F) also received clearance to carry and fire the Naval 2 inch rocket (36 per pod). Flt Lt Tony Harper flies to Yeovilton to carry out a trial sortie. 1(F) will not be cleared to use the standard RAF SNEB pod while embarked due to possible dangerous conflicts with the electro magnetic environment on board ship.

The possibility of live firing AIM-9Gs at Aberporth prompts an intensive ground school programme on the weapon and its capability. Sqn Ldr Russ Peart of Boscombe Down briefs crews on the installation, peculiar to the Harrier, while exchange officer Capt Skip Beasley USAF comes into his own in tutoring on the AIM-9 Sidewinder system as a whole. Indeed Capt Beasley will use his detailed knowledge and experience of the system to brief and train the whole of the Harrier Force.

27th April

The Norland, a flat bottomed North Sea ferry, with 2 PARA embarked, and RFA Sir Bedivere sailed from the UK. Battling through the Southern Ocean storms in a flat bottomed ship would lead one Para to wonder "who's side the Navy are on for putting us on this ship"

1(F) carry out a Fire Power Demonstration for 5 Brigade at Senneybridge. 5 Bde will be the follow on forces for the land battle in Falkland Islands.

More aircraft arrive from Germany to sustain the flying programme while more aircraft commence modifications. The latter now includes a jettison facility for the AIM-9s and for FINRAE (Ferranti Inertial Navigation Reference and Attitude Equipment), which Ferranti hope to have working prior to deployment. FINRAE is the internal equipment which will allow the GR.3 INAS to align on a moving Aircraft Carrier.

28th April

In the Houses of Parliament Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher tells the House of Commons that the time for diplomacy is fast running out. US Secretary of State Haig has all but given up his shuttle diplomacy and in private believes that conflict is almost inevitable.

In the seas around South Georgia, the Antrim Group fresh from their part in the retaking of the islands depart to join up with the Task Force main body leaving HMS Endurance on patrol.

29th April

The Hospital Ship Uganda left Ascension heading south, while HMS Argonaut, HMS Ardent, RFA Regent, RFA Plumleafand the Forward Repair Ship Stena Seaspread all arrived at Ascension.

The Argentine Fleet which had been at sea continuously since 17th April, and designated Task Force 79, split into two groups to cover the Falklands. The first group comprising the carrier 25 de Mayo, two guided missile destroyers, the Hercules and Santisima Trinidad, and four smaller destroyers and frigates took up a position just outside of the Maritime Exclusion Zone (MEZ) and to the north west of the islands. The second comprising theGeneral Belgrano and two destroyers took up a similar position to the south west of the islands.

30th April

The British Naval Task force moved into the Maritime Exclusion Zone, which at dawn was redesignated a Total Exclusion Zone (TEZ) within which any, and all, Argentinean aircraft intercepted would be attacked without warning. At the same time the Argentinean Junta declared an exclusion zone of its own where any British ships and aircraft would be attacked on sight.

In Washington DC President Ronald Reagan declared the unilateral support of the United States for the United Kingdom

At this point nothing short of a miracle would be able to stop an armed conflict between the two nations.

1(F) Sqn deploy six aircraft to Valley carry out live AIM-9 firings on the Aberporth range. Of the six missiles fired only one fails and, as a result, 1(F) create something of a record on STCAAME (STrike Command Air to Air Missile Establishment) where the pace of life is normally somewhat slower.

1(F) also received the tanker plan from 1 Group for the deployment to Ascension Island. Concern is expressed that the tankers intend to leave the Harriers 1000nm north of Ascension Island with no SAR cover for the final leg. 1(F)’s request is considered and a Nimrod MR.2 flying out of Ascension Island will provide the required cover.

1st May

It was decided that there was a need to make a show of force using the naval and air forces at the disposal of Admiral Woodward.

Woodward's Carrier group entered the TEZ, with HMS Invincible launching the first Sea Harrier Combat Air Patrol (CAP) of the conflict. HMS Glamorgan, Alacrity and Arrow headed for the Falklands protected by the CAP, while HMSBrilliant and Yarmouth headed to the north-west of the Carrier group on anti submarine patrol. By mid-afternoon, the Glamorgan group came within gun range of Port Stanley airfield. As the Glamorgan group bombarded the airfield they came under attack by three Mirages. HMS Glamorgan and Alacrity were both near-missed by 1000lb parachute-retarded bombs and strafing caused some superficial damage to Glamorgan and Arrow, woundingArrow's Seacat aimer. HMS Glamorgan tracked Argentine aircraft and gave warnings to the carriers for the rest of the day. The Glamorgan group's bombardment of Stanley airfield continued until 01:35 covering the landings of reconnaissance teams at Port Stanley.

Mean while on Ascension Island at about 22:50 local time on the 30th April, 11 fully laden Victor tankers of 55 and 57 Sqn's took to the air, accompanied by two Vulcan bombers. The number of tankers was required to deliver fuel to one aircraft which would be making the flight all the way to Port Stanley Airport 3,886 miles away, the equivalent of London to Karachi, to deliver its load of 21 1000lb medium capacity bombs on to the airfield. At the controls of Vulcan XM607, was Flt Lt Martin Withers of 101 Sqn, flying the reserve Vulcan. As they climbed to cruising altitude it became clear that there was a problem with the lead Vulcan. They could not pressurise the cockpit, a total necessity to reach the cruising altitudes necessary to reach the Falkland Islands and complete their mission. When told they had the lead of the mission, a long silence fell over the cockpit which was only broken by Martin Withers words "It looks like we’ve got a job of work fellas".

At 04:30 the air around Port Stanley Airport was ripped by the detonation of XM607’s 21 Bombs hitting the airfield. Their job done XM607 and its crew flew north on the return leg of its epic mission. Contrary to popular belief the crew did not contact the fleet below, but did radio "Superfuse" the one word message that meant the success of ‘Black Buck 1’.

 

The news the Vulcan raid had been a success soon reached the fleet and later that morning the Sea Harriers of HMS Hermes and HMS Invincible were about to get into the action with co-ordinated follow up attacks on Port Stanley airfield and the airstrip at Goose Green, the second largest in the islands. While 800 Naval Air Squadron (NAS) on Hermes would be the bombers, 801 NAS would provide top cover with their AIM-9 equipped Sea Harriers. BBC Correspondent Brian Hanrahan made possibly the most famous quote of the whole conflict when reporting this attack. On the return of all the aircraft safely, albeit Lt Dave Morgan’s Harrier had a hole in the tail from a stray 20mm round, he said "I counted them all out and I counted them all back again". 

Inflicting damage was not confined to the bombers with 801 NAS claiming three kills with Sidewinder that day, and 800 NAS one kill.

Losses today:

Argentine Forces

Islander - Port Stanley - Hit by Cluster bomb - Sea Harrier 800 NAS

Pucara (Groupo 3) - Goose Green - Hit by Cluster bomb on take off - Sea Harrier 800 NAS – Lt Jukic Killed

Mirage (Groupo 8) – East Falklands - Damaged by AIM-9 Sea Harrier 801 NAS and shot down by own air defences whilst attempting an emergency landing at Port Stanley - Capt Cuerva killed (Lt Thomas credited)

Mirage (Groupo 8) - N/W Falklands – AIM-9 - Sea Harrier 801 NAS (Flt Lt Barton credited) Lt Perona killed

Dagger (Groupo 6) - West Falkland – AIM-9 - Sea Harrier 800 NAS (Flt Lt Penfold credited) Lt Ardiles Killed

Canberra (Groupo 2) - N/W Falklands – AIM-9 - Sea Harrier 801 NAS (Lt Curtiss credited) Lt Ibanez and Lt Gonzales Killed

2nd May

Admiral Woodward's Carrier Battle Group is rejoined by the Glamorgan group, with HMS Brilliant and HMSYarmouth. HMS GlamorganYarmouthAlacrity and Arrow formed an anti-aircraft and anti-submarine screen protecting the main body of the two carriers and the RFAs Olmeda and Resource, with the Type 22s goalkeeping for the carriers.

Today saw possibly one of the most controversial of all actions in the Falklands War with the sinking of the Argentine cruiser General Belgrano. HMS Conqueror tracked the movements of the Argentine cruiser sinking her with torpedoes. Whether or not the Belgrano and her escorting destroyers had posed an immediate threat to the Task Force would be debated for years afterwards - but the commanding officer of the nuclear-powered Fleet submarine, HMS Conqueror Cdr. Christopher Wreford-Brown, was in no doubt when he arrived home at the Clyde Submarine Base. He had attacked on direct orders from Fleet headquarters, he said, and though he regretted the loss of life, he had "saved a considerable loss of life from the British Task force and a potential threat from Exocet missiles with which she was armed."

Further North a very curious Russian spy trawler was sighted close to Ascension, commencing a long game of, us watching them, watching us.

The first five aircraft of 1(F) Sqn deploy to St Mawgan. This will allow four aircraft to launch on Monday in order to get three to Ascension Island. The same pattern will then be repeated be repeated on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Leaving Wittering is somewhat emotional for the crews. A departure formation fly-past in Box four was carried out by Wg Cdr Squire, Flt Lt Harper, Flt Lt Hare and Flt Lt Rochfort. The fifth aircraft, flown by Sqn Ldr Jerry Pook, departs as a singleton to carry out an air test en-route).

Losses today:

Argentine Forces

1 x Alouette - (1st Naval Helo Recce Esc) - Went down with the General Belgrano

3rd May

Two Lynx helicopters from HMS Coventry and HMS Glasgow attacked two patrol craft. The patrol craft were actively engaged in the search for the two airmen from the Canberra shot down the previous day. The Lynx were both armed with the untried Sea Skua missile which had been rushed into service, The Coventry Lynx fired both missiles and sinks one of the craft. The Glagsow's Lynx targets the Alferez Sobral and launches her two Sea Skua missiles. One of the missiles hits the bridge structure, killing the commanding officer and several ratings, but she remains afloat. Two days later she would limp into the Argentine main land port of Puerto Deseado. Neither airman from the Canberra was recovered.

A heavy fog descended over the Carrier Battle Group's operating area.

Following the sinking of the Belgrano, Argentine warships are pulled back to operate in shallower water, where submarines would not follow, but at the same time placing them further away from their required operational area.

At RAF St Mawgan the launch of the first wave of Harriers of 1(F) Squadron is preceded by lengthy briefings which cover all the Rules of Engagement for maritime forces. Four aircraft launch at 09:30 to rendezvous with three Victor tankers in the overhead at about 25,000ft. The three to go south are Wg Cdr Squire, Flt Lt Harper, and Flt Lt Hare, a fourth aircraft flown by Flt Lt Rochford is the airborne spare in case of unserviceability.

 

One of the tankers has difficulty taking on fuel and in the end the Victors renumber. However, the end result is that they have insufficient fuel to get all three GR.3s to Ascension Island; one must return to Banjul with the last tanker. The tanker is then to proceed on to Ascension Island that night. Wg Cdr Squire decides to send Flt Lts Harper and Hare on while he diverts. This sortie lasts 9 hours 15 mins which must rank as one of the longest Harrier sorties in history.

At Banjul the Harrier and Victor are met by many eager and interested people. After refuelling the aircraft, there is a chance to have a welcome drink, and plan the leg to Ascension Island, most of which will be flown in darkness. In the event, there was a lot of medium/high level cloud with frequent electrical storms to add unwanted disorientation. The three refuelling brackets are successful. With just under 100nm to go Wg Cdr Squire departed the tanker for a straight in approach to the humped runway at Wideawake, eventually landing at 22:15 after eleven hours flying.

Losses today:

Argentine Forces 

MB339 – 1st Naval Attack Sqn – Nr Cape Pembroke – Operational Accident crashed into ground returning to Port Stanley in bad weather. Lt Benitez Killed

4th May

Overnight the Carrier Battle Group had moved, the carriers were within 100 miles of Port Stanley with the three Type 42s formed into a picket line.

HMS Sheffield was off the Falkland Islands patrolling the Exclusion Zone when she was hit by one of the most lethal of conventional weapons in the world's armoury. An airborne Exocet anti-ship missile was launched from an estimated distance of 20 miles by one of a handful of Super Etendard aircraft in Argentine hands. The weapon struck with devastating effect, hitting the centre of the ship and starting raging fires which quickly spread. For four hours the surviving members of the ship's company fought vainly to save the destroyer, even as part of her hull glowed white hot. In addition to the 20 men who died in the ship, 24 were injured. The injured and the 242 other survivors were transferred to other ships in the Task Force, including HMS Hermes.

The Sheffield herself, gutted and deformed by her still burning fires, lingered on for six more days. She was taken in tow but finally sank outside the Exclusion Zone on 10th May, becoming an official war grave.

Late in the evening of the 3rd May, in a repeat performance of Black Buck 1 eleven Victor tankers take a lone Vulcan, captained by Sqn Ldr John Reeve of 50 Sqn and his crew, to attack Port Stanley Airfield for a second time, delivering their weapons in the early hours of the 4th May, narrowly missing the western edge of the runway and causing little additional damage.

Later that morning three Sea Harriers of 800 NAS, led by Lt Cdr Gordon Batt with Flt Lt Ted Ball and Lt Nick Taylor, are tasked to re attack the airfield at Goose Green. Lt Cdr Batt and Lt Taylor were to attack the parked Pucara aircraft with BL755 cluster munitions, while Flt Lt Ball was to run in from another direction and deliver three parachute retarded 1000lb MC bombs to crater the runway. As Flt Lt Ball rolled in on the target he was searching for Lt Taylor as Taylor had to be clear before Ball could deliver his weapons. Ball saw Taylor exactly where he expected him to be and then watched in horror as Taylor’s aircraft was hit by a large calibre cannon (believed to be a 35mm Oerlikon) and burst into flames. The aircraft flew on for a short way then crashed in a large fire ball. Lt Taylor made no attempt to eject and died in his aircraft.

On Ascension Island the members of 1(F) Sqn spend the day looking around the airfield at Wideawake and to an extent the Island. While the officers are accommodated at 'Two Boats', the ground crew are living at 'English Bay' quite some distance from the airfield. At the airfield there is activity everywhere with helicopters rushing in all directions. Everything has a very makeshift appearance and the operations room run by Group Captain Jeremy Price and Wg Cdr David Baugh is located in the top of the fire section.

Sqn Ldr Bob Iveson and Sqn Ldr Jerry Pook both arrive that evening but Flt Lt John Rochfort has diverted to Porto Santo! (a Portuguese island 50 km northeast of Madeira Island in the North Atlantic Ocean) The news that HMSSheffield has been sunk and Lt Nick Taylor killed dampens the atmosphere, and concentrates the minds of those yet to enter the fray. 

Losses today:

Royal Navy 

1 x Sea Harrier FRS.1 - Goose Green – Anti Aircraft Artillery, possibly radar laid 35mm Oerlikon canon. Lt Taylor killed.

5th May

With the loss of HMS Sheffield the Task Force moved East, the weather closed in and a period of little air activity followed except for normal Recce and Combat Air Patrols (CAP). Off the Argentine coast however the Argentine Navy was committed to a full blown anti submarine hunt after an Argentine Navy S-2 Tracker aircraft reported a possible submarine contact. An intensive search revealed nothing, but the incident was enough for the 25 De Mayo to disembark her air component and return to the Argentine naval base at Bahia Blanca and remain there for the duration of the conflict.

For 1(F) at Ascension the day starts with an enormous thunderstorm, which lasts for three hours. After it subsides Wg Cdr Squire visits the Atlantic Conveyor. There will only be accommodation for Wg Cdr Squire and Sqn Ldr Iveson on board; the remaining pilots will be housed in the North Sea Ferry Norland, although this has yet to be confirmed. Flt Lt Brian Mason (JENGO) and the 18 NCOs who have travelled down in Atlantic Conveyor are sleeping in portakabins bolted to the deck. Sqn Ldr Harris, Flt Lt Smith and Flt Lt Glover arrive at Ascension but Flt Lt Boyens diverts to Banjul in the Gambia. The Sqn brief with 809 NAS the landing procedures for bringing the Harriers aboard Atlantic Conveyor the following day.

6th May

Bad weather continued to dog the Task force with very little opportunity to operate in any area. At 09:00 local time two Sea Harriers of 801 NAS from HMS Invincible were on Combat Air Patrols (CAPs). A Recce Sea King reported a contact well to the south of the Task Force, and both Sea Harriers were vectored in to investigate. What happened next still remains surrounded by conjecture and speculation, both aircraft disappeared from radar. Nothing was seen of the aircraft or their pilots again despite an intensive search and rescue effort being mounted. In what appears to be a million to one freak event it is assumed that the aircraft, in appalling weather, suffered a mid air collision. This reduced the number of available Sea Harriers to 17, a number that while operationally capable, meant that no more losses could be accepted with out reducing the already stretched air defences of the fleet.

At Ascension Island preparations to embark 1(F) Sqn on to Atlantic Conveyor are well advanced. The plan is to embark the aircraft early in the day when the temperature is low and, starting with the worst performing engines. Wg Cdr Squire and Sqn Ldr Iveson launch as the first pair and land-on after some formation aerobatics over the Island. Sqn Ldr Iveson has landed on ships before with the USMC (as had Sqn Ldr Harris and Flt Lt Smith) but Wg Cdr Squire found the shortage of space alarming, especially as the ship is rolling in the swell. Flt Lt Hare has a particularly tricky time coping with the swell and the lack of space.

 

Also today, Flt Lt Boyens arrives from Banjul with his aircraft and Flt Lt Rochfort makes it to Ascension from Porto Santo in a C-130 Hercules.

Losses today:

Royal Navy

2 x Sea Harrier – Mid air collision in poor visibility – Lt Cdr Eyton-Jones and Lt Curtiss killed

7th May

In New York a new peace initiative to call an end to the conflict is tabled by United Nations secretary-general, Javier Perez de Cuellar.

The bad weather in the South Atlantic continued to interfere with operations. It did however provide cover for the Argentine forces to re supply the Falklands by air using C-130, Fokker Friendship, and Lockheed Electra aircraft, which would average two missions a day bringing in vital supplies from the mainland.

The MV Norland, carrying 2 PARA, arrived at Ascension to join Amphibious Task Group.

The loading of Sqn stores for 1(F) on Atlantic Conveyor continued today. Wg Cdr Squire visits Fearless in the morning for an intelligence update. That afternoon Wg Cdr Squire was sent ashore to obtain Sidewinder missiles, in order to give an air defence capability against the Boeing 707 shadower aircraft that have been snooping around the task force, and may be expected to try to find the Amphibious Group while travelling south. After a great deal of negotiation he manages to get six missiles and after much rushing about, helicopter transport out to Atlantic Conveyor. In all the confusion, however, the missile fins go astray and these are eventually found on HMS Intrepid.

 

In the darkness that night the Amphibious Group leave Ascension Island in radio silence and without lights.

8th May

The bad weather and poor visibility continued, bringing a virtual halt to airborne operations. In the previous four days 800 NAS have flown only four sorties due to the weather. Today is notable however as being the first day that long-range air supply drops, by C-130, to the Task Force are made

On Board Atlantic Conveyor bagging of the aircraft to give extra protection from the salt water begins today. The bags do not allow for external fuel tanks and so all of these must be removed. The FINRAE equipment fitted to 1(F) Sqn's Harrier GR.3s is also found to be not working properly; this problem is notified to MOD for further investigation somewhere a little more stable than a rolling deck. The problem is the FINRAE will not transfer alignment data to the aircraft's Inertial Navigation and Attack System, making the use of the moving map display impossible and navigation difficult.

Emergency life raft stations are practised, as from tomorrow it is assessed that there will be a potential submarine threat.

9th May

The Narwal, an Argentine fishing vessel being used as a spy ship, was bombed and strafed by two RN Sea Harriers of 800 NAS flown by Lt Cdr Gordon Batt and Flt Lt Dave Morgan. The Hermes and Invincible flew off three Sea Kings to board and take the ship and capture her crew. Troops abseiled down to the trawler, where once aboard they found one man had been killed and eleven more injured. More interestingly one of the crew turned out to be an Argentine Naval officer and captured documents confirmed the vessel had been intelligence gathering. The prisoners were winched up to the Sea Kings, which then took them back to the carriers.

During the day HMS Broadsword and HMS Coventry bombarded positions around Port Stanley. Later in the day HMS Coventry picked up a slow moving object on radar and engaged it with a Sea Dart missile, shooting down an Argentine Puma helicopter, which crashed killing all on board.

The Argentine forces suffered further losses when, due to poor visibility, two A-4 Skyhawks of Groupo 4 flying at low level to attack Royal Navy ships crashed into the steep sides of South Jason Island off the North West coast of the Falklands. Both pilots died immediately.

With 1(F) Sqn, the bagging of aircraft on Atlantic Conveyor continues and there was some limited success with the FINRAE. The engineering team find a wiring fault in one of the looms. This information is relayed to MOD so that future aircraft can be checked.

The Sqn look at and assess deck operations on Atlantic Conveyor with various wind conditions and to assess the best direction for the vertical take-off which will have to be carried out to transfer to the Carrier. It is of great concern that no-one will have flown for two weeks prior to this important and possibly tricky sortie.

Losses today:

Argentine Forces

2 x A4 Skyhawk - CFIT (Controlled Flight Into Terrain) – South Jason Island – Lt Casco and Lt Faria both Killed

Puma (Army) – Engaged and shot down by HMS Coventry with Sea Dart – Nr Port Stanley – number of fatalities unknown.

10th May

Poor weather and equally poor visibility continued to limit air operations around the Falklands today. In one of the few offensive actions by either side HMS Glasgow bombarded Argentine positions at Moody Brook near Port Stanley.

On Atlantic Conveyor, 1(F) Squadron carry out more ground training, jointly with 809 NAS. The training revolves around deck operations, standard operating procedures, conduct after capture etc.

An 809 NAS Sea Harrier is brought to 'Readiness State 5' for a possible interception of a shadowing Boeing 707. If launched the aircraft will perform a vertical take-off, join a tanker which is close by and attempt to close with the 707. Fuel and performance margins are very slim and, if launched, it will be a very "bold" sortie.

Today was also the birthday of one of the 1(F) Sqn Senior NCOs and the ship's crew have made a birthday cake measuring 18"x14"x7" covered with icing. It turns out to be a highly decorated case of Carlsberg – apparently a speciality of the galley.

11th May

Ascension Island did not suffer with weather problems to the extent that the Falkland Islands did and this allowed normal operations to continue. Today the RAF demonstrated a new capability, developed for Operation CORPORATE, for the first time, the Nimrod MR.2 with in-flight refuelling. With a single refuelling a crew from 206 Sqn flew their Nimrod 2,750 miles south–south west of Ascension Island to provide anti submarine cover to the amphibious assault group. The in-flight refuelling modification however bore all the hall marks of a Heath Robinson Machine. The probes of the Nimrods had all been scrounged from the Vulcan force (Indeed one example came from a museum exhibit!), and were mounted above the cockpit over what had been the pilot' s escape hatch. Leading from the rear of the probe, through the cockpit, and fastened to the floor to a point 2/3rds of the way down the inside of the fuselage. Ending at the refuelling gallery, was a length of standard rubber on canvas refuelling bowser hose, which people treated with a great deal of respect and avoided when walking past. For all its hasty charm the system worked well and allowed the Nimrod MR.2 to provide a comprehensive radar, electronic reconnaissance and Anti Submarine capability for the task force.

On Atlantic Conveyor the 1(F) Sqn day starts with a call to life raft stations at 06:00. This was only a practice, but later in the day a real alert is sounded in response to a possible sighting. So far the weather since leaving Ascension had been perfect but the forecast is that this will quickly change in the next few days; at least it had given everyone on the Sqn the chance to find their sea legs.

Wg Cdr Squire visited HMS Fearless for a further intelligence update including assessments of the Argentine forces capability. That afternoon the SHAR at Readiness State 5 is scrambled but the launch is subsequently cancelled. It is possible that either the accompanying tanker or Soviet Bear is mistaken for the Argentine 707.

12th May

The QE2 sailed from Southampton with 5 Infantry Brigade embarked.

The weather improved, allowing Hermes to send up a Combat Air Patrol (the first since 9th May).

During the mid-afternoon HMS Brilliant detected four aircraft heading toward her at low level and at high speed. HMS Glasgow's Sea Dart missile loading system failed safe, she opened fire with her 4.5in gun but this jammed after firing eight rounds. HMS Brilliant's Seawolf system fired three missiles in quick succession; two of the missiles scoring direct hits and a third Skyhawk flew into the sea while taking violent avoiding action. The fourth Skyhawk released a 1000lb bomb which bounced off the water and over the top of HMS Glasgow's hangar.

 

Minutes later another raid was detected, with Glasgow's engineers still fixing the weapons systems. This new wave of Skyhawks approached the ships weaving in order to avoid the close-range gunner's aim. This also confused Brilliant's Seawolf, at the moment when its missiles should have launched, the system 'sulked' a known problem, and trained its launchers to their fore and aft positions. The Skyhawks released their bombs at both ships. The weapons bounced right over HMS Brilliant like skimmed stones, but HMS Glasgow was hit. A 1000lb bomb entered amidships, three feet above the waterline, passed thought the upper part of the Auxiliary Machine Room and exited the ship through the other side at about the same height. Damage control parties improvised plugs and the ships withdrew on a course to minimise the ship rolling which would have flooded the open compartments.

Had the Argentines perfected the arming and fusing of their weapons the result of this encounter could have been hugely different. As it was, with the lucky escape of both Glasgow and Brilliant in mind, Admiral Woodward decreed there would be no further daylight naval bombardment of Port Stanley airfield.

Losses today:

Royal Navy

Sea King – Ditched near to Task Force following mechanical failure – No Injuries.

Argentine Forces

3 x Skyhawk – (Groupo 5) – East of Falklands - Engaged by HMS Brilliant with 'Sea Wolf' scoring two direct hits and causing one to impact the sea while evading all credited to 'Sea Wolf' – Lt Bustos, Lt Nivoli, Lt Ibarlucea all killed.

1 x Skyhawk – (Groupo 5) Goose Green - Having dropped the bomb that holed HMS Glasgow, Lt Gavazzi and his aircraft were engaged and shot down by Argentine Anti Aircraft Artillery at Goose Green – Lt Gavazzi killed.

13th May

Once again bad weather in the Task Force area prevented the flying of CAPs and strike sorties.

The 1(F) Sqn pilots housed on the MV Norland go across to Atlantic Conveyor, mainly for a change of scenery. That evening there are celebrations to mark the 70th birthday of both 1(F) and 3(F) Sqn's - represented by Flt Lt John Leeming and Flt Lt Steve Brown who are on loan to 809 NAS. 1(F) presents the ship with a Sqn plaque and receives in return a Cunard flag.

14th May

Sir Anthony Parsons, Britain's envoy at the United Nations, and Sir Nicholas Henderson, Britain's ambassador to the United States, fly home from the United Nations peace negotiations for urgent talks with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

Once again operations are dogged and hampered by bad weather, but on the late evening of 14th May this sort of weather was to provide vital cover for a raiding operation, which although small was of the like not seen since World War Two.

Under the cover of darkness and poor weather, two Sea Kings of 846 NAS with 45 men embarked between them, approached undetected and landed on Pebble Island. Moving swiftly to the airfield, the troops set up an anti ambush screen to prevent counter attack should they be discovered, before the remainder of the men moved rapidly between the parked aircraft placing demolition charges in their cockpits, and at various strategic points of the airfields infrastructure. Under the cover of supporting fire the men then withdrew.

When the demolition charges detonated they put out of action every aircraft on the airfield, six Pucaras, four Turbo Mentors, and a Skyvan. The charges severely damaged the airfields capability to operate, to the extent that not only had one third of the islands based light attack aircraft been destroyed, but the airfield closest to the Argentine mainland was put out off action for the remainder of the conflict. Only one injury was recorded, a sprained ankle to one of the attacking troops. The whole operation had taken a mere five days from conception to completion of the raid.

On Atlantic Conveyor software modification details for the FINRAE arrive by SATCOM and the engineering team set to work immediately to fix the problem. All the aircraft are bagged and it will not be possible to prove the system until the aircraft are ready to cross-deck to the Carriers. In this respect it is possible that two aircraft may fly off on Sunday 16th or Monday 17th.

The weather is also becoming appreciably worse.

Losses today:

Argentine Forces

6 x Pucara Groupo 3 
4 x Turbo Mentor 4th Naval Attack Sqn 
1 x Skyvan Coast Guard

All destroyed by Special Air Service during ground raid on Pebble Island.

15th May

Bad weather prevented planned photo reconnaissance sorties to cover Port Stanley, Pebble Island and Fox Bay.

801 NAS dropped 1000lb bombs on Port Stanley airfield, Sapper Hill and a helicopter support base near Mount Kent. 800 NAS also dropped six 1000lb bombs on the Port Stanley airfield.

With the main amphibious landings expected to take place in the next few days, the British High Command really needed to be certain that the Argentine Navy was confining itself to its home waters and ports. The ports were blockaded by British Nuclear Submarines, which while being able to remain undetected and being immensely powerful, their sensors were comparatively short ranged and it was not impossible that vessels could have crept past, and be lying in wait for the amphibious element of the Task Force. To find out would take a reconnaissance mission of the like never seen before.

In the cool early morning darkness of the 15th May, a Nimrod MR.2P of 120 Sqn, flown by Wing Commander David Emmerson, departed Ascension Island heading south. Having refuelled from Victor tankers twice, the Nimrod eventually reached a point about 150 Miles due north of Port Stanley. Here the aircraft turned due West and headed for a point some 60 miles from the Argentine shoreline where the aircraft turned once again heading north –east and running parallel to the coast. Flying at altitudes between 7,000 and 12,000 ft and using its powerful Searchwater radar the aircraft was able to reconnoitre an area of ocean 400 miles by 1000 miles in area. Within that zone the crew could say with virtual certainty that there was no vessel larger than a motor launch at sea.

The Nimrod returned to Wideawake Airfield after three air to air refuellings and being airborne for 18 hours and 5 minutes, covering a distance of 8,300 miles. As with the Victor recce 27 days earlier they returned with only negative information, but this was just what was wanted to be heard. To ensure that the Argentines didn’t change tactics Nimrods from Ascension would repeat this feat of endurance on seven out of the next ten nights to check that the enemy ships remained in port.

1(F) Sqn spent a quiet day carrying out more ground training. It is now planned that all six GR.3s should cross-deck to HMS Hermes on 18th/19th. This is thought better than the splitting the aircraft between HMS Hermes and HMS Invincible. The Sea Harriers, however, will split with four going to each carrier. The weather remains atrocious with the ship riding out the most tremendous storm. With half the stabilisation system out of order the ship rolls and bangs in an alarming fashion.

In the UK, the trial on the active I-Band countermeasures pod commenced. Known as 'Blue Eric' and located in a converted Harrier gun pod it was designed to counter the 'Fledermaus' radar which is used to control the highly effective 35mm Oerlikon Anti Aircraft Artillery Cannons. Work also starts on the ALE-40 Chaff and Flare dispenser modification programme begins. The equipment has been provided by our European allies with the parts from USA.

16th May

Sir Anthony Parsons, Britain's envoy at the United Nations, and Sir Nicholas Henderson, Britain's ambassador to the United States, returned to the USA.

801 NAS dropped more bombs on Port Stanley airfield. An Argentine freighter, the Rio Carcarana, spotted off Port King was bombed and strafed. The crew abandoned ship and made their way to Port Howard. The naval auxiliaryBahia Buen Suceso, moored near the civilian settlement at Fox Bay was strafed by the Sea Harriers of 800 NAS. They encountered some resistance, Anti Aircraft fire was quite heavy and one of the aircraft returned with a bullet hole in its fin.

Late in the afternoon 800 NAS mounted a sortie to photograph the damaged ships, Port Darwin, Moody Brook and Port Stanley airfield. The photographs showed another bomb crater on Port Stanley airfield runway. This had been created by the Argentine Air Force unit who had begun to simulate bomb craters using bulldozers to build piles of mud which could be removed at night allowing aircraft to land.

Under the cover of darkness HMS Glamorgan was sent inshore to continue the naval bombardment bombardment. She fired 130 rounds at targets in Port Stanley, Darwin and Fitzroy. The object of this being to convince the Argentineans that landings were to take place to the south of Port Stanley.

That night there was to have been a further Black Buck Vulcan raid to knock out the runway at Port Stanley but the forecast was for extreme head winds so the operation was cancelled.

17th May

Today, 17th May, is Argentina's 'Navy Day', and it was believed that this would be the catalyst for some form of major offensive action.

HMS Invincible's first Combat Air Patrol of the day dropped a couple of 1000lb bombs on the Port Stanley airfield, just to keep some pressure on the occupants.

800 NAS carried out a photo reconnaissance mission, bringing back pictures of Fox Bay, Goose Green, Port King and settlements in Lafonia (an area of West Falkland).

The Argentine Navy attempted to launch an attack using Exocet missiles and Super Etendards but they had not been able to maintain an accurate plot of the Battle Group's movements. The deception measures put in place by the senior aviators on the British carriers meant that when the pair of Super Etendards popped up to target their Exocets, their radars swept only empty sea.

HMS Hermes left her group in the mid-afternoon in order to rendezvous outside the TEZ with Atlantic Conveyorwith a view to enabling the cross decking of the Harriers. One of Hermes' Sea King 5s was lost in the evening in a non combat incident; the aircraft was ditched due to instrument malfunction.

Argentine Air Force commander Brigadier Lami Dozo warns that the British Task Force will receive "a massive attack" if it sails within range of Argentine weapons.

The EEC renewed sanctions against Argentina for another week: Italy and Ireland lift them altogether.

On board Atlantic Conveyor the aircraft are in the process of being debagged in preparation for the cross-decking to HMS Hermes. Initial FINRAE trials with the debagged GR.3s look hopeful.

Losses today:

Royal Navy

Sea King – East of Falklands – Ditched due to technical failure – no injuries

18th May

Once again, to maintain the pressure on the occupiers HMS Invincible’s first three CAP missions dropped six 1000lb bombs on Port Stanley airfield.

The Carrier Battle Group and Amphibious Group rendezvous in the evening and although the Argentine Air Force missed this, they were soon provided with the information by the BBC Overseas Service.

1(F) Sqn are awoken to a practice emergency at 08:00 with a call to life raft stations. There are further false alarms - including a 'blue-on-blue' - at 09:00 and 11:00.

HMS Hermes and HMS Invincible close up with the amphibious group, and Atlantic Conveyor, in order to cross deck aircraft well out of range the enemy. In the end only four GR.3s make it as two went unserviceable; these are flown by Wg Cdr Squire, Sqn Ldr Pook, Sqn Ldr Harris and Flt Lt Rochfort. The VTO is straight forward as is the landing on. Flt Lt Harper remains on Atlantic Conveyor and Flt Lt Rochfort returns to transfer the remaining two aircraft when they are serviceable. The long process of cross-decking of troops, remaining pilots and Sqn stores will take hours.

19th May

In London Margaret Thatcher’s Cabinet give their approval for landings to reoccupy the Falkland Islands to take place.

HMS Glamorgan spends the night of the 18/19 bombarding targets between Port Stanley and Lively Island.

The Royal Fleet Auxiliary Fort Austin disembarked four specially equipped Lynx helicopters. These aircraft were fitted with electronic countermeasure equipment designed by the Royal Air Force to outwit the Exocet missile system. Two Lynx went to each carrier and from their arrival until the end of the conflict one Lynx was held on deck at immediate readiness for launch.

That night a Sea King helicopter of 846 NAS with Special Forces personnel on board, being cross decked to another ship, ditched having hit a large bird (possibly an Albatross) with its tail rotor. HMS Brilliant was swiftly on the scene but 22 lives were lost in the accident.

Meanwhile HMS Hermes had made a high speed dash to the west of the Falklands. Here she flew off a single Sea King of 846 NAS. Speculation as to the mission it was involved in was, and remains today, shrouded in secrecy. What is clear is the aircraft was landed on the Chilean mainland in the vicinity of Punta Arenas, where it was destroyed by its crew, who then went into hiding for three days before handing themselves over to Chilean authorities.

For 1(F) Sqn the day was set aside for operational training and they achieve 15 sorties of Air Combat Training (ACT). Although they practiced air combat, it has been decided that the GR.3s will be used for ground attack missions.

Flt Lt Glover and Wg Cdr Squire fly the first ACT mission and, shortly after getting airborne, are vectored to the North East in an attempt to intercept the shadowing Boeing 707. They are armed with AIM-9s but the Rules of Engagement (RoE) are only to intercept and shadow. At 180nm from the carrier they are outside radar and radio contact, they find nothing and return to the ship.

The FINRAE along with many other Sqn stores have yet to arrive on board Hermes. The aircraft are therefore being flown in pre-align and without any navigation aids. Aircrew are also finding the position of the sun - both southern hemisphere and time zone - also confusing.

Flt Lt Harper arrives with the fifth aircraft from Atlantic Conveyor having refuelled on HMS Invincible en-route. Flt Lt Harper, Sqn Ldr Harris and Flt Lt Glover then carried out night landings at the end of the day.

1(F) shares the Ready Room with 800 NAS. The lack of a Ground Liaison Officer is going to be a severe limitation. With very little room 1(F) bag a nearby cabin to put up maps and hold briefings. One advantage of the 'planning room' is that it allows them to hold meetings in private. Much of the first 'Operations' Group is spent talking of the wartime approach to the job - the acceptance of unserviceable aircraft, the parameters to which they fly etc. Wg Cdr Squire briefs everyone that he will authorise all sorties, if necessary, at the end of the day and that authorisation will not specify any minimum height.

The main pre-occupation in the Ready Room is the Rubic Cube. There are a number of schools with different methods, one of which is available on an OHP slide.

The Captain calls Wg Cdr Squire to his cabin/ops room to brief him on the squadron's first operational mission - an attack on the POL storage area at Fox Bay - the next day.

Losses today: 

Royal Navy

Sea King – 846 NAS – Cross decking Special Forces troops suffers a catastrophic bird strike and ditches – 22 killed

Sea King – 846 NAS – Burnt out by her own crew on the ground in Chile near Punta Arenas – The reason for these actions remain secret.

20th May

During the night of 19th/20th HMS Glamorgan went inshore to bombard targets between the entrance to Choiseul Sound and Cape Pembroke. The purpose was to divert attention from events developing in Falkland Sound.

On board HMS Hermes with 1(F). After a quiet night the weather today is pretty grim. However, Flt Lt Rochfort manages to make it aboard in the sixth aircraft and by the evening the remaining Sqn troops have also arrived.

 

The bad weather and the ship's working time zone (Zulu) give the pilots hours in which to plan the attack at Fox Bay. Sqn Ldr Iveson, Sqn Ldr Pook and Wg Cdr Squire are to carry out the first mission and spend time pouring over maps in the dining room. The plan is to fly in having three different routes to take account of bad weather.

The three aircraft launch at 14:30, becoming the first offensive mission flown by the RAF from an aircraft carrier since October 1918. The Harriers are armed with nine BL755 Cluster Bomb Units, three per aircraft. The run to the target is in a Hi-Lo-Hi profile, flying battle formation', a wide, flat 'V' formation with about one mile separation between aircraft which works as planned. While en route Lt Cdr Sharky Ward of 801 NAS hears the formation transiting into the target area as "GREEN Ldr/2/3" and asks after Wg Cdr Squire by name! The response to this is not recorded, but can be imagined.

The target was easily acquired, the arrangement of jerry cans and 40 gallon drums had been set out to avoid all being destroyed by a single bomb, this however meant that they were laid out in a pattern ideal for engagement with Cluster bombs. Wg Cdr Squire led the attack, followed by Sqn Ldr Iveson who attacked on a heading about 30 degrees off Squires. Sqn Ldr Iveson reported seeing Squires weapons cause extensive secondary explosions on the target. Sqn Ldr Pook attacked on a heading nearly the same as Wg Cdr Squires and laid his weapons down on the target. During the attack none of the pilots saw anything in the way of defensive fire. All three land back safely on Hermes at 15:40.

The invasion to retake the Falkland Islands, codenamed Operation SUTTON, is certain for tomorrow and it is likely to be a very busy day.

21st May

00:01hrs - HMS Fearless and HMS Intrepid lead the fleet into Falkland Sound while HMS Hermes and HMS Invinciblesteamed south to launch air and sea attacks. Providing close escort to the Amphibious Group during the passage were HMS Antrim, HMS Broadsword, HMS Brilliant, HMS Plymouth, HMS Yarmouth, HMS Argonaut, HMS Ardent and RFA Fort Austin.

The ships of the Task Force ran in under the watchful gaze of a Nimrod MR.2P, once again searching the Argentine coast for signs of naval activity and finding none. The aircraft would be airborne 18hrs and 51 minutes and cover 8,453 miles at the time the record holder for the longest operational reconnaissance mission ever undertaken.

From 02:00 the Task Force landed several thousand troops at San Carlos Water, 50 miles west of Port Stanley. The British bridgehead was established totally unopposed at Port San Carlos, with a combined total of 2,500 Royal Marines and Paras put ashore.

Deployment: 
40 Commando RM - San Carlos 
45 Commando RM - Ajax Bay 
2 PARA - Sussex Mountains 
3 PARA - Port San Carlos 
42 Commando RM - initially held in reserve.

A diversionary attack on Goose Green, was carried out by some forty members of the Special Air Service, and lasted through the night. So effective was this diversion that the Argentines estimated the attacking strength to be that of a Battalion. A typical Battalion consists of around 600 men; the Special Air Service gave excellent value for money that night.

Dawn broke with British forces well established ashore and sending out patrols to secure the high ground. A brief skirmish occurred with a small force of Argentines troops, who up to that point, appeared happy to avoid contact with the Marines and Paras. As they withdrew, they opened fire on two Royal Marine Gazelles shooting them both down with small arms fire near Port San Carlos. The crews were killed.

The first Argentine response to the arrival of the Task Force was to send a Pucara on a dawn reconnaissance. Unfortunately the pilot, Captain Benitez, over flew a Special Air Service patrol withdrawing from contact at Goose Green and received a Stinger missile from behind. The first Captain Benitez knew of the attack was the missile impacting one of his engine exhausts, causing sufficient damage to make the aircraft become more and more uncontrollable. He ejected shortly afterward, and having landed safely began the walk to Goose Green which he completed early that evening.

 

Also just after first light HMS Hermes and HMS Invincible launched their Sea Harriers to place a barrier between the Task Force and the approach of attacking aircraft from the mainland.

The first air attack came at about 10:00 from a single MB339 based at Port Stanley. Lt Crippa swept low over the hills surrounding San Carlos water and found himself face to face with what he described as "looked like the whole British fleet". Braving withering fire he launched an attack on HMS Argonaut, with 30mm cannon and fired four 5 inch rockets, damaging some upper deck fittings and injuring three crew members. For this lone attack he was awarded the 'Argentine Medal for Heroism and Bravery' the highest decoration to be awarded in the Argentine Navy during the conflict.

Some 30 minutes later six Daggers of Groupo 6 arrived from the mainland, to carry out an armed reconnaissance. The aircraft led by Major Martinez sighted ships in Falkland Sound. Martinez went for HMS Broadsword, two went for HMS Argonaut and the remaining three went for HMS Antrim. The Daggers attacked with 1000lb bombs and 30mm cannon. The ships defended themselves and one Dagger was hit with a Sea Cat missile, the aircraft hitting the sea, no one being seen to eject. The remaining Daggers went supersonic and turned for home, chased by Sea Harriers directed on to them by HMS Brilliant, but the speed differential was too great and they made good their escape. HMS Antrim was the most severely damaged and had a 1000lb bomb lodged in her stern, she moved in to San Carlos Water to afford herself some protection while work went on to remove the unexploded bomb. HMS Argonaut, HMS Brilliant, and HMS Broadsword all moved close to the inlet of San Carlos Water to give each other mutual support against further air attacks.

The next air action occurred at around noon when two Pucaras of Groupo 3, flown by Major Tomba and Lt Micheloud, took off from Goose Green intending to attack the beachhead area. HMS Ardent engaged the pair at long range with her 4.5 inch gun, scoring no hits. They initially turned away and then turned as if to attack. AgainArdent fired her 4.5 inch gun and with the range reducing fired a Sea Cat missile, neither hitting its target. HMSBrilliant had been watching the slow moving targets on radar and vectored three 801 NAS Sea Harriers in to investigate. The three aircraft, led by Lt Cdr Sharkey Ward, with Lt Thomas, and Lt Craig descended into the fray, chasing the now violently manoeuvring Pucaras. Thomas and Craig attacked the Pucara of Tomba but were moving to fast to score hits, and flew past. In the confusion Lt Micheloud made good his escape. Tomba now had Lt Cdr Ward closing on his tail. Ward fired his 30mm Aden cannon, and hit the Pucaras left aileron shooting it to pieces, the aircraft flew on. Ward climbed, turned, and re-attacked, this time lowering his flaps to slow even further. Firing again Ward hit the aircrafts right engine and observed bits to come off the wing, but still the aircraft flew on. On his third pass Ward hit the left engine which started to burn and large pieces came of the fuselage and around the cockpit. As he turned away Ward was convinced the aircraft would never go down when he saw Major Tomba eject, the Pucara drop and slide over the peat to a halt. Major Tomba landed uninjured not far from his downed aircraft and began the walk back to Goose Green.

 

As Lt Cdr Blissett and Lt Cdr Thomas of 800 NAS arrived on station above Falkland Sound they were vectored by HMS Brilliant to attack a Skyhawk which had just attacked but caused no damage to HMS Ardent. The pair descended and accelerated, but never saw the single Skyhawk; instead just by Chartres Settlement they came across a flight of four Skyhawks flying from left to right in front of them. Seeing the Sea Harriers the Skyhawks accelerated and turned to starboard, at the same time jettisoning their under wing tanks and bombs. Lt Cdr Blissett was the first to achieve a firing solution, and launched an AIM-9 Sidewinder. Blissett was then distracted as a Sidewinder, fired by his wingman Lt Cdr Thomas, appeared over his left shoulder and made chase after its own target. Lt Cdr Blissett recalls seeing "a huge fireball in front of me" as his missile impacted and destroyed his Skyhawk. Lt Cdr Thomas’ missile had a similar effect on his targeted Skyhawk and Blissett observed it as it spiralled to the ground on fire. Lt Cdr Blissett then exhausted his 30mm ammunition in short bursts at one of the remaining Skyhawks before turning home for HMS Hermes very short on fuel.

With the time approaching 14:30 the mainland based aircraft had returned to base and debriefed, allowing the Argentines to prepare more thoroughly for the next wave. British forces recognised this possibility and stepped up their Sea Harrier sorties from two pairs per hour to three pairs per hour.

Lt Cdr 'Fred' Frederiksen and Lt Andy George of 800 NAS had just started their patrol when one of the first new wave of raids came in: four Daggers had been seen on radar before the dropped to low level. HMS Brilliantdirected Frederiksen and George to the west to intercept. At about 2,500ft over the settlement at Chartres, Frederiksen saw the four Daggers as they crossed the coast about three miles away. Lt Cdr Frederiksen put his number two Lt George into a one mile trail behind himself to keep an eye open for escorts, as he accelerated and went for the left hand element of the formation, with Lt George, having checked that there were no escorts taking the right hand element. Frederiksen went for the tail end Dagger of Lt Luna, getting a lock on, and launching an AIM-9 Sidewinder which impacted Luna’s Dagger in the tail area. Losing control Luna instinctively pulled back on the control column, but due to the damage the Dagger entered a violent roll. With no time to consider anything else he pulled the ejection seat handle. A split second after Luna left the doomed Dagger it smashed into the ground, so close that Luna could feel the heat and blast. Moments later Luna was dumped on the ground, surrounded by burning wreckage, he had a dislocated shoulder and sprained knee. Releasing his parachute, he crawled clear of the remnants of what moments before had been his aircraft. Frederiksen then engaged the element leader with his 30mm cannon but scored no hits. The Daggers having seen the loss of a comrade but not having seen either of the Sea Harriers, pressed on towards their target. Lt Cdr Frederiksen and Lt George last saw the remaining three Daggers as they entered cloud.

While Lt Cdr Frederiksen and Lt George had been engaging the Daggers over West Falkland, a force of Skyhawks had managed to arrive uninterrupted at Falklands Sound. Six of these aircraft singled out HMS Argonaut for their attention, and she was hit by two 1000lb bombs. One smashed her hull just above the waterline just between the engine room and boiler room, causing a boiler to explode and wrecking her steering gear. The second impacted below the water line, travelled through two fuel tanks, through the sonar room and lodged itself in the ships forward Sea Cat magazine where it caused two missiles to explode killing two crew. Although the bombs had caused secondary explosions neither had detonated. Argonaut was now in the position that she had no steering gear and her engines were running at high speed, pushing the ship at speed towards Fanning Head. Realising what was happening Sub Lieutenant Peter Morgan grabbed a couple of men, and ran across the exposed foredeck where they successfully released the anchor bringing the ship to a halt. Morgan would later receive the Distinguished Service Order for his Actions. HMS Argonaut was now stuck fast, in an extremely exposed position with around three hours of daylight left.

Almost immediately HMS Ardent became the centre of attention of the remaining three Daggers of Groupo 6 that had avoided Frederiksen and George. As the aircraft closed on their target from the stern her Captain Alan West tried to manoeuvre her to bring her 4.5 inch gun to bear. He also expected to see a Sea Cat missile leave the launcher but for some reason it refused to fire. Unable to bring her 4.5 inch gun to bear, and her missiles failing to launch, left Ardent defended only by 20mm cannon and light machine guns. Being virtually distracted, the Argentine pilots were able to release their weapons from an altitude that allowed the bombs to arm in flight. One bomb impacted the stern of the ship and exploded. It impacted close to the Lynx hangar blowing off the roof and folding it over the starboard side, and destroying the Lynx. Several crew members had been killed or injured,Ardent had an unexploded bomb lodged aft, she had taken severe damage and had several fires but the damage control teams had them under control, there was no serious flooding and the ships steering and engines still operated, Ardent was far from finished. Cdr West signalled that Ardent could float and move, but due to the damage to her systems she could hardly fight. West was ordered to move north-west where Ardent could receive mutual protection from the other warships there.

The time was now about 14:45 and HMS Brilliant suffered a strafing run with 30mm cannon causing injuries from shell splinters. Further aircraft, Skyhawks of Groupo 5, ran into San Carlos Water, and engaged HMS Ardent again as she pulled out of Grantham Sound, hitting her with two more bombs that detonated in the area of the stern,Ardent was now in a bad way.

Over the valley between Mount Maria and Mount Jock, Lt Cdr Ward and Lt Thomas were patrolling, as the valley had been used previously in the day by attacking aircraft. Thomas caught sight of a pair of Daggers below them, their yellow identification panels showing up clearly. Thomas dove into attack, locked a Sidewinder on the rearmost aircraft and fired; the missile struck the Dagger and blew it apart. Thomas then turned his attention to the second Dagger, again locked up the target and fired his second Sidewinder. This followed the Dagger around the corner and exploded with a bright flash but the aircraft didn’t explode. Argentine records show this aircraft crashed shortly afterwards from damage inflicted by the Sidewinder. While watching Thomas engaging his Daggers Lt Cdr Ward saw a third Dagger heading west. He called Thomas to say he had a third aircraft in sight and gave chase pulling the Sea Harrier round hard, obtaining a lock and firing a Sidewinder. The missile impacted the aircraft and sent it cart wheeling to the ground. Remarkably all three Argentine pilots ejected safely.

At Falkland Sound three Skyhawks of 3rd Naval Fighter and Attack Escuadrillia descended to low level before entering San Carlos Water. The Aircraft made a bee line towards HMS Ardent, and once again Ardent was struck by bombs, but not before Petty Officer John Leake, Ardents NAAFI manager, had hit one of the Skyhawks with small arms fire, stitching a row of holes in the aircrafts wing. By now HMS Ardent was fatally crippled, and with HMS Yarmouth along side Cdr West would give the order to abandon ship, Cdr Alan West being the last man to leave this brave little ship. Twenty two of the ships company had been killed and thirty injured. HMS Ardent, having been hit by seven 1000lb and 500lb bombs finally sank six hours later.

For the three attacking Skyhawks all was not well. Over Goose Green at 10,000ft were Lt Morrell and Flt Lt Leeming of 800 NAS on route to start their patrol. Both heard the radio reports of the attack on Ardent. Morrell had seen the bombs explode and thought that the attackers would try to escape down the Sound to the south-west. Morrell looked where he thought they should be and lo and behold through a hole in the cloud appeared three Skyhawks. The Sea Harriers rolled and dived at full throttle towards their prey. Morrell manoeuvred behind one Skyhawk and having got a lock fired a Sidewinder which tracked to the Skyhawks tail and exploded. The Skyhawk pitched violently and as it went out of control its pilot ejected. Morrell tried to fire a second Sidewinder at another of the Skyhawks but it refused to come off the rail. Morrell switched to his 30mm cannon and emptied his magazines at the Skyhawk but saw no hits, he then switched back to missiles and this time the AIM-9 fired of its own accord, but then lost interest stopped guiding and fell into the sea. One Skyhawk appeared not to see Flt Lt Leeming coming up behind him. Leeming selected Guns and fired a few tentative bursts at the Skyhawk. The third burst splashed into the sea near to the Skyhawk and the pilot must have then realised what was happening as he attempted to manoeuvre. By then it was too late, Leeming was within 200 yards and had the sight on the cockpit area of the Skyhawk, he fired and as the first cannon shells impacted the aircraft exploded. Leeming later stated he believed the engine must have broken up as the Skyhawk just disintegrated. The third Skyhawk had a lucky escape when Morrell’s second Sidewinder failed to guide, but that is where his luck ran out. This was the aircraft of Lt Arca, which had been hit by the machine gun fire of Petty Officer Leake. It had also been hit by some of Morrellls 30mm cannon rounds. Arca’s aircraft was losing fuel so rapidly that he would never reach his home base of Rio Grande or the C-130 tanker orbiting off the coast. His only alternative was to land his crippled jet at Port Stanley Airfield, but when he got there he found he could not lower his undercarriage. Lt Arca ejected from his aircraft and landed in the sea from where he was picked up by helicopter.

For 1(F) Sqn the conflict starts with mixed fortunes. The Sqn's first mission of the day is flown by Sqn Ldr Pook and Flt Lt Hare carrying out an armed reconnaissance for a helicopter forward operating base in the area of Mount Kent. Each Harrier is armed with a pair of BL755 Cluster bombs and 30mm cannon. The pair arrived at the target area just as it was getting light, to find a Chinook, two Pumas and a Bell UH-1 sitting on the ground well spaced apart. On the initial attack run neither pilot was able to score any hits so they pulled a hard left turn around Mount Kent and re attacked. Flt Lt Hare lined up on the Chinook and opened fire with his 30mm cannon, walking the rounds onto the target, the helicopter explode in flames. The pair continued to attack and each managed to set fire to a Puma, the UH-1 was almost impossible to target in the half light and it lived to fight another day. While on his last run Hare felt a thud on his aircraft and on returning to Hermes found three bullet holes in his aircraft.

Shortly after Sqn Ldr Pook and Flt Lt Hare landed back on, Wg Cdr Squire and Flt Lt Glover took off briefed to provide support to troops in the landing area. Almost straight away the mission dissolved. Wg Cdr Squire was unable to retract the undercarriage on his aircraft and was fridge to return to Hermes. Flt Lt Glover went on alone. On arriving in the San Carlos are he asked the Forward Air Controller for a target for his BL755 Cluster bombs. The reply came back that there appeared to be no enemy troops in the vicinity and Glover was asked to fly to Port Howard, about 20 miles away, and attack enemy positions there. Glover made a high speed low level run through the area but saw nothing to indicate a presence. Shots were fired at Glover but didn’t hit and without Glover knowing. Reporting back he had seen nothing he was requested to photograph the area so positions could be identified for future attack. Returning to an area just over flown is fraught with danger, so Glover headed for West Falkland to allow things to quieten down. Returning about 15 minutes after the first run he flew low and fast over the settlement, his camera clicking and seeing nothing of the enemy. The first indication of their presence was his aircraft shuddering under the impact of exploding cannon shells, three in all and likely 20mm. The aircraft flicked into an uncontrollable roll to the right and with little other thought than survival Glover ejected into the 600mph air stream, losing consciousness. Glover came to in the water with a broken left arm, shoulder and collar bone. Almost immediately he was picked up by boat and given medical aid.

1(F) Sqn had suffered its first loss of the conflict and although it hit home hard, their fears were somewhat relieved when an Argentine signal was intercepted that referred to a Flt Lt William Glover.

Flt Lt Dave Morgan probably summed up the day when he said "May 21st was a heavy day".

Losses today:

Royal Air Force/Royal Navy

2 x Gazelles – Royal Marines – Port San Carlos - Shot down by small arms fire during initial landings – both crews killed.

Harrier GR.3 – 1(F) Squadron – Port Howard – Shot down by Anti Aircraft Fire possibly 20mm – Flt Lt Glover ejected, and taken Prisoner of War.

Argentine Forces

Chinook (Army) – Mount Kent – Destroyed on the ground by 30mm cannon fire from 1(F) Sqn Harrier GR.3 flown by Flt Lt Hare.

Puma (Army) – Mount Kent – Destroyed on the ground by 30mm cannon fire from 1(F) Sqn Harrier GR.3 flown by Flt Lt Hare.

Puma (Army) – Mount Kent – Destroyed on the ground by 30mm cannon fire from 1(F) Sqn Harrier GR.3 flown by Sqn Ldr Pook.

Pucara - Groupo 3 – Sussex Mountains – Shot down by ‘Stinger’ ManPAD fired by Special Air Service troops. Capt Benitez ejected.

Dagger – Groupo 6 – Nr Fanning Head, Falkland Sound – Engaged by Sea Cat missiles from HMS Plymouth and HMS Argonaut, aircraft crashed into the sea

killing its pilot Lt Bean.

Pucara – Groupo 3 – Nr Darwin – Engaged by Sea Harriers of 801 NAS flown by Lt Cdr Ward, Lt Cdr Craig and Lt Thomas, Shot Down with 30mm cannon fire, credited to Ward. The pilot Major Tomba ejected.

Skyhawk - Groupo 4 - Nr Chartres, West Falkland - Engaged by Sea Harrier of 800 NAS flown by Lt Cdr Blissett - Shot down with AIM-9L Sidewinder. Lt Lopez killed.

Skyhawk - Groupo 4 - Nr Chartres, West Falkland - Engaged by Sea Harrier of 800 NAS flown by Lt Cdr Thomas. Both shot down with AIM-9L Sidewinder. Lt Manzotti killed.

Dagger – Groupo 6 – South East of Mount Robinson – Shot Down by AIM-9L Sidewinder fired from Sea Harrier flown by Lt Cdr Frederiksen of 800 NAS. Lt Luna ejected with injuries.

3 x Dagger – Groupo 6 – North of Port Howard – Two Shot down by Lt Thomas, and one shot down by Lt Cdr Ward of 801 NAS – All shot down with AIM-9L Sidewinder. Major Piuma, Captain Donadille and Lt Senn all ejected.

Skyhawk – 3rd Naval Fighter Attack Squadron – Falkland sound – Shot down by AIM-9L Sidewinder fired from 800 NAS Sea Harrier by Lt Morrell. The Pilot Lt Cdr Phillippi ejected.

Skyhawk – 3rd Naval Fighter Attack Squadron – Falkland Sound – Shot Down by 30mm cannon fire from 800 NAS Sea Harrier flown by Flt Lt Leeming. The pilot, Lt Marquez was killed.

Skyhawk – 3rd Naval Fighter Attack Squadron – Falkland sound & Port Stanley – Damaged by small arms while attacking HMS Ardent – Further damaged by 30mm cannon fire from 800 NAS sea Harrier flown By Lt Morrell – Attempted emergency landing at Port Stanley Airfield but undercarriage was inoperative and would not lower – Pilot Lt Arca elected to abandon the aircraft and ejected to safety.

22nd May

An Argentine Air Force Boeing 707 on a reconnaissance mission narrowly avoided being hit by Sea Dart missile from HMS Coventry as a flash-door failed safe, preventing the missile loading on the launcher.

A second 707 approached the HMS Bristol Group later in the morning. RFA Tidespring had reported the aircraft's presence and HMS Cardiff dropped back from the group. When the 707 came within her range, HMS Cardiff fired a Sea Dart salvo. One missile was seen to burst close to the target which broke away in a high speed dive and returned to Argentine airspace. HMS Broadsword later joined HMS Coventry on the missile trap station off Pebble Island.

Both Carriers maintained a strong CAP, with sixty sorties being flown. However due to extremely bad weather on the mainland prevented the Argentine Forces launching any air strikes until later in the day when a pair of Skyhawks ran through San Carlos Water at last light, dropped their weapons with no effect and sped clear.

During the first CAP of the day launched from HMS Hermes, Lt Cdr Frederiksen and Lt McHale were approaching Goose Green when they sighted the Argentine Coast Guard patrol boat Rio Iguazu on its way to deliver supplies to the argentine troops garrisoned there. After receiving permission the pair dived on the boat and strafed it with 30mm cannon fire, leaving it burning. The boat was later that afternoon aground among the kelp having been abandoned by its crew.

HMS Brilliant and HMS Yarmouth transited south. Shortly before midnight a Lynx was flown to investigate a radar contact made in Lively Sound; the vessel was identified as the Argentine coaster Monsunnen. The crew ran the fully serviceable ship aground among the kelp and escaped over the rocks.

Today also saw the setting up of the Field Hospital in the old freezer buildings at Ajax Bay. Known to the troops and the 'Red and Green Life Machine' the painting of Red Cross markings would do little in the coming days to ensure its safety from attack.

For 1(F) Sqn, although the operation to retake the islands continues, there was no requirement for Close Air Support. A pre-planned four ship sortie is carried against Goose Green, which is heavily defended, along with one armed recce sortie.

The first mission was tasked as a four aircraft attack on tented positions and possible dispersed Pucaras at Goose Green. The pilots selected for this mission were Sqn Ldr Pook, Sqn Ldr Iveson, Sqn Ldr Harris, and Flt Lt Rochfort.

Reconnaissance photographs of the airfield were available and heavy Anti Aircraft Artillery (AAA) was known to be in the area. The attack was therefore planned as a simultaneous attack from the East. Low cloud on the transit to the target necessitated the Harriers ingressed at Ultra Low Level. At 2km from the target area Sqn Ldr Pook eased up to 200ft and dropped chaff as briefed. He saw nothing at his pre-briefed target marker so attacked a camouflaged box-bodied vehicle on the rear edge of the airstrip. Sqn Ldr Iveson attacked a line of fox-holes on the Northern edge of the field and saw Sqn Ldr Pook's weapons cause secondary explosions. Both pilots saw considerable Anti Aircraft Artillery (AAA), which appeared to be aimed at them.

On his run-in Sqn Ldr Harris was locked-up by a Fledermaus radar but this was broken by a hard jink and releasing chaff. Despite a considerable barrage of AAA he continued his attack but his cluster bombs hung-up. Flt Lt Rochfort dropped his weapons on his briefed target. All four aircraft then ran-out to the West at Ultra Low Level and reformed for the uneventful recovery to Hermes.

During the mid afternoon; and while preparing to launch an armed recce mission the Sqn receive confirmation that Flt Lt Glover is a Prisoner of War, albeit injured. The Squadron cannot communicate this to UK owing to a possible compromise of sources and they have to hope that the Red Cross get in on the act as soon as possible. It will in fact be some days before official information is received regarding the status of Glover as a Prisoner of War.

The late mission, flown by Wg Cdr Squire and Flt Lt Harper, was to carry out an armed recce of the airstrip at Weddell Island. During the transit a strong radar lock from astern forced the pair into an early descent. In retrospect this was probably Sea Harrier radar, and resulted in both aircraft having minimum fuel available in the target area. While en-route at low-level a commercial freighter, later identified as the MV Monsunnen, was seen on a heading of 140 degrees. The two aircraft were short on fuel and were also unsure of the Rules of Engagement so continued to the West. The armed recce was carried out but nothing was seen so the pair returned to the Carrier.

Generally, it had been a quiet day. The Argentines appeared to be attempting to re-supply their forces, but other than that following the debacle of the 21st today was somewhat of an anticlimax.

23rd May

The first air activity of the day was by 1(F) Sqn and was a four aircraft attack on Dunnose Head airstrip in West Falkland which might be a Forward Operating Base for Pucara aircraft or possibly even Hercules. The weapons used are a mixture of CBUs and 1000lb bombs to reduce the time over target. The aircrew for the sortie are Wg Cdr Squire, Sqn Ldr Harris, Flt Lt Hare and Flt Lt A Harper. The aircraft all delivered their weapons on the airfield but there were no troops or aircraft in the area. Flt Lt Mark Hare is hit by the CBU furniture of his leader and drops his bombs late. Sadly this caused damage to local houses. After the conflict was over Flt Lt Hare went ashore with a group of 1(F) Sqn members to help repair the damage. Here he met the farm manager Jimmy Forster who remarked dryly, "If you wanted the runway destroyed why didn’t you tell us? We’d have ploughed it up for you!."

Shortly after the attack on Dunnose Head, Flt Lt Morgan and Flt Lt Leeming of 800 NAS were flying a CAP at 8000 ft over Falkland Sound when Morgan noticed the rotating disk of a helicopter below him in Shag Cove. A former Helicopter pilot Morgan realised that the pilot had made a fundamental blunder in crossing the water which is normally avoided. With Leeming following, Morgan dived down to identify the aircraft. The aircraft dropped close to the ground and at about 500 yards Morgan recognised the helicopter as a Puma, he also realised that the British forces didn’t have any in theatre, so it had to be a 'Hostile'. As he called it Hostile to Flt Lt Leeming, Leeming replied "There are four of them" Morgan then saw a further two Pumas behind the first and these were followed by an Augusta 109. Morgan attempted to engage the lead Puma but was to close, so he pulled a hard climbing turn to re-engage. On looking back the Puma he had over flown was smashed out of control into a hill side and exploded in a ball of flame. Either the pilot had lost control trying to evade, or the Harriers slipstream had caused the helicopter to crash. Post conflict examination showed that the aircraft was heavily laden with mortar bombs which may have contributed to the aircrafts demise. In the meantime the A.109 had landed and the crew were making their escape on foot. The Sea Harriers strafed the target and set it on fire. Just as they were about to depart Flt Lt Leeming spotted the other Pumas on the ground further up the valley. He and Morgan engaged them with cannon fire but had to depart leaving one of them intact due to lack of ammunition, However while climbing out to return to the carrier they gave the position to the control ship who vectored a pair of 801 NAS Sea Harriers to the position, where they shot up the last Puma. All four helicopters were destroyed.

Later that day news is received that Flt Lt Glover is to be transferred by helicopter from Goose Green to Stanley. All helicopters are removed from the ROE until the following day.

In the vicinity of the beach head there was little in the way of air activity until after mid day. On this day however a new Argentine unit appeared. The Fenix Escuadron flew HS.125 and Learjet aircraft in the decoy role trying to draw the defending Sea Harriers away from the fleet. They also provided communications between the radars at Port Stanley and the attacking Daggers and Skyhawks, providing the locations of the Sea Harrier CAPs.

The first attack came around 14:00, when small formations of Skyhawks managed to evade the defending Sea Harriers. During one of these attacks Lt Filipini of Groupo 5 flew so low that he hit the mast of HMS Antelopecollapsing it. Another aircraft of the same unit was not so lucky; almost as it released its weapons it was hit virtually simultaneously by a Sea Wolf Missile from HMS Broadsword and a shore based Rapier. The pilot Lt Guadagnini was killed.

A period of relative quiet then descended for about two hours, then a flight of Daggers made an unsuccessful attack around 16:00. Lt Cdr Auld and Lt Hale were flying CAP when Hale saw a Dagger running out west at high speed over Pebble Island. Lt Hale pulled into a firing position but the opening distance was too great. However as he looked around he spotted the Daggers number two about a mile and a half in trail. The Dagger tried to out accelerate Hale, but Hale dropped in behind the aircraft at a range of about half a mile, got a good tone and fired a Sidewinder. The missile tracked all the way up the Daggers tail Pipe where it exploded destroying the aircraft and sending it into Horseshoe Bay

Later that night 800 NAS launched four aircraft to loft bombs on Stanley airfield. The aircraft with Lt Cdr Batt piloting it flew into the sea shortly after take-off and exploded. Lt Cdr Batt was killed.

In San Carlos Water that night one of the bombs lodged in HMS Antelope exploded while an Army bomb disposal team worked to make it safe. One man was killed the other seriously injured. The weapons explosive power blew a hole in the ships side from water line to funnel starting a ferocious and uncontrollable fire that burnt its way to the main magazine, which exploded en masse. After several secondary explosions Antelope's fire burnt out and she sank early the next morning.

Of all the bombs that had hit the ships about 50% had failed to explode. To the Royal Navy keeping this fact concealed was vital. It was to the Royal Navy’s great consternation that during news bulletins on the 23rd May the BBC World Service the Argentines were told their weapons were not exploding and being defused! At the time many servicemen held the BBC to be responsible of High Treason, and it almost certainly led the Argentine forces to review the fusing arrangements in their weapons.

Losses today:

Royal Navy

Sea Harrier – 800 NAS - East of Falklands – Crashed into sea shortly after take off – Lt Cdr Batt Killed

Argentine Forces

Puma – Army – Nr Shag Cove – Flew into ground evading 800 NAS Sea Harrier flown by Flt Lt Morgan – Credited to Morgan

Augusta 109 – Army - Nr Shag Cove – Strafed by Sea Harrier 30mm Cannon on ground – Shared between Morgan and Leeming

Puma – Army – Nr Shag Cove – Strafed by Sea Harrier 30mm cannon on ground – credited to Flt Lt Morgan

Puma – Army – Nr Shag Cove – Strafed by 801 NAS Sea Harrier 30mm cannon on ground – Shared by Lt Cdr Gedge and Lt Cdr Braithwaite

Skyhawk – Groupo 5 – San Carlos Water – Shot down by combined weapons fire. Claims for this day:- HMSBroadsword, one with Sea Wolf, one with 40mm Bofors. HMS Antelope, one with Sea Cat. Rapier claimed three, Blowpipe operators also claimed. Lt Guadagnini killed

Dagger – Groupo 6 – Pebble Island - Shot down by Sidewinder fired by Lt Hale of 800 NAS – Lt Volponi killed

24th May

Just after first light, two Sea Harriers of 800 NAS and four Harrier GR.3s of 1(F) Sqn, carried out a co-ordinated attack on the airfield at Port Stanley with the intention of putting it out of use. The Sea Harriers flown by Lt Cdr Blissett and Lt Cdr Thomas approached from the north east and each delivered two 1000lb radar fused bombs set to airburst to distract the defences. Almost immediately afterward two Harrier GR.3s piloted by Sqn Ldr Iveson and Flt Lt Harper attacked the airfield from the northwest, each delivering three 1000lb parachute retarded bombs. The pair delivered their weapons with little interference from the defences. By the time Wg Cdr Squire and Flt Lt Hare arrived from the west they not only had to contend with the debris thrown up by the previous pair but the defences were now fully awake and concentrating their fire on them. In spite of these distractions the pair delivered their weapons and departed at high speed at low level. It later became evident that the attack had failed to damage the airfield. Two bombs damaged the edge of the runway while others hit it square but failed to detonate, the Argentines weren’t the only ones to suffer with fusing problems. All the Harriers returned safely with two receiving minor small arms damage.

About 100 miles to the west of Port Stanley moves were afoot to improve the early warning radar coverage of the islands, and Port San Carlos in particular. This had necessitated the destroyer HMS Coventry and the frigate HMS Broadsword moving north-west from the Task force to a position adjacent to Pebble Island. Late that morning the new disposition of the ships brought rewards.

Lt Cdr Auld and Lt Smith 800 NAS were on CAP when Broadsword detected targets inbound to the islands. The pair were vectored to the targets by HMS Broadsword and straight away Lt Cdr Auld spotted a flight of four Daggers from Groupo 6 running in low and fast. Pulling hard he attained a firing position in their six o'clock, getting a lock on first one then as second he fired both his sidewinders and destroyed two of the Daggers. Lt Smith picked up the number three and again locked up a sidewinder and engaged his target destroying it. The fourth Dagger had turned for home and was now exiting the area low and fast to the west. Although both aircraft followed the range, speed differential, and running low on fuel for the Harriers meant it would live to fight another day.

Three Skyhawks of Groupo 4 were also in action in San Carlos Water that morning. Having attacked the fleet and scoring no hits the aircraft were engaged by multiple weapons both afloat and ashore. All the Skyhawks were hit, but the aircraft of Lt Bono was worst hit with a serious fuel leak. Although he flew on for some time, while in the ascent to altitude to return to the mainland his aircraft entered a descending turn and impacted the sea. No one was seen to eject.

That night having delivered cargo to Port Stanley a C-130 Hercules left the airfield with Flt Lt Glover on board. Throughout his captivity his treatment was always correct and sometimes even friendly. Having been shot down on the evening of the 22nd he was flown to Goose Green by helicopter, on the 23rd he was flown again by helicopter from Goose Green to Port Stanley. Flt Lt Glover later commented that his biggest worry was the C-130 being intercepted by Sea Harriers and being shot down by his own side. The C-130 was not intercepted and three hours later he landed at the Argentine airbase of Commodoro Rividavia.

Losses today:

Argentine Forces

3 x Dagger – Groupo 6 – Nr Pebble Island – Two Shot down by Sidewinder fired by Lt Cdr Auld of 800 NAS – One shot down by Sidewinder fired by Lt Smith of 800NAS. Lt Castillo Killed, Capt Diaz and Maj Puga ejected.

Skyhawk – Groupo 4 – West of West Falkland – Crashed into the sea having been engaged by multiple weapons. Claims this day: HMS Argonaut one with Seas Cat one with 40mm Bofors, HMS Fearless one with Sea Cat, Rapier claimed three and multiple 'Blowpipe' operators claimed.

25th May

May the 25th is the Argentine national day and consequently the Task Force expected a special effort to be made today against the forces in and around the beachhead.

During the morning an Argentine Learjet, of Air Photographic Escuadron 1, part of Groupo 2, flew a high altitude reconnaissance of the San Carlos area at 40,000ft. As the aircraft passed HMS Coventry tried to engage it with Sea Dart missiles but before they could be launched the Learjet passed out of range.

Around late morning and at midday Small groups of Skyhawks penetrated the trough to the landing area. The attacks were however ineffective and costly with no hits scored by any of the Skyhawks mainly due to the fierce reception they received from sea and shore based weapons systems. Two Groupo 4 aircraft were lost on San Carlos water due to this heavy fire. Only one pilot ejected, Lt Lucero, the other Lt Garcia being killed. A third Skyhawk, this time of Groupo 5, was shot down but was an 'Own Goal' being hit by the Argentine Anti Aircraft gun crews at Goose Green.

At midday a mission was tasked as a six aircraft attack on the runway at Port Stanley Airfield. Each pair of GR.3s was lead by a Sea Harrier. The 1(F) pilots flying the mission were Wg Cdr Squire, Sqn Ldr Pook, Sqn Ldr Harris, and Flt Lt Rochfort. The attack was carried out with the GR.3s formatting on Sea Harriers in loose vic formation for simultaneous release of bombs. Following the release of his weapons Sqn Ldr Pook climbed into the airfield overhead to observe 'fall of shot'. Bombs from the first three aircraft were seen to impact on the West end of the airfield whilst those from the second wave fell approximately 100 yards north of the Eastern threshold. Whilst in the overhead, Sqn Ldr Pook was locked up by Roland and saw the missile in flight. It peaked at about 15,000ft - some distance below him. He also saw a Tiger Cat launched against the second wave; this too fell short.

Sqn Ldr Harris and Flt Lt Hare later carried out a further similar mission to drop free-fall 1000lb bombs against Port Stanley Airfield runway from a level delivery at 20,000ft. The bombs were dropped singly, but aiming for this method of delivery is imprecise, the fall of only 3 bombs being seen and these fell in Yorke Bay. Harris and Hare both saw AAA and Roland fired during the attacks but their aircraft remained out of range.

Sqn Ldr Harris flew a final late singleton mission to carry out a further medium-level bombing of Port Stanley Airfield runway but owing to the weather, this was changed to 30-degree loft. All 3 bombs fell short of their target.

At around 14:00 a force of four Skyhawks of Groupo 5 arrived with the sole intention of attacking the radar picket ships near Pebble Island. Two of the Skyhawks closed rapidly on HMS Broadsword, pursued by Lt Cdr Thomas of 800 NAS and his wingman. Thomas was told to break off from his attack as they were in danger of enteringBroadswords MEG (Missile Engagement Zone). Just as The Sea Harriers broke away HMS Broadswords missile control radar tripped out and broke lock, leaving the frigate virtually undefended, all the crew could do was brace themselves for the inevitable impact. Three of the four weapons missed, the fourth bounced off the surface of the water like a skimmed stone, travelled up hitting the ships hangar deck, on the way through it destroyed the nose of the Lynx helicopter and exited the other side before falling harmlessly into the sea.

At about the same time a second pair of Skyhawks about ten miles away from HMS Coventry were attacking at maximum speed. Again the Sea Harriers gave chase, again Broadsword locked up the targets with Sea Wolf and again the Sea Harriers were ordered to break away. Coventry fired a Sea Dart and opened fire with her 4.5 inch gun missing with both. Broadsword was just on the point of engaging the incoming aircraft when the manoeuvringCoventry cut across her bow and shielded the Skyhawks from Broadsword causing her missile control radar to break lock again.

In war survival can often be dictated by having 'a little luck'. Today lady luck deserted HMS Coventry. Three bombs impacted Coventry penetrating deep into her and exploding, blasting a great hole in her side. She was on fire, flooding, had lost all power and her communications were gone. Sea King and Wessex helicopters surrounded her like flies and winched many men to safety, while boats from Broadsword picked up others. That afternoon 238 men were plucked to safety as Coventry rolled over and sank. 19 men died in the initial attack.

The loss of HMS Coventry was bad enough for the Task Force to bear but worse was yet to be inflicted upon them.

Late in the afternoon, closing on the Task Force at their attack speed of 630mph was a pair of Exocet armed Super Etendards. Their pilots engaged their radar and climbed to search for targets. Almost straight away they saw their targets on radar, selected their missiles destinations and launched their deadly load, before descending and turning sharply to return home. The frigate HMS Ambuscade was the first to raise the alarm when its sensors detected the Etendards radar transmissions. Ambuscade flashed a warning message to the fleet, their crews were brought to readiness, chaff fired and the adapted Lynx helicopters on Hermes and Invincible took off to attempt to deceive the inbound missiles. There is evidence to suggest that either the Lynx or the Chaff were successful in decoying the missiles away from the carriers, but one Exocet appears to have re-locked onto theAtlantic Conveyor, while the other simply ran on until, its fuel spent, it fell into the sea. Seen from HMS Hermes, the missile ran in at wave top height leaving a trail of smoke behind and smashed into the port side of Atlantic Conveyor where its warhead exploded. Helicopters were scrambled to pick up survivors and to assist in what ever way they could but the situation on board would ultimately prove to be hopeless.

As a result of the attack on Atlantic Conveyor twelve men including her master, Captain Ian North perished. There were hopes that some stores might be recovered from the vessel but before anything could be done she foundered and sank on the 30th May.

At the time she was hit Atlantic Conveyor had managed to fly off all the Harrier GR.3s and Sea Harriers she had brought south, as well as one Chinook and one Wessex. The spread of the fires was so rapid that even if had all the remaining helicopters been readied for flight it is doubtful they could have been got off. This meant the loss of six Wessex, three Chinook and a Lynx - important helicopters, all of which were destroyed. It also meant the loss of other vital supplies such as spare parts for aircraft, around 200 Cluster bomb units, numerous vehicles, thousands of tents, and scores of metal plates to be used to construct a runway on the islands.

On the 25th May the Argentine Forces demonstrated that although they had taken serious losses they could still hit back hard.

New additions for the Task force were in the process of coming on line and some would soon make their combat debut. 'Blue Eric' the ECM pod was now available, as was a 'Shrike' missile configuration on the Ascension based Vulcans. Until now the Nimrod MR.2Ps had been carrying out their recce missions alone and unarmed. Now, to provide a limited self protection and an anti Boeing 707 capability, several were modified to carry up to four AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles, two under each wing. Finally RAF Hercules transport aircraft carried out long range delivery missions from Ascension to the Task Force and delivered to 1(F) Sqn special kits for the nose and tails of their standard 1000lb bombs that would allow them to become Laser Guided Bombs allowing attacks with precision accuracy.

The build up of land forces was complete with some 5,000 tons of stores ashore and 5,500 men ready to break out of the bridgehead.

Losses today:

Royal Air Force/Royal Navy

Lynx – 816 NAS – Off Pebble Island – Went down with HMS Coventry following air attack.

1 x Lynx, 3 x Chinook, 6 x Wessex – North East of the Falklands – lost aboard Atlantic Conveyor following Exocet attack.

Argentine Forces

Skyhawk – Groupo 4 – San Carlos Water – Shot down by multiple weapons – Lt Lucero ejected and injured.

Skyhawk – Groupo 4 – San Carlos Water – Shot down by multiple weapons – Lt Garcia killed.

Skyhawk – Groupo 5 – Nr Goose Green – Shot down by own Anti Aircraft gunners – Lt Palava killed.

26th May

Today produced a day of very little air activity. 1(F) put up seven sorties in support of the Parachute Regiment and Royal Marines who are beginning to move out of their beachhead areas. Of note is 2 Para who are moving south towards Goose Green and the Argentine garrison there.

Several of the sorties end as armed recce’s as no weapons were expended, pilots having been unable to find their targets as they had moved etc. Having had to spend time modifying their approach due to low cloud Sqn Ldr Iveson and Flt Lt Harper attacked a position at Port Howard using Cluster bombs. Good results were observed by a Sea Harrier at altitude but neither could re-attack as they were both running low on fuel.

The final sortie of the day, flown by Sqn Ldr Pook and Flt Lt Hare, resulted in the successful destruction of another enemy Puma helicopter while carrying out an armed reconnaissance of the Mount Kent area. Both pilots saw nothing on their first run through the area from West to East although both aircraft were locked up by Fledermaus radar in the Two Sisters area. Both aircraft then turned about and started a low level run back through the area. On the Northern slopes of Mount Kent Sqn Ldr Pook saw what appeared to be a damaged helicopter and, supposing it to be one of those attacked on the morning of the invasion, he flew past to get a photograph. While doing so Flt Lt Hare reported small arms fire and also that the helicopter appeared to be undamaged. Sqn Ldr Pook then elected to carry out a further recce which confirmed that the Puma was undamaged but for his trouble during this run a Blowpipe SAM was fired at his aircraft and exploded just above it. Flt Lt Hare was unable to attack the Puma and consequently both aircraft departed from the immediate area and returned using terrain screening where Sqn Ldr Pook manoeuvred for a further attack, with Cluster bombs. The Puma was bracketed in the mid-pattern of the Cluster Bomb and several secondary explosions were seen. While Sqn Ldr Pook was carrying out his attack Flt Lt Hare saw further evidence of AAA and Small Arms fire and both aircraft departed from the target area to the North. On recovery to the carrier the only damage noted to the attacking aircraft was a hole found in Sqn Ldr Pook's starboard drop tank.

Losses today:

Argentine Forces

Puma – Army – Nr Mount Kent – Destroyed by Cluster Bomb delivered by Sqn Ldr Pook of 1(F) Sqn.

27th May

Early in the morning of the 27th May 2nd Battalion of the Parachute Regiment commenced their attack on Darwin and Goose Green. In a period of hard and bloody fighting, often at close quarters, Colonel 'H' Jones would win the Victoria Cross, and many others would be decorated for their bravery.

In the morning over the Beachhead the clear skies allow the Learjets of Photographic Escuadron 1 to carry out a reconnaissance of the British positions and return with their photographs to the mainland uninterrupted.

At sea there is heavy fog and no flying is possible before 10:00 local. 1(F) are tasked to support the Paras but suffer all the known problems associated with using a Forward Air Controller, poor communications, the aircraft have to orbit at 7000ft or above to make contact, poor choice of the Initial Point, it is located in cloud! small targets making for poor or late target acquisition and no laser target-marking.

Shortly after midday Sqn Ldr Iveson and Flt Lt Hare arrive in the area to attack reported enemy positions. Both aircraft are locked up at the Initial Point and all chance of surprise is lost. Target identification, as the targets are well camouflaged, is very difficult and first run attacks are impossible.

On the second pass both pilots released their weapons (Cluster bombs) on a company position with troops dug in and departed. Turning for a third run they beat up the same area with 30mm cannon fire and again. As Sqn Ldr Iveson dropped down to low level at 100ft he felt and heard two large bangs in very close succession. The whole aircraft started to shake, the controls quickly went dead, and the nose of the aircraft started to drop. With no other option Sqn Ldr Iveson ejected. It is almost certain that the aircraft had been hit by 35mm Oerlikon cannon fire, the same weapon system that had shot down a Sea Harrier three weeks earlier. Iveson hit the ground hard but quickly recovered and made his way to cover to avoid possible capture, dropping his seat mounted survival kit. Just after dark Iveson made it to a small house which was unoccupied but contained beds sleeping bags and food, much better than the survival kit he had left behind. Some time after Iveson is shot down, 1(F) try to find their lost pilot when Sqn Ldr Pook carried out a recce mission to attempt to find any sign of him. Apart from being shot at he is unable to see or hear anything of Iveson.

While Iveson’s aircraft burned on the ground Near Goose Green, a pair of Skyhawks of Groupo 5 was leaving Rio Gallegos with orders to attack a stores dump near the old refrigeration plant at Ajax Bay. The pilots achieved complete surprise and released their weapons on the target. The refrigeration plant was one of the few buildings in the area and since the landings had been pressed into service as a hospital, cookhouse and stores area. The bombs exploded killing five and injuring twenty six. Four bombs did not explode, two which were inside the building, adjacent to the hospital operating theatres, and two in the open. The two in the open were detonated shortly afterwards by disposal officers, but the two internally caused a problem. The building could either be evacuated, which in the freezing conditions could have killed more men than it saved, or they could be left in situ hoping that they were not delayed fused. In a piece of typical British contempt for this hazardous situation, the bomb disposal officer, Flt Lt Alan Swan, and his team bedded down in the plant, sleeping right next to the unexploded ordnance. Later Swan would admit that he was a lot less sure about his decision than he would allow others to realise at the time. He later received the Queens Gallantry Medal.

As the pair of Skyhawks tried to exit the area they were targeted by the Bofors gunners on HMS Intrepid and HMSFearless, one aircraft was hit, and although it flew on for a short time, with its hydraulic system failing and its rear fuselage on fire its demise was quickly upon it. The pilot Lt Velasco ejected from the aircraft over West Falkland some where between Fox Bay and Port Howard.

Losses today:

Royal Air Force/Royal Navy 
Harrier GR.3 – 1(F) Squadron – Goose Green – Anti Aircraft Fire – Sqn Ldr Iveson ejected.

Argentine Forces

Skyhawk – Groupo 5 – Hit by 40mm Bofors fire in San Carlos Water – Crashed between Port Howard and Fox Bay - Lt Velasco ejected.

28th May

Throughout the night of the 27th - 28th May the Para's continued their advance. With the approach of day light however it became clear that the Para’s were up against a bigger, stronger and better equipped force than they had been led to believe would be at their destination of Goose Green. For much of the day low cloud and rain would prevent 1(F) giving air support.

The low cloud and rain were less of a problem for the slower and more manoeuvrable Pucaras and during the day they would appear in twos or threes making harassing attacks on the British troops. These contacts were far from one sided and whenever the Pucaras came with range the Para’s would reply with heavy small arms fire and Blowpipe Surface to Air Missiles.

Throughout the day Army Air Corps and Royal Marine Scout helicopters had been extremely busy supplying the front line with ammunition, and flying out the wounded. It was around midday that a pair of these Scout helicopters were found by Pucaras and attacked. One was shot down killing Lt Nunn RM and wounding his crewman, the other flown by Capt Nesbitt managed to evade the attackers and make good his escape.

By late in the afternoon the advance of 2 Para had virtually ground to a halt just outside Goose Green. Still the Pucaras came in to attack the Para’s positions this time with Napalm, narrowly missing the Para’s forward positions. From his command post on Darwin Hill Major Chris Keeble, the Officer Commanding 2 Para since the death of Colonel Jones watched as Royal Marine Strange stood up, and ignoring the enemy fire, launched a Blowpipe missile at one of the attacking Pucaras and guide it to its target. The Pucara was hit hard, and the pilot, Lt Argonaraz, found himself at about 50 feet over the peaty landscape with no control over the aircraft, he ejected to safety. During the day Groupo 3 were to lose a further pair of Pucaras, one near Goose Green, flown by Lt Cruzado, was lost to small arms fire. The third aircraft piloted by Lt Gimenez was missing in action, and was thought to have crashed into high ground while returning to Port Stanley. The body of Lt Giminez would be found, recovered and repatriated in 1986. A MB339 of 1st Naval Attack Escuadron based in Port Stanley also entered the fray around Goose Green and was also dispatched by a Blowpipe Surface to Air Missile, the pilot Lt Miguel was killed.

As the day was drawing to a close the Para’s had several problems confronting them. They were going to have to close in on the settlement from three different directions at once, they had insufficient ammunition left to clear the settlement in house to house fighting, and the didn’t want to carry this out particularly at night. There was an Argentine artillery battery that had not been found and the Para’s could not be accurate with their counter battery fire as they did not want to hit the settlement. And finally the Argentines were using three of their 35mm Oerlikon Anti Aircraft cannons in the direct fire role, firing from the tip of the peninsula in front of them.

The weather around the Carriers had deteriorated during the day to the point that the ship was pitching violently in gale force winds under low cloud by the time Major Keebles request for air support arrived. Sqn Ldr Harris and Flt Lt Harper were tasked for the mission, and when he heard about it Sqn Ldr Pook volunteered to go as well. The three Harriers approached from the North West and descended to low level while they flew down the side of Grantham Sound. The Forward Air Controller, Capt Kevin Arnold, briefed the pilots on the target and the use the guns against the Para’s. Sqn Ldr Harris later described this "as a highly unsocial act".

The Harriers discovered the cloud base had lifted slightly in the area as they accelerated into the target area running in at between 50 and 100 feet. Target acquisition was easy as the promontory at Goose Green is such an easily identifiable feature. Harris ran in first followed by Harper and Pook. Harris’s Cluster bombs hit the target square on. As he was running through the target area he saw movement to his right, he called Flt Lt Harper and told him to put his weapons to the right of his own and about 300 yards behind. Harper had just enough time to adjust and delivered his weapons. As Harper left the target area Sqn Ldr Pook ran in from the north and delivered two pods of 2 inch rockets, 72 in all, at the area of the promontory not covered by the Cluster bombs.

The attack was carried out with total surprise and no return fire was seen. 1(F) had just demonstrated a textbook close air support mission, a hard hitting surprise attack destroying a target of great importance to the enemy and launched at a crucial time in the battle for Goose Green which was devastating to one side but gave the other a strengthened resolve.

As darkness fell, fighting ceased as both side took stock of their positions. In the early hours of 29th May Major Keeble would open surrender negotiations with the Argentine troops at Goose Green, and later accept the surrender of all Argentine forces there.

To the surprise of the Para’s the force they took captive was twice the size of there own and amply supplied with ammunition, weapons, and other supplies.

Losses today:

Royal Air Force/Royal Navy

Scout – Royal Marines – Goose Green – Shot down by Pucaras of Groupo 3 – Lt Nunn killed.

Argentine Forces

MB339 – 1st Naval Attack Escuadron – Goose Green – Shot down by Blowpipe Surface to Air Missile

Pucara - Groupo 3 – Goose Green – Shot down by Blowpipe Surface to Air Missile – Lt Araganaraz ejected.

Pucara – Groupo 3 – Goose Green – Shot down by small arms fire – Lt Cruzado ejected.

Pucara - Grupo 3 – Not Known – Operational accident – lost during transit between Goose Green and Port Stanley in bad weather, thought to have crashed into high ground. Lt Gimenez’s remains discovered and repatriated in 1986.

29th May

Poor weather heavily restricted air operations today. 1(F) Squadron now reduced to just four Harrier GR.3s, put only four sorties up. Two aircraft carried out an unsuccessful hunt for radars in the area north of Port Stanley. The second pair flown by Wg Cdr Squire and Flt Lt Hare are tasked to attack an enemy Observation Post on the West face and dug-in defensive positions on the Northern slopes of Mount Kent. A rocket attack consisting of four pods of 2 inch rockets was carried out against the Observation Post, and strafe attacks by 30mm cannon against the defensive positions but nothing was seen at either target. Neither of the pilots reported Anti Aircraft or small-arms fire, although both aircraft did receive Radar Warning Receiver indications of search radar.

Argentine aircraft only briefly appeared in the late afternoon when daggers of Groupo 6 arrived over San Carlos Water but failed to inflict any damage. One Dagger was not so fortunate and was felled by a Rapier Surface to Air Missile. The pilot Lt Bernhardt was killed.

HMS Invincible was also involved in a bizarre accident to one of her embarked Sea Harriers. Lt Cdr Broadwater was preparing to take off in very bad weather when the ship went into a tight turn and healed over. The Sea Harrier slid across the deck of the Carrier and fell over the side. As the aircraft was on the point of going over Lt Cdr Broadwater initiated ejection and was rescued from the sea shortly afterwards by Sea King.

The only other air action that day took place far to the north east of the islands. The British Wye, a 15,000 ton ship carrying fuel for the Task Force, came under attack from a modified C-130 Hercules of Groupo 1, about 830 miles due east of Buenos Aires. The improvised bomber released eight bombs, all of which missed except one which struck the ships superstructure and bounced off harmlessly without exploding.

Losses today:

Royal Air Force/Royal Navy

Sea Harrier – East of Falklands – Operational accident – slid of the deck of HMS Invincible during turn in poor weather, aircraft slid across deck into water – Lt Cdr Broadwater ejected.

Argentine Forces

Dagger - Groupo 6 – San Carlos Water – Shot down by Rapier Surface to Air Missile – Pilot Lt Bernhardt killed.

30th May

Today saw a marked improvement in the weather and there was a surge of air operations around the islands. 1(F) Sqn mounted six sorties and during one of these lost another aircraft. Wg Cdr Squire and Flt Lt Hare carried out two missions one to Mount Kent attacking infantry positions and one to the coast road near Mount Challenger. Nothing was seen at the second target area so they pressed on and attacked the infantry position on Mount Kent. Sqn Ldr Pook and Flt Lt Harper attacked radar positions on Mount Round and Mount Low but with little to indicate success. During the egress from the target both were illuminated by Fledermaus radar from Port Stanley but no Anti Aircraft fire was seen. Flt Lt Harper and Sqn Ldr Harris attempted to use the Harriers LRMOUNTS (Laser Rangefinder and Marked Target Seeker) to designate targets for laser guided bombs over Port Stanley Airfield but with no success.

Sqn Ldr Pook and Flt Lt Rochfort were initially tasked as a pair against artillery positions on Mount Wall but this was subsequently changed to helicopters on the ground some 14km to the East. Ingress to the target was made was from the South crossing the main road which runs into Stanley. As Sqn Ldr Pook's aircraft crossed the road it was hit by small arms fire from troops on the road. Pook felt the impact of the small arms but everything felt alright and the pair pressed on. Neither pilot saw any sign of helicopters at the revised target but Flt lt Rochfort clearly saw the heavy artillery originally tasked. This he attacked with 2 inch rockets. Sqn Ldr Pook, who had pulled wide from his search for helicopters and seen Flt Lt Rochfort's fall of shot, which had landed in the middle of the guns and soft skinned vehicles, now attacked the same position with his 2 inch rockets, also hitting the target.

Once clear of the target area the formation climbed for its recovery to Hermes. Rochfort noticed the leak and reported it to Pook. Pook's fuel gauges indicated 4,000lbs remaining which was well in excess of the fuel required to recover safely. However, at this stage he suffered a total radio failure and also noticed that his fuel was decreasing rapidly. Pook jettisoned his empty tanks and rocket pods to reduce drag and climbed to 25,000ft. Whilst in the climb he also experienced a partial hydraulic failure. Sqn Ldr Pook was joined by his No 2 at the top of his climb and they flew as fast as possible towards Hermes with Flt Lt Rochfort alerting the SAR facilities of an imminent ejection. When Pook's engine flamed out he continued in a high speed glide towards the ship and, at 10,000ft and 250kts, he ejected; approximately 30nm from the ship. The SAR helicopter was on the spot straight away and Sqn Ldr Pook was rescued after around ten minutes in the water. His only injuries were a stiff neck and some minor burns to his face from the firing of the Miniature Detonation Cord (MDC)

At the same time as Sqn Ldr Pook was in a helicopter back to Hermes another Helicopter was delivering Sqn Ldr Iveson back on board after being picked up by 2 Para near Goose Green earlier in the day.

As the two Harrier pilots were making their way back to their ship, the fleet came under attack threat again. Two Super Etendards, one of which carried Argentina’s last remaining Exocet missile, and four Skyhawks were heading towards the Task Force. The two Etendards climbed and launched their single Exocet before turning for home leaving the four Skyhawks to follow the missiles smoke trail to the fleet. In the end the Skyhawks did not attack the carriers but the destroyer HMS Exeter and the Frigate HMS Avenger. The two ships were some twenty miles south of the main group and had been misidentified by the Argentine pilots as Carriers. Both ships had picked up the Etendards radar signals and had fired chaff to decoy the missile. This process was repeated throughout the whole Task Group.

 

HMS Exeter then engaged two fast moving aircraft targets at low level with Sea Dart shooting down both, no ejections were seen and both pilots were killed. HMS Avenger then claimed to have engaged and shot down the Exocet missile with her 4.5 inch gun at a range of eight miles, a magnificent piece of marksmanship if true. Whether the 4.5 inch round hit the missile or whether it exploded due to the chaff is not known, but either way that was the end of the Argentine Exocet threat to the Task Force.

To this day controversy surrounds this episode. The Argentine pilots are convinced they engaged HMS Invinciblecausing serious damage.

Invincible was never hit and the only explanation was the misidentification of the frigate Avenger and her destroyer counterpart Exeter. The Argentine pilots waited listening to BBC World Service broadcasts to confirm their hitting of a British capital ship, but this never came, this was then construed as a cover up to prevent knowledge of a major loss to the Royal Navy.

Losses today:

Royal Air Force/Royal Navy

Harrier GR.3 – Into the sea off East Falkland – Hit by small arms fire and ran out of fuel returning to Carrier – Sqn Ldr Pook ejected and picked up ten minutes later by Sea King

Argentine Forces

2 x Skyhawk – Groupo 2 – East of Falkland Islands – Shot Down by Sea Dart Missiles fired by HMS Exeter – Lt Vasquez and Lt Castillo both killed.

31st May

In the early hours of 31st May another Vulcan was heading towards the Falklands from Ascension Island. This time the targets would be the Argentine long range early warning radars around Port Stanley, and as a consequence the aircraft carried a pair of 'Shrike' anti radiation missiles.

With only a little annoying turbulence at one of the refuelling points to contend with the Vulcan flown by Sqn Ldr McDougall of 50 Sqn and his crew reached the target area without difficulty. The aircraft approached from the North East at low level before pulling up to 16,000 feet for its attack run. As they closed on the town a couple of Fledermaus radars locked onto the aircraft but they were well above the danger zone for these weapons, to be on the safe side the Air Electronics Operator, Flt Lt Rod Trevaskus, released a couple of bundles of chaff to 'keep them interested'. McDougall and his crew had to be certain which radar was which, they had orders to avoid the one in Port Stanley to prevent collateral damage, all other radars were fair game. McDougall flew a complex pattern over the Islands to identify the targets and make sure they knew which was which. Heading towards the target from the North West McDougall lowered the nose and shortly afterward Trevaskus fired both 'Shrikes' about four seconds apart. McDougall saw a flash on the ground at the same time as the navigator, who was timing the missiles flight, said "now". McDougall turned his aircraft North East and headed for Ascension where he landed eight hours later. While it initially appeared successful the radar set escaped with little serious damage.

The Argentines during the day put up little in the way of any air activity over the islands. 1(F) Sqn put up several missions today. Wg Cdr Squire and Flt Lt Hare made a further attempt to designate for Laser Guided Bombs using the Harrier GR.3’s Laser Rangefinder and Marked Target Seeker. The weapons were released at 25,000ft, but no weapon impacts were seen. The pair then conducted a low level photo recce of high ground from Mount Low to Long Island. Neither pilot saw anything visually but scrutiny of the film showed a 30mm Anti aircraft position. Sqn Ldr Harris, Flt Lt Harper, and Flt Lt Rochfort carried out an attack on the airfield at Port Stanley, co-ordinated with Sea Harriers who were to toss radar fused 1000lb bombs as defence suppression. This task arose as a knee jerk reaction to a report of swept wing aircraft, possibly Etendards, being parked adjacent to the eastern threshold. The run in to the target was at low-level with Sea Harriers leading. However, the Sea Harriers allowed themselves to be illuminated by climbing in order to check their position on radar; this removed any hope of surprise. The formation split into two elements at McBride Head and the attack was carried out as per the previous co-ordinated mission. All three Harrier GR.3s carried two 2 inch rocket pods. The weapons were fired from a level delivery at briefed targets, which appeared to be straight-winged aircraft. Earlier photos indicated that they might be A-4 Skyhawk decoys, but post-war recce showed them to have been MB339s. Considerable small-arms fire was seen during the attack. During both missions aircraft suffered damage including cracked front canopy screens, both Wg Cdr Squire's drop tanks were holed and Flt Lt Hare suffered a bird-strike.

1st June

While it was still dark early in the morning of the 1st, four Canberra’s of Groupo 2 ran in at high altitude and bombed targets in the area around San Carlos. Lt McHarg of 800 NAS was scrambled to intercept, and managed to get about four miles from one of the Canberras heading West, which was dropping chaff and flares, and manoeuvring hard before he ran short of fuel and had to halt his pursuit.

As dawn broke the day was very dull and overcast. On its return trip to the mainland from Port Stanley a C-130 of Groupo 1 popped up North of San Carlos Water to make a brief sweep of the area for British ships, to aid targeting of the attack aircraft.

Air Contact between the two sides had diminished considerably over the previous few days, but Sea Harrier patrols were almost at the same level as they had been at the height of the fighting. As the C-130 rose up about twenty miles north of San Carlos Water she was picked up on the radar of the air control ship for that day, the frigate HMS Minerva. Immediately Minerva vectored two Sea Harriers of 801 NAS flown by Lt Cdr Ward and Lt Thomas to intercept. Both fighters ran towards their target and were getting low on fuel to the extent the assault ships HMS Fearless and HMS Intrepid cleared their helicopter decks should the pair need to refuel afterwards. Lt Cdr Ward picked up the aircraft on radar and then descended through the cloud layer to engage leaving his wing man Lt Thomas above the cloud at 3,000ft, just in case the C-130 had 'friends' flying top cover. Lt Cdr Ward then called Lt Thomas to join him below the cloud as he had the aircraft in sight at about six miles. As Thomas broke cloud, he saw a Sidewinder leave the wing of Ward's Sea Harrier, and go after the C-130 which was going flat out at about 200ft altitude. Fired at extreme range the missile almost reached the aircraft but fell away into the sea. By now both Sea Harriers had closed on the target and Lt Cdr Ward fired his second Sidewinder. This missile guided all the way to the target and hit between the engines on the right wing, straight away causing a fire. The C-130 continued to fly on so Lt Cdr Ward closed on the aircraft and then emptied his 30mm cannon magazines into it. The C-130 went into a descending right hand turn, the right wingtip impacted the water surface, and the aircraft then cart wheeled and broke up. Capt Martel and his six man crew were all killed and following this incident Groupo 1 never hazarded one of its aircraft in this way again.

By now, following the losses over the previous days, 1(F) is down to just three Harriers and of these only one is available for tasking. Wg Cdr Squire was not happy for singleton tasking at low level, following Flt Lt Glover's experience, and asks for a Sea Harrier escort for the armed recce from Bluff Cove to Goose Green that he is about to carry out. After a great deal of consideration this is approved with the proviso that the Sea Harrier does not go below 10,000ft! (some escort!) In the event the Sea Harrier pilot is Flt Lt Ball who flies as any good No 2 should. In the event although Wg Cdr Squire delivered his strafe attack on the target area no damage was observed. The shortage of Harrier GR.3s was however about to receive a welcome boost.

Flt Lt Beech and Flt Lt Macleod departed Ascension Island in the company of eight Victor tankers, four each, to refuel them all the way down the South Atlantic to HMS Hermes, 8 hours and 25 minutes flying time away. With no diversion available the only safety feature was the helicopter carrier HMS Engadine being positioned approximately half way along the route, a long wait for rescue should one ditch. In the event she is not needed and both Flt Lt Beech and Flt Lt Macleod make their first deck landings on a Carrier as they arrive aboard Hermes. The 800 NAS diarist noted their arrival with the entry "two sore arsed crabs arrive aboard". Later Flt Lt Macleod stated he found the start of the journey the most challenging as he had to mount his jet in pile underwear, beneath a rubber immersion suit in temperatures of 85 degrees Fahrenheit.

 

Although the bad weather precluded all but the one low level sortie, Sea Harrier missions continued above the cloud. It was during one of these missions 801 NAS would lose an aircraft to a Surface to Air Missile.

Flt Lt Mortimer was flying his Sea Harrier at 13,000 ft on an armed recce to the south of Port Stanley, keeping a weather eye out for Pucara or transport aircraft movements from the airfield. Noticing movement on the ground near the runway he closed to investigate, an error that was to prove near fatal. Mortimer spotted a bright flash on the ground and a fast moving smoke trail; a Roland Surface to Air Missile was heading his way. At the time the Sea Harrier was about seven miles to the south of Port Stanley over the sea and Mortimer was sure that he was out of the missiles range. Turning away he raised the nose of the aircraft and tried to outrun it. Passing out of his sight several thousand feet below he looked for the missile out to the front of his aircraft were he expected it to appear as it fell away into the sea.

The missile exploded devastating the aircraft, Mortimer’s memory of the moment is the immense violence of it all, as the cockpit with him still aboard tumbled through the sky. Almost by second nature he pulled the ejection handle and was thrown from the cockpit to relative safety. Flt Lt Mortimer now had to endure a ten minute descent under his parachute until he landed in the water; he successfully inflated his life saving jacket, then his dinghy, which he climbed aboard, releasing his parachute. Using the emergency radio contained in life jacket he made a short broadcast: "Mayday, Mayday, Mayday, Silver Leader, shot down by Roland 5 miles due south of Port Stanley", he received a muffled reply in English before turning off the radio to prevent enemy direction finding equipment locating him.

While sat in his dinghy he saw a helicopter and a twin engined aircraft take off and began looking for him. Although they headed straight for, and over flew him at one point, they soon turned for home and raced back to Port Stanley.

Alone in his dinghy Mortimer began to bail out the water that had collected in his life boat, took a couple of sea sickness pills and prepared for darkness which was approaching fast. Turning on his radio locator beacon for two minutes every half hour gave him something to concentrate his mind, and he was sure that the Carriers would be sending helicopters to look for him. Shortly after midnight he heard the throb of helicopter rotor blades and switched on his strobe light to mark his position. He later admitted that he was "not entirely sure that the approaching helicopter was British but by this time I was so cold that I wasn’t really fussed who picked me up". After spending nine hours in the dinghy he was beginning to "see himself spending the rest of his days floating around the South Atlantic which at that point looked to be about one and a half".

Within 30 seconds the Sea King of 820 NAS was hovering above Mortimer and in its searchlight he could see the smiling face of his friend Leading Aircrewman Finucane coming towards him. He was soon on board the helicopter and speeding back to HMS Invincible.

Losses today:

Royal Navy

Sea Harrier – 801 NAS – Shot down by Roland Surface to Air Missile south of Port Stanley. Flt Lt Mortimer ejected and rescued from sea.

Argentine Forces

Hercules – Groupo 1 – 50 miles North of Pebble Island – Shot down by Sea Harrier of 801 NAS flown by Lt Cdr Ward using both Sidewinder and 30mm cannon.

2nd June

There was very little in the way of aircraft activity from the main bases in Argentina, the Carriers or the Falklands due to the extremely poor weather.

One item of note that did occur was in the area of Port San Carlos. Here members of the Royal Engineers had finished the construction of a Harrier operating strip consisting of a runway some 285 yards long for take offs, and a 23 yard square 'pad' for vertical landings made from hand laid metal plates each about 10 feet long by 2 feet wide. The original plan was to have sufficient parking space for a dozen Harriers, however with the loss of the Atlantic Conveyor the parking area was reduced to an area for just four aircraft. Known to the Navy as HMSSheathbill this name rapidly fell into disuse as the Forward Operating Base came to be known as 'Sids Strip' nicknamed after its Commanding Officer Sqn Ldr Sid Morris. Due to the appalling weather it would be several days before the strip could be used.

3rd June

Once again there was little flying over the Falklands and from the Argentine mainland bases due to the poor weather.

The only offensive air action over the islands was a further Vulcan mission, this time carrying four Shrike Anti Radiation missiles, with the intention of taking out radars around Port Stanley. Once again Sqn Ldr McDougall approached the islands from the North East from low level, and then climbed to around 16,000ft to begin his attack. But learning from previous experience that an aircraft behaving in this way was a threat, the Argentine radar operators began turning off their radar sets. As the aircraft approached at about nine miles they would turn them off and wait until the aircraft had passed then turn them on again. Sqn Ldr McDougall flew around for 40 minutes while the Argentine radar operators switched their radars on and off.

On the final run before the Vulcan had to turn for home Sqn Ldr McDougall changed his tactics, He decided to go into a descent towards Port Stanley Airfield to tempt the radar operators into turning them back on to have a go at the Vulcan. The aircraft got down to about 10,000 feet and was approaching Sapper Hill, when one of the radars flashed on. Moments later the guns started firing and McDougall saw the explosions from four shells below them. Behind McDougall the Air Electronics Operator, Flt Lt Trevaskus, locked two Shrikes onto the radar emissions and opened fire. As McDougall pulled up the nose of the Vulcan, to avoid going too low, he saw a flash in the mist on the ground. One of the Shrikes had impacted close to a Skyguard fire control radar, causing severe damage and killing three of its crew members.

The Vulcan climbed away from the area and headed north but the crews adventures that night were far from over. About four hours later they arrived at their final rendezvous with a Victor tanker off the coast of Brazil. This was the final refuel to get them home to Ascension, and there was as ever no back up. On this occasion McDougall had made a good contact with the Victors refuelling basket, fuel was just beginning to flow when disaster struck, the Vulcan’s refuelling probe broke sending gallons of Avtur spraying over the Vulcan’s windscreen before the airflow cleared it away.

The aircraft and its crew were now in serious trouble. The Vulcans tanks were nearly empty, it could not refuel in flight, and the nearest usable runway was in Rio de Janerio more than 400 miles away. McDougall straight away swung the nose of the Vulcan west towards Brazil, he ordered the spare pilot Flt Lt Gardner to gather all the secret documents and target information documents and prepare to dump them overboard. He ordered Flt Lt Trevaskus to jettison the remaining two Shrikes as he had no wish to land with them on board. At the same time the co-pilot having made some quick fuel burn calculations announced to the crew that at their present fuel burn rate they would not reach Rio. McDougall climbed the aircraft to 40,000 feet to improve the fuel burnt by the four Olympus engines but it was still going to be marginal. As they reached the top of the climb Gardner had collected all the secret documents and placed them in a navigators holdall weighed down with a couple of ground locks. The Vulcan’s cabin was depressurised and the crew door on the underside of the aircraft opened, as it opened the documents bag, locks and all disappeared into the Atlantic. The next problem to arise concerned the door, having managed to open it Gardner found it impossible to close.

By now McDougall had declared a full 'Mayday' emergency but although he was in contact with controllers at Rio de Janeiro he could not make himself understood. This was not because he was speaking English, far from it, but because the crew was suffering the effects of pressure breathing oxygen at 40,000feet in an unpressurised cockpit. This has a similar effect to deep sea divers breathing Helium, everyone sounds like Donald Duck. Another more experienced English speaking controller came on the air just as Flt Lt Gardner managed to close the crew door and the cabin repressurised returning the speech to something approaching normality.

The Vulcan pressed on and was finally asked if they could see an airfield in front of them, when they replied "yes" the crew were given permission to land as they were critically low on fuel. At that time the Vulcan had some 3000lbs of fuel left and a Vulcan needed 2,500lbs to do a circuit. In other words if they missed the approach they would run out of fuel and crash.

At this point the Vulcan was at about six miles from the airport at an altitude of about four miles. To get the aircraft on the ground Sqn Ldr McDougall would need every ounce of his twenty years experience on the Vulcan. Pulling the throttles shut he extended the airbrakes, then wound the aircraft into an almost vertical bank, and took her down in a steep descending orbit. At the end of the carefully judged manoeuvre the aircraft was at 800 feet one and a half miles from touchdown, with an airspeed of about 300mph, far to high to land. To compensate McDougall lifted the nose of the aircraft to 'mush off' the speed with the giant delta wing. When he levelled out he was at 155mph at 250 feet with three quarters of a mile to go to touchdown. With the gear lowered McDougall made a text book landing, he didn’t even stream the brake ‘chute.

McDougall taxied the Vulcan off the runway and closed the aircraft down. It would later be revealed that the total fuel volume in the aircraft was only 2,000lbs.

The Vulcan crew remained in Brazil with their impounded aircraft and left the wheels of diplomacy to turn while they settled down to make the best of things. For this mission Sqn Ldr McDougall would later receive the Distinguished Flying Cross

4th June

The poor weather over the whole of the area prevented air activity by either side. The only flying that was carried out was by helicopters re-supplying the ground forces. During the day a flight refuelled Ascension based C-130 managed to air drop high priority supplies next to a ship of the task force to the east of the Falklands.

5th June

During the morning of the 5th the weather cleared sufficiently for Harrier GR.3s and Sea Harriers from the Carriers, to take off mount patrols and then land at the forward operating base at 'Sids Strip' at Port San Carlos. For the fighter and ground attack Harriers this ability to land and refuel gave a considerable increase in operational performance.

For Sea Harriers the normal sortie duration of 75 minutes meant 65 minutes getting to and from the patrol line with ten minutes on task. Now the Sea Harriers could transit to the patrol line in about 30 minutes, spend about 35 minutes on the patrol line, and then fly five minutes to 'Sids Strip' to refuel. If the aircraft still had missiles aboard they could then fly the same mission in reverse landing back on the carriers.

For 1(F) the pilots could wait in the cockpit or beside the aircraft for tasking from the Forward Air Controllers, they could then take off and move in at low altitude to attack. The biggest boon of 'Sids Strip' for the GR.3s was the ability to use its built in inertial navigation system to its full capacity.

The first to land at 'Sids Strip' were Lt Cdr Andy Auld and Lt Hargreaves of 800 NAS, closely followed by Sqn Ldr Iveson, back to flying albeit with a sore back following his ejection the preceding week, and Flt Lt Harper of 1(F) Sqn. The weather that day was never the best and 1(F) only mounted two attacks both direct from the carriers, the first a photo recce from Bluff Cove to Hooker Pont looking for land based Exocet launchers, flown by Sqn Ldr Pook and Flt Lt Hare. Nothing significant was seen during the run and no SAM/AAA was in evidence. The film did reveal some defensive positions to the South of Port Stanley, but nothing more. The second sortie, flown by Wg Cdr Squire and Flt Lt Beech, was a mission tasked as an armed recce of Pebble Island, Keppel Island, Rat Castle Shanty, Dunnose Head and Spring Point Hill for enemy activity.

The recce of Pebble Island revealed what was thought to be two new Pucara aircraft and these were attacked with rockets and strafe. (Later reports indicated that aircraft were already damaged.) The recce of Keppel Island revealed no enemy activity, and the sortie was terminated due to low fuel.

Heavy fog descended over the Task Force that night making things very interesting for Lt Cantan of 801 NAS when he returned to and landed aboard HMS Invincible. Using his Sea Harrier's radar he decelerated into a 200ft hover instead of the normal 70ft in the thick fog and moved slowly towards the carrier until he saw a searchlight shining vertically through the gloom, he continued down and landed on the deck of HMS Invincible with visibility less than 50 Yards. In weather conditions such as these it is doubtful any other fixed wing carrier aircraft could have made it back aboard.

As Harriers pilots are fond of saying, "It’s easier to stop and land than land and stop".

6th June

Once again the weather was that poor that it heavily curtailed air operations around the Islands. A C-130 Hercules again flight refuelled from Ascension dropped more high priority supplies to the Task Force.

 

Around the Carriers Sea King helicopters carried out their anti submarine patrols as they had done since before the fighting had started. Other helicopters were carrying troops and supplies in support of the ground forces. It was one of these aircraft, a Gazelle of 656 Sqn Army Air Corps, which was involved in a tragic 'blue on blue' encounter to the West of Fitzroy. It was not until some time after the conflict that it could be confirmed that the Gazelle had been shot down by a Surface to Air Missile launched from a British ship in the area of Choiseul sound, crashing some where just North of Mount Pleasant Peak. All aboard the helicopter were lost.

Losses today:

Army Air Corps 

Gazelle – 656 Sqn – Shot down West of Fitzroy by British warship – All on board killed.

7th June

The weather finally cleared today allowing a full programme of sorties to be flown, and the use of the Forward Operating Base of 'Sids Strip' at Port San Carlos.

For 1(F) the major problem being encountered was a supply of suitable targets. As the British troops advanced on Port Stanley they were having very little contact with Argentine forces and consequently the GR.3s spent a lot of time on the ground waiting for tasking that didn’t come. The only mission of note was one flown by Sqn Ldr Pook and Flt Lt Rochfort against an artillery position near Sapper Hill to the west of Stanley. Both aircraft fired two pods of 2 inch rockets into the target. No Surface to Air Missile/Anti Aircraft Artillery was seen in the target area by either pilot but on landing, Sqn Ldr Pook's aircraft was found to have been hit by small arms on the nose cone. A Sea Harrier pilot observed the attack from high level and reported what appeared to be a Surface to Air Missile fired at the two aircraft as they departed to the South. The SAM was seen to explode before reaching the aircraft.

The Argentines were in a similar position with regard to targeting as the British, they simply couldn’t find targets for their attack aircraft. On the morning of the 7th Lt Col De La Colina led all four of his Learjet reconnaissance aircraft of Photographic Escuadron 1 on a mission to find targets. Flying in over the islands at 40,000ft they flew parallel tracks some miles apart to give overlapping photographic cover of the ground below. If this mission was as successful as previous ones the new Forward Operating Base at Port San Carlos would almost certainly be detected and become the centre of much unwanted, high priority attention from the Argentine fighter bombers.

Previous missions by the Learjets had not encountered much in the way of resistance to their missions from the British forces below. Today however was to be different. Sat in San Carlos Water was the Destroyer HMS Exeter, whose mission was to provide air defence cover. Her radar operators watched the Learjets approach and when they were in range Exeter fired a pair of Sea Dart missiles. One of the missiles impacted De La Colina’s aircraft blowing off the tail. The aircraft, a converted executive jet, had no escape systems for its crew, even if they had parachutes there was no way of exiting the aircraft, and it took an agonising two minutes for the crew to meet their demise on the peaty terrain of Pebble Island. All five aboard lost their lives.

Air activity had been relatively quiet over the previous two weeks in comparison to the activity around the 25th May, but while the Argentine naval aircraft were feeling the strain the Air Force still had a sizeable force of aircraft. With the return of clear weather the Argentine Air Forces would now mount attacks in an attempt to give their beleaguered Army comrades some support on the Islands.

Losses today:

Argentine Forces

Learjet – Groupo 2 – Pebble Island – Shot down by Sea Dart from HMS Exeter while on high altitude photo reconnaissance mission. Lt Col De La Colina and four crew killed.

8th June

For the second day in a row the weather over the Islands was clear blue skies, and both the Harrier GR.3s and the Sea Harriers planned sorties to make full use of the Forward operating base at Port San Carlos, or 'Sids Strip' as it was known. This allowed the two Carriers, HMS Hermes and HMS Invincible, to move further to the east to place them outside of Super Etendard carried Exocet missile range. Unknown to the Task Force the Argentines had shot their bolt as they had already delivered their fifth and last missile disarming themselves in the process. Argentina continued efforts to re-supply themselves via the weapons 'black market' until the end of the conflict without success. The intelligence men however were overwhelmed with rumour that weapons had been procured and prudence dictated the Task Force remain on high alert to this threat.

During the morning 1(F) Sqn sent up two pairs of Harrier GR.3s to operate over the Islands but lacking suitable targets they headed for Port San Carlos and the Forward Operating Base to await tasking. Two of the aircraft arrive and land safely but Wg Cdr Squire was about to have an unpleasant experience.

Flying with Flt Lt Mark Hare as his number two, Wg Cdr Squire is flying a Harrier with a number of known defects. On take-off he had to go through the Jet Pipe Temperature (JPT) limiter to gain sufficient engine thrust to avoid sinking off the ski ramp of HMS Hermes. This was to be a worrying precursor of future events...As Wg Cdr Squire approached the FOB he misjudged his height going across the side of the pad and lifted some of the metal planking. In order to see what damage had been done he commences an overshoot which goes well until he reached about 90kts at which point he suffered a marked drop in engine thrust which this time is not corrected by pushing through the JPT limiter. As a result of the rate of descent and the fact that he was pointing directly at a Rapier Fire Unit, Squire elected not to eject and the aircraft hit the ground very hard - the undercarriage is broken off and canopy shatters around him. The aircraft, still under power, comes to a rest at the end of the strip, whereupon Wg Cdr Squire shut the engine down and carried out a rapid egress of the aircraft. Flt Lt Hare orbited the strip until the pad is clear of metal and then lands, refuels and returns to Hermes.

The aircraft was damaged beyond repair and ground crews began stripping the seriously damaged airframe of components to keep the other jets flying. By far the most serious consequence of the accident was the fact the FOB strip was now out of action until repairs could be completed, and these would take several hours to complete.

With this incident a series of unrelated factors were coming together that would have a decisive influence on events later in the day.

Also that morning the landing ship RFA Sir Galahad arrived off Fitzroy carrying The Welsh Guards to reinforce 5 Brigade who were preparing to advance on Port Stanley. A similar ship, the RAF Sir Tristram, was already at anchor and off loading ammunition. A couple of days previously these two ships would have been supported and protected by four Rapier Fire Units, but these had been moved to provide coverage for the main Brigade maintenance area at Bluff Cove. The ships had no air defence from attacking aircraft apart from some small arms, and the whole off loading operation was going on under the watchful gaze of the Argentine positions on the high ground a few miles to the north east.

Reports of the ships positions were relayed first to Port Stanley and from Stanley to the Mainland in short order. Groupo 6 put up Daggers and Groupo 5 put up Skyhawks to attempt to attack the almost defenceless ships.

The Daggers arrived first and were making their way to Fitzroy and had to cross Falkland Sound to get there, as they did so they were spotted by HMS Plymouth which had just set out from San Carlos Water to bombard Argentine positions. With the element of surprise lost the Daggers quickly revised their attack plans and targeted HMS Plymouth. The Daggers ran in towards their target through a hail of small arms, 20mm cannon, Sea Cat missiles, replying with their own 30mm cannons, before dropping their weapons and running at high speed south to escape.

HMS Plymouth was hit by four bombs, none of which actually detonated. One passed spectacularly through the funnel of the ship and caused no further damage, two bounced of the seas surface and on reaching the ship smashed through the anti submarine launcher before carrying on and falling into the water, the forth however bounced off the flight deck but in passing hit an armed depth charge readied for fitting to the ships helicopter which exploded. Most of the blast went upwards into the air but the explosion caused serious fires which took some time to bring under control. Five personnel from the ship suffered injuries during the attack.

As the Daggers sped away to the mainland, the Skyhawks were approaching the anchorage at Fitzroy. As they flew down the waters edge they could not see any ships but were engaged by troops as they flew on. Just as the force of five aircraft was turning to return to base the trailing aircraft saw the ships and the formation quickly readjusted, to attack the grey ships. Three Skyhawks targeted Sir Galahad and two of their pilots saw their bombs hit the target, the remaining two targeted Sir Tristram and both saw weapons hits on her. With no need to jink or hug the waters surface to avoid anti aircraft fire the Skyhawks were able to carry out accurate attacks from sufficient altitude to allow their weapons to arm. The bombs detonated and Sir Galahad was immediately engulfed in flames, her crew and the embarked troops rapidly attempting to abandon the stricken vessel in any way they could. Sir Tristram, although not so badly hit, was on fire and this would inflict crippling damage, with the fires raging and taking a considerable time to control and extinguish.

Almost straight away helicopters appeared and began the daunting task of assisting with the evacuation from the ships to dry land. Almost before this was finished Sea King helicopters were flying the seriously injured the 40 miles west to the hospital at the refrigeration plant at Ajax Bay, and when stabilised on to the hospital shipUganda stationed to the north of the Islands.

In all fifty-one men lost their lives and forty six were injured, the worst single loss of life inflicted on British forces during the conflict, all because a calculated risk had gone desperately wrong.

Shortly after 17:00hrs local time a further group of Skyhawks of Groupo 4 attempted to enter the area around Fitzroy to carryout a follow up attack. On this occasion the troops on the ground gave them a hot reception with small arms fire, and Blowpipe and Rapier Surface to Air Missiles. One of the pilots Ensign Codrington recalls seeing "no fewer than six missiles in flight". The Skyhawks scored no hits and two were so damaged that they had to remain plugged into the tanker until in sight of their home airbase to be able to make it back.

For the remainder of the afternoon Sea Harriers carried out Combat Air Patrols in a race track pattern over Choiseul Sound, and Fitzroy, but with the Carriers so far to the east and ‘Sids Strip’ out of action following the earlier Harrier crash, there were bound to be gaps in the coverage. With dusk fast approaching, Flt Lt Morgan and Lt Smith of 800 NAS had just arrived on station, at about 10,000 ft and with the twin columns of black smoke ten miles away clearly visible as a sobering reminder of the earlier horrors.

Below the aircraft as they patrolled Morgan saw a landing craft leave the sound. Checking with the control ship as to its identity, Morgan looked back and saw the landing craft being approached at high speed and low level by an attacking aircraft. A bomb from the aircraft exploded about 20 yards astern the landing craft but the next weapon was a direct hit, and in the process killed six men on board, the remainder would be rescued before the craft sank.

Morgan, with Smith in tow, went to full power, rolled on his back, and dived after the attacker. While in the dive Morgan sighted another two aircraft, and when approaching 2,000ft he sighted a fourth, and decided that this would be his first target. In the half light Morgan misidentified the Skyhawks as Mirages, but that was immaterial in what was to follow. With his speed very nearly the speed of sound and with a high rate of closure Flt Lt Morgan manoeuvred behind the Skyhawk, got a lock at about 1500 yards and fired his first Sidewinder at a range of 1000yards. The missile tracked, all the way to the aircrafts tail where it detonated, the aircraft exploded in a fireball and fell into the sea. The remaining three aircraft made no reaction to the loss of one of their comrades, and still closing very rapidly Morgan selected another aircraft in the formation, and locked on the target. The aircraft Morgan was tracking began to turn to the left just as he fired his second and last Sidewinder. It is possible the pilot saw it coming and he rapidly reversed his turn, so did the Sidewinder which closed rapidly and hit the aircraft removing everything to the rear of where the vertical fin joins the fuselage. The aircraft yawed violently and again fell into the sea

There were now only two Skyhawks left and from his position supporting Flt Lt Morgan, Lt Smith had a grandstand seat to see both Morgan’s Missiles destroy their targets. As Flt Lt Morgan fired his 30mm cannon at the two retreating aircraft Smith picked them up from the fall of shot and the water splashing around them from the cannon fire. With his ammunition spent Flt Lt Morgan put his aircraft into a near vertical climb to clear the way for Lt Smith to engage. Smith selected a target, got a lock and launched a Sidewinder. The missile flew after its target, although Smith had reservations it would actually reach its intended victim. The near darkness was then lit up by the simultaneous flash of the missiles impact and the exploding fireball that was once an aircraft as it hit the ground, so low was the altitude of the target aircraft.

The fourth aircraft, flown by Lt Sanchez, jettisoned it’s under wing tanks and pushing the throttle hard forward while holding the aircraft as low as he dare, he ran and escaped the area as quickly as possible.

From start to finish this piece of air combat had taken a mere 90 seconds.

At about the same time that Morgan and Smith were achieving their kills there was a rare appearance from the Argentines air to air missile armed Mirages of Groupo 8, who had decided to enter the fray and provide top cover for the attacking fighter bombers at low level. While this would concentrate the mind of the airborne Sea Harriers pilots, the Argentines appeared to not wish to mix it with the Sea Harriers and turned away at about ten miles from them to head home, having presided over the loss of three Skyhawks.

Today was not all bad news for 1(F) Sqn, as although they had lost one aircraft they had received two replacements from Ascension Island. Flt Lt Boyens and Flt Lt Gilchrist arrive on Hermes with two more aircraft. 1(F) now had four Harrier GR.3s equipped with the ALE 40 chaff and flare dispenser system and the Blue Eric active I-Band jamming pod and one aircraft capable of firing Shrike Anti Radiation Missiles.

Losses today:

Royal Air Force
Harrier GR.3 – 1(F) Sqn – Port San Carlos Forward Operating Base – Lost after engine malfunction during nozzle borne flight – Wg Cdr Squire escaped unhurt.

Argentine Forces

3 x Skyhawk – Groupo 5 – Choiseul Sound – Shot down by Sea Harriers of 800 NAS – two credited to Flt Lt Morgan, one credited to Lt Smith – Lt Arraras, Lt Bolzan, and Ensign Vazquez killed.

9th June

The weather again played a part in the days air operations. The weather over the Argentine mainland was what can only be termed as typically British clag, low solid cloud and lousy visibility. Over the islands themselves the weather was far better with clearing skies and excellent visibility allowing operations to continue.

Operating from both the strip and the carriers 1(F) Squadron carried out two aircraft sorties. The first pair of Wg Cdr Squire (who stole Flt Lt Harpers seat) and Flt Lt Boyens on his first combat sortie since arriving, carried out an attack on artillery positions on the northern slopes of Mount Longdon with two pods of 2 inch rockets each. Ingress to the target was at low-level from the North West. Both aircraft fired at the target although nothing was seen. As the aircraft departed the target area at low level small arms fire directed at the pair was seen from the area of Wireless Ridge.

The second pair of Harrier GR3s flown by Sqn Ldr Harris and Flt Lt Macleod were tasked as a pair against a 155mm gun position adjacent to Sapper Hill. The approach to this target was also at low level but from the north. Although the target was not visually identified the target area was attacked by both aircraft with two pods of 2 inch rockets from a level delivery. Both pilots noted seeing moderate Anti Aircraft Artillery fire in the target area and the aircraft of Flt Lt Macleod was hit by shrapnel on the egress from the target. This did not manifest itself until his arrival back at HMS Hermes. On turning finals and lowering the undercarriage and flaps for landing, Macleod noticed that the normal cockpit indications were not showing, so he initiated a go around. At the same time he contacted 'Flyco' and asked were everything was. The reply told Macleod that the out riggers were half way down and but the main and nose gear had remained retracted in their respective bays. Macleod continued around a circuit and on finals selected undercarriage down using the Nitrogen emergency blow down system, the undercarriage deployed, locked down and Flt Lt Macleod made a safe landing on the deck of Hermes. Macleod later recalled that "There were six or seven shrapnel holes in the aircraft and the hydraulic lines in the wing and fuselage had been cut. The holes were from shell splinters and were mainly on the upper surfaces of the wings, we had been flying fairly low".

 

During this phase the helicopter force was working flat out to re-supply the front line troops with stores and ammunition, in support of the advance on Port Stanley. The Sea Kings of 825 and 846 NAS, the Wessex of 845, 847, and 848 NAS, and the lone Chinook of 18 Squadron RAF, 'Bravo November', were all earning there keep. In the case of the Sea King the main load was usually under slung and weighed anywhere between two and a half and three tons and usually consisted of ammunition. With this amount of cargo the aircraft were all working at or near their maximum all up weight and there was very little in the power margin should a problem develop.

Sqn Ldr Dick Langworthy, 'Bravo November’s' pilot was constantly worried about being spotted and attacked from the air. In his own words: "We stuck out like a dogs balls. In a Pucara I could have shot down any helicopter, no trouble at all. Had I been the Argentine Commander I would have said, there are the troops, there is their base, and the helicopters must be between them, go and shoot them down! They could have had a field day with us, but I never saw any enemy aircraft in the air; the only Pucaras I ever saw were lying on the ground wrecked".

10th June

Today again, the weather was atrocious over the Argentine mainland bases but good over the Falklands. 1(F) Sqn sent a pair of Harrier GR.3s to the FOB at 'Sids Strip' where they waited all through the morning at readiness for tasking, but the forward troops had little contact with the enemy that required their intervention, and there were no requests for air strikes.

During the morning Wg Cdr Squire and Flt Lt Hare carried out an armed recce in front of the advancing British forces. The pair ‘coasted in’ at Fitzroy and then split up. Wg Cdr Squire flew east towards Port Stanley then turned onto a northern heading to take him hard against the Argentine defences at the eastern end of Port Stanley. Meanwhile Flt Lt Hare flew north-east past the two prominent features of Two Sisters and Mount Longdon. Both aircraft flew through the areas with there cameras clicking taking in the scene around them. For the pilots it was a very different story, their concentration levels were high as they ran through at near maximum speed. Flt Lt Hare later commented "I didn’t see much. When you are on a photographic reconnaissance mission you concentrate on flying as low as possible and avoiding the ground by as little as possible. It was mid morning; my heading took me almost straight into the sun. So flying was a bit difficult, I was concentrating on the 'staying alive' bit". Wg Cdr Squire then bravely flew his aircraft at 300 feet past the west end of Port Stanley, in full view of the defensive positions to photograph them. On this occasion his luck held and his aircraft was not damaged.

Once safely back aboard the film was developed and the Photographic Interpreters then came into their own. The Argentine troops had several weeks to prepare and conceal their positions, and had they not given themselves away they would possibly have remained undiscovered. The conscripts had lit peat fires to dry out and keep warm, and the rising whispy smoke from these fires was clearly seen when the photos were examined. The film from Flt Lt Hare’s aircraft also showed a remarkable shot of an Argentine Surface to Air Missile team struggling to bring their Blowpipe launcher to bear on his speeding aircraft. It was perhaps a blessing that Flt Lt Hare knew nothing of this until shown the photograph.

Following Squires and Hares sortie, Sqn Ldr Harris and Flt Lt Macleod flew a messy sortie that began as an attack in support of Special Forces at Port Howard, but they could not make contact with the Forward Air Controller because of confusion over the TOT (Time On Target). The pair ended the sortie with an armed recce of the Port Howard area and finding no targets they returned to Hermes.

At around 16:30 Flt Lt Harper and Flt Lt Rochfort carried out a sortie with Harper’s aircraft carrying 1000 lb bombs converted to Laser guidance. Due to a problem with co-ordinating with the Forward Air Controller who was to designate the target the weapons were not released and Flt Lt Harper returned to Hermes with his valuable cargo.

Finally at about 18:55 Wg Cdr Squire and Flt Lt Macleod carried out a mission tasked, as a result of the analysis of the photo’s from the previous recce sortie, against enemy positions about 400 yards South of Moody Brook Road.

Both aircraft approached the target at Ultra Low Level from the direction of Estancia House. Both pilots heard search radar scanning them on their Radar Warning Receiver audio during the run-in. The target area was easily identified but individual targets were hard to see in the rapidly failing light. The briefed target areas were struck with four Cluster Bomb Units, two from each Harrier, and several secondary explosions were seen from Squire's weapons.

The pair departed the target, again at Ultra Low Level, to the North. Considerable Anti Aircraft Artillery was seen by both pilots during the run-out. The only damage that occurred during the attack was to Flt Lt MacLeod's front canopy screen which was hit and badly cracked by a rifle calibre round.

11th June

The Sea Harriers of 800 and 801 NAS continued to carry out their almost aloof Combat Air Patrols over the Islands, although there was little in the way of Argentine air activity and few opportunities presented themselves for air combat.

On occasions the Sea Harriers changed to an offensive role but rarely put themselves to close to the action. Today was to be such a day. Lt Cdr Auld of 800 NAS led four aircraft in an attack on the airfield at Port Stanley, at low level using radar fused ‘air burst’ bombs in a loft/toss attack profile.

As the aircraft closed on their target they became aware of a growing glow in the distance which, on closer inspection, was the light from thousands of rounds of tracer being fired by the Argentine defenders. Four miles from the airfield, the four Sea Harriers pulled up and released their weapons, rolled through 120 degrees, pulled around tightly and descended close to the sea to return to the Carrier. As the aircraft retreated they could see the raid was a success from the growing fires around the airfield.

Most of the offensive air action was carried out by the Harrier GR.3s of 1(F) Sqn, flying five missions around the Islands, all at low level over defended areas with intensive return fire at them from the ground.

During the late morning Flt Lt Harper and Flt Lt Gilchrist were tasked with the delivery of two Laser Guided Bombs (LGB). Unfortunately the Forward Air Controllers Laser Targeting device was unserviceable and so the LGBs were delivered using a manual 30-degree loft/toss attack into the area of Mount Tumbledown. The results of weapon impact were not seen. Both pilots saw considerable AAA from the Port Stanley area but both aircraft remained out of range.

At around 14:30hrs Flt Lt Boyens and Flt Lt Rochfort were tasked as a pair against enemy position on the slopes of Two Sisters. The target area was attacked with CBUs by Flt Lt Boyens while Flt Lt Rochfort, who had to jettison his weapons and fuel tanks on take-off due to poor engine performance, strafed the target with 30mm cannon fire. Both pilots saw camp fires and troop movements amongst the fall of shot. Neither of the pilots saw any AAA, but Flt Lt Boyens was locked up by Argentine search radar but on release of chaff the radar immediately released its lock. This was the first serious use of the ALE40 chaff and flares dispenser by the Royal Air Force.

Just after this attack at about 14:50, Sqn Ldr Pook and Flt Lt Beech launched to carry out an attack against artillery and mortar positions on Mount Harriet. The pair approached the target from the south. Neither pilot saw AAA or SAMs. The targets were attacked with CBUs and Beech saw a soft skinned Vehicle (possibly a Land Rover) at his target position. Both pilots’ weapons caused damage. This pair was not radar locked during the attack, but both aircraft’s Radar Warning Receivers picked up I-Band search radar during the run-in to the target.

Launching at about 18:10 Sqn Ldr Harris and Flt Lt Gilchrist took off tasked as a pair with CBUs against Argentine troop and gun positions on Mount Longdon. Both aircraft approached the target from the north at low level. On unmasking from low level, Sqn Ldr Harris turned right to attack the western set of targets with the Flt Lt Gilchrist fanning out to attack the eastern targets. Following the attack the pair made a high speed low level egress to the North West back to the Carrier. Small arms fire and AAA were observed by both pilots south of the target area.

The final sorties of the day were flown by Wg Cdr Squire and Flt Lt Hare. The pair was tasked against artillery and HQ positions on the eastern slope of Mount Tumbledown. The selection of 1000lb bombs, with retard tails and variably timed fuses, was aimed at negating the use of prepared positions if only occupied at night. This was a questionable decision as retard bombs, if not instantaneously fused, will tend to bounce and roll beyond the target. The approach to the target was from the south using terrain masking to provide minimum exposure. However on approaching the area, Squire's aircraft was hit by small arms fire and the cockpit holed; his bombs dropped in the enemy barracks area. Flt Lt Hare's bombs were also delivered long.

In the event the bombs were dropped 'freefall' as the retard tails had not been properly set. Fortunately they did not have time to arm, with the attendant dangers of blast damage to the delivering aircraft, and fell as UXBs (unexploded bombs).

On the way out of the target area, Blowpipe SAMs were fired at both aircraft. The weapon aimed at Wg Cdr Squire fell short, but Flt Lt Hare had to take evasive towards his and it exploded about 100 feet above his canopy.

Although several aircraft took some form of damage they all returned to the Carrier safely.

Also that afternoon the airport at Rio de Janeiro was hushed by the sound of four Rolls Royce Olympus engines as, ten days after their arrival, Sqn Ldr McDougall and his crew, now released by the Argentines, departed to Ascension Island.

12th June

As Sqn Ldr McDougall and his crew made their way home to Ascension, Flt Lt Withers and his crew were preparing to head south on another Black Buck mission. This time during the early hours of the 12th they attacked Argentine positions to the south of Port Stanley airfield using radar fused 'air burst' 1000lb bombs.

During the previous day under the cover of darkness the Argentine Air Force C-130 Hercules transports had continued their re-supply missions. While the Etendard force had expended all its Exocet missiles, the Argentines still had several ship based Exocet launchers fully operational and these were brought to the Islands mounted on a trailer. With one of these the defenders were able to hit back at one of the Royal Navy ships that had been carrying out nightly naval bombardments of the Port Stanley area, and making life so miserable for those based there. Just before dawn on the 12th the Argentine troops fired a single missile, at a range of about 18 miles, at the destroyer HMS Glamorgan. The Missile struck Glamorgan hard in the stern, and although the missile failed to detonate, it caused severe damage to the ships superstructure, destroyed the ships Wessex helicopter, killed thirteen and injured seventeen members of her crew.

The push towards Port Stanley begins today, with the first day's objectives of Mount Longdon, Two Sisters and Mount Harriet being achieved. 1(F) Sqn feel at home with their aircraft being tasked for the familiar CAS role.

During the morning Flt Lt Boyens and Flt Lt Beech are tasked as a pair against an enemy gun position on the rear of Sapper Hill, which overlooks Port Stanley. Both aircraft attacked the target area with CBUs although nothing was seen by either pilot. AAA was seen from the Moody Brook area and enemy troops were seen during the approach to the target on the road south of Mount William. On the way out of the target area, full use of chaff and flares was made and this seemed to confuse the AAA coming from the area around Moody Brook.

During the afternoon four aircraft were tasked on two missions. The first mission, flown by Flt Lt Harper and Flt Lt Gilchrist, was for an armed recce of the road east of Mount Harriet. The pair flew into the target area at low level from the south west. As they reached the target area troops in the open were seen and attacked with CBUs and 30mm cannon during a single pass. The pair departed at low level and high speed to the south while deploying chaff and flares.

During the attack Flt Lt Harper's aircraft was hit by two small arms rounds and AAA splinters, which caused superficial damage to the port wing leading edge and airbrake.

The second mission of the afternoon was flown by Wg Cdr Squire and Flt Lt Macleod. Tasked as a pair against a 155mm gun position on Sapper Hill, both aircraft were each loaded with a brace of CBUs. The pair flew into the target area at low level through the hills to the West, approaching Sapper Hill from close abeam Mount Harriet and Mount William. Smoke as seen coming from just south east of the targets position and an attack was made with Cluster bombs, the target being damaged. During the attack, Flt Lt Macleod's aircraft was hit by shrapnel which penetrated the rear equipment bay area of the aircraft and fractured the aft reaction control air pipe. On decelerating to the hover during the recovery, the bleed air at about 350 degrees Celsius was blasted from the holed reaction control pipe, causing a fire to start in the rear equipment bay and smoke as seen coming from the aircraft. Flt Lt MacLeod decided to stay with the aircraft and executed a very quick and professional landing on the Carriers deck. Having landed-on, the fire was quickly blanketed with foam by the ground crew.

Flt Lt Macleod was now beginning to have the regularity with which he was being hit weigh a little heavy. In his words "it was the third time on the trot my aircraft had been hit and that was getting to be a bit tedious". He went onto say to his colleagues as he entered the ready room "this is getting past a joke!".

Many of the RN personnel on board HMS Hermes could not understand why the RAF Harriers were constantly coming back with holes in them of varying sizes, while the high flying Sea Harriers were rarely getting even scratched. They seemed unable to appreciate what was meant "by going in low". Things finally came to a head and as a way of demonstrating the point a copy of Flt Lt Hares 'Blowpipe Operator' on Mount Longdon was pinned to the wall in the Chief Petty Officers mess. After that the RN seemed to understand that when the RAF said "low" they meant "LOW".

Argentine air activity was very subdued during the day. One of the few Argentine missions was to attack the British positions near Darwin. With a mere two minutes to run to the target the formation spotted, silhouetted against cloud, a pair of Sea Harriers. Their only means of defence was escape, and so jettisoning their weapons, weapon racks, and external fuel tanks, the aircraft turned and accelerated for home, and safety.

Losses today:

Royal Navy

Wessex – 737 NAS – Off Port Stanley – Wrecked when Exocet missile hit the Destroyer HMS Glamorgan.

13th June

By first light today, and after fierce close quarter fighting, British forces controlled the majority of the high ground surrounding Port Stanley. During the day the troops regrouped and re-supplied in preparation for a further large scale assault on the Argentine positions that night.

The Argentine air forces on the mainland launched a dozen aircraft in an attempt to stiffen the resolve of the slowly collapsing Argentine resistance by attacking British positions. The force flew east across the Falklands to Port Stanley at low level before turning and heading west and attacked British positions at Mount Kent. The Argentine pilots could see camouflaged vehicles and command positions, and even spotted a couple of helicopters on the ground. While aiming their weapons at the positions and the helicopters it initially appeared that they had taken the British troops by surprise, but this was not to last long as they soon found themselves targeted by heavy but accurate small arms fire, mostly of rifle calibre.

The attack had indeed come as a surprise to the British and was only a small piece of luck away from inflicting a grievous mauling on the British ground forces command elements. The Argentines had found and targeted the Headquarters of 3 Commando Brigade on the western slopes of Mount Kent, complete with General Moore, his staff, and all his unit commanders who were attending 'orders' for the nights operations. The Argentines dropped parachute retarded bombs around the positions, but the majority fell harmlessly away from the troops, and most of the blast was absorbed by the peaty ground that they dropped into. The only casualties were not human, a Gazelle and a Scout suffered some very minor damage which did not stop them operating.

At the same time four Skyhawks were carrying out a similar unsuccessful attack on the Parachute Regiment’s positions on Mount Longdon; again the only damage was a 30mm round going through an 846 NAS Sea King’s rotor blade, the crew called for a new blade to be delivered to them, which it was and within a couple of hours it had been manhandled into to place and the Sea King was flying again.

By now FACs were in position on several of the hills overlooking the Argentine positions. Previous troubles with the FACs and the vagaries of the Naval tasking system, meant that so far the Harriers GR.3s had not been able to deliver their Precision Guided Munitions. The major problem with the FACs was they had, in the past, lacked a fully charged battery to power their Laser Target Marker equipment. Today that was all about to change, and at last 1(F) Sqn could utilise its new weapon and in the process become the first RAF Sqn to use LGBs in a conflict.

At around 14:30 Wg Cdr Squire took off from Hermes in the company of Flt Lt Hare. Squire’s aircraft was loaded with two 1000lb bombs converted to laser guidance, Hares aircraft was armed to give mutual support and carried CBUs.

The Laser Guided Bombs were delivered in a similar toss bombing fashion to the weapons delivered by the Sea Harriers in the early days of the conflict, a low level approach at high speed followed by a pull up at a pre calculated point and weapon release. The weapon climbed about 3000ft before dropping in a steep dive towards the target and was 'tossed' into an imaginary 'basket' produced by the emissions of the Laser Target Marker. It should be remembered that prior to the conflict neither the pilots nor the FACs had ever practised the illumination or delivery of this type of weapon; this was on the job training at its sharpest. With the target illuminated by Major Mike Howles, Wg Cdr Squire carried out his first attack on a company headquarters position, and the weapon fell just short of its intended target location. Squire repositioned to attack the same target minutes later and carried out a second attack minutes later and this time scoring a direct hit.

Later that day, Sqn Ldr Pook would attack an artillery position near to Mount Tumbledown with Flt Lt Beech flying cover for him. Pook scored a direct hit on the artillery position and destroyed it with his first bomb, and narrowly missed the target with his second. Neither pilot saw any opposition during the mission although both heard 'Fledermaus' radar on their audio Radar Warning Receivers.

Once again on the 13th June 1(F) Sqn had lived up to its motto of "in omnibus princes" which translates to "In All Things First".

There was drama that afternoon at 'Sid’s Strip', when the sole Chinook 'Bravo November' approached the strip and the powerful down wash lifted the alloy plates and threw them to one side. Once again the strip was out of action for repairs, and at the worst possible time. Lt Thomas and Lt Hargreaves were just entering Falkland Sound on route to 'Sid’s Strip' to refuel, when they received a radio call to 'return to mother', a proposition that was impossible to fulfil with only ten minutes of fuel remaining. With supreme speed the flight decks of HMSFearless and HMS Intrepid, both anchored in San Carlos Water, were cleared and the Sea Harriers landed aboard to refuel, Thomas to Fearless and Hargreaves to Intrepid. The Sea Harrier could not take off with two Sidewinders and its tanks full so both aircraft were only partially filled to give them sufficient fuel to get to the strip once the required repairs had been carried out.

Just as the strip became operational again, an Air Raid Warning Red was sounded, and the once welcome Sea Harriers were now a liability to the ships and told to "Buzz off" as the decks were needed for helicopters. Both Sea Harriers scrambled into the air and once airborne discovered that it was a false alarm, so landed at the strip to refuel before continuing their mission.

After dark, Canberra bombers of Groupo 2 returned to the islands, but not with out loss. One of the aircraft flown by Capt Pastran was engaged by Sea Dart missile from the Destroyer HMS Exeter. Flying at about 40,000 and having just dropped their bombs on Mount Kent the aircraft was hit without warning by the Sea Dart. The Canberra went into a spin and Pastran shouted to his navigator Capt Casado to eject but received no response. Having waited as long as he could Pastran ejected at about 6000 feet and fell into the sea, where he boarded his life raft. With a northerly wind he was blown ashore after several hours on the northern coast of East Falkland.

Losses today:

Argentine Forces

Canberra – Groupo 2 – North of Port Stanley - Shot down by Sea Dart missile fired by the Destroyer HMS Exeter – Capt Pastran ejected, Capt Casado killed.

14th June

By dawn today Wireless Ridge, which overlooked the town of Port Stanley, was in British hands, but fierce fighting continued on and around the western slopes of Mount Tumbledown which was heavily defended by the Argentine 5th Marine Battalion, against the forward pressure of the Scots Guards.

Throughout the day Scout helicopters of the Army Air Corps went about their dangerous business, of bringing forward ammunition and returning with casualties. During one of these missions Capt Drennan of 656 Sqn Army Air Corps, picked up an injured member of the Scots Guards and a Member of the Gurka Rifles, from within the minor impediment of a minefield.

Drennan and his crewman returned to the Mountain six times to collect the wounded and take them to safety. At one point his helicopter was being fired over by the Scots Guards with M79 grenade launchers at a sniper a mere 50 metres away from Drennan. He later remarked "I don’t know how he could have missed us – maybe all those grenades landing around him put him off a bit". After the conflict for these and other missions Capt Drennan was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC).

Later that morning Scout helicopters had a chance to go on the offensive for a change. Capt Greenhalgh accompanied by two Scouts of the Royal Marines ran in to attack Argentine positions to the west of Port Stanley. Each helicopter carried four SS-11 anti tank, wire guided missiles, with a range of around 3,000 yards. Approaching the Argentine positions in line abreast the Scouts found three bunkers and proceeded to place the missiles accurately into the bunkers. One of the bunkers contained a 105mm howitzer and this was thrown on its side by the missile as it entered and detonated. However the Argentines did not put up with the impertinent interference of the Scouts for long and Artillery positions soon rained air burst shells on the area. Cpl Gammon, Capt Greenhalgh’s crewman later commented "we decided it was time to make a tactical withdrawal". All three helicopters left the scene undamaged and their crews were uninjured.

By midday the weather over the islands was clearing sufficiently for 1(F) Sqn to launch Sqn Ldr Harris and Flt Lt Gilchrist to carry out further precision attacks with their Laser Guided weapons. Harris’s Harrier was armed with two 1000lb LGBs, while Gilchrist's was armed with two CBUs to deliver follow up attacks if required.

At about 12:25hrs the pair arrived in the orbit at 30,000 feet over their target area of Wireless Ridge, and made radio contact with their controller before engaging their targets. As they called in, the RAF liaison officer with General Moores Headquarters on Mount Kent Wg Cdr Trowern received a frantic message from Brigadier Thompson of 3 Brigade about the air strike:-

"For Christ’s sake hold it!.....the Argies are standing up on Sapper Hill and I think there’s a white flag……..yes there’s a white flag……….there’s another white flag…….it looks as though they’re giving in. For Christ’s sake stop that attack!".

Wg Cdr Trowern told Lt Cdr Callaghan the Naval Liaison Officer to tell the Harriers to hold off and advise how long they could remain on station over their potential targets.

At 30,000 feet over Port Stanley it felt to Sqn Ldr Harris as if there was something odd going on that he was not party to. He held off his attack and then queried as to what was happening. He received the reply "We think they’re giving in! At the moment we don’t want to do anything that might make them stop and change their minds". In the cruise at high altitude the Harriers had fuel to remain on station for about 30 minutes, but after just 15 minutes they were ordered to stand down and return to the Carrier, with the news "for your information the people on the target you were going for have already given in; and there’s a white flag over Stanley".

Sqn Ldr Harris and Flt Lt Gilchrist returned to HMS Hermes the bearers of the best sort of news that any fighting man can hear. The Harriers GR.3s of 1(F) Sqn would carry out no more ground attack missions, but the Sea Harriers continued their Combat Air Patrols, and the GR.3s were soon re-equipped with Sidewinder missiles to join them.

Flt Lt Nick Gilchrist perhaps summed up this part of the day, and the beginning of the end of the conflict as a whole, the best: "We thought that this would be the most dangerous time. Menendes and his troops on the Falklands had had enough and were giving in. But we thought it might just be the time for Galtieri to launch on last ditch air strike from the main land to show the war was not really over".

"There was no victory Hooley, we just drifted out of the war".

15th June

By the 15th of June Argentinean forces in the Falkland Islands had surrendered unconditionally but the Task Force was poised and awaiting the mainland reaction. This would never materialise. The major problem initially for the British would be the logistics of caring for the Prisoners of War of which there would appear to have been some 15,000. Many would have to make do with whatever shelter they could find, as a consequence of the sinking of the Atlantic Conveyor which had carried among other things the tented accommodation and equipment destined for use as a Prisoner of War facility.

During early July 1(F) Sqn would move ashore to the freezing comforts of a very austere base at Port Stanley where they would stand guard over the Falklands on Quick Reaction Alert with their Sidewinder equipped Harrier GR.3s, while the Navy sailed home, and many felt their early return was for back slaps, medals and to claim all the glory. Indeed such was the Navy’s determination to marginalise the RAF efforts in the air with its Harriers, and to disguise the fact that many of the Sea Harriers that had defended the fleet and shot down Argentine aircraft had in fact been flown by RAF pilots, that when the Sea Harriers were flown off to their home base at RNAS Yeovilton efforts were made to ensure that the Navy Pilots were to the fore, to the extent that the one RAF pilot that did make it ashore was sidelined and kept away from the assembled media.

The rotation plot indicated that 1(F) Sqn would remain until mid-August with the first down south going back to the UK in mid-July. There would be no shortage of anger within the Sqn when no sooner had the first personnel home come back off two weeks leave than they were warned that they would be returning to the Falklands shortly. This rankled with 1(F) Sqn as the already overmanned RAF Germany Sqns were demonstrating their inability within the Harrier community to be team players and release aircrew to the Southern detachment.

The conflict was short at 75 days from start to finish, and was fought using only a small proportion of either sides armed forces, in the main relying on what forces either side could carry to, and sustain, there.

In the air the forces were further limited. For the British this limited its aircraft based in the combat zone to those that could take off and land vertically on the decks of ships. This limited the force to a combined Sea Harrier and Harrier GR.3 total of 34 aircraft and a total of 172 assorted helicopters from all three services. Due to the limited number of tanker aircraft available only one air refuelled operational sortie from Ascension Island could be placed into the combat zone each day. For the Argentines the geography of the conflict also limited her air forces to those who could operate from her Carrier, the 25th De Mayo, those aircraft with a combat radius of about 450 miles, light attack and helicopters based in theatre on the Falklands and a few transports and converted light executive jets, making a total of 256 in all. When looking at the operations flown by these aircraft the only really intensive flying days were the 1st , 21st , 23rd , 24th , & 25th May, and the 8th June.

The conflict was unique in several ways, in that it was the first to have air operations conducted over distances that were greater than ever before and even today stand the test of time for distance and duration. It was the first time that air to air refuelling made a regular impact on both sides operational capabilities. It saw the first combat use of a short take off and landing jet aircraft, the first time a ground force on the advance had been almost totally logistically re-supplied by a helicopter fleet, and was the first time that the sea skimming missile was used against warships.

The Sea Harrier performed particularly well and raised its profile to a level it might not have previously expected. With only a force of 25 aircraft they took on an enemy force of almost three times more, and in air combat recorded a kill rate with 30mm cannon and Sidewinder missile of 23 for the loss of none. It is unsurprising to find that in the media fed frenzy prior to the arrival of the Task Force in foreign waters, much was made of the Harriers ability to 'VIFF' or thrust Vectored in Forward Flight. It is therefore something of a let down to many editors that in all the air combat in the Falklands conflict the Sea Harriers never used this capability at all. It is further very surprising to learn that the Sea Harrier never actually performed an intercept using its onboard radar, but was vectored to targets by control ships using principles that would have been understood by pilots from a very different era just over 40 years earlier during the Battle of Britain. One very interesting facet of the air combat experienced by the Sea Harrier is that the American AIM-9L Sidewinder all aspect heat seeking missile performed just the way it was stated it would in the manufacturer’s brochure.

The Harrier GR.3s of 1(F) Sqn also came out of the conflict well. They arrived in theatre and for many their first deck landing was as they arrived on board HMS Hermes, from where they would carry out a total of 126 missions. Often derided, by certain quarters, due to its small size when compared to other ground attack types the Harrier GR.3 was regarded as a bit of curiosity rather than a serious attack platform. The Falklands conflict silenced those doubters, indeed all things being equal it could be argued that a small well piloted aircraft like the Harrier meant it took less hits than its larger counterparts, it was well camouflaged, and its engine was relatively smoke free, which combined with the terrain masking tactics that 1(F) used made for a hard to spot target for the enemy. It demonstrated the ability to take battle damage and continue flying and there is no evidence to show that a Harrier was lost to enemy action when a comparable ground attack aircraft would have survived similar damage. It is also a credit to the talents and hard work of the RAF engineers that when an aircraft was hit, such as Squires taking a rifle calibre round through the cockpit which destroyed wiring or the devastating fire to Macleod’s aircrafts avionics bay caused by a damaged Reaction Control Vent hot air pipe, that there was no occasion where an aircraft was not available for tasking again within three days having been repaired using only the ships resources.

If any criticism were to be pointed at the Harrier ground attack operations during the conflict this would have to come from the direction of poor operational planning and the almost total lack of understanding of the use of tactical reconnaissance and intelligence to select targets by the controlling authority, the Royal Navy. They again and again sent RAF Harriers to attack targets that were either ill defined, unsuitable, and in several cases just not there! There is an old Army adage that states "Time spent on reconnaissance is seldom wasted", this is particularly true of ground attack operations.

It is clear that had more pure reconnaissance missions, as opposed to the RN love of the "Armed Reconnaissance" mission which were useless to the point of being a waste of valuable fuel, been flown then targets of higher tactical and strategic value could have been identified which could have then been attacked in 'set piece' Close Air Support missions as demonstrated by the successful 1(F) Sqn dusk three aircraft attack on the 35mm Anti Aircraft gun positions at Goose Green.

The Harrier GR.3s also received several modifications to operate on board ship, including the Ferranti FINRAE equipment, 'Blue Eric' electronic countermeasures pod, ALE 40 chaff and flare dispensers, and a fit for Shrike Anti Radar Missiles. Some were more successful than others. The FINRAE equipment that was supposed to align the Harriers Inertial Navigation system often malfunctioned and occasionally led to the aircraft having no head up display at vital moments. The 'Blue Eric' countermeasures pod was a limited success but demonstrated just what could be achieved by the Forces and industry when 'needs must'. The ALE 40 Chaff and Flare dispenser was a popular addition and on several occasions was used to outwit radar systems trying to lock on to the aircraft. A major problem during the conflict was the operation and use of the Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) system fitted to the Harrier. This piece of equipment was so unreliable as to be useless and force the fixed wing pilots to return to the Carriers through the Task Forces Missile Engagement Zone (MEZ) with no identifiers of who they were except for approaching at a speed below 250 knots, hardly a speed to be flying in a hostile environment! It is interesting to note that having had this experience and identified a requirement, that just eight short years later aircraft of the Royal Air Force would take part in Operation Desert Shield/Storm with IFF equipment that was just as unreliably dangerous.

One of the crowning achievements of 1(F) Sqn must be the delivering of Precision Guided Munitions for the first time by a RAF aircraft during a combat situation. This is all the more noteworthy when one considers the fact that the Sqn learnt to use the weapons in a conflict environment, that in peace time would have taken moths of planning and preparation. This was not with out its hiccups though, as the Sqn had been told initially that the Harriers Laser Rangefinder and Marked Target Seeker (LRMOUNTS) could be used for the purpose of designating the bombs target. It was only after several unsuccessful sorties that the information filtered through from the UK that this was not actually possible, and that the target had to be designated from the ground. Due to the poor target planning by the controlling authority, the Royal Navy, several attempts by 1(F) to use the weapons were frustrated by time on targets being missed, changed or notified way to late to be able to get to the position, this was compounded by the Laser Target Marker being 'battery hungry' and on a couple of occasions the targets could not be designated due to flat batteries.

Several other innovations were deployed during the conflict for the first time and some were rather 'Heath' Robinson’ to get the capability in service as quickly as possible. The Vulcan got back its re-fuelling probe, and along with the Victor tanker was fitted with 'Omega' and 'Carousel' navigation aids. The Vulcan was also fitted with under wing pylons to carry the Shrike Anti Radiation Missile, and the ALQ101 Electronic Countermeasures pod. The Nimrod received a probe and a twin Sidewinder missile rail under each wing for self defence, and to engage the troublesome Argentinean Boeing 707 recce aircraft if they were encountered. The Hercules received a re-fuelling probe and several were converted to single point drogue refuellers for self supporting operations by the Hercules fleet and later fast jet operations from the Islands themselves.

1(F) Sqn lost four aircraft during the conflict, three as a result of ground fire and one as a result of an operational accident at the forward operating strip at Port San Carlos, and were to consider themselves lucky that they suffered no fatalities.

Flt Lt Geoff Glover ejected from XZ972

Sqn Ldr Bob Iveson ejected from XZ988

Wg Cdr Peter Squire crashed landed in XZ989

Sqn Ldr Jerry Pook ejected from XZ963

Others on both sides were not so lucky, and many men would not see there homeland again. It is somewhat disturbing, 25 years on, to think that the Sabre rattling of Argentina over sovereignty continues to this day, requiring a continued alert presence in the Falkland Islands by the present members of all three services of Her Majesties Armed Forces.

Let us hope that today’s diplomacy will be more effective than that which failed in the dark days of 1982.

The South Atlantic Harrier and Aircrew Roll of Honour

The following documents the Pilots and Harrier GR.3 airframes of 1(F) Sqn, and the Pilots and Sea Harriers of 800, 801 and 899 NAS that, embarked on HMS Hermes and HMS Invincible saw service in the South Atlantic during the re-taking of the Falkland Islands as part of Operation CORPORATE.

The Pilots of 1(F) Squadron

Wg Cdr Peter Squire (OC)

Sqn Ldrs Bob Iveson, Peter Harris and Jeffrey Pook

Flt Lts Mike Beech, Ross Boyens, Nick Gilchrist, Jeff Glover, Mark Hare, Tony Harper, Murdo MacLeod, and John Rochfort,

The BAe Harrier GR.3

XV762 
ALE-40 chaff dispensers fitted. Arrived in theatre by ship to late for combat but remained on the Islands until 20/8/83 when the 'Hardet' became 1453 Flt

XV778 
Flew directly from Ascension to Hermes piloted by Flt Lt Murdo MacLeod 
The cockpit wiring was severely damaged by small arms fire whilst being flown by Flt Lt Murdo MacLeod in a CBU attack on Port Stanley on 10/6/82. 
The aircraft was disembarked to RAF Stanley on 4/7/82, remaining on the islands until 20/8/83 when 'Hardet' became 1453 Flt

XV789 
ALE-40 not fitted. 
Embarked on Atlantic Conveyor on 6/5/82. 
Flown off to Hermes, on 18/5/82 piloted by Flt Lt John Rochfort. 
Damaged whilst being flown by Wg Cdr Squire during a rocket attack in the Port Stanley area on 31/5/82. Repairs and the only engine change of the war completed aboard HMS Hermes. Returned to Gutersloh and IV(AC) Sqn before 'Hardet' became 1435 Flt

XW767 
Arrived in theatre by ship to late for combat but remained on the Islands until 6/11/82 when it crashed into the sea off Cape Pembroke after engine failure Wg Cdr Squire (who had returned to the Islands) ejected safely.

XW919 
Flew from Wittering to St Mawgan and then on to Wideawake Airfield Ascension Island arriving on 5/5/82. Damaged by small arms fire whilst being flown by Flt Lt Murdo MacLeod in an attack on Sapper Hill on 12/6/82, part of the rear fuselage catching fire on finals to HMS Hermes. The aircraft landed safely, the fire extinguished and the aircraft was repaired but took no further part in the conflict. 
The aircraft sailed for the UK on 13/7/82 having transferred to the transport ship Contender Bezant, arriving at Wittering on 2/8/82.

XW924 
Arrived in theatre by ship to late for combat but remained on the Islands until returning to Wittering on 11/1/83 aboard a Heavylift Shorts Belfast having been shipped to Ascension.

XZ129 
Arrived in theatre by ship to late for combat but remained on the Islands until returning to Wittering on 26/1/83 aboard a Heavylift Shorts Belfast having been shipped to Ascension.

XZ132 
04.05.82 - flown from Wittering to St Mawgan and from there from on 5/5/82 to Banjul then Wideawake Airfield Ascension Island on 6/5/82. The aircraft suffered from incurable fuel leaks; and was returned to Wittering but the exact date is unknown.

XZ133 
It was flown directly from Ascension to Hermes by Flt Lt Mike Beech on 3/6/82. 
Flown by Flt Lt Nick Gilchrist it flew on 1(F) Sqn's last sortie of the war, accompanying Sqn Ldr Peter Harris. The attack on Sapper Hill was called off by the FAC when white flags were seen in Port Stanley. The aircraft disembarked to RAF Stanley to join the shore detachment on 4/7/82 but was to suffer Cat 4 damage on 28/7/82 when a portable hangar collapsed in bad weather on top of it. Airlifted by Chinook onto HMS Invincible to return to the UK on 25/8/82, it was airlifted off the carrier to Culdrose on 16/9/82 finally returning home to Wittering on 13/10/82.

XZ963 
ALE-40 not fitted. 
The aircraft was embarked on Atlantic Conveyor on 6/5/82 being flown off to HMS Hermes, on the 19/5/82, the fifth Harrier to land on the carrier and piloted by Flt Lt Tony Harper. 
The aircraft was hit by small arms fire whilst searching for helicopters reportedly near Port Stanley on 30/5/82; Sqn Ldr Jerry Pook noted that fuel was leaking and was forced to eject some 30 miles short of HMS Hermes.

XZ972 
ALE-40 not fitted 
The aircraft was embarked on Atlantic Conveyor on 6/5/82 being flown off to HMS Hermes, on the 18/5/82, the first Harrier to land on the carrier and piloted by Wg Cdr Peter Squire. On 21/5/82 this aircraft became 1(F) Sqn's first casualty, Flt Lt Jeff Glover being hit by a Blowpipe missile whilst on a solo armed reconnaissance over Port Howard. Flt Lt Glover ejected safely, becoming a PoW and was released on 08.07.82.

XZ988 
The aircraft was embarked on Atlantic Conveyor on 6/5/82 and flown off to HMS Hermes on the 18/5/82, the fourth Harrier to land on the carrier and piloted by Sqn Ldr Pete Harris. The aircraft was flown by Sqn Ldr Bob Iveson in support of 2 Para's advance at Goose Green on 27/5/82, hit by AAA on it third attack run, Sqn Ldr Iveson ejected safely and avoided capture until picked up three days later.

XZ989 
The aircraft was embarked on Atlantic Conveyor on 6/5/82 and flown off to HMS Hermes on the 20/5/82, the sixth Harrier to land on the carrier and piloted by Flt Lt John Rochfort. On 8/6/82 the aircraft suffered a loss of power whilst going around at Port San Carlos FOB, the aircraft hit the strip hard and skidded to a halt, its pilot Wg Cdr Peter Squire being shaken but unhurt. Damaged beyond the resources of the local Battle Damage Repair team it was used as a spares resource; ultimately returning to Wittering on 23.11.82, eventually being classified CAT.5. (destroyed).

XZ992 
ALE-40 chaff dispensers fitted. 
It was flown directly from Ascension to HMS Hermes on 8/6/82 by Flt Lt Nick Gilchrist. It disembarked from Hermesto RAF Stanley on 4/7/82 to join the shore detachment, returning to Wittering by Heavylift Shorts Belfast on 16.11.82 after being shipped to Ascension.

XV997 
The aircraft was embarked on Atlantic Conveyor on 6/5/82 and flown off to HMS Hermes 18/5/82, the third Harrier to land on the carrier and piloted by Sqn Ldr Jerry Pook. 

On returning from an armed reconnaissance over San Carlos on 21/5/82 the aircraft was landed by Flt Lt John Rochfort too close to the edge of the deck and ended up with its port-outrigger in the catwalk; it was recovered undamaged and was being flown again a few hours later. On the 13/6/82 the aircraft carried out the first successful LGB sortie when Wg Cdr Peter Squire attacked a Company HQ on Mount Tumbledown, scoring a direct hit with his second bomb.

While being flown by Sqn Ldr Peter Harris on 14/6/82 it flew 1(F) Sqn's last sortie of the war. The attack on Sapper Hill was called off the FAC when white flags were seen in Port Stanley, the two Harriers returning to the ship with their loads intact at 16:25Z.

On the 4/7/82 the aircraft disembarked to RAF Stanley to join the shore detachment, and returned to Gutersloh and IV(AC) Sqn sometime before 20/8/83.

And Finally……………..

It may be of interest to note that the two Harrier GR.3s that flew the last 1(F) Sqn mission of the conflict over Wireless Ridge are both safely preserved for posterity. XZ133 is in the safe hands of the Imperial War Museum at Duxford and XZ997 is displayed in the 'Milestones of Flight' hall at the Royal Air Force Museum Hendon.

The fate of the other aircraft is however not such good reading

XV762 - Crashed in Lafonia, an area of the Falkland Islands, on 19/11/83 while serving with 1453 Flight. 
XV789 - Went to RAF Bruggen for BRDT, the date is not known. 
XW767 - Crashed off Cape Pembroke, on 6/11/82 while with the 'HarDet'. 
XW919 - Passed to SFDO, RNAS Culdrose date not known. 
XW924 - Went to RAF Laarbruch for BDRT date not known. 
XZ129 - Passed to RNAS Yeovilton for ground use. 
XZ989 - Returned to RAF Gutersloh and used for ground instructional training as 8849M, date not known. 
XZ992 - Crashed near Port Stanley, on 29/11/82 after a bird strike, while serving with 1453 Flight.

BAe Sea Harrier FRS.1

The following is a list of the Fleet Air Arm Pilots and their Sea Harrier FRS.1 aircraft that took part in the recovery of The Falkland Islands during Operation Corporate:

HMS Hermes Air Group

800 NAS Pilots

Lt Cdrs Andy Auld (CO), Mike Blissett and Rod Frederiksen

Lts Mike Hale, Simon Hargreaves, Andy McHarg, Clive Morrell, Dave Smith and Nick Taylor and Flt Lt Ted Ball.

899 NAS Pilots

Lt Cdrs Neil Thomas (CO), Tony Ogilvy and Gordon Batt, 
S/Lt Andy George, Flt Lts Dave Morgan and Robert Penfold.

HMS Invincible Air Group

801 NAS Pilots

Lt Cdrs Nigel 'Sharkey' Ward (CO), Doug Hamilton

Lts Charlie Cantan, Alan Curtis, Brian Haigh and Steve Thomas and Flt Lt Ian Mortimer

899 NAS Pilots

Lt Cdrs Robin Kent, John Eyton-Jones and Mike Broadwater

Flt Lt Paul Barton and Lt Mike Watson.

From all of the names above, those of Alan Curtiss, John Eyton-Jones and Nick Taylor stand above the rest; for having given their lives during the conflict, they have given all a man can in defence of something he truly believes in.

The Sea Ha

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 




 

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