BATTLE OF THE FALKLAND ISLANDS

 

GENERAL LEOPOLDO GALTIERI

 

 

 

Four years after gaining their independence from Spain in 1816, Argentina claimed sovereignty over a group of former Spanish island’s which lay 300 miles off the Argentine coast, and renamed them the Malvinas. Argentina then began to exploit the abundant seal and fishing ground’s surrounding the island’s.

In reprisal for the Argentine detainment of three U.S. fishing vessels accused of poaching, the American warship USS Lexington was dispatched and destroyed the Argentine settlement In 1831, officially declaring the Malvina’s free of Government before departing.

Two years later, a squadron of Royal Navy warship’s arrived and deported the remaining Argentine resident's back to the mainland, claiming the island’s for Great Britain. The British quickly set up a permanent settlement and began to take advantage of the rich and very lucrative fishing trade.

Well into the next century, there was very bitter relation’s between the two countries as Great Britain continually ignored all Argentine protest’s and refused political request’s to peacefully return the islands to Argentina.

In 1982, Argentina was suffering from an appalling economic crisis and large scale civil unrest, which crippled the country. The ruling military Junta under General Leopoldo Galtieri, sought to divert public attention away from Argentina's economic woes, by playing off on the long standing feeling’s between the Argentine people and Great Britain, regarding the Islands.

In the early morning hours of April 2nd, Argentina launched a surprise invasion to reclaim the Falkland’s. Strong element’s of Argentine Marine’s and Infantry supported by armored fighting vehicles, quickly overpowered and surrounded the island’s small detachment of 70 Royal Marine’s guarding the Government House. Faced with overwhelming forces and under threat of total annihilation, Governor Hunt ordered his men to lay down their arms later that day. 

Argentina quickly followed up this Lightning success with the occupation of the South Georgia Island group which lay a further 864 miles East - Southeast of the Falkland’s on April 3rd. As three hundred thousand ecstatic Argentinean’s gathered within the city plaza in central Buenos Aries to celebrate the Malvinas return to Argentina, back in Great Britain, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher announced during an emergency session of Parliament, that a Naval task force was being assembled to restore British administration to the Falkland’s.

On April 5th, this powerful flotilla set sail from the United Kingdom for the South Atlantic. Led by the aircraft carriers HMS Invincible and Hermes, the British fleet numbering 110 vessels included Assault ships, Missile Frigates and Heavy escorts from the Royal Navy, Fleet Auxiliary and Merchant Marine, which included an impressive 45 warship’s and a ground element of 28,000 Infantry.

This force was preceded by warship’s and nuclear powered submarine’s which had been participating in maneuver’s just outside Mediterranean waters. Accompanying them would be a variety of ships requisitioned from the commercial sector, including the massive Ocean liners QE2, Canberra and the hospital ship Uganda.

By the middle of April, some 13,000 Argentine troops were dug in throughout the Malvina’s and awaited the British invasion. In command of the Argentine forces was General Mario Menendez, a highly skilled and gifted commander, who had distinguished himself by defeating a very strong and well organized rebel uprising against Galtieri’s regime.

After British troops quickly recaptured the South Georgia islands on April 25th, the Argentine Submarine ARA Santa Fe, was caught in open water’s and attacked by the British warship’s HMS Endurance and Brilliant. The Argentine Submarine was so seriously damaged that it lay dead in the water. Powerless and drifting, the Captain had no choice but to abandoned her, and the crew were taken prisoner.

With South Georgia once again under the Union Jack, the British Government then imposed a 200 mile exclusion zone around the Falklands.

On May 1st, the first clash between the opposing Air Forces occurred, when six Argentine fighters were shot  down for zero British losses. Although the Argentine Air Force was fairly modern compared to their South American neighbors, their pilots had perhaps only 25 hours operational flying time with the aircraft due to military budget cutbacks.

The British on the other hand were flying the brand new Sea Harrier jump jet. Although Untested in combat,  British pilots had logged hundreds of hours, pushing the aircraft and perfecting their tactics. The Harrier was also armed with the air to air sidewinder missile, a lethal weapon which the Argentine Air Force did not posses.

On May 2nd, the Argentine Navy launched a pincer movement with two powerful Battle Groups around the Falkland’s to attack the British fleet. The Northern group comprised the Argentine Aircraft Carrier Veinticinco De Mayo and three Heavy Battle Cruisers. The Southern group was led by the pride of the Argentine Navy the Battleship General Belgrano and two Exocit armed Destroyers.

Unknown to the Belgrano, the British nuclear attack submarine HMS Conqueror, was shadowing her movement’s as she approached the exclusion zone. After consultation at the highest levels of the British war cabinet, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher decided the Argentine Task Force was a serious threat, and agreed that Commander Chris Wreford Brown, should open fire upon the Belgrano.

At 3:57 pm, Conqueror fired three Mark 8 torpedoes, each armed with an 800 lb warhead. One torpedo struck and blew of the entire bow section of ship, the second torpedo detonated in the center and tore open a sixty foot hole in the hull which also damaged the Belgrano's electrical system’s, preventing her from sending out a distress call.

Captain Bonzo immediately knew the Belgrano was mortally wounded and would soon be lost, he therefore quickly ordered his crew to abandon ship. At 4:24 pm, the Argentine Battleship slipped under the wave’s bow first. Because of the fog surrounding the area, the two escort ships were completely unaware of the Belgrano's condition until nightfall, by which time the weather had worsened preventing any rescue attempt.

In the next two days Argentine, Brazilian and Chilean vessels rescued 770 men in all. Of a crew of 1,138, a total of 368 Argentine sailors lost their lives in the attack. The sinking also prompted the Argentine Navy to fall back to the safety of their home ports for the duration of the conflict.

  

 

ARA GENERAL BELGRANO

 

 

 

The task of avenging the Belgrano, now fell squarely upon the air wing of the Argentine armed forces. Operating from land bases in Argentina, the Argentine Air Force launched repeated and well organized air attack’s on the British Fleet. On May 4th, the Destroyer HMS Sheffield was hit by an Exocet missile launched by an Argentine Super Etendard strike aircraft and later sank with the loss of twenty killed and twenty six wounded. The loss of the Sheffield was to be the first suffered by the British Navy since the end of the Second World War.

For the next two weeks, fog and bad weather all but halted major operations on both sides. However on May 12th, a break in the weather did allow four Argentine Skyhawk attack dive bombers to spot and attack the HMS Glasgow, severely damaging the Destroyer, which later forced her to withdrawal from the main fleet.

On the evening of the 14th, forty eight British S.A.S special forces commandos launched a surprise assault on the small airfield at Pebble Beach, in which they successfully destroyed the six IA Pucara and four T34 Mentor light ground attack aircraft stationed there. The raid also succeeded in destroying the fuel depot, ammo dump and radar station, rendering the airstrip useless.

In the early morning hours of May 21st, 4,000 troops comprising three Commando Brigades of the Royal Marines and two Battalions of Parachute Infantry, landed in the bay of San Carlos Water on four beaches to effect a foothold on the Falkland’s.

Although the British landing’s experienced virtually no opposition, the Argentine Air Force did arrive in force, launching repeated attack’s throughout the day, strafing the beachhead’s and bombing the Royal Navy ship’s protecting the landing zones. Although the Argentine’s could not prevent more reinforcement’s from landing, they did however inflict heavy damage on the missile frigate HMS Argonaught and numerous other support vessels, including the sinking of the missile frigate Ardent.

 

 

                     

                                  HMS ARDENT                                                    HMS COVENTRY

 

                    

              EXOCET ARMED SUPER ENTENDARD                SKYHAWK  ATTACK DIVE BOMBER        

 

 

 

 

In the next few days as the British continued to reinforce their positions, the Argentine Air Force relentlessly harassed the British operation. On May 23rd, the Frigate HMS Broadsword was severally damaged and taken out of the fight, on May 24 - 25, the Frigate HMS Antelope and the Destroyer HMS Coventry were both sunk by  multiple hits from 1,000 lb bombs dropped by Skyhawk attack dive bombers. Although the British were getting  troops ashore, their naval forces were suffering great losses in men and materials protecting the landing zones.

Also on the 25th, the massive container ship Atlantic Conveyer, was struck by an Exocet missile fired by a  Super Entendard. The ship was consumed by a raging fire and had to be abandoned with the loss of 12 lives. Although taken under tow, she broke up and sank five days later with all her stores and equipment lost.

The loss of the Atlantic Conveyer, would drastically alter the British High Command’s initial plans for retaking the Islands. Including the huge stores of ammunition, the British also lost the use of three infantry support RAF Chinook and nine Royal Navy Wessex attack helicopters.

Without the use of the helicopters to carry the assault troops from the beachheads, the British were forced to march the 50 miles across the island, to assault the capital Port Stanley. On May 26th, 500 men of 2nd Para were ordered to move south and secure the settlement’s of Darwin and Goose Green, while 3rd Para was ordered North East to occupy the Hamlets of Douglas and Teal Inlet.

Marching down the center of the Island and protecting both Para's flanks against Argentine counter attacks, were 500 men of the 1st Battalion Royal Ghurka’s, under Lt. Colonel Davis Morgan.

2nd Para's commander, Lieutenant Colonel H Jones, expected to engage perhaps 200 enemy combatants as his Battalion approached Goose Green near dusk. Colonel Jones was completely stunned when his reckon company came under intense machine gun fire from strong Argentine defensive positions. Unable to advance and Unaware of the enemy's strength before him, Jones ordered his men too immediately halt and make preparations for a night assault. 

Colonel Jones knew his entire Battalion was equipped with night vision equipment and had been well trained in  night attack operations, Jones was also aware that the Argentine defenders did not possess such technology or skill. Unknown to Colonel Jones however, was that the surrounding hills and ridge lines were defended by 957 men of the Argentine 12th Infantry Regiment, under Lieutenant Colonel Piaggi.

The attack went forward at  3:30am, almost immediately the British ran into heavy fire as the Argentine’s  contested every yard. After the first few hours however, the British began to make gains against the Argentine defensive works. As the Argentine machine gun fire became more sporadic and less accurate due to the darkness, the British could see every Argentine bunker, and set about systematically destroying them one by one.

As daylight approached, it was clearly visible that the British had captured a number of enemy positions, but  the Argentine’s still occupied the high ground. With his troops once again coming under heavy fire, Colonel Jones took it upon himself to charge up a hill and attack an Argentine machine gun nest. Colonel Jones was struck down by enemy fire, rose up, then advanced a few more feet before collapsing.

Command of 2nd Para now fell to Major Keeble. As luck would have it, at that very moment, four Harrier’s from HMS Hermes arrived and cluster bombed the Argentine ridge line, completely obliterating their positions. With the high ground now in British hands, this gave Keeble an idea.

He did not want to risk the lives of his remaining soldiers in a daylight assault on Goose Green itself, and he  also knew the Argentine Air Force would soon arrive and attack the new British positions, so Keeble sent a dispatch to the Argentine Commander, stating that if they did not surrender the town, the British would have no choice but to surrounded and bomb it into submission, with the subsequent Argentine and civilian casualties solely resting with Argentina herself.

Unbelievably Major Keeble's gamble paid off, as Lieutenant Colonel Piaggi agreed to surrender. On the  evening of May 28th, after a fierce twelve hour battle the Argentine garrison surrendered. Much to the astonishment of the British commanders, 900 Argentine  prisoners were taken, 700 more than was expected. The battle for Goose Green had cost the lives of 16 British and 57 Argentine’s killed. 

 

 

RAF BRITISH HARRIER

 

 

 

Although both Douglas and Teal inlet were captured by 3rd Para with very little opposition on the 27th, the  stubborn defense and unexpected Argentine forces encountered at Goose Green prompted the British commanders to send more troops inland. The 42nd and 45th Royal Marine Battalions, would link up with 3rd Para while the 40th Royal Marines, would reinforce 2nd Para on May 29th. These maneuver’s would precede the landings of the British 5th Infantry Brigade at San Carlos on June 1st.

The British now began the slow march east through the barren and featureless terrain towards the capital of Stanley. On June 8th, the Argentine’s launched air attacks aimed at slowing the British advance. While passing over San Carlos water, the destroyer HMS Plymouth was seriously damaged when she was struck by four 500lb bombs launched from Argentine Skyhawks.

The attack group would carry on until over the settlement of Bluff Cove, when they spotted the logistic support ship’s RFA Sir Galahad and Sir Tristram. Although they had unloaded all their stores when the Argentine attack went in, the decks of both ship’s were fully loaded with disembarking elements of the 1st  Battalion Welsh Guards and Royal Engineers. Both vessels sustained direct hits with 1,000 lb bombs. Tragically the British suffered 50 killed and 120 injured before RAF Harriers arrived on the scene, shooting down all six Skyhawks.

Unable to make the voyage back to England, the Sir Galahad would later be scuttled, while the Sir Tristram was carried back to an English port on a heavy lift ship and extensively rebuilt.

 

 

RFA SIR GALAHAD

 

 

On June 11th, the British land forces reached a series of ridged peaks and dominating hills covering the approaches to Stanley. The Argentine's fortified seven key positions of which Mount Harriet (left flank), Two Sisters (center) and Mount Longdon (right flank) comprised the first line of defense, with Mt Longdon being the dominant of the group.

The second defensive lines comprised Mount William (left flank), Mount Tumbledown (center) and Wireless  ridge (right flank) with Sapper Hill to the rear - left of center and isolated, with Mt Tumbledown being the dominant of the grouping. Each objective was very formidable and would be defended by a well dug in enemy which could call upon ample Mortar and Artillery fire in support.

In a three prong night attack commencing at 10:00pm, the 42nd Royal Marines would occupy MT Harriet, the 45th Royal Marines would assault Two Sisters and 3rd Para was to capture MT Longdon.

MT Harriet would be defended by 500 men of the Argentine 4th Infantry Regiment under Lieutenant Colonel Diego Soria. As the 600 men of the 42nd Royal Marines under Lieutenant Colonel Nick Vaux approached the lower Southern slopes,  Argentine Heavy machine guns and 120mm Mortar squads opened fire, causing the  British assault to break up and quickly lose cohesion.

With the 42nd pinned down and taking casualties, Colonel Vaux called in fire support from the 7th Battery  Royal Artillery, comprising six 105mm field guns stationed atop MT Challenger.

The Artillery barrage would prove decisive, forcing the Argentine troops to abandoned their positions and retreat back up the ridge. As the British went forward in pursuit, they would come under heavy fire yet once again. Covering the Argentine retreat was a Platoon of crack Infantry Grenadiers from the Del General San Martin Regiment.

These troops put forth a withering amount of fire on the British and forced Colonel Vaux to order his men to hold their positions. To dislodge the Argentine's from this new line of defense works, Vaux would now in addition to the Artillery, call in Naval support from the HMS Yarmouth and her 4.5 inch (114mm) guns stationed in nearby Port Harriet.

After an extensive barrage, Colonel Vaux ordered the 42nd to resume their march across the now smoking ruins of the summit, only to find the Grenadiers had withdrawn with all their heavy weaponry, while the remaining conscripts within the Regiment began to surrender.

For the loss of 2 dead and 30 wounded, the 42nd Royal Marines had taken Mount Harriet, inflicting loses of 18  dead, 50 wounded and 300 Argentine prisoners taken.

Major Ricardo Cordon with the remaining 350 men of the 4th Infantry Regiment were given the defense of Two  Sisters. Assigned to its capture were 600 men of the 45th Royal Marines under Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Whitehead.

The main attack for Two Sisters went in at 11:30pm, the British quickly found themselves up against a very well  organized system of trench works and connected strong points. With 200 men, Colonel Whitehead personally took the lead on the first assault, but was unable to make any progress.

Colonel Whitehead could not foresee that he was up against 120 men of the Argentine 3rd Platoon, which were  regular army and not the young conscripts which were holding most of the Argentine lines. Whitehead's company regrouped and launched another more spirited attack, but once again were repulsed.

Colonel Whitehead now called upon one of his two reserve companies to join in the next assault. As the 400 men of the two British companies threw themselves into the effort to dislodge the Argentine 3rd Platoon, Major Cordon ordered for Artillery support from Port Stanley, which caused the British attack to fall short once again.

Pinned down on the slopes of Two Sisters, Colonel Whitehead realized he could not hope to secure the summits without sustaining massive casualties. He therefor brought up his last reserve company and arranged for the 29th Royal Artillery and their six 105mm guns along with Naval support from the HMS Glamorgan and her 4.5 inch (114mm) guns to support his next assault.

For three hours the bombardment ripped back and forth across the mountain, pounding the Argentine positions.At 3:30am, Colonel Whitehead ordered his entire Battalion forward. As the Argentine conscripts began to abandon their trenches, remarkably the remnants of 3rd Platoon continued to resist. It wasn't until the British were virtually on top of them, did they pack up and withdrawal, effectively surrendering possession of Two  Sisters.

The battle for Two Sisters had cost the British 8 dead and 17 wounded, while their Argentine counterparts  suffered 20 dead, 65 wounded and 55 taken prisoner.

With the fall of Two Sisters, the Argentine front line had been broken and pushed back in the south and center,  only the northern stronghold of Mount Longdon remained. In command was Major Carlos Salvadores and three companies numbering 280 men of the 7th Infantry Regiment.

Under Lieutenant Colonel Hew Pike, the 450 men of 3rd Para, silently moved from their starting lines and  approached the center of the Argentine positions at the base of MT Longdon, surprise was lost however when one soldier stepped on a land mine, the explosion alerted the 80 men of the 1st Company under Lieutenant Baldini.

Heavy machine gun and Mortar fire poured down on the British, causing a number of casualties. 3rd Para would launch repeated attacks on the enemy dug outs, only to be met each time by a hail of bullets and shrapnel. With the situation going badly, Colonel Pike called in Naval support  from the HMS Avenger's 4.5 inch guns to soften and break up the Argentine defense works.

The Naval bombardment once again proved very effective, forcing the Argentine’s to fall back. Colonel Pike now  ordered another advance, which captured the vacant enemy positions and continued forward, chasing the 1st Argentine Company up the center of the ridge. It was at the top of the summit were Lieutenant Baldini ordered his men to turn and fight.

Lieutenant Baldini organized the remnants of his Company into a tight defensive pocket and awaited the British  onslaught. Major Salvadores, knew 1st Company was to weak to hold their positions and ordered the Argentine 2nd Company on the northern half of Mount Longdon and 3rd Company on the southern side, to scale the ridges and converge on the summit.

The two Argentine Company's arrived just when 1st Company was heavily engaged and about to be overwhelmed. The Argentine counterattack pushed back and drove the British Para's off the summit. Throughout most of the night the Argentine positions continued to hold in the face of repeated British counterattacks.

Near dawn, Colonel Pike once again called upon naval support from the HMS Avenger to dislodge the Argentine heavy machine gun emplacements and Mortar pits. Directed by British reckon observers, the Avenger's main guns extensively destroyed most of the fortified bunkers and tore huge gaps in the Argentine lines.

With the enemy in complete disarray, Colonel Pike ordered the entire 3rd Para forward in an all out attack. The Para's reached the Argentine positions atop the summit, where the combat now degenerated into hand to hand, with the British forced to dislodge every Argentine defender with the grenade, rifle and bayonet.

With the British slowly gaining the advantage, Major Salvadores informed General Menendez that the situation was becoming critical and he desperately needed reinforcements to be sent at once to deny the British any chance of Longdone’s capture. Menendez instead ordered his own Artillery to open fire on the summit.

Being fired upon by their own guns completely broke the Argentine's fighting spirit and they began to stream in droves down the East side of MT Longdon in all directions. At dawn on June 12th the British had finally taken the last group of hills in the Mountain chain protecting the western approaches to Stanley.

The cost would be heavy on both sides, with 3rd Para suffering 23 killed and 47 wounded. The three Argentine  companies of the 7th Infantry Regiment lost 31 dead, 120 wounded and 50 prisoners taken, nearly 70% of their total strength.

 

MOUNT LONGDON

 

Now only Mount Tumbledown remained, the last Argentine stronghold covering the approaches to Port Stanley.  Its defense was entrusted to Commander Carlos Robacio and the elite 5th Marines, a crack Battalion comprising 500 men, representing the best of the Argentine troops on the Island. Ordered with its capture was Lieutenant Colonel Micheal Scott and 900 men comprising the 2nd Battalion Scotts Guards, 42nd Marine Commando's and the 1st Battalion Duke of Edinburgh's Ghurka Rifles.

Colonel Scott ordered the advance to begin at 9:00 p.m. After a march of two miles, the bulk of the British forces had reached the outer ridge lines of Tumbledown. The Scotts Guards found the  western face of the mountain undefended and occupied the area, while the 45th Commando's and Ghurka Rifles were approaching their objectives.

At 11:00 p.m, the Guardsmen began their march up the rock face. Within minutes the Argentine defenders  opened fire, directing tripod 105mm Recoilless Rifle, 88mm Mortar, Grenade, Heavy Machine Gun and small arms fire down upon on the British Companies. For three hours the British could not advance and were pinned down by the Argentine Marines protected in their improvised rock bunkers.

Although the British were up against superior firepower, the Argentine's still however were mostly firing blindly into the darkness, where as the British troops with their night vision equipment could see every Argentine position and individual soldier.

This lack of battlefield technology would soon tell upon the Argentine troops, as the Royal Navy Frigates HMS Yarmouth and Active, began pounding the Argentine bunkers with their 4.5 inch main guns, which forced the enemy soldiers out into the open where they were easy targets for the British snipers.

At 2:30 a.m. Colonel Scott ordered another assault. The fighting was hard going, with each side asking nor  giving any quarter. Because of the stubborn defense put up by the 5th Argentine Marines, Colonel Scott ordered a general halt, to evaluate the situation before him.

During the lull in the fighting, the British could hear the Argentine's shouting obscene phrases in English and  even singing amongst  themselves. Colonel Scott ordered an assault team armed with 66mm bunker busters, to concentrate their fire upon a series of rock bunkers in the center of the Argentine defenses.

At 3:00 a.m. the barrage of 66mm rockets was followed by another assault by the Scotts Guards which overwhelmed the Argentine positions, driving the enemy back, at times with the bayonet.

At 4:00 a.m. The British found themselves standing atop the summit looking down on Port Stanley under street lighting and with vehicles moving along the roads. By 5:00 a.m. the Guardsmen had firm control of the center, but the Argentine’s still held the Northern and Southern half's of the mountain.

As dawn approached, the attack in the South had clearly stalled, while the Northern Argentine positions being held by the 3rd Platoon under Second Lieutenant Augusto Madrid, were still resisting attacks by the Scotts Guards. At 6:00 a.m. Colonel Scott ordered 2nd and 3rd Platoons supported by 66 mm Rocket Teams under Major Simon Price, forward to clear the Northern ridges of the enemy.

Colonel Scott then ordered 1st Platoon atop the summit to provide fire support for the assault. Major Price led 2nd Platoon, supported by the 66 mm Rocket Teams forward against the enemy. While the Argentine defender’s faced two simultaneous attacks, Lieutenant Robert Lawrence and 3rd Platoon advanced round the left of the Northern end of MT Tumbledown in an attempt to cut off and completely encircle the Argentine positions.

Commander Robacio knew the situation would soon be untenable, thus he ordered his Company to withdrawal before they were completely  surrounded. At 9:00 a.m. in addition to the summit, the Scotts Guards had gained  the high ground North and East of Tumbledown Mountain.

Commander Robacio now ordered 2nd Platoon still holding the southern edge of Tumbledown, to fall back as well. What remained of the 5th Marines now abandoned most of their heavy equipment and weaponry as they worked their way back to Port Stanley. Robacio left but a single company to hold the saddle between Tumbledown and Mount William, to cover their retreat.

After a ten hour night battle, Tumbledown was finally in British hands. The British lost 10 men killed and 53  wounded were as their Argentine counterparts suffered 30 dead, 110 wounded and 30 prisoners taken.

 

ATOP MT TUMBLEDOWN WITHIN VIEW OF PORT STANLEY

 

Because it was now in the early morning hours of the 13th, British supreme commander, Major General JJ Moore, would now have to launch the first daylight assault of the campaign. Moore ordered the 1st Battalion Ghurka Rifles to capture Mount William. As the Ghurka's formed up to approach their objective, Argentine observers atop MT William, correctly identified the units before them to be Ghurka assault troops.

Word quickly spread amongs’t the Battalion of Reservists from the Argentine 5th Marines, that they were about to engage this crack British unit (comprising Nepalese volunteers whose ancestors had served the British Empire for over 100 years).  Instead of fighting, the Argentine’s choose to break ranks and withdrawal back  down the Mountain without firing a shot. This was to leave Lieutenant Colonel Morgan and the Ghurka's under his command bitterly disappointed.

As the Ghurka's stood atop Mt William, the 1st Welsh Guards and the 45th Royal Marines bypassed the mountain and advanced on Sapper Hill. The one single company of the Argentine 6th Infantry Regiment defending Sapper Hill, was faced with the prospect of engaging two British Battalions, while the sight of their Argentine comrades streaming past them towards Port Stanley made the decision for them. The advancing British forces would find Sapper Hill also abandoned.

Only one final Argentine stronghold now remained, the most Northern defense works atop Wireless Ridge. The Argentine forces atop Wireless Ridge could not easily withdrawal if need be, the entire southern face of the range faced Stanley Harbor which was controlled by the  Royal Navy, and the British occupied the West and Northern approaches.

 

WIRELESS RIDGE  FACING TWO SISTERS - MT HARRIET

 

After suffering heavy casualties during the Battle of Goose Green, including the loss of their commander  Lieutenant Colonel Jones. Command of the 600 men comprising 2nd Para Battalion now passed to Lieutenant Colonel David Chaundler, who was chosen to lead the upcoming  assault. Defending Wireless Ridge was Commander Omar Gimenez and 500 men of the 7th Infantry Regiment.

While taking up positions, 2nd Para came under attack by Argentine Skyhawks which succeeded in destroying the Battalion’s supply train and heavy equipment, but failed to inflict any British casualties. In the closing hours of June 13th, the British attack began with an immense barrage of ordinance from land, sea and air. For twelve hours they pummeled the Argentine defender’s with no response.

When 2nd Para reached the hills and started to consolidate their positions, the 7th Infantry Regiment launched a series of heavy recoilless rifle and mortar attacks. The British responded with cover fire from the main guns of   HMS Ambuscade, along with twenty four 105mm Artillery guns, Mortars and 66 mm Rockets.

The Argentine defenders eventually withdrew in the face of such withering fire, allowing two British Companies to take control of the West and Central sections of the Ridge. At this stage of the battle there very few Argentine officers still left alive to lead their men, and the fragmented groups of the Regiment were very low on ammunition.

Major Neames Parachute Company now began the final assault on the Eastern edge of Wireless Ridge. The last of the Argentine troops fired a few last salvo's in response, then having run out of ammunition, broke ranks and ran for cover in all directions.

However the battle was not yet over. Major Eugenio Dalton gathered some 100 fleeing men and rallied them to  make one last stand to protect the Regiments command post. After firing the last of their rifled ammunition, Major Dalton led them on a bayonet charge towards the advancing British, with each soldier in unison chanting the Argentine 'Malvinas March'.

The futile charge was soon cut to pieces by Artillery and Heavy machine gun fire. The British soldiers were so  sickened by the slaughter, that they held their fire after the artillery barrage had ceased, Allowing Argentine stretcher bearer’s to gather the seriously wounded.

With this final last act of Argentine soldiery, the battle had effectively come to an end. The occupation of  Wireless Ridge had cost the British 3 dead and 11 wounded, the Argentine's suffered 25 dead, 125 wounded and 50 prisoners taken in its defense.

By the morning of June 14th, Argentine resistance had completely collapsed and the Army's remnants were  streaming back to Port Stanley en mass. By late afternoon British troops had recaptured the Government House and had completely surrounded Stanley. Within the Port itself, Argentine discipline was breaking down as their command structure crumbled. The towns British inhabitants could visibly see Argentine soldiers physically at blows with their superiors.

 

                                  

                     MARCHING ON STANLEY                                 GOVERNMENT HOUSE

 

 

Later that evening, General Mario Menendez surrendered all Argentine forces on the Islands under his command to the British land forces commander, Major General Jeremy Moore. 11,845 Argentine troops immediately became prisoners of war. The conflict lasted seventy four days and claimed the lives of 258 British dead and 777 wounded in comparison to Argentine losses of 649 dead and 1068 wounded, with the greatest number of casualties, on both sides, occurring at sea.

At the outset of hostilities the advantage lay squarely with the British, due to the quality of the troops involved. The British land forces were considered elite units that were trained and prepared for combat in Northern Europe, whereas the Argentine army consisted of mainly young conscripts, poorly trained and equipped for the sub artic battlefield in which they found themselve’s.

Three days after the surrender, Argentine President, General Leopoldo Galtieri was forced from power amid  widespread civil unrest and the refusal of the Army to support him any further.

One month later during the repatriation of the Argentine prisoners, Great Britain also offered to return the bodies of the Argentine fallen, Argentina steadfastly refused, replying they had died on Argentine soil.

 

 

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