Tag Archives: The Falklands War

The sinking of HMS Coventry by Argentine missiles -25th May 1982

The sinking of HMS Coventry

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1982 Dozens killed as Argentines hit British ships

Dozens of men are feared dead in the seas around the Falkland Islands after the container ship Atlantic Conveyor and the destroyer HMS Coventry were hit by Argentine missiles.

HMS Coventry managed to destroy two Argentine Skyhawk planes with Sea Dart missiles. Another wave of Skyhawks hit her four times with 1,000 bombs. She capsized, losing 21 of her crew.

An explosion and a fireball swept through the operations room. The ship listed to port and the crew and wounded made their way to the upper decks from where they were rescued.

It is thought the Atlantic Conveyor, owned by Cunard, was mistaken for the aircraft carrier HMS Hermes.

She was attacked by two Super Etendards which fired French-built Exocets like the ones that sunk the Coventry’s sister ship HMS Sheffield on 4 May.

See BBC ONTHISDAY for more details

 

HMS Coventry

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HMS Coventry was a Type 42 (Sheffield-class) destroyer of the Royal Navy. Laid down by Cammell Laird and Company, Limited, at Birkenhead on 29 January 1973, she was launched on 21 June 1974 and accepted into service on 20 October 1978 at a cost of £37,900,000.

She was sunk by Argentine Air Force A-4 Skyhawks on 25 May 1982 during the Falklands War.

 

HMS Coventry D118.jpg

HMS Coventry
History
United Kingdom
Name: HMS Coventry
Builder: Cammell Laird
Laid down: 29 January 1973
Launched: 21 June 1974
Commissioned: 10 November 1978
Identification: Pennant number: D118
Fate: Sunk by Argentine aircraft, 25 May 1982
General characteristics
Class and type: Type 42 destroyer
Displacement: 4,820 tonnes
Length: 125 m (410 ft)
Beam: 14.3 m (47 ft)
Draught: 5.8 m (19 ft)
Propulsion: COGOG (Combined Gas or Gas) turbines, 2 shafts producing 36 MW
Speed: 30 knots (56 km/h; 35 mph)
Complement: 287
Armament:
Aircraft carried: Westland Lynx HAS.Mk.1/2

 

Background

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The principal role of these ships was to provide the fleet with mid-range anti-air warfare capability with secondary roles of anti-surface and anti-submarine. A total of sixteen Type 42s were built between 1972 and 1985, in three batches, with Coventry the last of the first batch to be commissioned.

To cut costs, the first two batches had 47 feet removed from the bow and the beam-to-length ratio reduced. These early Type 42s performed poorly during trials and were notoriously poor sea-keepers.

Type 42 destroyers were fitted with the Sea Dart surface-to-air missiles designed in the 1960s to counter threats from manned aircraft. Sea Dart was constrained by limitations on its firing capacity and reaction time, but did prove itself during the Falklands War with seven kills, three of these attributed to Coventry.

Service history

1978–1982

Image result for Captain C. P. O. Burne

Captain Christopher ‘Beagle’ Burne

Coventry was commissioned on 10 November 1978 under the command of Captain C. P. O. Burne at Portsmouth. Following post-commissioning trials, the ship was used to trial the operation of the new Westland Lynx helicopter from the Type 42 platform, to test the combination’s safe operating limits.

The ship’s first major deployment came in 1980 when she was sent to the Far East; in September of that year, alongside Antrim and Alacrity, she became the first British warship to visit the People’s Republic of China in 30 years. En route back to the UK, Coventry was diverted to the Persian Gulf following the outbreak of the Iran–Iraq War, where the ship remained on patrol for six weeks until relieved by the start of the permanent Armilla patrol consisting of Ardent and Apollo.

Throughout 1981 and into 1982, Coventry took part in various exercises in home waters, culminating in her deployment as part of Exercise Springtrain ’82 in March 1982.

 

Falklands Campaign

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See Falklands War

Coventry was taking part in the Exercise Springtrain 82 near the British base of Gibraltar, during March 1982. Along with other vessels involved in the exercise she was detailed for service in the Falklands Campaign. She had a Union Flag painted on the roof of her bridge and a black line painted through her funnel to her waterline to aid recognition, as the Argentines also operated two Type 42 destroyers.

On 27 April, Coventry, in company with Glamorgan, Glasgow, Arrow and Sheffield, entered the Total Exclusion Zone, a 200-mile cordon around the Falkland Islands. Alongside Sheffield and Glasgow, Coventry would form the air defence vanguard for the aircraft carriers following behind.

Coventrys contribution to the Falklands War was considerable. Her helicopter was the first to fire Sea Skua air-to-surface anti-ship missiles in action. Her Westland Lynx HAS.Mk.2 fired two Sea Skua missiles on 3 May at ARA Alferez Sobral, the former USS Salish. One missile missed and the other hit a small boat, knocking out the radio aerials and slightly injuring a crewman manning a 20 mm gun. Glasgows Lynx fired two more Sea Skua, and the vessel retreated, with eight crew killed, eight wounded and heavy damage.

Her damaged bridge is now on display at the Naval Museum in Tigre, Argentina. The vessel remains in service in the Argentine Navy.

Published in El Clarín. The circle with the “1” is where General Belgrano was sunk. The “2” shows the last contact with Alferez Sobral.
Drill Sea Dart Missiles Onboard HMS Edinburgh MOD 45153846.jpg

 

Coventry was the first warship to fire Sea Dart surface-to-air missiles in anger when the ship fired three on 9 May at two Learjets of Escuadrón Fénix, just missing the aircraft. Broadsword reported that her radar tracked the missiles merging with the pair of contacts (call signs Litro and Pepe), but they missed the aircraft.

Coventrys captain, David Hart Dyke claimed that two A-4C Skyhawks of Grupo 4 were shot down by Sea Darts (C-303 and C-313). However, both were actually lost to bad weather, and both wrecks were found on South Jason Island,

one on the northwest side of the cliffs, the other in shallow waters on the southwest. Lt Casco and Lt Farias were both killed.

The first confirmed kill made by Coventry was an Aérospatiale Puma helicopter of 601 Assault Helicopter Battalion, shot down by a Sea Dart over Choiseul Sound, killing its three-man crew.

Coventry had been one of three Type 42 destroyers providing anti-aircraft cover for the fleet. With the loss of Sheffield and damage to Glasgow on 12 May, forcing her to return to the UK, Coventry was left to carry out the role alone, until other ships could arrive from the UK.

“Type 64”

HMS Cornwall (F99), May 2007

Type 22 frigates

 

Following the loss of Sheffield, a new air defence tactic was devised to try to maximise the task group’s remaining assets. This saw the two remaining Type 42s paired with the two Type 22 frigates (a pairing unofficially termed Type 64) and deployed much further ahead of the main force in an effort to draw attacking aircraft away from the carriers.

The idea was that in the event of Sea Dart being unable to function, the short range Sea Wolf advanced point defence missile fitted to the frigates could be used. In this, Coventry was paired with Broadsword.

25 May 1982

On 25 May 1982, Coventry and Broadsword were ordered to take up position to the north-west of Falkland Sound. There she would act as a decoy to draw Argentinian aircraft away from other ships at San Carlos Bay. In this position, close to land, with not enough open sea between her and the coast, her Sea Dart missiles would be less effective.[6] Broadsword was armed with the Sea Wolf missile, which is for short range anti-aircraft and anti-missile use.

Pebble Island - Falkland Islands.jpg

At first, the trap worked, with FAA A-4B Skyhawk C-244 of Grupo 5 shot down north of Pebble Island by a Sea Dart. Pilot Capitán Hugo Ángel del Valle Palaver was killed. Later a FAA A-4C Skyhawk coded C-304 of Grupo 4 de Caza deployed to San Julian was shot down north east of Pebble Island by another Sea Dart while returning from a mission to San Carlos Water. Capitán Jorge Osvaldo García successfully ejected but was not recovered from the water.

His body was washed ashore in a dinghy at Golding Island in 1983. Garcia’s wingman, Teniente Ricardo Lucero, was also shot down during the raid on San Carlos by a Rapier Missile from ‘T’ Battery, 12 Regiment Royal Artillery, but he was luckier, and ejected into captivity, in front of waiting news crews.

The two ships then came under attack by two waves of two Argentine A-4 Skyhawks. The first wave carried one 1,000 lb free-fall bomb while the second one carried 3 x 250 kg bombs. The four Skyhawks flew so low that Coventrys targeting radar could not distinguish between them and the land and failed to lock on. Broadsword attempted to target the first pair of attackers (Capitán Pablo Carballo and Teniente Carlos Rinke) with her Sea Wolf missile system, but her own tracking system locked down during the attack and could not be reset before the aircraft released their bombs.

British Lynx landing on Kearsarge.jpg

Of the bombs released, one bounced off the sea and struck Broadswords flight deck and, though it failed to explode, wrecked the ship’s Lynx helicopter. Coventry claimed to have hit the second Skyhawk (Capitán P. Marcos Carballo) in the tail with small arms fire, although the aircraft returned safely to Argentina. In fact, Carballo’s plane was hit under the right wing by a piece of shrapnel on his way in, that pierced his aircraft’s right fuel tank.

The second pair of Skyhawks (Primer Teniente Mariano A. Velasco and Ensign Alférez Leonardo Barrionuevo), headed for Coventry 90 seconds later at a 20-degree angle to her port bow. Still unable to gain a missile lock, Coventry launched a Sea Dart in an attempt to distract them and turned hard to starboard to reduce her profile. On Broadsword the Sea Wolf system had been reset and successfully acquired the attacking aircraft, but was unable to fire as Coventrys turn took her directly into the line of fire.

Coventry used her 4.5-inch gun and small arms against the attacking aircraft. The port Oerlikon 20 mm cannon jammed, leaving the ship with only rifles and machine guns to defend herself. Coventry was struck by three bombs just above the water line on the port side. One of the bombs exploded beneath the computer room, destroying it and the nearby operations room, incapacitating almost all senior officers.

The other entered the forward engine room, exploding beneath the junior ratings dining room where the first aid party was stationed, and the ship immediately began listing to port. The latter hit caused critical damage as it breached the bulkhead between the forward and aft engine rooms, exposing the largest open space in the ship to uncontrollable flooding.

Given the design of the ship, with multiple watertight compartments, two hits virtually anywhere else might have been just survivable. The third bomb did not explode.

Within 20 minutes Coventry had been abandoned and had completely capsized. Coventry sank shortly after. Nineteen of her crew were killed and a further 30 injured. One of the wounded, Paul Mills, suffered complications from a skull fracture sustained in the sinking of the ship and later died on 29 March 1983; he is buried in his home town of Swavesey, Cambridgeshire.

After the ship was struck, her crew, waiting to be rescued, sang “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” from Monty Python’s Life of Brian.[11]

Broadsword subsequently rescued 170 of Coventrys crew.

Tributes

Memorial to the dead of HMS Coventry in Holy Trinity Church, Coventry

No member of Coventry received an award for bravery. CPO Aircrewman M J Tupper of No.846 NAS was awarded a Distinguished Service Medal for his part in the rescue.

After the war, a cross to commemorate crew members who lost their lives was erected on Pebble Island.

David Hart Dyke, Coventrys commanding officer during the Falklands War, wrote about the ship’s tale in his book Four Weeks in May: The Loss of HMS Coventry. This was adapted by the BBC into a documentary Sea of Fire, with dramatised sequences and shown in June 2007.

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In 2011 it was announced that a feature-length film would be produced based on Four Weeks in May, to be written and directed by Tom Shankland. The documentary television series Seconds from Disaster featured the attack on the Coventry in the episode “Sinking the Coventry” in December 2012.

The wreck site is a controlled site under the Protection of Military Remains Act. Five months after Coventry sank, a RN Fleet Diving Team conducted an underwater survey of the wreck, which they found lying on her port side in approximately 100 metres (330 ft) of water. This survey was the beginning of “Operation Blackleg”, a series of dives to recover classified documentation and equipment and to make the remaining weapons safe by means of explosive demolition.

The dive team recovered several personal items belonging to Hart Dyke and other officers along with the ship’s battle ensign, later presented to the next Coventry, a Type 22 frigate. The divers also recovered the Cross of Nails, originally presented to the ship by Coventry Cathedral. This too was loaned to the new Coventry, until her decommissioning in 2002, when it returned to the cathedral.

The Cross is now carried on board HMS Diamond (D34), a Type 45 destroyer.

There is a memorial plaque to the dead of HMS Coventry at Holy Trinity Church, Coventry.

 

 

Great British Battles – Battle of Goose Green

 

The Battle of Goose Green

The Falklands War – The Untold Story

The Battle of Goose Green (28–29 May 1982) was an engagement between British and Argentine forces during the Falklands War. Goose Green and its neighbouring settlement Darwin on East Falkland lie on Choiseul Sound on the east side of the island’s central isthmus. They are about 13 miles (21 km) south of the site where the major British amphibious landings took place in San Carlos Water (Operation Sutton) on the night of 21/22 May 1982.

Goose Green school.jpg
Darwin School House
Date 28–29 May 1982
Location Goose Green and Darwin, Falkland Islands
Result British victory
Belligerents
Argentina Argentina United Kingdom United Kingdom
Commanders and leaders
Lt. Col. Ítalo Piaggi (POW)
Vicecomodoro Wilson Pedrozo
Lt. Col. Herbert Jones 
Maj. Chris Keeble
Strength
684[4]-871 army
202 airforce
10 navy personnel
Total: 896-1083[5]
690[6]
Casualties and losses
45[7][8]-55 killed[9][10]
98 army wounded[11] and at least 14 air force personnel wounded.[12]
961[13] captured

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The Battle of Goose Green

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Times and nomenclature

British forces worked on UTC (Zulu) Time and many reports and sources quote the timing of events based on Zulu time. All times stated in this page are reflected as local, Falkland Island time (UTC−3), the same as Argentine time. On the day of the battle, sunrise was at 08:39 and sunset at 16:58.[17] To avoid confusion between similar company designations, Argentine companies are referred to in the form “Company A” while British forces are referred to as “A Company.”

Terrain and conditions

Map 1: Context map showing location of the Darwin isthmus in relation to the Falkland Islands. Area in red matches the area covered by Map 2

Vegetation and terrain: Low tussock covered hills with gorse filled valleys. Image is looking south in the direction of A Company, 2 Para attack with Darwin settlement on the left. Darwin Hill on the right.

Goose Green and Darwin are on a narrow isthmus connecting Lafonia to Wickham Heights, which together form the large eastern island of the Falkland Islands. The terrain is rolling and treeless and is covered with grass outcrops, areas of thick gorse and peat bogs making effective camouflage and concealment extremely difficult. From May to August, the southern hemisphere winter, the ground is sodden and frequently covered with brackish water, causing movement to be slow and exhausting, especially at night. The isthmus has two settlements, both on the eastern coastal edge with Darwin settlement to the north and Goose Green to the south. The islands have a cold, damp climate and light, drizzly rains occur two out of every three days with continuous winds. Periods of rain, snow, fog, and sun change rapidly, and sunshine is extremely limited, leaving few opportunities for troops to warm up and dry out.[18]

Reasons for the attack

The bulk of the Argentine forces were in positions around Port Stanley about 50 miles (80 km) to the east of San Carlos. The Argentine positions at Goose Green and Darwin were well defended by a force of combined units equipped with artillery, mortars, 35 mm cannon and machine guns.[19] British intelligence indicated that the Argentine force only presented limited offensive capabilities and did not pose a major threat to the landing area at San Carlos. Consequently, Goose Green seemed to have no strategic military value for the British in their campaign to recapture the islands and initial plans for land operations had called for Goose Green to be isolated and bypassed.[20]

After the British landings at San Carlos on 21 May and while the bridgehead was being consolidated, no offensive ground operations had been conducted and activities were limited to digging fortified positions, patrolling and waiting;[21] during this time Argentine air attacks caused significant loss of and damage to British ships in the area around the landing grounds. These attacks, and the lack of movement of the landed forces out of the San Carlos area, led to a feeling among senior commanders and politicians in the UK that the momentum of the campaign was being lost.[22] As a result, British Joint Headquarters in the UK came under increasing pressure from the British government for an early ground offensive of political and propaganda value.[23] There were also fears that the United Nations Security Council would vote for a cease-fire, maintaining current positions. If the Darwin-Goose Green isthmus could be taken prior to such a decision, British forces would control access to the entire Lafonia and thus a significant portion of East Falkland.[24] On 25 May Brigadier Julian Thompson, ground forces commander, commanding 3 Commando Brigade, was again ordered to mount an attack on Argentine positions around Goose Green and Darwin.[22]

Argentinian defences

The defending Argentine forces, known as Task Force Mercedes, consisted of two companies of Lieutenant-Colonel Italo Piaggi‘s 12th Infantry Regiment (IR12)—his third company (Company B) was still deployed on Mount Kent as Combat Team Solari and was only to re-join the battalion after the first days fighting.[25] The Task Force in 1982 also contained a company of the Ranger-type 25th Infantry Regiment (IR25).[26] Air defence was provided by a battery of six 20 mm Rheinmetall manned by Air Force personnel and two radar-guided Oerlikon 35 mm anti-aircraft guns from the 601st Anti-Aircraft Battalion, that would be employed in a ground support role in the last stages of the fighting. There was also one battery of three OTO Melara Mod 56 105 mm pack howitzers from the 4th Airborne Artillery Regiment. Pucarás based at Stanley, armed with rockets and napalm, provided close air support.[27][28] Total forces under Piaggi’s commanded numbered 1083 men.[29]

Piaggi’s orders required him: (a) to provide a reserve battle group (Task Force Mercedes) in support of other forces deployed to the west of Stanley; (b) to occupy and defend the Darwin isthmus; and (c) to defend Military Air Base Condor located at Goose Green. He assumed an all-round defence posture with Company A, IR12 providing the key to his defence, they being deployed along a gorse hedge running across the Darwin isthmus from Darwin Hill to Boca House.[25] Piaggi deployed his Recce Platoon as an advance screen forward of Company A IR12 towards Coronation Ridge while Company C IR12 were deployed south of Goose Green to cover the approaches from Lafonia. To replace his Company B left on Mount Kent, he created a composite company from headquarters and other staff and deployed them in Goose Green. 1st Lt Carlos Daniel Esteban‘s “Ranger” Company C IR25 provided a mobile reserve and were billeted at the school-house in Goose Green.[25] Elements were also deployed to Darwin settlement, Salinas Beach and Boca House and the air force security cadets together with the anti-aircraft elements were charged with protecting the airfield. Minefields had been laid in areas deemed tactically important (Refer Map 2) to provide further defence against attack.[30]

 

Argentinian 120mm mortar position (possibly close to Goose Green)

On paper Piaggi had a full regiment, but it consisted of units from three separate regiments from two different brigades, none of whom had ever worked together. IR12 consisted mostly of conscripts from the northern, sub-tropical province of Corrientes, while the IR25 Company was considered an elite formation and well-led. At the start of the battle, the Argentinian forces had about the same number of effective combatants as the British paratroopers.[31] Some elements were well-trained and displayed a high degree of morale and motivation (Company C IR25 and 25 Signal company); one of their officers remarking that: “…we are going to defend something that is ours.”[31] Other companies were less well motivated, with the 12th Regiment chaplain, Padre Santiago Mora writing:

The conscripts of 25th Infantry wanted to fight and cover themselves in glory. The conscripts of 12th Infantry Regiment fought because they were told to do so. This did not make them any less brave. On the whole, they remained admirably calm.[32]

The Argentine positions were well-selected, and officers were well-briefed.[31] In the weeks before the battle British air strikes, poor logistic support and inclement conditions had contributed to the reduction of overall Argentine morale,[33] but it remained strong among the officers, NCOs and conscripts of the 25th Regiment company and 4th Airborne Artillery battery.[34]

Remains of Harrier XZ998, shot down over Goose Green on 27 May 1982.

On 4 May three Royal Navy Sea Harriers operating from HMS Hermes attacked the airfield and installations at Goose Green. During the operation, a Sea Harrier was shot down by Argentine 35mm anti-aircraft fire, killing its pilot.[35] As part of the diversionary raids to cover the British landings in the San Carlos area on 21 May, which involved naval shelling and air attacks, ‘D’ Squadron of the SAS put in a major raid to simulate a battalion-sized attack on the Argentine troops dug in on Darwin Ridge.[36] Argentine forces had also spotted 2 Para reconnaissance parties in the days prior to the attack. Throughout 27 May, Royal Air Force Harriers were active over Goose Green. One of them, responding to a call for help from 2 Para, was lost to 35mm fire while attacking Darwin Ridge.[37][38][39] The Harrier attacks, the sighting of the reconnaissance elements as well as the BBC announcing that the 2nd Battalion of the Parachute Regiment were poised and ready to assault Darwin and Goose Green the day before the assault alerted the Argentine garrison to the impending attack.[40]

British assault force

Thompson ordered 2nd Battalion of the Parachute Regiment (2 Para) to prepare for and execute the operation as they were the unit closest to Goose Green in the San Carlos defensive perimeter.[41] He ordered Lieutenant-Colonel Herbert ‘H’ Jones, Officer Commanding 2 Para, to “carry out a raid on Goose Green isthmus and capture the settlements before withdrawing in a reserve for the main thrust to the north.” The “capture” component appealed more to Jones than the “raid” component, although Thompson later acknowledged that he had assigned insufficient forces to rapidly execute the “capture” part of the orders.[42]

Milan missile, similar to those used in the battle

2 Para consisted of three rifle companies, one patrol company, one support company and an HQ company. Thompson had assigned three 105 mm artillery pieces with 960 shells from 29 Commando Regiment, Royal Artillery; one MILAN anti-tank missile platoon and Scout helicopters as support elements. In addition, close air support was available from three Royal Air Force Harriers, and naval gunfire support was to be provided by HMS Arrow in the hours of darkness.[43]

SAS reconnaissance had reported that the Darwin – Goose Green area was occupied by one Argentine company. Brigade intelligence reported that enemy forces consisted of three infantry companies (two from IR12 and one from IR25), one platoon from IR8 plus a possible amphibious platoon together with artillery and helicopter support. Jones was not too perturbed by the conflicting intelligence reports and, incorrectly, tended to believe the SAS reports, on the assumption that they were actually “on the spot” and were able to provide more accurate information than the Brigade intelligence staff.[44] Based on this intelligence and the orders from Thompson, Jones planned the operation to be conducted in six phases, as a complicated night / day, silent / noisy attack. C Company was to secure the start line and then A Company was to launch the attack from the start line on the left (Darwin) side of the isthmus. B Company would launch their attack from the start line directly after A Company had initiated contact and would advance on the right (Boca House) side of the isthmus. Once A and B Companies had secured their initial objectives, D Company would then advance from the start line between A and B Companies and were to “go firm” on having exploited their objective. This would be followed by C Company, who were required to pass through D Company and neutralise any Argentine reserves. C Company would then advance again and clear the Goose Green airfield after which the settlements of Darwin and Goose Green would be secured by A and D Companies respectively.[45]

As most of the helicopter airlift capability had been lost with the sinking of the Atlantic Conveyor, 2 Para were required to walk the 13 miles (21 km) from San Carlos to the forming-up place at Camilla Creek House.[46] C Company and the commando engineers moved out from there at 22:00 on 27 May to clear the route to the start line for the other companies. A fire base (consisting of air and naval fire controllers, mortars and snipers) was established by Support Company west of Camilla Creek, and they were in position by 02:00 on the morning of 28 May.[47] The three guns from 8 Battery, their crew and ammunition had been flown in to Camilla Creek House by 20 Sea King helicopter sorties after last light on the evening of 27 May. The attack, to be initiated by A company, was scheduled to start at 03:00, but because of delays in registering the support fire from HMS Arrow, only commenced at 03:35.[48]

Battle

 

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20th Century Battlefields – Falklands War

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Burntside House

Map 2: Actual course of British attack: Goose Green, 28–29 May 1982

At 03:35 HMS Arrow opened fire (she was to fire a total of 22 star-shell (illumination) and 135 rounds of 4.5″ HE shells in a 90-minute bombardment), signalling the start of the attack.[49] In the ensuing night battle about twelve Argentines were killed.[26] The platoon under Sub-Lieutenant Gustavo Adolfo Malacalza fought a delaying action against the British paratroopers, blooding themselves on Burntside Hill before taking up combat positions again on Darwin Ridge.[26]

Major Philip Neame’s D Company was temporarily halted by the Coronation Ridge position. Two of his men, 24-year-old Lance-Corporal Gary Bingley and 19-year-old Private Barry Grayling darted out from under cover to charge the enemy machine gun nest that was holding up the advance. Both were hit 10 metres (11 yd) from the machine gun, but shot two of the crew before collapsing. Bingley “got hit in the head and I got hit in the hip,” Grayling recalled in an interview published in 2007. “Unfortunately, he didn’t make it.”[50] Bingley was posthumously awarded the Military Medal and Grayling was decorated with the Queen’s Gallantry Medal. With the enemy machine gun out of action, the Paras were able to clear the Argentine platoon position, at the cost of three dead.[26]

Then 2 Para moved on to the south via Darwin Parks. The Argentines made a determined stand along Darwin Ridge. As A and B Companies moved south from Coronation Ridge they were raked by fire from a couple of concealed Argentine FN MAG machine guns. An Argentine senior NCO, Company Sergeant-Major Juan Carlos Cohelo, is credited with rallying the IR12’s A Company remnants falling back from Darwin Parks, and was later awarded the Medal of Valour in Combat. He was seriously wounded later in the day. Another two IR12 NCOs, reported to be sergeants, who had fallen back from the earlier fighting, at great risk to themselves cleared the jammed machinegun of IR25 Private Jorge Oscar Ledesma, allowing him to resume fire at a critical point in the morning battle; Ledesma’s fire killed Colonel Jones, according to 2012 Argentine reports.[51]

The first British assault was broken up by fire from Sub-Lieutenant Ernesto Orlando Peluffo‘s IR12 platoon after the platoon sergeant, Buenaventura Jumilla, warned that the British were approaching. Corporal David Abols later said that an Argentine sniper was mainly responsible for holding up A Company and with shooting several Paras in the morning fighting.[a] Nevertheless, the Paras called on the Argentines to surrender. The death of Lieutenant-Colonel Jones was attributed to a sniper identified as Corporal Osvaldo Faustino Olmos, who was interviewed by the British newspaper “Daily Express” in 1996.[52]Corporal Olmos, of IR25 had refused to leave his foxhole and his section fired at Jones and the five paratrooperss who accompanied him as he moved forward.[b]

At this juncture of the battle, 2nd Para’s advance had become stuck. A Company was in the gorse line at the bottom of Darwin Hill, and against the entrenched Argentines who were looking down the hill at them. As it was now daylight, Jones led an unsuccessful charge up a small gully resulting in the death of the adjutant, Captain Wood, A Company’s second-in-command Captain Dent, and Corporal Hardman.[53]

Shortly thereafter Jones was seen to run west along the base of Darwin Ridge to a small re-entrant, followed by his bodyguard. He checked his Sterling submachine gun, then ran up the hill towards an Argentine trench. He was seen to be hit once, then fell, got up and was hit again from the side. He fell metres short of the trench, hit in the back and the groin, and died within minutes.[53][c]

As Jones lay dying, his men radioed for urgent casualty evacuation. However, the British Scout Helicopter sent to evacuate Jones was shot down by an Argentine FMA IA 58 Pucara ground attack aircraft. The pilot, Lt. Richard Nunn RM was killed and posthumously received the DFC, and the aircrewman, Sgt. Belcher RM badly wounded in both legs.[53] Corporal José Luis Ríos, of the 12th Regiment’s Reconnaissance Platoon who in the opinion of historian Hugh Bicheno had killed Lieutenant-Colonel Jones,[54] was later fatally wounded manning a machine-gun in his trench by Corporal Abols firing a 66 mm rocket.[d]

Jones was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.

Darwin Hill

Remnants of Argentinian defensive positions along gorse hedge on Darwin Hill

By then it was 10.30 am and Major Dair Farrar-Hockley‘s A Company made a third attempt, but this petered out. Eventually the British company, hampered by the morning fog as they advanced up the slope of Darwin Ridge, were driven back to the gulley by the fire of 1st Platoon of IR25’s C Company, under the command of 2nd Lieutenant Roberto Estévez.

During this action Lieutenant Estévez directed Argentine 105 mm artillery and 120 mm mortar fire that posthumously earned him the Argentine Nation to the Heroic Valour in Combat Cross (CHVC). 2 Para’s mortar crews fired 1,000 rounds to keep the enemy at bay, and helped stop the Argentines getting a proper aim at the Paras.[e]

It was almost noon before the British advance resumed. A Company soon cleared the eastern end of the Argentine position and opened the way forward. There had been two battles going on in the Darwin hillocks – one around Darwin Hill looking down on Darwin Bay, and an equally fierce one in front of Boca Hill, also known as Boca House Ruins. Sub-Lieutenant Guillermo Ricardo Aliaga‘s 3rd Platoon of RI 8’s C Company held Boca Hill. The position of Boca Hill was taken after heavy fighting by Major John Crosland’s B Company with support from the MILAN anti-tank platoon. Sub-Lieutenants Aliaga and Peluffo were gravely wounded in the fighting. Crosland was the most experienced British officer and, as the events of the day unfolded, it was later said that Crosland’s cool and calm leadership of his soldiers on the battlefield turned the Boca House section of the front line.

About the time of the victory at the Boca Hill position, A Company overcame the Argentine defenders on Darwin Hill, finally taking the position that had resisted for nearly six hours,[f] with many Argentine and British casualties. Majors Farrar-Hockley and Crosland each won the Military Cross for their efforts. Corporal David Abols was awarded a Distinguished Conduct Medal for his daring charges which turned the Darwin Hill battle.

Attack on the airfield

35mm Oerlikon, similar to the two guns deployed by Argentinean forces at the airfield

After the victory on Darwin Ridge, C and D Companies began to make their way to the small airfield as well as Darwin School, which was east of the airfield, while B Company made their way south of Goose Green Settlement. A Company remained on Darwin Hill. C Company took heavy losses when they became the target of intense direct fire from 35 mm anti-aircraft guns, causing 20 per cent casualties.[55] Private Mark Hollman-Smith, a signaller in the company headquarters, was killed by anti-aircraft guns while trying to recover a heavy machine gun from wounded Private Steve Russell.[56]

Lieutenant James Barry’s No. 12 Platoon, D company, saw some fierce action at the airfield. They were ambushed,[26] by another platoon of the 25th Regiment but one of his men shot dead two of the attackers, and then reported the events to Major Neame.[g] The platoon sergeant charged the attacking enemy with his machine gun, killing four of them. Private Graham Carter won the Military Medal by rallying No. 12 Platoon and leading it forward at bayonet point to take the airfield.[26]

The IR25 platoon defending the airfield fled into the Darwin-Goose Green track and was able to escape. Sergeant Sergio Ismael Garcia of IR25 single-handedly covered the withdrawal of his platoon during the British counterattack. He was posthumously awarded the Argentine Nation to the Valour in Combat Medal. Four Paras of D Company and approximately a dozen Argentines were killed in these engagements. Among the British dead were 29-year-old Lieutenant Barry and two NCOs, Lance-Corporal Smith and Corporal Sullivan, who were killed after Barry’s attempt to convince Sub Lieutenant Juan José Gómez Centurión to surrender, had been rebuffed.[26][h][57][58] C Company had not lost a single man in the Darwin School fighting, but Private Steve Dixon, from D Company, died when a splinter from a 35 mm anti-aircraft shell struck him in the chest.[59] The Argentine 35mm anti-aircraft guns under the command of Second Lieutenant Claudio Oscar Braghini reduced the schoolhouse to rubble after sergeants Mario Abel Tarditti and Roberto Amado Fernandez reported to him that sniper fire was coming from there.[2][3]

At around this time three Harriers made an attack on the Argentine 35mm gun positions; the army radar-guided guns were unable to respond effectively because a piece of mortar shrapnel had earlier struck the generator to the guns and fire-control radar. This greatly lifted morale among the British paras and helped convince Piaggi of the futility of continued resistance. Although it was not known at the time, the Harriers came close to being shot down in their bomb run after being misidentified as enemy aircraft by Lieutenant-Commander Nigel Ward and Flight Lieutenant Ian Mortimer of 801 Squadron.[i]

Situation at last light on 28 May

J Company, 42 Commando, RM arrive in Goose Green as reinforcements on the evening of 28 May after fighting had ceased, but prior to the Argentinian surrender.

By last light, the situation for 2 Para was critical. A Company was still on Darwin Hill north of the gorse hedge, B Company had penetrated much further south and had swung in a wide arc from the western shore of the isthmus eastwards towards Goose Green. They were isolated and under fire from an Argentinian platoon and unable to receive mutual support from the other companies.[60] To worsen their predicament Argentine helicopters—a Puma, a Chinook and six Hueys—landed southwest of their position just after last light, bringing in the remaining Company B of IR12 (Combat Team Solari) from Mount Kent.[61] B company managed to bring in artillery fire on these new reinforcements, forcing them to disperse towards the Goose Green settlement, while some re-embarked and left with the departing helicopters.[62] For C Company, the attack had also fizzled out after the skirmish at the school-house with the company commander injured, no radio contact and the platoons scattered with up to 1,200m between them. The C Company second-in-command was also unaccounted for.[63] D Company had regrouped just before last light, and they were deployed to the west of the dairy; exhausted, hungry, low on ammunition and without water.[64] Food was redistributed to share one ration-pack between two men for A and C Companies, but B and D Companies could not be reached. At this time a British helicopter casualty evacuation flight took place, successfully extracting C Company casualties on the forward slope of Darwin Hill under fire from Argentine positions.[65]

To Keeble, the situation looked precarious: the settlements had been surrounded but not captured, and his companies were exhausted, cold and low on water, ammunition and food. His concern was that the Company B reinforcements dropped by helicopter would either be used in an early morning counter-attack, or used to stiffen the defences around Goose Green. He had seen the C Company assault stopped in its tracks by the AA fire from the airfield, and had seen the Harrier strikes of earlier that afternoon missing their intended targets. In an order group with the A and C Company commanders, he indicated his preference for calling for an Argentine surrender rather than facing an ongoing battle the following morning. His alternative plan, if the Argentines did not surrender, was to “flatten Goose Green” with all available fire-power and then launch an assault with all forces possible, including reinforcements he had requested from Thompson. On Thompson’s orders, J Company of 42 Commando, Royal Marines, the remaining guns of 8 Battery, and additional mortars were helicoptered in to provide the necessary support.[66]

Surrender

Once Thompson and 3 Brigade had agreed to the approach, a message was relayed by CB radio from San Carlos to Mr. Eric Goss, the farm manager in Goose Green – who in turn delivered it to Piaggi. The call explained the details of a planned delegation who would go forward from the British lines to the Argentine positions in Goose Green bearing a message. Piaggi agreed to receive the delegation.[67] Soon after midnight, two Argentine Air Force warrant officer prisoners of war were sent to meet with Piaggi and to hand over the proposed terms of surrender.[j] On receiving the terms, Piaggi concluded “..The battle had turned into a sniping contest. They could sit well out of range of our soldiers’ fire and, if they wanted to, raze the settlement. I knew that there was no longer any chance of reinforcements from 6th [Compañía ‘Piribebuy’] Regiment’s B Company and so I suggested to Wing Commander [Vice Commodore] Wilson Pedrozo that he talk to the British. He agreed reluctantly.” The next morning, agreement for an unconditional surrender was reached and Pedrozo held a short parade and those on parade then laid down their weapons. After burning the regimental flag, Piaggi led the troops and officers, carrying their personal belongings, into captivity.[68]

Aftermath

Prisoners and casualties

Initial burial place of British casualties at Ajax Bay

Between 45[8][69] and 55 Argentines were killed[10] (32 from IR12, 13 from Company C 25IR, five killed in the Platoon from IR8, 4 Air Force staff and one Navy servicemen)[9] and about 86 wounded.[10] The claim in various British books that the 8th Regiment lost five killed defending Boca House is disputed, with other sources claiming that Corporal Juan Waudrik (supposedly killed at Boca House) was mortally wounded in late May after the tractor he was riding detonated a mine at Fox Bay,[70] and that Privates Simón Oscar Antieco, Jorge Daniel Ludueña, Sergio Fabián Nosikoski and Eduardo Sosa, the four conscripts reportedly killed fighting alongside Waudrik, were killed in the same locality on West Falkland during a naval bombardment on 9 May. In all, the 8IR lost 5 killed during the Falklands War.[citation needed] The remainder of the Argentine force were taken prisoner. Argentine dead were buried in a cemetery to the north of Darwin, and the wounded were evacuated to hospital ships via the medical post in San Carlos. Prisoners were used to clear the battlefield; in an incident involving the moving of artillery ammunition, four IR12 conscripts were involved in a huge explosion that caused two fatalities and two seriously wounded.[14] After clearing the area and assisting with the burying of the dead, the prisoners were marched to and interned in San Carlos.[71] The British lost 18 killed (16 Paras, one Royal Marine pilot and one commando sapper)[14] and 64 wounded. The seriously wounded were evacuated to the hospital ship Uganda.[72]

Commanders

Lieutenant-Colonel Ítalo Ángel Piaggi surrendered his forces in Goose Green on the Argentinian National Army Day (29 May). After the war he was forced to resign from the army, and faced ongoing trials questioning his competence at Goose Green. In 1986 he wrote a book titled Ganso Verde, in which he strongly defended his decisions during the war and criticised the lack of logistical support from Stanley. In his book he said that Task Force Mercedes had plenty of 7.62mm rifle ammunition left, but had run out of 81mm mortar rounds, and there were only 394 shells left for the 105mm artillery guns.[4] On 24 February 1992, after a long fight in both civil and military courts, Piaggi had his retired military rank and pay reinstated as a full colonel.[73] He died in July 2012.[74]

 

Lieutenant-Colonel Herbert H Jones

See Victoria Cross

 

 

Lieutenant-Colonel Herbert ‘H’ Jones was buried at Ajax Bay on 30 May; after the war his body was exhumed and transferred to the British cemetery in San Carlos.[75] He was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.[76]

Major Chris Keeble, who took over command of 2 Para when Jones was killed, was awarded the DSO for his actions at Goose Green.[77] Keeble’s leadership at Goose Green was one of the key factors which lead to the British victory, in that his flexible style of command and the autonomy he afforded to his company commanders was much more successful than the rigid control and adherence to plan exercised by Jones.[78] Despite sentiment among the soldiers of 2 Para for him to remain in command, he was superseded by Lieutenant-Colonel David Robert Chaundler, who was flown in from Britain to take command of the battalion.[79]

Order of battle

All order of battle data from Fitz-Gibbon (2002), unless otherwise stated[43]

Argentine Forces (Task Force Mercedes)
Lieutenant Colonel I. Piaggi
British Forces (2 Para Group)
Lieutenant Colonel H. Jones
The following forces were present at the start of fighting at circa 06:35 on 28 May 1982
Infantry
HQ Company (-) Infantry Regiment 12 (Lt. Col. Piaggi) HQ Company (-) 2 Para (Lt. Col H. Jones)
Company A, Infantry Regiment 12 (1st Lt. Manresa) A Company, 2 Para (Maj. D. Farrar-Hockley)
Company C, Infantry Regiment 12 (1st Lt. Fernández) B Company, 2 Para (Maj. J. Crossland)
Company C, Infantry Regiment 25 (1st Lt. Esteban) C (Patrol) Company, 2 Para [two platoons] (Maj. Roger Jenner)
3 Platoon, Company C, Infantry Regiment 8[80] D Company, 2 Para (Maj. P. Neame)
Support Company, 2 Para (Maj. Hugh Jenner)[81]
Recce Platoon (-) Infantry Regiment 12 NGFO 4, 148 Commando FO Bty[80]
202 air force personnel from Security Coy, Military Aviation School; Pucará Sqn, Malvinas; 1st Naval Attack Sqn [MB-399] and also including 20m AA crews[80]
Engineers
One section, Engineer Company 9 Recce Troop, 59 Independent Commando Squadron, Royal Engineers
Artillery and support fire
3x 105mm pack howitzer: Troop from Battery A, Airborne Artillery Regiment 4[80] 3x 105mm light guns from 8 Commando Battery[80]
1x 120mm Mortar 2x 81mm Mortars
NGS from 1x Type 21 frigate (HMS Arrow: dark hours only)
Anti-tank
1x 105mm recoilless rifle 3x Milan ATGM detachments from 43 Battery, 32 Guided Weapons Regiment[80]
Air defence
2x 35mm radar controlled AA: 3 Sec, Battery B, GADA 601[80] 6x Blowpipe detachments: Air Defence Troop, Royal Marines
6x 20mm AA
Close air support
3x Pucará operated from Stanley airfield[82] 3x Harrier GR3s from HMS Hermes[83]
Reinforcements received during 28 May 1982
106 personnel: Company B, Infantry Regiment 12
Reinforcements received after fighting ceased
J Company, 42 Commando, Royal Marines
Remaining 3x 105mm light guns from 8 Commando Battery
Mortar locating radar
2x 120mm Mortars 6x 81mm Mortars
Reserves available as of 29 May
None 1x Type 21 frigate for NGS
Harrier close air support
Memorials related to the battle
Argentinian cemetery north of Darwin where most of the Argentinian casualties of the Goose Green battle were buried.
Memorial to 2 Para Group west of Darwin settlement, Falklands
Memorial to Lt. Col. H. Jones VC OBE, outside Darwin settlement, marking the spot where he was killed.
Memorial to casualties from 59 Independent Commando Squadron, Royal Engineers, one of whom was killed in the Battle of Goose Green – NW of Darwin settlement.
Unofficial memorial to a fallen paratrooper in the gorse leading up to Darwin Hill.

BBC incident

During the planning of the assault of both Darwin and Goose Green, the Battalion Headquarters were listening in to the BBC World Service. The newsreader announced that the 2nd Battalion of the Parachute Regiment were poised and ready to assault Darwin and Goose Green, causing great confusion with the commanding officers of the battalion. Lieutenant Colonel Jones became furious with the level of incompetence and told BBC representative Robert Fox he was going to sue the BBC, Whitehall and the War Cabinet.[84]

Argentine military trials of 2009

In the years after the battle, Argentine army officers and NCOs were accused of handing out brutal field punishment to their troops at Goose Green (and other locations during the war).[85] In 2009, Argentine authorities in Comodoro Rivadavia ratified a decision made by authorities in Río Grande, Tierra del Fuego. announcing their intention to charge 70 officers and NCOs with inhumane treatment of conscript soldiers during the war.[86] There were claims, however, that false testimonies were used as evidence in accusing the Argentine officers and NCOs of abandonment, and Pablo Vassel who has made the denouncements, had to step down from his post as president of Human Rights Department of Corrientes province.[87] Other veterans are sceptical about the veracity of the accusations with Colonel José Martiniano Duarte, an ex-601 Commando Company officer in the Falklands, saying that it has become fashionable for ex-conscripts to now accuse their superiors of abandonment.[88] Since the 2009 announcement was made, no one in the military or among the retired officers and NCOs has been charged, causing Vassel in April 2014 to comment:

For over two years we’ve been waiting for a final say on behalf of the courts … There are some types of crimes that no state should allow to go unpunished, no matter how much time has passed, such as the crimes of the dictatorship. Last year Germany sentenced a 98-year-old corporal for his role in the concentration camps in one of the Eastern European countries occupied by Nazi Germany. It didn’t take into account his age or rank.[89]

The Falklands War – The Untold Story

See Victoria Cross

……………………………………..

 

The Falklands War – The Untold Story

The Falklands War – The Untold Story

Falklands Crisis was a 1982 war between Argentina and the United Kingdom. The conflict resulted from the long-standing dispute over the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands and South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, which lie in the South Atlantic, east of Argentina.

The Falklands War (Spanish: Guerra de las Malvinas), also known as the Falklands Conflict, Falklands Crisis, and the Guerra del Atlántico Sur (Spanish for “South Atlantic War“), was a ten-week war between Argentina and the United Kingdom over two British overseas territories in the South Atlantic: the Falkland Islands and South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands. It began on Friday, 2 April 1982, when Argentina invaded and occupied the Falkland Islands (and, the following day, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands) in an attempt to establish the sovereignty it had long claimed over them. On 5 April, the British government dispatched a naval task force to engage the Argentine Navy and Air Force before making an amphibious assault on the islands. The conflict lasted 74 days and ended with the Argentine surrender on 14 June 1982, returning the islands to British control. In total, 649 Argentine military personnel, 255 British military personnel, and three Falkland Islanders died during the hostilities.

The conflict was a major episode in the protracted confrontation over the territories’ sovereignty. Argentina asserted (and maintains to this day) that the islands are Argentinian territory,[6] and the Argentine government thus characterised its military action as the reclamation of its own territory. The British government regarded the action as an invasion of a territory that had been a Crown colony since 1841. Falkland Islanders, who have inhabited the islands since the early 19th century, are predominantly descendants of British settlers, and favour British sovereignty. Neither state, however, officially declared war (both sides did declare the Islands areas a war zone and officially recognised that a state of war existed between them) and hostilities were almost exclusively limited to the territories under dispute and the area of the South Atlantic where they lie.

The conflict has had a strong impact in both countries and has been the subject of various books, articles, films, and songs. Patriotic sentiment ran high in Argentina, but the outcome prompted large protests against the ruling military government, hastening its downfall. In the United Kingdom, the Conservative Party government, bolstered by the successful outcome, was re-elected the following year. The cultural and political weight of the conflict has had less effect in Britain than in Argentina, where it remains a continued topic for discussion.[7]

Relations between the United Kingdom and Argentina were restored in 1989 following a meeting in Madrid, Spain, at which the two countries’ governments issued a joint statement.[8] No change in either country’s position regarding the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands was made explicit. In 1994, Argentina’s claim to the territories was added to its constitution.[9]

Lead-up to the conflict

Lieutenant General Leopoldo Galtieri, leader of the Argentinian Junta
Admiral Jorge Anaya was the driving force in the Junta’s decision to invade.[10][11][12]

In the period leading up to the war – and, in particular, following the transfer of power between the military dictators General Jorge Rafael Videla and General Roberto Eduardo Viola late in March 1981 – Argentina had been in the midst of a devastating economic stagnation and large-scale civil unrest against the military junta that had been governing the country since 1976.[13] In December 1981 there was a further change in the Argentine military regime bringing to office a new junta headed by General Leopoldo Galtieri (acting president), Brigadier Basilio Lami Dozo and Admiral Jorge Anaya. Anaya was the main architect and supporter of a military solution for the long-standing claim over the islands,[14] calculating that the United Kingdom would never respond militarily.[15]

By opting for military action, the Galtieri government hoped to mobilise the long-standing patriotic feelings of Argentines towards the islands, and thus divert public attention from the country’s chronic economic problems and the regime’s ongoing human rights violations.[16] Such action would also bolster its dwindling legitimacy. The newspaper La Prensa speculated in a step-by-step plan beginning with cutting off supplies to the Islands, ending in direct actions late in 1982, if the UN talks were fruitless.[17]

The ongoing tension between the two countries over the islands increased on 19 March when a group of Argentine scrap metal merchants (actually infiltrated by Argentine marines) raised the Argentine flag at South Georgia, an act that would later be seen as the first offensive action in the war. The Royal Navy ice patrol vessel HMS Endurance was dispatched from Stanley to South Georgia in response, subsequently leading to the invasion of South Georgia by Argentine forces on 3 April. The Argentine military junta, suspecting that the UK would reinforce its South Atlantic Forces,[18] ordered the invasion of the Falkland Islands to be brought forward to 2 April.

Britain was initially taken by surprise by the Argentine attack on the South Atlantic islands, despite repeated warnings by Royal Navy captain Nicholas Barker and others. Barker believed that Defence Secretary John Nott‘s 1981 review (in which Nott described plans to withdraw the Endurance, Britain’s only naval presence in the South Atlantic) sent a signal to the Argentines that Britain was unwilling, and would soon be unable, to defend its territories and subjects in the Falklands.[19][20]

Argentine invasion

The Argentine destroyer ARA Santísima Trinidad landed Special Forces south of Stanley

On 2 April 1982, The Argentine forces mounted amphibious landings off the Falkland Islands, following the civilian occupation of South Georgia on 19 March, before the Falklands War began. The invasion was met with a nominal defence organised by the Falkland Islands’ Governor Sir Rex Hunt, giving command to Major Mike Norman of the Royal Marines. The events of the invasion included the landing of Lieutenant Commander Guillermo Sanchez-Sabarots’ Amphibious Commandos Group, the attack on Moody Brook barracks, the engagement between the troops of Hugo Santillan and Bill Trollope at Stanley, and the final engagement and surrender at Government House.

Initial British response

The cover of Newsweek magazine, 19 April 1982, depicts HMS Hermes, flagship of the British Task Force.

Word of the invasion first reached Britain from Argentine sources.[21] A Ministry of Defence operative in London had a short telex conversation with Governor Hunt’s telex operator, who confirmed that Argentines were on the island and in control.[21][22] Later that day, BBC journalist Laurie Margolis was able to speak with an islander at Goose Green via amateur radio, who confirmed the presence of a large Argentine fleet and that Argentine forces had taken control of the island.[21] Operation Corporate was the codename given to the British military operations in the Falklands War. The commander of task force operations was Admiral Sir John Fieldhouse. Operations lasted from 1 April 1982 to 20 June 1982.[23] The British undertook a series of military operations as a means of recapturing the Falklands from Argentine occupation. The British government had taken action prior to the 2 April invasion. In response to events on South Georgia, the submarines HMS Splendid and HMS Spartan were ordered to sail south on 29 March, whilst the stores ship Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) Fort Austin was dispatched from the Western Mediterranean to support HMS Endurance.[24] Lord Carrington had wished to send a third submarine, but the decision was deferred due to concerns about the impact on operational commitments.[24] Coincidentally, on 26 March, the submarine HMS Superb left Gibraltar and it was assumed in the press it was heading south. There has since been speculation that the effect of those reports was to panic the Argentine junta into invading the Falklands before nuclear submarines could be deployed.[24]

The following day, during a crisis meeting headed by the Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, the Chief of the Naval Staff, Admiral Sir Henry Leach, advised them that “Britain could and should send a task force if the islands are invaded”. On 1 April, Leach sent orders to a Royal Navy force carrying out exercises in the Mediterranean to prepare to sail south. Following the invasion on 2 April, after an emergency meeting of the cabinet, approval was given to form a task force to retake the islands. This was backed in an emergency session of the House of Commons the next day.[25]

On 6 April, the British Government set up a War Cabinet to provide day-to-day political oversight of the campaign.[3] This was the critical instrument of crisis management for the British with its remit being to “keep under review political and military developments relating to the South Atlantic, and to report as necessary to the Defence and Overseas Policy Committee”. Until it was dissolved on 12 August, the War Cabinet met at least daily. Although Margaret Thatcher is described as dominating the War Cabinet, Lawrence Freedman notes in the Official History of the Falklands Campaign that she did not ignore opposition or fail to consult others. However, once a decision was reached she “did not look back”.[3]

Position of third party countries

On the evening of 3 April, the United Kingdom’s United Nations ambassador Sir Anthony Parsons put a draft resolution to the United Nations Security Council. The resolution, which condemned the hostilities and demanded the immediate Argentine withdrawal from the Islands, was adopted by the council the following day as United Nations Security Council Resolution 502, which passed with ten votes in support, one against (Panama) and four abstentions (China, the Soviet Union, Poland and Spain).[25][26][27] The UK received further political support from the Commonwealth of Nations and the European Economic Community. The EEC also provided economic support by imposing economic sanctions on Argentina. Argentina itself was politically backed by a majority of countries in Latin America and some members of the Non-Aligned Movement.[citation needed] On 20 May 1982, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Rob Muldoon, announced that he would make HMNZS Canterbury, a Leander class frigate, available for use where the British thought fit to release a Royal Navy vessel for the Falklands.[28]

The war was an unexpected event in a world strained by the Cold War and the North–South divide. The response of some countries was the effort to mediate the crisis and later as the war began, the support (or criticism) based in terms of anti-colonialism, political solidarity, historical relationships or realpolitik.

The United States was concerned by the prospect of Argentina turning to the Soviet Union for support,[29] and initially tried to mediate an end to the conflict. However, when Argentina refused the US peace overtures, US Secretary of State Alexander Haig announced that the United States would prohibit arms sales to Argentina and provide material support for British operations. Both Houses of the US Congress passed resolutions supporting the US action siding with the United Kingdom.[30]

The US provided the United Kingdom with military equipment ranging from submarine detectors to the latest missiles.[31][32][33][34] President Ronald Reagan approved the Royal Navy’s request to borrow the Sea Harrier-capable amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LPH-2) if the British lost an aircraft carrier. The United States Navy developed a plan to help the British man the ship with American military contractors, likely retired sailors with knowledge of the Iwo Jima‍ ’​s systems.[35] France provided dissimilar aircraft training so Harrier pilots could train against the French aircraft used by Argentina.[36] French and British intelligence also worked to prevent Argentina from obtaining more Exocet missiles on the international market,[37] while at the same time Peru attempted to purchase 12 missiles for Argentina, in a failed secret operation.[38][39] Chile gave support to Britain in the form of intelligence about Argentine military and early warning radar.[40][41] Throughout the war, Argentina was afraid of a Chilean military intervention in Patagonia and kept some of her best mountain regiments away from the Falklands near the Chilean border as a precaution.[42]

In recent years, it has become known that a listening post located in Fauske, Norway was vital in giving the British intelligence information regarding Argentinian fleet locations. The listening post was designated Fauske II by Norway. The information was “stolen” from Soviet spy satellites, which were the only space assets that covered the South Atlantic.[43] Western powers such as the United States and the UK did not have their own satellite presence in this area at the time. A high ranking British military source claimed that the intelligence the British got from the Fauske II post as “Incredibly vital”:

When the war broke out, we had almost no intelligence information from this area. It was here we got help from the Norwegians, who gave us a stream of information about the Argentinian warships positions. The information came to us all the time and straight to our war headquarters at Northwood. The information was continuously updated and told us exactly where the Argentinian ships were.[43][44]

While France overtly backed the United Kingdom, a French technical team remained in Argentina throughout the war. French government sources have said that the French team was engaged in intelligence-gathering; however, it simultaneously provided direct material support to the Argentines, identifying and fixing faults in Exocet missile launchers.[45] According to the book Operation Israel, advisers from Israel Aerospace Industries were already in Argentina and continued their work during the conflict. The book also claims that Israel sold weapons and drop tanks in a secret operation in Peru.[46][47] Peru also openly sent “Mirages, pilots and missiles” to Argentina during the war.[48] Peru had earlier transferred ten Hercules transport planes to Argentina soon after the British Task Force had set sail in April 1982.[49] Nick van der Bijl records that, after the Argentine defeat at Goose Green, Venezuela and Guatemala offered to send paratroops to the Falklands.[50] Through Libya, under Muammar Gaddafi, Argentina received 20 launchers and 60 SA-7 missiles, as well as machine guns, mortars and mines; all in all, the load of four trips of two Boeing 707s of the AAF, refuelled in Recife with the knowledge and consent of the Brazilian government.[51] Some of these clandestine logistics operations were mounted by the Soviet Union.[52]

British Task Force

HMS Invincible, part of the task force. Pictured in 1990

Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm Sea Harrier FRS1. The gloss paint scheme was altered to a duller one en route south.

The British government had no contingency plan for an invasion of the islands, and the task force was rapidly put together from whatever vessels were available.[53] The nuclear submarine Conqueror set sail from France on 4 April, whilst the two aircraft carriers Invincible and Hermes, in the company of escort vessels, left Portsmouth only a day later.[25] On its return to Southampton from a world cruise on 7 April, the ocean liner SS Canberra was requisitioned and set sail two days later with 3 Commando Brigade aboard.[25] The ocean liner Queen Elizabeth 2 was also requisitioned and left Southampton on 12 May with 5th Infantry Brigade on board.[25] The whole task force eventually comprised 127 ships: 43 Royal Navy vessels, 22 Royal Fleet Auxiliary ships and 62 merchant ships.[53]

The retaking of the Falkland Islands was considered extremely difficult. The US Navy considered a successful counter-invasion by the British “…a military impossibility.”[54] Firstly, the British were significantly constrained by the disparity in deployable air cover.[55] The British had 42 aircraft (28 Sea Harriers and 14 Harrier GR.3s) available for air combat operations,[56] against approximately 122 serviceable jet fighters, of which about 50 were used as air superiority fighters and the remainder as strike aircraft, in Argentina’s air forces during the war.[57] Crucially, the British lacked AEW aircraft.

Many of the British were also concerned by the Argentine surface fleet because it possessed many of the same weapons systems and capabilities as the British fleet, specifically Exocet-equipped vessels, in addition to two Type 209 submarines.[58] For this reason, the British planned to screen their fleet with submarines. They also envisaged a naval retreat on the appearance of Argentine ships to avoid surface combat.

By mid-April, the Royal Air Force had set up the airbase of RAF Ascension Island, co-located with Wideawake Airfield (USA) on the mid-Atlantic British overseas territory of Ascension Island, including a sizeable force of Avro Vulcan B Mk 2 bombers, Handley Page Victor K Mk 2 refuelling aircraft, and McDonnell Douglas Phantom FGR Mk 2 fighters to protect them. Meanwhile, the main British naval task force arrived at Ascension to prepare for active service. A small force had already been sent south to recapture South Georgia.

Encounters began in April; the British Task Force was shadowed by Boeing 707 aircraft of the Argentine Air Force during their travel to the south.[59] Several of these flights were intercepted by Sea Harriers outside the British-imposed exclusion zone; the unarmed 707s were not attacked because diplomatic moves were still in progress and the UK had not yet decided to commit itself to armed force. On 23 April, a Brazilian commercial Douglas DC-10 from VARIG Airlines en route to South Africa was intercepted by British Harriers who visually identified the civilian plane.[60]

Recapture of South Georgia and the attack on Santa Fe

The South Georgia force, Operation Paraquet, under the command of Major Guy Sheridan RM, consisted of Marines from 42 Commando, a troop of the Special Air Service (SAS) and Special Boat Service (SBS) troops who were intended to land as reconnaissance forces for an invasion by the Royal Marines. All were embarked on RFA Tidespring. First to arrive was the Churchill-class submarine HMS Conqueror on 19 April, and the island was over-flown by a radar-mapping Handley Page Victor on 20 April.

The first landings of SAS troops took place on 21 April, but—with the southern hemisphere autumn setting in—the weather was so bad that their landings and others made the next day were all withdrawn after two helicopters crashed in fog on Fortuna Glacier. On 23 April, a submarine alert was sounded and operations were halted, with Tidespring being withdrawn to deeper water to avoid interception. On 24 April, the British forces regrouped and headed in to attack.

The ARA Santa Fe sailing on the surface.

On 25 April, after resupplying the Argentine garrison in South Georgia, the submarine ARA Santa Fe was spotted on the surface[61] by a Westland Wessex HAS Mk 3 helicopter from HMS Antrim, which attacked the Argentine submarine with depth charges. HMS Plymouth launched a Westland Wasp HAS.Mk.1 helicopter, and HMS Brilliant launched a Westland Lynx HAS Mk 2. The Lynx launched a torpedo, and strafed the submarine with its pintle-mounted general purpose machine gun; the Wessex also fired on Santa Fe with its GPMG. The Wasp from HMS Plymouth as well as two other Wasps launched from HMS Endurance fired AS-12 ASM antiship missiles at the submarine, scoring hits. Santa Fe was damaged badly enough to prevent her from diving. The crew abandoned the submarine at the jetty at King Edward Point on South Georgia.

With Tidespring now far out to sea, and the Argentine forces augmented by the submarine’s crew, Major Sheridan decided to gather the 76 men he had and make a direct assault that day. After a short forced march by the British troops and a naval bombardment demonstration by two Royal Navy vessels (Antrim and Plymouth), the Argentine forces surrendered without resistance. The message sent from the naval force at South Georgia to London was, “Be pleased to inform Her Majesty that the White Ensign flies alongside the Union Jack in South Georgia. God Save the Queen.” The Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, broke the news to the media, telling them to “Just rejoice at that news, and congratulate our forces and the Marines!”[62]

Black Buck raids

Main article: Operation Black Buck

On 1 May, British operations on the Falklands opened with the “Black Buck 1” attack (of a series of five) on the airfield at Stanley. A Vulcan bomber from Ascension flew on an 8,000-nautical-mile (15,000 km; 9,200 mi) round trip dropping conventional bombs across the runway at Stanley and back to Ascension. The mission required repeated refuelling, and required several Victor tanker aircraft operating in concert, including tanker to tanker refuelling. The overall effect of the raids on the war is difficult to determine, and the raids consumed precious tanker resources from Ascension,[63] but also prevented Argentina from stationing fast jets on the islands.

The raids did minimal damage to the runway, and damage to radars was quickly repaired. As of 2014[update] the Royal Air Force Web site still states that all the three bombing missions had been successful,[64] but historian Lawrence Freedman, who had access to classified documents, said in a 2005 book that the subsequent bombing missions were failures.[65] Argentine sources said that the Vulcan raids influenced Argentina to withdraw some of its Mirage IIIs from Southern Argentina to the Buenos Aires Defence Zone.[66][67][68] This was later described as propaganda by Falklands veteran Commander Nigel Ward.[69] In any case, the effect of the Vulcan raids on Argentina’s deployment of defensive fighters was watered down when British officials made clear that there would be no strikes on air bases in Argentina.[70]

Of the five Black Buck raids, three were against Stanley Airfield, with the other two anti-radar missions using Shrike anti-radiation missiles.

Escalation of the air war

The Falklands had only three airfields. The longest and only paved runway was at the capital, Stanley, and even that was too short to support fast jets (although an arrestor gear was fitted in April to support Skyhawks). Therefore, the Argentines were forced to launch their major strikes from the mainland, severely hampering their efforts at forward staging, combat air patrols and close air support over the islands. The effective loiter time of incoming Argentine aircraft was low, and they were later compelled to overfly British forces in any attempt to attack the islands.

The first major Argentine strike force comprised 36 aircraft (A-4 Skyhawks, IAI Daggers, English Electric Canberras, and Mirage III escorts), and was sent on 1 May, in the belief that the British invasion was imminent or landings had already taken place. Only a section of Grupo 6 (flying IAI Dagger aircraft) found ships, which were firing at Argentine defences near the islands. The Daggers managed to attack the ships and return safely. This greatly boosted morale of the Argentine pilots, who now knew they could survive an attack against modern warships, protected by radar ground clutter from the Islands and by using a late pop up profile. Meanwhile, other Argentine aircraft were intercepted by BAE Sea Harriers operating from HMS Invincible. A Dagger[71] and a Canberra were shot down.

Combat broke out between Sea Harrier FRS Mk 1 fighters of No. 801 Naval Air Squadron and Mirage III fighters of Grupo 8. Both sides refused to fight at the other’s best altitude, until two Mirages finally descended to engage. One was shot down by an AIM-9L Sidewinder air-to-air missile (AAM), while the other escaped but was damaged and without enough fuel to return to its mainland air base. The plane made for Stanley, where it fell victim to friendly fire from the Argentine defenders.[72]

As a result of this experience, Argentine Air Force staff decided to employ A-4 Skyhawks and Daggers only as strike units, the Canberras only during the night, and Mirage IIIs (without air refuelling capability or any capable AAM) as decoys to lure away the British Sea Harriers. The decoying would be later extended with the formation of the Escuadrón Fénix, a squadron of civilian jets flying 24 hours-a-day simulating strike aircraft preparing to attack the fleet. On one of these flights, an Air Force Learjet was shot down, killing the squadron commander, Vice Commodore Rodolfo De La Colina, the highest-ranking Argentine officer to die in the war.[73][74] Stanley was used as an Argentine strongpoint throughout the conflict. Despite the Black Buck and Harrier raids on Stanley airfield (no fast jets were stationed there for air defence) and overnight shelling by detached ships, it was never out of action entirely. Stanley was defended by a mixture of surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems (Franco-German Roland and British Tigercat) and Swiss-built Oerlikon 35 mm twin anti-aircraft cannons. Lockheed Hercules transport night flights brought supplies, weapons, vehicles, and fuel, and airlifted out the wounded up until the end of the conflict.

The only Argentine Hercules shot down by the British was lost on 1 June when TC-63 was intercepted by a Sea Harrier in daylight[75][76] when it was searching for the British fleet north-east of the islands after the Argentine Navy retired its last SP-2H Neptune due to airframe attrition.

Various options to attack the home base of the five Argentine Etendards at Río Grande were examined and discounted (Operation Mikado), subsequently five Royal Navy submarines lined up, submerged, on the edge of Argentina’s 12-nautical-mile (22 km; 14 mi) territorial limit to provide early warning of bombing raids on the British task force.[77]

Sinking of ARA General Belgrano

The ARA Belgrano.

Alferez Sobral

Two British naval task forces (one of surface vessels and one of submarines) and the Argentine fleet were operating in the neighbourhood of the Falklands and soon came into conflict. The first naval loss was the World War II-vintage Argentine light cruiser ARA General Belgrano. The nuclear-powered submarine HMS Conqueror sank General Belgrano on 2 May. Three hundred and twenty-three members of General Belgrano‍ ’​s crew died in the incident. Over 700 men were rescued from the open ocean despite cold seas and stormy weather. The losses from General Belgrano totalled nearly half of the Argentine deaths in the Falklands conflict and the loss of the ship hardened the stance of the Argentine government.

Regardless of controversies over the sinking, due to disagreement on the exact nature of the Maritime Exclusion Zone and whether General Belgrano had been returning to port at the time of the sinking, it had a crucial strategic effect: the elimination of the Argentine naval threat. After her loss, the entire Argentine fleet, with the exception of the conventional submarine ARA San Luis,[61] returned to port and did not leave again during the fighting. The two escorting destroyers and the battle group centred on the aircraft carrier ARA Veinticinco de Mayo both withdrew from the area, ending the direct threat to the British fleet that their pincer movement had represented.

In a separate incident later that night, British forces engaged an Argentine patrol gunboat, the ARA Alferez Sobral, that was searching for the crew of the Argentine Air Force Canberra light bomber shot down on 1 May. Two Royal Navy Lynx helicopters fired four Sea Skua missiles at her. Badly damaged and with eight crew dead, Alferez Sobral managed to return to Puerto Deseado two days later. The Canberra’s crew were never found.

Sinking of HMS Sheffield

HMS Sheffield

On 4 May, two days after the sinking of Belgrano, the British lost the Type 42 destroyer HMS Sheffield to fire following an Exocet missile strike from the Argentine 2nd Naval Air Fighter/Attack Squadron. Sheffield had been ordered forward with two other Type 42s to provide a long-range radar and medium-high altitude missile picket far from the British carriers. She was struck amidships, with devastating effect, ultimately killing 20 crew members and severely injuring 24 others. The ship was abandoned several hours later, gutted and deformed by the fires that continued to burn for six more days. She finally sank outside the Maritime Exclusion Zone on 10 May.

The incident is described in detail by Admiral Sandy Woodward in his book One Hundred Days, Chapter One. Woodward was a former commanding officer of Sheffield.[78]

The tempo of operations increased throughout the second half of May as the United Nations’ attempts to mediate a peace were rejected by the British, who felt that any delay would make a campaign impractical in the South Atlantic storms. The destruction of Sheffield (the first Royal Navy ship sunk in action since World War II) had a profound impact on the British public, bringing home the fact that the “Falklands Crisis”, as the BBC News put it, was now an actual “shooting war”.

British special forces operations

Given the threat to the British fleet posed by the Etendard-Exocet combination, plans were made to use C-130s to fly in some SAS troops to attack the home base of the five Etendards at Río Grande, Tierra del Fuego. The operation was codenamed “Mikado“. The operation was later scrapped, after acknowledging that its chances of success were limited, and replaced with a plan to use HMS Onyx to drop SAS operatives several miles offshore at night for them to make their way to the coast aboard rubber inflatables and proceed to destroy Argentina’s remaining Exocet stockpile.[79]

An SAS reconnaissance team was dispatched to carry out preparations for a seaborne infiltration. A Westland Sea King helicopter carrying the assigned team took off from HMS Invincible on the night of 17 May, but bad weather forced it to land 50 miles (80 km) from its target and the mission was aborted.[80] The pilot flew to Chile, landed south of Punta Arenas, and dropped off the SAS team. The helicopter’s crew of three then destroyed the aircraft, surrendered to Chilean police on 25 May, and were repatriated to the UK after interrogation. The discovery of the burnt-out helicopter attracted considerable international attention. Meanwhile, the SAS team crossed and penetrated deep into Argentina, but cancelled their mission after the Argentines suspected an SAS operation and deployed some 2,000 troops to search for them. The SAS men were able to return to Chile, and took a civilian flight back to the UK.[81]

On 14 May the SAS carried out a raid on Pebble Island on the Falklands, where the Argentine Navy had taken over a grass airstrip map for FMA IA 58 Pucará light ground-attack aircraft and Beechcraft T-34 Mentors, which resulted with the destruction of several aircraft.[nb 4]

Land battles

Landing at San Carlos—Bomb Alley

British sailors in anti-flash gear at action stations on HMS Cardiff near San Carlos, June 1982.

During the night of 21 May, the British Amphibious Task Group under the command of Commodore Michael Clapp (Commodore, Amphibious Warfare – COMAW) mounted Operation Sutton, the amphibious landing on beaches around San Carlos Water,[nb 5] on the northwestern coast of East Falkland facing onto Falkland Sound. The bay, known as Bomb Alley by British forces, was the scene of repeated air attacks by low-flying Argentine jets.[82][83]

The 4,000 men of 3 Commando Brigade were put ashore as follows: 2nd Battalion, Parachute Regiment (2 Para) from the RORO ferry Norland and 40 Commando Royal Marines from the amphibious ship HMS Fearless were landed at San Carlos (Blue Beach), 3rd Battalion, Parachute Regiment (3 Para) from the amphibious ship HMS Intrepid was landed at Port San Carlos (Green Beach) and 45 Commando from RFA Stromness was landed at Ajax Bay (Red Beach). Notably, the waves of eight LCUs and eight LCVPs were led by Major Ewen Southby-Tailyour, who had commanded the Falklands detachment NP8901 from March 1978 to 1979. 42 Commando on the ocean liner SS Canberra was a tactical reserve. Units from the Royal Artillery, Royal Engineers, etc. and armoured reconnaissance vehicles were also put ashore with the landing craft, the Round table class LSL and mexeflote barges. Rapier missile launchers were carried as underslung loads of Sea Kings for rapid deployment.

By dawn the next day, they had established a secure beachhead from which to conduct offensive operations. From there, Brigadier Julian Thompson‘s plan was to capture Darwin and Goose Green before turning towards Port Stanley. Now, with the British troops on the ground, the Argentine Air Force began the night bombing campaign against them using Canberra bomber planes until the last day of the war (14 June).

HMS Antelope smoking after being hit, 23 May

At sea, the paucity of the British ships’ anti-aircraft defences was demonstrated in the sinking of HMS Ardent on 21 May, HMS Antelope on 24 May, and MV Atlantic Conveyor (struck by two AM39 Exocets) on 25 May along with a vital cargo of helicopters, runway-building equipment and tents. The loss of all but one of the Chinook helicopters being carried by the Atlantic Conveyor was a severe blow from a logistical perspective.

Also lost on this day was HMS Coventry, a sister to Sheffield, whilst in company with HMS Broadsword after being ordered to act as a decoy to draw away Argentine aircraft from other ships at San Carlos Bay.[84] HMS Argonaut and HMS Brilliant were badly damaged. However, many British ships escaped being sunk because of weaknesses of the Argentine pilots’ bombing tactics described below.

To avoid the highest concentration of British air defences, Argentine pilots released ordnance from very low altitude, and hence their bomb fuzes did not have sufficient time to arm before impact. The low release of the retarded bombs (some of which the British had sold to the Argentines years earlier) meant that many never exploded, as there was insufficient time in the air for them to arm themselves. A simple free-fall bomb in a low altitude release, impacts almost directly below the aircraft, which is then within the lethal fragmentation zone of the explosion.

A retarded bomb has a small parachute or air brake that opens to reduce the speed of the bomb to produce a safe horizontal separation between the two. The fuze for a retarded bomb requires that the retarder be open a minimum time to ensure safe separation. The pilots would have been aware of this—but due to the high concentration required to avoid SAMs, Anti-Aircraft Artillery (AAA), and British Sea Harriers, many failed to climb to the necessary release point. The Argentinian forces solved the problem by fitting improvised retarding devices, allowing the pilots to effectively employ low-level bombing attacks on 8 June.

In his autobiographical account of the Falklands War, Admiral Woodward blamed the BBC World Service for disclosing information that led the Argentines to change the retarding devices on the bombs. The World Service reported the lack of detonations after receiving a briefing on the matter from a Ministry of Defence official. He describes the BBC as being more concerned with being “fearless seekers after truth” than with the lives of British servicemen.[85] Colonel ‘H’. Jones levelled similar accusations against the BBC after they disclosed the impending British attack on Goose Green by 2 Para.

Thirteen bombs hit British ships without detonating.[86] Lord Craig, the retired Marshal of the Royal Air Force, is said to have remarked: “Six better fuses and we would have lost”[87] although Ardent and Antelope were both lost despite the failure of bombs to explode. The fuzes were functioning correctly, and the bombs were simply released from too low an altitude.[85] [88] The Argentines lost 22 aircraft in the attacks.[nb 6]

Battle of Goose Green

Infantry deployment in East Falklands after landing in San Carlos

Main article: Battle of Goose Green

From early on 27 May until 28 May, 2 Para, (approximately 500 men) with artillery support from 8 (Alma) Commando Battery, Royal Artillery, approached and attacked Darwin and Goose Green, which was held by the Argentine 12th Infantry Regiment. After a tough struggle that lasted all night and into the next day, the British won the battle; in all, 17 British and 47 Argentine soldiers were killed. In total 961 Argentine troops (including 202 Argentine Air Force personnel of the Condor airfield) were taken prisoner.

The BBC announced the taking of Goose Green on the BBC World Service before it had actually happened. It was during this attack that Lieutenant Colonel H. Jones, the commanding officer of 2 Para, was killed at the head of his battalion while charging into the well-prepared Argentine positions. He was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.

With the sizeable Argentine force at Goose Green out of the way, British forces were now able to break out of the San Carlos beachhead. On 27 May, men of 45 Cdo and 3 Para started a loaded march across East Falkland towards the coastal settlement of Teal Inlet.

Special forces on Mount Kent

Meanwhile, 42 Commando prepared to move by helicopter to Mount Kent.[nb 7] Unknown to senior British officers, the Argentine generals were determined to tie down the British troops in the Mount Kent area, and on 27 and 28 May they sent transport aircraft loaded with Blowpipe surface-to-air missiles and commandos (602nd Commando Company and 601st National Gendarmerie Special Forces Squadron) to Stanley. This operation was known as Operation AUTOIMPUESTA (Self-Determination-Initiative).

For the next week, the SAS and the Mountain and Arctic Warfare Cadre (M&AWC) of 3 Commando Brigade waged intense patrol battles with patrols of the volunteers’ 602nd Commando Company under Major Aldo Rico, normally 2nd in Command of the 22nd Mountain Infantry Regiment. Throughout 30 May, Royal Air Force Harriers were active over Mount Kent. One of them, Harrier XZ963, flown by Squadron Leader Jerry Pook—in responding to a call for help from D Squadron, attacked Mount Kent’s eastern lower slopes, and that led to its loss through small-arms fire. Pook was subsequently awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.[89]

The Argentine Navy used their last AM39 Exocet missile attempting to attack HMS Invincible on 30 May. There are Argentine claims that the missile struck;[90][91] however, the British have denied this, some citing that HMS Avenger shot it down.[92][93] When Invincible returned to the UK after the war, she showed no signs of missile damage.

On 31 May, the M&AWC defeated Argentine Special Forces at the Battle of Top Malo House. A 13-strong Argentine Army Commando detachment (Captain José Vercesi’s 1st Assault Section, 602nd Commando Company) found itself trapped in a small shepherd’s house at Top Malo. The Argentine commandos fired from windows and doorways and then took refuge in a stream bed 200 metres (700 ft) from the burning house. Completely surrounded, they fought 19 M&AWC marines under Captain Rod Boswell for 45 minutes until, with their ammunition almost exhausted, they elected to surrender.

Three Cadre members were badly wounded. On the Argentine side, there were two dead, including Lieutenant Ernesto Espinoza and Sergeant Mateo Sbert (who were decorated for their bravery). Only five Argentines were left unscathed. As the British mopped up Top Malo House, Lieutenant Fraser Haddow’s M&AWC patrol came down from Malo Hill, brandishing a large Union Flag. One wounded Argentine soldier, Lieutenant Horacio Losito, commented that their escape route would have taken them through Haddow’s position.

601st Commando tried to move forward to rescue 602nd Commando Company on Estancia Mountain. Spotted by 42 Commando, they were engaged with 81mm mortars and forced to withdraw to Two Sisters mountain. The leader of 602nd Commando Company on Estancia Mountain realised his position had become untenable and after conferring with fellow officers ordered a withdrawal.[94]

The Argentine operation also saw the extensive use of helicopter support to position and extract patrols; the 601st Combat Aviation Battalion also suffered casualties. At about 11.00 am on 30 May, an Aerospatiale SA-330 Puma helicopter was brought down by a shoulder-launched Stinger surface-to-air missile (SAM) fired by the SAS in the vicinity of Mount Kent. Six National Gendarmerie Special Forces were killed and eight more wounded in the crash.[95]

As Brigadier Thompson commented, “It was fortunate that I had ignored the views expressed by Northwood HQ that reconnaissance of Mount Kent before insertion of 42 Commando was superfluous. Had D Squadron not been there, the Argentine Special Forces would have caught the Commando before de-planing and, in the darkness and confusion on a strange landing zone, inflicted heavy casualties on men and helicopters.”[96]

Bluff Cove and Fitzroy

By 1 June, with the arrival of a further 5,000 British troops of the 5th Infantry Brigade, the new British divisional commander, Major General Jeremy Moore RM, had sufficient force to start planning an offensive against Stanley. During this build-up, the Argentine air assaults on the British naval forces continued, killing 56. Of the dead, 32 were from the Welsh Guards on RFA Sir Galahad and RFA Sir Tristram on 8 June. According to Surgeon-Commander Rick Jolly of the Falklands Field Hospital, more than 150 men suffered burns and injuries of some kind in the attack, including, famously, Simon Weston.[97]

The Guards were sent to support an advance along the southern approach to Stanley. On 2 June, a small advance party of 2 Para moved to Swan Inlet house in a number of Army Westland Scout helicopters. Telephoning ahead to Fitzroy, they discovered that the area was clear of Argentines and (exceeding their authority) commandeered the one remaining RAF Chinook helicopter to frantically ferry another contingent of 2 Para ahead to Fitzroy (a settlement on Port Pleasant) and Bluff Cove (a settlement on Port Fitzroy).

This uncoordinated advance caused great difficulties in planning for the commanders of the combined operation, as they now found themselves with a 30 miles (48 km) string of indefensible positions on their southern flank. Support could not be sent by air as the single remaining Chinook was already heavily oversubscribed. The soldiers could march, but their equipment and heavy supplies would need to be ferried by sea.

Plans were drawn up for half the Welsh Guards to march light on the night of 2 June, whilst the Scots Guards and the second half of the Welsh Guards were to be ferried from San Carlos Water in the Landing Ship Logistics (LSL) Sir Tristram and the landing platform dock (LPD) Intrepid on the night of 5 June. Intrepid was planned to stay one day and unload itself and as much of Sir Tristram as possible, leaving the next evening for the relative safety of San Carlos. Escorts would be provided for this day, after which Sir Tristram would be left to unload using a Mexeflote (a powered raft) for as long as it took to finish.

Political pressure from above to not risk the LPD forced Commodore Clapp to alter this plan. Two lower-value LSLs would be sent, but with no suitable beaches to land on, Intrepid’s landing craft would need to accompany them to unload. A complicated operation across several nights with Intrepid and her sister ship Fearless sailing half-way to dispatch their craft was devised.

The attempted overland march by half the Welsh Guards failed, possibly as they refused to march light and attempted to carry their equipment. They returned to San Carlos and landed directly at Bluff Cove when Fearless dispatched her landing craft. Sir Tristram sailed on the night of 6 June and was joined by Sir Galahad at dawn on 7 June. Anchored 1,200 feet (370 m) apart in Port Pleasant, the landing ships were near Fitzroy, the designated landing point.

The landing craft should have been able to unload the ships to that point relatively quickly, but confusion over the ordered disembarcation point (the first half of the Guards going direct to Bluff Cove) resulted in the senior Welsh Guards infantry officer aboard insisting that his troops should be ferried the far longer distance directly to Port Fitzroy/Bluff Cove. The alternative was for the infantrymen to march via the recently repaired Bluff Cove bridge (destroyed by retreating Argentine combat engineers) to their destination, a journey of around seven miles (11 km).

On Sir Galahad‍ ’​s stern ramp there was an argument about what to do. The officers on board were told that they could not sail to Bluff Cove that day. They were told that they had to get their men off ship and onto the beach as soon as possible as the ships were vulnerable to enemy aircraft. It would take 20 minutes to transport the men to shore using the LCU and Mexeflote. They would then have the choice of walking the seven miles to Bluff Cove or wait until dark to sail there. The officers on board said that they would remain on board until dark and then sail. They refused to take their men off the ship. They possibly doubted that the bridge had been repaired due to the presence on board Sir Galahad of the Royal Engineer Troop whose job it was to repair the bridge. The Welsh Guards were keen to rejoin the rest of their Battalion, who were potentially facing the enemy without their support. They had also not seen any enemy aircraft since landing at San Carlos and may have been overconfident in the air defences. Ewen Southby-Tailyour gave a direct order for the men to leave the ship and go to the beach. The order was ignored.

The longer journey time of the landing craft taking the troops directly to Bluff Cove and the squabbling over how the landing was to be performed caused an enormous delay in unloading. This had disastrous consequences. Without escorts, having not yet established their air defence, and still almost fully laden, the two LSLs in Port Pleasant were sitting targets for two waves of Argentine A-4 Skyhawks.

The disaster at Port Pleasant (although often known as Bluff Cove) would provide the world with some of the most sobering images of the war as TV news video footage showed Navy helicopters hovering in thick smoke to winch survivors from the burning landing ships.

British casualties were 48 killed and 115 wounded.[98] Three Argentine pilots were also killed. The air strike delayed the scheduled British ground attack on Stanley by two days.[99] However, Argentine General Mario Menendez, commander of Argentine forces in the Falklands, was told that 900 British soldiers had died. He expected that the losses would cause enemy morale to drop and the British assault to stall.

Fall of Stanley

The road to Stanley

Argentine prisoners of war – Port Stanley.

On the night of 11 June, after several days of painstaking reconnaissance and logistic build-up, British forces launched a brigade-sized night attack against the heavily defended ring of high ground surrounding Stanley. Units of 3 Commando Brigade, supported by naval gunfire from several Royal Navy ships, simultaneously attacked in the Battle of Mount Harriet, Battle of Two Sisters, and Battle of Mount Longdon. Mount Harriet was taken at a cost of 2 British and 18 Argentine soldiers. At Two Sisters, the British faced both enemy resistance and friendly fire, but managed to capture their objectives. The toughest battle was at Mount Longdon. British forces were bogged down by assault rifle, mortar, machine gun, artillery fire, sniper fire, and ambushes. Despite this, the British continued their advance.

During this battle, 13 were killed when HMS Glamorgan, straying too close to shore while returning from the gun line, was struck by an improvised trailer-based Exocet MM38 launcher taken from the destroyer ARA Seguí by Argentine Navy technicians.[100] On the same day, Sergeant Ian McKay of 4 Platoon, B Company, 3 Para died in a grenade attack on an Argentine bunker, which earned him a posthumous Victoria Cross. After a night of fierce fighting, all objectives were secured. Both sides suffered heavy losses.

The night of 13 June saw the start of the second phase of attacks, in which the momentum of the initial assault was maintained. 2 Para, with CVRT support from The Blues and Royals, captured Wireless Ridge at the Battle of Wireless Ridge, with the loss of 3 British and 25 Argentine lives, and the 2nd battalion, Scots Guards captured Mount Tumbledown at the Battle of Mount Tumbledown, which cost 10 British and 30 Argentine lives.

A pile of discarded Argentine weapons in Port Stanley

With the last natural defence line at Mount Tumbledown breached, the Argentine town defences of Stanley began to falter. In the morning gloom, one company commander got lost and his junior officers became despondent. Private Santiago Carrizo of the 3rd Regiment described how a platoon commander ordered them to take up positions in the houses and “if a Kelper resists, shoot him”, but the entire company did nothing of the kind.[101]

A ceasefire was declared on 14 June and the commander of the Argentine garrison in Stanley, Brigade General Mario Menéndez, surrendered to Major General Jeremy Moore the same day.

Recapture of South Sandwich Islands

The Argentine Thule Garrison at the Corbeta Uruguay base

On 20 June, the British retook the South Sandwich Islands (which involved accepting the surrender of the Southern Thule Garrison at the Corbeta Uruguay base), and declared hostilities over. Argentina had established Corbeta Uruguay in 1976, but prior to 1982 the United Kingdom had contested the existence of the Argentine base only through diplomatic channels.

Casualties

In total 907 were killed during the 74 days of the conflict:

Of the 86 Royal Navy personnel, 22 were lost in HMS Ardent, 19 + 1 lost in HMS Sheffield, 19 + 1 lost in HMS Coventry and 13 lost in HMS Glamorgan. Fourteen naval cooks were among the dead, the largest number from any one branch in the Royal Navy.

Thirty-three of the British Army’s dead came from the Welsh Guards, 21 from the 3rd Battalion, the Parachute Regiment, 18 from the 2nd Battalion, the Parachute Regiment, 19 from the Special Air Service, 3 from Royal Signals and 8 from each of the Scots Guards and Royal Engineers. The 1st battalion/7th Duke of Edinburgh’s Own Gurkha Rifles lost one man killed.

Two more British deaths may be attributed to Operation Corporate, bringing the total to 260:

  • Captain Brian Biddick from SS Uganda underwent an emergency operation on the voyage to the Falklands. Later he was repatriated by an RAF medical flight to the hospital at Wroughton where he died on 12 May.[114]
  • Paul Mills from HMS Coventry suffered from complications from a skull fracture sustained in the sinking of his ship and died on 29 March 1983; he is buried in his home town of Swavesey.[115]

There were 1,188 Argentine and 777 British non-fatal casualties.

Further information about the field hospitals and hospital ships is at Ajax Bay and List of hospitals and hospital ships of the Royal Navy. On the Argentine side beside the Military Hospital at Port Stanley, the Argentine Air Force Mobile Field Hospital was deployed at Comodoro Rivadavia.

Red Cross Box[edit]

Before British offensive operations began, the British and Argentine governments agreed to establish an area on the high seas where both sides could station hospital ships without fear of attack by the other side. This area, a circle 20 nautical miles in diameter, was referred to as the Red Cross Box (

 WikiMiniAtlas

48°30′S 53°45′W / 48.500°S 53.750°W / -48.500; -53.750), about 45 miles (72 km) north of Falkland Sound). Ultimately, the British stationed four ships (HMS Hydra, HMS Hecla and HMS Herald and the primary hospital ship Uganda) within the box, while the Argentinians stationed three (Almirante Irizar, Bahia Paraiso and Puerto Deseado).

Hecla at HM Naval Base Gibraltar, during conversion to a hospital ship for service during the Falklands War

The hospital ships were non-warships converted to serve as hospital ships. The three British naval vessels were survey vessels and Uganda was a passenger liner. Almirante Irizar was an icebreaker, Bahia Paraiso was an Antarctic supply transport and Puerto Deseado was a survey ship. The British and Argentine vessels operating within the Box were in radio contact and there was some transfer of patients between the hospital ships. For example, the British hospital ship SS Uganda on four occasions transferred patients to an Argentinian hospital ship. The British naval hospital ships operated as casualty ferries, carrying casualties from both sides from the Falklands to Uganda and operating a shuttle service between the Red Cross Box and Montevideo.

Throughout the conflict officials of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) conducted inspections to verify that all concerned were abiding by the rules of the Geneva Convention. On 12 June, some personnel transferred from the Argentine hospital ship to the British ships by helicopter. Argentine naval officers also inspected the British casualty ferries in the estuary of the River Plate.

British casualty evacuation

Hydra worked with Hecla and Herald, to take casualties from Uganda to Montevideo, Uruguay, where a fleet of Uruguayan ambulances would meet them. RAF VC10 aircraft then flew the casualties to the UK for transfer to the Princess Alexandra Royal Air Force Hospital at RAF Wroughton, near Swindon.[citation needed]

Aftermath

This brief war brought many consequences for all the parties involved, besides the considerable casualty rate and large materiel loss, especially of shipping and aircraft, relative to the deployed military strengths of the opposing sides.

In the United Kingdom, Margaret Thatcher’s popularity increased. The success of the Falklands campaign was widely regarded as the factor in the turnaround in fortunes for the Conservative government, who had been trailing behind the SDP-Liberal Alliance in the opinion polls for months before the conflict began, but after the success in the Falklands the Conservatives returned to the top of the opinion polls by a wide margin and went on to win the following year’s general election by a landslide.[116] Subsequently, Defence Secretary Nott’s proposed cuts to the Royal Navy were abandoned.

The islanders subsequently had full British citizenship restored in 1983, their lifestyle improved by investments Britain made after the war and by the liberalisation of economic measures that had been stalled through fear of angering Argentina. In 1985, a new constitution was enacted promoting self-government, which has continued to devolve power to the islanders.

In Argentina, the Falklands War meant that a possible war with Chile was avoided. Further, Argentina returned to a democratic government in the 1983 general election, the first free general election since 1973. It also had a major social impact, destroying the military’s image as the “moral reserve of the nation” that they had maintained through most of the 20th century.

Various figures have been produced for the number of veterans who have committed suicide since the war. Some studies have estimated that 264 British veterans and 350–500 Argentine veterans have committed suicide since 1982.[117][118][119] However, a detailed study[120] of 21,432 British veterans of the war commissioned by the UK Ministry of Defence found that only 95 had died from “intentional self-harm and events of undetermined intent (suicides and open verdict deaths)”, a ratio no higher than that of the general population.[121]

Military analysis

Militarily, the Falklands conflict remains the largest air-naval combat operation between modern forces since the end of the Second World War. As such, it has been the subject of intense study by military analysts and historians. The most significant “lessons learned” include: the vulnerability of surface ships to anti-ship missiles and submarines, the challenges of co-ordinating logistical support for a long-distance projection of power, and reconfirmation of the role of tactical air power, including the use of helicopters.

In 1986, the BBC broadcast the Horizon programme, In the Wake of HMS Sheffield, which discussed lessons learned from the conflict—and measures since taken to implement them, such as stealth ships and close-in weapon systems.

Memorials

The Monumento a los Caídos en Malvinas (“Monument for the Fallen in the Falklands”) in Plaza San Martín, Buenos Aires; a member of the historic Patricios regiment stands guard.[nb 8]

In addition to memorials on the islands, there is a memorial in the crypt of St Paul’s Cathedral, London to the British war dead.[122] In Argentina, there is a memorial at Plaza San Martín in Buenos Aires,[123] another one in Rosario, and a third one in Ushuaia.

During the war, British dead were put into plastic body bags and buried in mass graves. After the war, the bodies were recovered; 14 were reburied at Blue Beach Military Cemetery and 64 were returned to Britain.

Many of the Argentine dead are buried in the Argentine Military Cemetery west of the Darwin Settlement. The government of Argentina declined an offer by Britain to have the bodies repatriated to the mainland.[124]

Minefields

Although some minefields have been cleared, a substantial number of them still exist in the islands, such as this one at Port William on East Falkland.

As of 2011, there were 113 uncleared minefields on the Falkland Islands and unexploded ordnance (UXOs) covering an area of 13 km2 (5.0 sq mi). Of this area, 5.5 km2 (2.1 sq mi) on the Murrell Peninsula were classified as being “suspected minefields” – the area had been heavily pastured for the previous 25 years without incident. It was estimated that these minefields had 20,000 anti-personnel mines and 5,000 anti-tank mines. No human casualties from mines or UXO have been reported in the Falkland Islands since 1984, and no civilian mine casualties have ever occurred on the islands. The UK reported six military personnel were injured in 1982 and a further two injured in 1983. Most military accidents took place while clearing the minefields in the immediate aftermath of the 1982 conflict or in the process of trying to establish the extent of the minefield perimeters, particularly where no detailed records existed.

On 9 May 2008, the Falkland Islands Government asserted that the minefields, which represent 0.1% of the available farmland on the islands “present no long term social or economic difficulties for the Falklands,” and that the impact of clearing the mines would cause more problems than containing them. However, the British Government, in accordance with its commitments under the Mine Ban Treaty has a commitment to clear the mines by the end of 2019. [125][126] In May 2012, it was announced that 3.7 km2 (1.4 sq mi) of Stanley Common (which lies between the Stanley – Mount Pleasant road and the shoreline) was made safe and had been opened to the public, opening up a 3-kilometre (1.9 mi) stretch of coastline and a further two kilometres of shoreline along Mullet’s Creek.[127]

Press and publicity

Argentina

Gente‍ ’​s “Estamos ganando” headline (“We’re winning”)

Selected war correspondents were regularly flown to Port Stanley in military aircraft to report on the war. Back in Buenos Aires, newspapers and magazines faithfully reported on “the heroic actions of the largely conscript army and its successes”.[17]

Officers from the intelligence services were attached to the newspapers and ‘leaked’ information confirming the official communiqués from the government. The glossy magazines Gente and Siete Días swelled to 60 pages with colour photographs of British warships in flames – many of them faked – and bogus eyewitness reports of the Argentine commandos’ guerrilla war on South Georgia (6 May) and an already dead Pucará pilot’s attack on HMS Hermes[17] (Lt. Daniel Antonio Jukic had been killed at Goose Green during a British air strike on 1 May). Most of the faked photos actually came from the tabloid press. One of the best remembered headlines was “Estamos ganando” (“We’re winning”) from the magazine Gente, that would later use variations of it.[128]

The Argentine troops on the Falkland Islands could read Gaceta Argentina—a newspaper intended to boost morale among the servicemen. Some of its untruths could easily be unveiled by the soldiers who recovered corpses.[129]

The Malvinas course united the Argentines in a patriotic atmosphere that protected the junta from critics, and even opponents of the military government supported Galtieri; Ernesto Sabato said: “Don’t be mistaken, Europe; it is not a dictatorship who is fighting for the Malvinas, it is the whole Nation. Opponents of the military dictatorship, like me, are fighting to extirpate the last trace of colonialism.”[130] The Madres de Plaza de Mayo were even exposed to death threats from ordinary people.[17]

HMS Invincible was repeatedly sunk in the Argentine press,[131] and on 30 April 1982 the Argentine magazine Tal Cual showed Prime Minister Thatcher with an eyepatch and the text: Pirate, witch and assassin. Guilty![132] Three British reporters sent to Argentina to cover the war from the Argentine perspective were jailed until the end of the war.[133]

United Kingdom

The Sun‍ ’​s “Gotcha” headline

Seventeen newspaper reporters, two photographers, two radio reporters and three television reporters with five technicians sailed with the Task Force to the war. The Newspaper Publishers’ Association selected them from among 160 applicants, excluding foreign media. The hasty selection resulted in the inclusion of two journalists among the war reporters who were interested only in Queen Elizabeth II’s son Prince Andrew, who was serving in the conflict.[134] The Prince flew a helicopter on multiple missions, including anti-surface warfare, Exocet missile decoy and casualty evacuation.

Merchant vessels had the civilian Inmarsat uplink, which enabled written telex and voice report transmissions via satellite. SS Canberra had a facsimile machine that was used to upload 202 pictures from the South Atlantic over the course of the war. The Royal Navy leased bandwidth on the US Defense Satellite Communications System for worldwide communications. Television demands a thousand times the data rate of telephone, but the Ministry of Defence was unsuccessful in convincing the US to allocate more bandwidth.[135]

TV producers suspected that the enquiry was half-hearted; since the Vietnam War television pictures of casualties and traumatised soldiers were recognised as having negative propaganda value. However, the technology only allowed uploading a single frame per 20 minutes – and only if the military satellites were allocated 100% to television transmissions. Videotapes were shipped to Ascension Island, where a broadband satellite uplink was available, resulting in TV coverage being delayed by three weeks.[135]

The press was very dependent on the Royal Navy, and was censored on site. Many reporters in the UK knew more about the war than those with the Task Force.[135]

The Royal Navy expected Fleet Street to conduct a Second World War-style positive news campaign[136] but the majority of the British media, especially the BBC, reported the war in a neutral fashion.[137] These reporters referred to “the British troops” and “the Argentinian troops” instead of “our lads” and the “Argies”.[138] The two main tabloid papers presented opposing viewpoints: The Daily Mirror was decidedly anti-war, whilst The Sun became well known for headlines such as “Stick It Up Your Junta!,” which, along with the reporting in other tabloids,[139] led to accusations of xenophobia[131] [139][140] and jingoism.[131] [140][141][142] The Sun was condemned for its “Gotcha” headline following the sinking of the ARA General Belgrano.[143][144][145]

Cultural impact

There were wide-ranging influences on popular culture in both the UK and Argentina, from the immediate postwar period to the present. The then elderly Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges described the war as “a fight between two bald men over a comb”.[146] The words yomp and Exocet entered the British vernacular as a result of the war. The Falklands War also provided material for theatre, film and TV drama and influenced the output of musicians. In Argentina, the military government banned the broadcasting of music in the English language, giving way to the rise of local rock musicians.[147]