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Part 22. SOUTH GEORGIA RETAKEN Operation "Paraquet"

HMS Plymouth, one of the South Georgia Task Force

on to 23. Amphibious Group exercises at Ascension


Summary of Main Events

British Forces Taking Part

  Destroyer Antrim, 2x4.5in, 1xWessex HAS.3
Frigate Plymouth, 2x4.5in, 1xWasp
Ice patrol ship Endurance, 2xWasp
RFA Tidespring, 2xWessex HU.5's,
joined by frigate Brilliant, 2xLynx
  Land forces - 250 from:
M Coy 42 Cdo RM,
No.2 Section SBS RM,
D Sqdn SAS,
148 Bty 29 Cdo Regt team
Capt B G Young (awarded DSO) RN of Antrim, Task Group
Maj J M G Sheridan RM, Landing Forces
Maj C N G Delves (DSO), D Sqdn SAS
Capt C J Nunn RM, M Coy 42 Cdo

1. 21st - Mountain Troop SAS landed on Fortuna Glacier for move to Leith, but stopped by blizzards.
22nd - Mountain Troop picked up by Antrim Wessex after both Tidespring Wessex crashed [b1,b2].
Gemini assault craft from Antrim then put Boat Troop SAS ashore at Grass Island to observe Leith.
4. From 22nd - SBS landed at Hound Bay and tried to move across Cumberland Bay East by Gemini to a position south of Grytviken. Stopped by ice and laid up. Later picked up and reportedly landed at Moraine Fiord.
5. 23rd - Submarine threat; Task Force ships except Endurance moved out to sea.
24th - Argentine Boeing 707 overflew Endurance and Task Force ships (except Tidespring with M Coy, 42 Cdo) ordered back in to hunt for submarine.
25th - Task Force helicopters damaged submarine Santa Fe (abandoned at King Edward Point jetty) and then put landing force ashore.

8. 25th - As Antrim and Plymouth bombarded from out in Cumberland Bay, SAS/SBS/RM landing force went ashore at Hestesletten and advanced through Grytviken towards King Edward Point. Argentines surrendered.
9. 26th - Argentine force surrendered to Plymouth and Endurance

Before the Task Group arrived off South Georgia on the morning of Wednesday 21st, submarine "Conqueror" had already been on patrol for two days and on Tuesday, an RAF Victor from Ascension made the first radar reconnaissance flight off the coast. Two more of these 7,000 mile, 14 hour missions followed over Thursday and Saturday nights, but neither they nor "Conqueror" spotted any Argentine ships. The first task was for observation posts to be set up by the SAS near Leith and the SBS south of Grytviken. Although there were doubts about the SAS plans, Mountain Troop was put down safely on Fortuna Glacier at mid-day that Wednesday 21st by the three Wessex available. Forced to camp overnight in blizzard conditions, attempts were made to pick up the men next morning, but as the helicopters flew up the glacier in atrocious weather, they had to return to refuel. Next time in, the men were lifted off, but in the blinding snow, both "Tidespring's" Wessex crashed [first British aircraft losses - b1,b2]. Then "Antrim's", skilfully piloted by Lt Cmdr Stanley (pictured below) first unloaded his passengers and eventually managed to rescue the stranded men in one over-loaded lift later that afternoon. To make up the losses, "Brilliant" was detached from the Task Force with her two Lynx.

Late that Thursday night (22nd) from "Antrim" out in Stromness Bay, SAS Boat Troop headed in for Grass Island, but again with near fatal results. Five Gemini assault craft set out in the dark, but two broke down and were reported missing next morning. "Antrim's" Wessex was once again to the rescue and soon found one of the crews, but the other was not located until after the surrender when their rescue beacon was activated. But at least by Friday morning the SAS men were in position near Leith.


right - The forbidding terrain of South Georgia, in this case the peaks behind Grytviken

All this time the SBS were no more fortunate in their first attempts to approach Grytviken. Accounts somewhat differ, but apparently they landed at Hound Bay from "Endurance" early on Thursday morning, and made their way across Sorling Valley before trying to cross Cumberland Bay East by Gemini. Stopped by glacier ice, they laid up, were later picked up and reportedly landed at Moraine Fiord by Wasp on Saturday 24th.

Before then RFA tanker "Brambleleaf" arrived and started to refuel "Tidespring", but in a sub alert on Friday 23rd, broke away damaging some of her gear. (The transfer was completed on Saturday and the tanker headed for England.) Then the Task Group was warned that the "Santa Fe" (Lt Cmdr Bicain) was on her way into Grytviken with men and supplies. Apart from "Endurance" which stayed close to the coast amongst the ice, the ships headed away taking with them the main landing force of M Coy 42 Cdo on "Tidespring". A Boeing 707 of Grupo 1 now overflew "Endurance" on Saturday, and "Antrim", "Plymouth" and the newly arrived "Brilliant" were ordered to close South Georgia to deal with the submarine threat leaving "Tidespring" some 200 miles away in comparative safety. Armed with a variety of weapons, the ship's helicopters prepared to hunt down the submarine which got into Grytviken that evening.

On Sunday morning (25th) as "Santa Fe" headed out on the surface, she was spotted off Cumberland Bay by Lt Cmdr Stanley's Wessex. Near-missed by two Mk.11 depth charges and with some damage, the submarine limped back towards Grytviken. As she did, one of "Brilliant's" Lynx attacked with a Mk.46 torpedo, the two "Endurance" Wasps (Flight Commander, Lt Cmdr Ellerbeck) fired AS.12 missiles hitting her fin, "Plymouth's" Wasp fired another AS.12 and both of "Brilliant's" Wasps strafed with machine guns. The warships meanwhile headed for the action at high speed. Although the attacks only slightly damaged the "Santa Fe" and wounded one crewman, by noon she was abandoned alongside the jetty at King Edward Point. (Later, on being moved to Grytviken, one of "Santa Fe's" crew was shot and killed in the mistaken belief he was trying to scuttle the boat.)

With the submarine's return and the potential defenders now numbering some 140, the decision was made to land whatever force could be mustered under covering naval gunfire and without waiting for the bulk of M Coy to arrive on "Tidespring". Under the command of Major Sheriden RM, a company of 75 men was assembled from the SAS, SBS and other Royal Marines with Major Delves and Capt Nunn RM as troop commanders. In the early afternoon (25th still) from out in Cumberland Bay and under the control of a naval gunfire observer landed by "Endurance's" Wasp, "Antrim" and "Plymouth" laid down a 4.5 inch barrage all around the Argentine positions at King Edward Point. Landed by "Antrim's" Wessex and "Brilliant's" two Lynx at Hestesletten, the first wave of the ad hoc force advanced through the whaling station at Grytviken and across an unsuspected minefield towards the BAS base. As they approached, white flags were hoisted and around 5 pm local time, the Argentines surrendered without a shot being fired. When contacted by radio, the small detachment of marines at Leith under the command of Lt Cmdr Astiz refused to surrender.

Next morning (Monday 26th), "Endurance" and "Plymouth" sailed along to Leith and the Marines gave in. "Plymouth" and "Brilliant" left on Wednesday 28th to join the CVBG, but "Tidespring" now with nearly 150 Argentine POW's and the 40 civilian workers from Leith embarked, and escorted by "Antrim" did not head north for Ascension until Sunday 2nd. A disappointed M Coy 42 Cdo stayed on to garrison South Georgia, and "Endurance" remained as guardship.

British Gallantry Awards included:

Retaking of South Georgia
HMS Antrim Lt Cmdr I Stanley (DSO) RN
HMS Endurance Lt Cmdr J A Ellerbeck (DSC) RN

Lieutenant Commander I Stanley RN, Flight Commander,
No 737 NAS, HMS Antrim (Courtesy - RNAS Yeovilton)
  Torpedo-armed Lynx of No 815 NAS. Aft is a MAD
Magnetic Anomaly Detector (Courtesy - MOD, Navy)

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revised 31/5/13