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WEEK FIVE, Falkland Area Operations 26th April-2nd May 1982

Argentine FAA super Etendard

on to 25. British Task force in action


Summary of Main Events


Arriving Carrier Squadrons
No.800 - 12 Sea Harriers [Lt Cmdr A D Auld (awarded DSC) RN]
No.826 - 9 Sea King HAS.5's [Lt Cmdr D J S Squier (AFC) RN]
No.801 - 8 Sea Harriers [Cmdr N D Ward (DSC) AFC RN]
No.820 - 11 Sea King HAS.5's [Lt Cmdr R J S Wykes-Sneyd (AFC) RN
  RN Warships on Station

SSN Spartan, Splendid in Falkland's area/off Argentine coast
CVBG - CV Hermes, Invincible, DD Coventry, Glasgow, Sheffield, FR Broadsword, Plymouth, RFA Olmeda, Resource, with SBS and SAS

  1. 'Black Buck 1' - Vulcan raid on Stanley (1st)
2. Argentine aircraft losses at Goose Green - [a2,a3,a4] Pucara (1st)
3. FR Brilliant, Yarmouth with ASW Sea Kings hunt for San Luis (1st)
4. DD Glamorgan, FR Alacrity, Arrow carry out shore bombardment. All slightly damaged by air attack (1st)
5. Argentine aircraft losses off North Falklands (1st) - [a5,a6]
Mirage, [a7] Dagger, [a8] Canberra
6. Super Etendards abort Exocet mission (2nd)
7. Argentine Task Group 79 to North of Falklands: TG's 79.1 & 2 - CV 25 de Mayo and escorts. Prepared to launch Skyhawk attack Sunday morning. Aircraft loss - [a9] Lynx (2nd); TG 79.4 - 3 frigates
8. Argentine Task Group 79 South of Falklands: TG 79.3 - Cruiser Belgrano, DD Hipolito Bouchard, Piedra Bueno
9. SSN Conqueror from South Georgia
10. Sinking of GENERAL BELGRANO (2nd), aircraft loss - [a10] Alouette

As Admiral Woodward's Carrier Battle Group entered the TEZ on Saturday 1st May, a lone Vulcan bomber piloted by Flt Lt Withers (below) approached the Falklands for "Black Buck 1". Leaving Ascension late on Friday with a second Vulcan and eleven Victor tankers, some of which refuelled each other, the first air-raid on Stanley was about to be made. Intended to deny the airfield to fast jets, 21x1,000lb bombs were dropped from 10,000 feet early that morning. Only one hit the runway, but the attack signalled the RAF's ability to strike in the South Atlantic and against mainland targets. The Vulcan returned safely from its nearly 16 hour, 8,000 mile round trip, and one of the Victor captains - Sqdn Ldr Tuxford, was decorated for his part in the operation. ("Black Buck 2" on Tuesday morning was made from 16,000 feet but failed to hit the runway).

As the first "Black Buck" raid took place on the 1st, the carriers with just twenty Sea Harriers between them prepared to go into action. Keeping to the east of the Falklands to reduce the chance of air attack and screened by their anti-submarine Sea King's (picture below), "Invincible" flew off Sea Harriers for combat air patrols as "Hermes" aircraft followed up the Vulcan raid with ground strikes. Soon after 8.00 am, nine of them hit Stanley airfield, destroying installations and stores and damaging a civilian Islander aircraft with CBU's. The other three went in at Goose Green, wrecking one Pucara [a2] and badly damaging two more [a3,a4].

All this time, type 22 "Brilliant" and Rothesay class "Yarmouth" with three ASW Sea Kings from "Hermes" searched all day for the suspected Argentine submarine "San Luis", but failed to find her. Also detached were "Glamorgan", and type 21's "Alacrity" and "Arrow" for the first of many bombardments of the Stanley area. "Alacrity's" Lynx took off that afternoon to provide naval gunfire spotting, but stumbled on Argentine patrol craft "Islas Malvinas" sheltering near Kidney Island just to the north of Stanley. Going into attack with GPMG, she damaged the vessel, but was hit by the return fire, and "Arrow's" Lynx later took over the spotting duties. Just before 5.00 pm, as the warships continued their bombardment, they were attacked without warning by three Grupo 6 Daggers, and all received minor damage from cannon fire or near misses.

The Grupo 6 attack was part of Argentina's response that Saturday the 1st to what was believed to be a full scale landing. Sorties were launched from the mainland by Skyhawks, Canberras and Daggers, and with some Mirage flying cover, and also by Falklands-based aircraft. Around the time of this strike, four Argentine FAA aircraft were lost towards the north of the Falklands to Sea Harriers and their Sidewinders. "Glamorgan" vectored two No.801 aircraft to two Grupo 8 Mirage, one of which exploded over Pebble Island in the first air-to-air kill of the war, and the other, damaged by a missile and approaching Stanley was shot down by Argentine AA [a5,a6]. Next, two Sea Harriers of No.800 NAS claimed the Squadron's first victim in combat by downing one of two Grupo 6 Daggers flying escort [a7]. Then further to the north, two more No.801 Harriers accounted for one of three Grupo 2 Canberras looking for British ships [a8]. Next day, two CANA Super Etendards flew from the mainland for an Exocet attack on the Task Force, but turned back with refuelling problems.

Earlier in the week before the British arrival, ships of the Argentine Navy sailed from the north and south of the Falklands as Task Force 79. By early Sunday morning (the 2nd), carrier "25 de Mayo" to the north was preparing to launch a Skyhawk attack which was aborted because of light winds, and that same day both escorting type 42's were involved in separate incidents. "Hercules" readied but fails to fire a Sea Dart against an approaching No.801 Sea Harrier, and "Santisima Trinidad" lost her Lynx in a flying accident [a9]. By then, submarine "San Luis" may have carried out the first of a number of unsuccessful attacks before she returned to port around the end of the month. To the south, Sunday also saw one of the most controversial incidents of the war - the loss of cruiser "General Belgrano" and over 300 men.

Not used during "Operation Rosario", the "General Belgrano" put to sea from Ushuaia on Monday 26th April escorted by two Exocet-armed destroyers, and three days later was ordered to patrol south of the shallow Burdwood Bank. On Friday, nuclear submarine "Conqueror" made first contact at long range, and on Saturday closed in to shadow. Although just outside the TEZ, "GENERAL BELGRANO", as the southern arm of TF.79 was a potential threat to the carriers and her destruction was ordered. Attacked and hit at 4.00 pm on Sunday 2nd May by two conventional Mark 8 torpedoes she was soon abandoned, and went down with heavy casualties and her helicopter [a10]. A third torpedo hit "Hipolito Bouchard" without exploding but possibly caused some damage, and "Conqueror" was therefore presumably counter-attacked by "Piedra Bueno", which later returned with other Argentine ships to search for the cruiser's survivors. Shortly after the sinking, the main units of the Argentine Navy returned to port or stayed in coastal waters for the rest of the war.

Although British special forces may already have landed from the nuclear subs, the SBS and G Sqdn SAS now went ashore on the Falklands to check out landing sites and to target aircraft, troops and stores for naval bombardment and Harrier strikes. Some of the teams stayed in position, close to the Argentines and in bad weather for many days at a time. Areas of operation on East Falkland were believed to include Bluff Cove, Stanley, Berkeley Sound, Cow Bay, Port Salvador, San Carlos Water, Goose Green and Lafonia, and over on West Falkland, Pebble Island, Port Howard and Fox Bay. The first patrols started flying in Saturday night in "Hermes'" four remaining No.846 Sea King HC.4's, which equipped with PNG for night flying, played such an important role over the next six weeks.


British Gallantry Awards included:


Vulcan attack - 'Black Buck 1'
Flt Lt W F M Withers (DFC) RAF
Sqdn Ldr R Tuxford (AFC) RAF


Special forces missions during the war, including:

  SBS & SAS patrols
Capt A J G Wight (MC) Welsh Guards, SAS?
Cpl T Brookes (MM) Royal Signals, SAS?
Sgt T Collings (MM) RM, SBS?
Sgt J G Mather (MM) SAS
  No.846 NAS - special forces insertions
Lt N J North (DSC) RN
Lt Cmdr S C Thornewill (DSC) RN, co
Cpl Aircrewman M D Love (post DSM) RM
CPO Aircrewman M J Tupper (DSM)
Flt Lt W F M Withers RAF,
Vulcan pilot on return from the 1st May
1982 "Black Buck 1" bombing raid on
Stanley (Courtesy - MOD, RAF)
  Royal Navy Sea King Mark V carrying out a
"dunking exercise" with sonar submersible sonar in
the more peaceful post-war seas off SW England
(Courtesy - MOD, Navy)

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revised 31/5/13