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WEEK EIGHT, 21st May 1982

Amphibious Group under attack on the 21st May 1982, including, centre, transport "Norland" and HMS Intrepid

on to 34. Air Battles of 21st May


Summary of Main Events
(subsequent British honours & gallantry awards in brackets)


11 Sea King HC.4's of No.846 NAS on Fearless (4), Intrepid (4), Canberra (2) and Norland (1)
5 embarked Wessex HU.5's of No.845 NAS, including RFA Resource A Flt [Lt Cmdr H J Lomas (DSC) RN]


Main units:
Brigadier J H A Thompson (CB) OBE ADC RM
Deputy Commander, Colonel T Seccombe RM
Brigade Major (Chief of Staff), Maj J Chester (OBE) RM
(Deputy Chief of Staff), Maj G V J O'N Wells-Cole RM
40 Cdo RM, Lt Col M P J Hunt (OBE) RM
42 Cdo RM, Lt Col N F Vaux (DSO) RM
45 Cdo RM, Lt Col A F Whitehead (DSO) RM
29 Cdo Regt RA, Lt Col M J Holroyd-Smith (OBE) RA
59 Ind Cdo Sqdn RE, Maj R MacDonald (MID) RE
Cdo Logistics Regt, Lt Col I J Hellberg (OBE) RCT
  Bde HQ & Signals Sqdn, Maj R C Dixon RM
Mountain and Arctic Warfare Cadre, Capt R J Boswell RM
SBS, Maj J J Thomson (OBE) RM
3 Cdo Bde Air Sqdn, Maj C P Cameron (MC) RM with 9 Gazelles and 9 Scouts (3 from No.656 AAC)

Main attached Army Units:
2 Para, Lt Col H Jones (VC) OBE
3 Para, Lt Col H W R Pike (DSO) MBE
22 SAS Regt, Lt Col H M Rose OBE (MID)


1. FANNING HEAD RAID - SBS land by helicopter from Antrim; Argentine positions engaged by machine guns under Antrim's covering fire
2. DARWIN RAID - D Sqdn SAS landed by helicopter to hold down Argentine forces around Darwin and Goose Green. Support fire from Ardent out in Grantham Sound

3. AMPHIBIOUS SHIPS - 1st ASSAULT WAVE: Fearless - 40 Cdo by Fearless LCU; Norland - 2 Para by Intrepid LCU; 2nd ASSAULT WAVE: Intrepid - 3 Para; Stromness - 45 Cdo; RESERVE: Canberra - 42 Cdo; SUPPLY TRANSPORTS - Europic Ferry, Fort Austin, Sir Galahad, Sir Geraint, Sir Lancelot, Sir Percivale, Sir Tristram

4. SAN CARLOS (Blue Beach) - 40 Cdo RM and 3 Cdo Bde HQ, Arty Bty. Also 2 Para which moved towards Sussex Mountains
5. AJAX BAY (Red Beach) - 45 Cdo RM. Also Brigade Maintenance Area, Cdo Logistic Regt, Arty Bty
6. PORT SAN CARLOS (Green Beach) - 3 Para. Also 42 Cdo RM, Arty Bty
7. British aircraft lost just east of Port San Carlos - [b11,b12] Gazelles


8. BACK TO CVBG - DD Antrim, Transports Canberra, Europic Ferry, Norland
AMPHIBIOUS SHIPS IN SAN CARLOS WATER- Assault ships Fearless, Intrepid, RFAs Fort Austin, Stromness, LSLs Sir Galahad, Sir Geraint, Sir Lancelot, Sir Percivale, Sir Tristram
ESCORTS REMAINING - Antrim (UXB damage), Ardent (SINKING), Argonaut (UXB damage), Brilliant (minor damage), Broadsword (minor damage), Plymouth, Yarmouth

As the Amphibious Group sailed in towards Falkland Sound, diversionary raids were mounted starting on Thursday night. Of immediate concern was a half company of infantrymen on the 800 feet high Fanning Head overlooking the entrance to San Carlos Water. To deal with these, "Antrim" went ahead with two Wessex, some 25 SBS heavily armed with machine guns, and a naval gunfire observer. The force landed by helicopter to the east of the Argentine positions under covering fire from "Antrim", and the defenders called on to surrender. This they refused to do and the engagement continued with a number of them killed or captured. Others escaped, but Fanning Head was finally under British control and the vulnerable landing craft below saved from attack. Further south, any attempt by the Darwin garrison to move towards the beachhead was blocked by the small force of D Sqdn SAS under the command of Major Delves and supported by "Ardent" out in Grantham Sound. Landed by No.846 Sea Kings to the north, the attackers engaged the Argentines with machine guns, anti-tank missiles and mortars to such an extent they were reported to be in battalion strength.

While the diversions took place, the landings went ahead admittedly with some delay and confusion, and yet with complete success. With the main body of the Amphibious Group anchored just outside San Carlos Water, the final plan was for 2 Para and 40 Cdo to land at San Carlos first so the Paras could move south to prevent the Argentines at Darwin from occupying the Sussex Mountains. Then 45 Cdo would go ashore at Ajax Bay and 3 Para at Port San Carlos to complete the encirclement of the anchorage. With 42 Cdo remaining on "Canberra" in reserve, Rapier missiles and artillery, ammo, fuel, rations and other stores would then be landed by the few helicopters, landing craft and Mexeflotes. The landing craft carrying the first wave were due to beach at San Carlos at 2.30 am on Friday 21st May.

Unfortunately delays built up both in reaching the anchorage and in loading the troops, but eventually they headed in below Fanning Head before turning south towards San Carlos led in by Major Southby-Tailyour RM. The landing craft from "Fearless" including the smaller LCVP's carried 40 Cdo, with two of the LCU's carrying a Scorpion and Scimitar each in the bows (four light tanks in total) ready to provide gunfire support. With them in "Intrepid's" four LCU's was 2 Para from "Norland". "Plymouth" accompanied them in as close escort. Then 3,800 miles from Ascension, the first major British landing since Suez took place around an hour late, but completely unopposed. As soon as 2 Para landed, they moved off the five miles to Sussex Mountains, and 40 Cdo dug in below the western ridge of The Verde Mountains. As dawn broke, the landing craft returned to the ships still outside San Carlos Water to pick up the second wave - most of 45 Cdo from "Stromness" with Z Coy from "Intrepid", and all of 3 Para from "Intrepid". Now in daylight, the Marines went ashore near the disused meat packing plant at Ajax Bay on the western side, and the Paras a mile west of Port San Carlos on the northern side. Before 3 Para could secure the settlement, 3 Cdo Bde suffered its only fatal casualties on D-day.

Left - Machine gun position on board assault ship HMS Fearless (below right) while on passage. The sand-bags were filled at Ascension (Courtesy - MOD, Navy)

With the three beachheads being secured, the twelve amphibious ships entered San Carlos Water in broad daylight - "Canberra" and some of the larger ones anchoring in the deeper water to the north, and the smaller LSL's nearer San Carlos. The escorts patrolled nearby in Falkland Sound and took the brunt of the air attacks that followed. Using especially the No.846 Sea Kings, the first priority was to get the T Bty Rapiers ashore, although it took a number of hours to set up the twelve firing posts around the perimeter ready to join in the air defence. Early in this operation, shortly before 9 am, one of the Sea Kings flew east of Port San Carlos and within gunfire range of the small Argentine garrison as it withdrew east. It escaped, but the escorting Gazelle of C Flt 3CBAS was hit and crashed near the shore, the pilot mortally wounded [b11]. Only minutes later a second C Flt Gazelle shared the same fate, going down on a nearby hillside, and this time both crewmen were killed [b12].

Along with the other tanks of The Blues and Royals, the three 105mm batteries of 29 Cdo Regt RA and the single battery of 4 Field Regt RA also landed. During this time the air attacks started, threatening the amphibious ships and their stores, and so every effort was made to unload as much as possible, especially ammo so the merchantmen could leave that night. From "Canberra", reserve 42 Cdo went ashore at Port San Carlos to support 3 Para if any threat there developed, and one of the two Surgical Support Teams landed at Ajax Bay to set up a Field Dressing Station under the command of Surgeon Cmdr R T Jolly (awarded OBE) RN, and in the same vicinity as the Brigade Maintenance Area. Because of the air raids, Brigadier Thompson was not flown ashore until late afternoon but immediately started visiting his unit commanders.

At the end of this long and violent day, and with "Canberra" now carrying "Ardent's" survivors, the merchantmen although only partly unloaded and still carrying much of the infantry unit stores, left for the safety of the CVBG. Other amphibious ships and most of the escorts remained. Commodore Clapp and Brigadier Thompson had successfully secured a beachhead on the Falklands - 3 Cdo Bde was ashore with their Rapiers and artillery together with some ammo, a start had been made on bringing a major part of the combat stores ashore, and the Marines and Paras were digging in and actively patrolling.

The crucial battle over the next four days would be for air supremacy over the islands.


SAS Raid on Darwin Settlement - from the Art of Daniel Bechennec


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revised 31/5/13