Falklands War History
Argentine fleet sets sail under the guise of naval manoeuvres.
March 29 Falklands War History:
Submarines sent to Falklands. Fort Austin sails from Gibraltar to replenish HMS Endurance.
March 31 Falklands War History:
British decoders intercept radio message to the Argentinean submarine Sante Fe, which orders her to examine the beaches around Stanley for possible landing sites.
April 1 Falklands War History:
British nuclear submarines, HMS Spartan and HMS Splendid sail from Faslane bound for the Falklands.
April 2 Falklands War History:
Argentine invasion of the Falklands delayed by 24 hours due to bad weather. The plan involved the capture of the Royal Marines base at Moody Brook. Royal Marines Garrison under Major Mike Norman number 68. There are also 11 sailors from HMS Endurance who are armed. About 25 men from the Local Defence Force report for duty. The Argentine attack is launched after 6 am. The first attacks are on Moody Brook and Government House. A firefight brakes out. The outlying sections of Royal Marines fall back to Government House. Firefights brake out over Stanley. The Royal Marines surrender. Only 6 men make it back to Government House, where the Governor at 9:25 orders a cease-fire. About 25 Argentinean dead, No British casualties.
April 3 Falklands War History:
22 Royal Marines on South Georgia surrender to Argentinean troops following a short battle in which an Argentine helicopter is forced down and the Argentinean frigate Guerrico is damaged by a Carl Gustav anti-tank rocket fired by the Marines. First Royal Air Force transport aircraft deploy to Ascension Island. HMS Hermes and HMS Invincible are prepared to sail. First British surface ships begin to head south.
April 4 Falklands War History:
The British nuclear submarine HMS Conqueror sails from Faslane.
April 5 Falklands War History:
HMS Hermes and HMS Invincible sail from Portsmouth. Task Force will eventually number 13 warships and 4 supply ships.
April 9 Falklands War History:
Canberra sails from Southampton with the 2400 men of 40, 42 and 45 Royal Marine Commandos and 3rd Battalion Parachute Regiment.
April 11 Falklands War History:
British submarines arrive in the South Atlantic: HMS Splendid and HMS Spartan begin patrolling off the Falklands, while HMS Conqueror heads for South Georgia.
April 12 Falklands War History:
HMS Conqueror reaches South Georgia. Britain formally announces the introduction of a 200 mile Maritime Exclusion zone around the Falklands. The destroyers HMS Antrim and HMS Plymouth, with the tanker Tidespring acting as troopship for M Company 42 Royal Marine Commando are designated Task Force 319.9 under Captain B.C. Young and sail from Ascension.
April 16 Falklands War History:
British aircraft carriers reach Ascension Island.
April 18 Falklands War History: Task Force sails from Ascension. HMS Brilliant, HMS Coventry, HMS Glasgow, HMS Sheffield and HMS Arrow are designated Task Unit 317.8.2 and are ordered to make south at top speed in case diplomatic measures cause both sides to halt all military manoeuvres.
April 20 Falklands War History:
RAF Victor makes fourteen hour reconnaissance flight from Ascension to South Georgia.
April 21 Falklands War History:
Task Force 319.9 arrive off South Georgia and Operation Paraquet begins. British helicopters from HMS Antrim and Tidespring land SAS men on the Fortuna glacier for a reconnaissance mission on Leith, whilst SBS men land by Gemini boat and begin observation of Grytviken. The SAS men are subjected to Antarctic weather conditions and request evacuation. In appalling weather conditions two Wessex helicopters crash amazingly with no casualties. The men are safely extracted.
April 23 Falklands War History:
South Georgia: SAS Boat troop is put ashore by Geminis and begin observing the Argentineans. SBS party is extracted by helicopter after problems with the ice puncturing their boats. Report reaches British that Argentinean submarine is in the area and HMS Plymouth with two tankers sail east to avoid detection, leaving HMS Endurance as the only ship in the area.
April 24 Falklands War History:
The anti-submarine Type 22 frigate HMS Brilliant arrives off South Georgia to reinforce the ships already present.
April 25 Falklands War History:
In South Georgia, British helicopters locate the Argentinean submarine Sante Fe on the surface and attack. The submarine heads for Grytviken and beaches. As HMS Antrim and HMS Plymouth arrive on the scene a decision to strike immediately is taken and a force composing of SAS, SBS and Royal Marines are put ashore by helicopter whilst the Royal Navy ships open fire with their 4.5 inch guns to persuade the Argentineans to surrender. The Argentinean Commander agrees to surrender.
April 26 Falklands War History:
HMS Plymouth and HMS Endurance sail round to Leith to accept the surrender. 190 Argentineans taken prisoner. 2 Para onboard Norland leave Hull bound for the Falklands.
April 27 Falklands War History:
Argentine warships sail from Puerto Belgrano.
April 30 Falklands War History:
British Nuclear submarine HMS Conqueror detects long range sonar contacts and closes to investigate.
Main British Task Force enters Maritime Exclusion Zone. An RAF Vulcan Bomber bombs Stanley airfield. HMS Hermes launches the first Sea Harriers: 9 to bomb Stanley airfield, 3 to bomb Goose Green airstrip. Three British ships HMS Glamorgan, HMS Alacrity and HMS Arrow begin a naval bombardment of Argentine positions around Stanley. Sea Harriers destroy a Mirage, a Dagger and a Canberra. A further Mirage is accidently shot down by Argentinean gunners. No Sea Harriers are lost. HMS Conqueror starts to shadow the Argentine cruiser General Belgrano.
British nuclear submarine HMS Conqueror receives orders to sink the General Belgrano. Launching three torpedoes, the General Belgrano is hit twice and sinks. 368 crewmen die. British helicopters sink Argentine patrol vessel Comodoro Somollera.
Argentine Super Etendard aircraft launch two Exocet air-to-surface missiles at the British Task Force. The British destroyer HMS Sheffield is destroyed. 20 men killed, 24 injured. In a Harrier bombing raid on Goose Green airstrip, one British Harrier plane is shot down by anti-aircraft guns.
Two Sea Harriers are lost in bad weather.
HMS Alacrity shells positions around Stanley. Two Sea Harriers attack the Argentine trawler Narwal. The vessel is then boarded by SBS men, the crew surrender. HMS Coventry and HMS Broadsword are deployed as a missile trap off Stanley and successfully destroy two Skyhawks and a Puma helicopter.
HMS Alacrity sinks the Argentine supply ship Isla de los Estados.
5th Brigade consisting of 2nd Battalion Scots Guards, 1st Battalion Welsh guards and 1/7th Duke of Edinburgh's Ghurka Rifles sail from Southampton on the QE2. HMS Glasgow and HMS Brilliant are deployed as the missile trap off Stanley. Three Argentine Skyhawks are shot down by Sea Wolf missiles. HMS Glasgow is hit by a bomb which passes straight through the ship without exploding. Skyhawk is mistakenly shot down by Argentinean gunners. Formal orders given for landing site to be San Carlos. An SAS team is inserted by canoe onto Pebble Island. The men evacuate the next night by canoe and a raid on the airstrip is prepared.
45 SAS men launch a raid on Argentine grass airstrip at Pebble Island, destroying 11 Argentine aircraft. The SAS men are then evacuated by navy helicopters.
Sea Harriers attack two Argentinean supply ships in the Falkland Sound. The Bahia Buen Suceso is forced to beach. The Río Carcarañá is sunk.
Sea King Helicopter crashes whilst transferring SAS men to HMS Intrepid, 21 men are lost. Ships intended for the landing form a convoy and sail for San Carlos.
A Sea King helicopter from the Task Force crashes in Chile and is then exploded by the crew. The helicopter had infiltrated an SAS team into mainland Argentina to attack Rio Grande airbase and destroy the Super Entenards that were causing losses to the Task Force. 2000 Argentinean marines start to comb the area hunting for the SAS team. Back in Hereford the SAS commander decides to abort the mission and the SAS team crosses into Chile possibly suffering some casualties.
SBS men land by helicopter and secure Fanning Head overlooking San Carlos. SAS men launch a diversionary attack on Goose Green. HMS Glamorgan shells positions north of Stanley. 2 Para land at 4:40 am to secure the hills surrounding the anchorage. 40 Commando land seven minutes later. 45 Commando and 3 Para are landed. By dawn 105mm guns and Rapier air-defence systems are flown ashore by helicopter. Scimitars and Scorpions from the Blues and Royals are deployed also. Two British Gazelle helicopters are hit and destroyed and another damaged. SAS troops near Stanley report an Argentinean helicopter dispersal area and RAF GR3 Harriers from Hermes attack the site after first light destroying a Chinook and two Puma helicopters. RAF GR3 Harrier is shot down near Port Howard. The SAS men destroy a Pucara with a Stinger missile. Argentine air force launch attacks on the San Carlos anchorage. HMS Ardent is hit and sinks. HMS Brilliant and HMS Broadsword are slightly damaged. Argentineans lose approximately 13 aircraft.
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The British HMS Antelope is hit by two bombs, but fail to explode. Whilst attempting to defuse one of the bombs, it detonates starting a fire. 2 men are killed and 5 injured. Ten Argentine aircraft are claimed destroyed.
The landing ships Sir Lancelot and Sir Galahad are hit by bombs in San Carlos, but the bombs fail to explode. The bombs are removed in the following days. Seven Argentine aircraft destroyed.
HMS Broadsword and HMS Coventry are bombed by Argentine Skyhawks. HMS Broadsword is hit but the bomb fails to explode. HMS Coventry is hit and capsizes. Super Entenards flying from Rio Grande launch Exocets against the main Task Force. The MV Atlantic Conveyor suffers a fatal hit, sinking 3 days later. 31 dead. May 26:
2 Para move off from Sussex mountain and prepare to attack Goose Green and Darwin.
Argentine aircraft attack the landing area around San Carlos killing 7, wounding 26. One of the planes is hit by ground fire and crashes. British troops (3 Para and 45 Commando) break out from their beachhead at San Carlos and begin to walk there way across East Falkland. One RAF GR3 Harrier shot down during a raid on Goose Green.
2nd Parachute regiment attack the Argentinean garrison at Goose Green and Darwin. Gradually the Paras work there way through the Argentinean trenches and succeed in surrounding the remaining Argentinean garrison in Goose Green settlement. Surrounded, the Argentine commanders at Goose Green ask Menedez for permission to surrender. 17 British dead, 40 wounded. Argentine 45 dead, 90 wounded. 3 Para with tanks from the Blues and Royals reach Teal Inlet.
Warships and Harriers bombard Argentine positions. British 45 Commando secure Douglas settlement. 1 Sea Harrier lost as it slides off HMS Invincible's deck in bad weather.
Shelling continues as British troops advance. 45 Commando reach Teal Inlet. 42 Commando established by helicopter on Mount Kent. RAF GR-3 Harriers bomb Argentinean artillery positions near Stanley, but one of the planes is hit and fails to make it back to HMS Hermes. The pilot bails out and is rescued. The last of the Argentine airborne Exocet missiles are fired but fail to hit anything. Four Skyhawks attack the Task Force but lose two aircraft without hitting any British ships. Black Buck Five launched with Shrike anti-radiation missiles. The raid damages a radar beacon near Stanley.
The Falklands' capital of Port Stanley is surrounded.
19 men from the Royal Marines Mountain and Arctic warfare Cadre attack Top Malo House. An Argentinean Hercules transport plane is shot down by a Sea Harrier. Sea Harrier is shot down by an Argentinean surface-to-air missile.
Scots Guards on board HMS Intrepid transferred by sea to Bluff Cove
Welsh Guards transported to Bluff Cove.
Argentine planes bomb HMS Plymouth. Bombs fail to explode. Sir Tristan is damaged the Sir Galahad is crippled. 50 die in the ships, 159 more wounded. Three Skyhawks shot down by sidewinders fired from Sea Harriers.
3-Para supported by HMS Avenger mount an assault on Mount Longdon. 18 paras killed, 35 wounded. Argentine 50 dead, 50 taken prisoner. 45 Commando supported by HMS Glamorgan take Two Sisters from the Argentinean 4th Regiment. 42 Commando supported by HMS Yarmouth take Mount Harriet.
RAF GR3 Harriers use laser guided bombs to destroy a Argentinean company headquarters. 2nd Battalion Scots Guards attack Mount Tumbledown. 9 Scots Guards killed, 43 wounded. 37 Argentineans killed, 30 taken prisoner. 2 Para supported by HMS Ambuscade attack and capture Wireless Ridge. Later the Paras are counterattacked by men of the 7th Infantry Regiment. Counterattack is repulsed. The SAS, with men from the SBS and the Royal Marine Raiding Squadron launch a hit and run attack on Stanley harbour.
2 Para enter the outskirts of Stanley. Menedez agrees to a cease-fire and surrenders the 10,000 Argentine troops still under his command.
40 Commando accept the surrender of the 5th Argentinean Regiment at Port Howard on West Falkland.
The British reoccupy the South Sandwich Islands. Britain formally declares an end to hostilities.
The Falklands War was fought in 1982 between Argentina and the United Kingdom over the disputed Falkland Islands, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands. The Falkland Islands consist of two large and many small islands in the South Atlantic Ocean east of Argentina, and their name and ownership have long been disputed. The war was triggered by the occupation of South Georgia by Argentina on 19 March 1982 followed by the occupation of the Falklands, and ended when Argentina surrendered on 14 June 1982. War was not actually declared by either side. The initial invasion was considered by Argentina as the re-occupation of its own territory, and by Britain as an invasion of a British overseas territory, and the most recent invasion of British territory by a foreign power. In the period leading up to the war, Argentina was in the midst of a devastating economic crisis and large-scale civil unrest against the military junta that had been governing the country since 1976. The Argentine military government, headed by General Leopoldo Galtieri, sought to maintain power by diverting public attention playing off long-standing feelings of the Argentines towards the islands, although they never thought that the United Kingdom would respond militarily. The ongoing tension between the two countries over the islands increased on 19 March when a group of hired Argentinian scrap metal merchants raised their flag at South Georgia, an act that would later be seen as the first offensive action in the war. The Argentine Military Junta, suspecting that the UK would reinforce its South Atlantic Forces, ordered the invasion of the Falkland Islands to be brought forward to 2 April. Word of the invasion first reached Britain via ham radio. Britain was initially taken by surprise by the Argentine attack on the South Atlantic islands. was unwilling, and would soon be unable, to defend her territories and subjects in the Falklands. Britain launched a naval task force to engage the Argentine Navy and Air Force, and retake the islands by amphibious assault. After combat resulting in 258 British and 649 Argentine deaths, the British eventually prevailed and the islands remained under British control. The political effects of the war were strong in both countries. A wave of patriotic sentiment swept through both: the Argentine loss prompted even larger protests against the military government, which hastened its downfall; in the United Kingdom, the government of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was bolstered. It helped Thatcher's government to victory in the 1983 general election, which prior to the war was seen as by no means certain. The war has played an important role in the culture of both countries, and has been the subject of several books, films, and songs. However, it is not seen as a truly major event of either military or 20th century history because of the low number of casualties on both sides and the small size and limited economic importance of the disputed areas. The cultural and political weight of the conflict has had less effect on the British public than on that of Argentina, where the war is still a topic of discussion
By mid-April, the Royal Air Force had set up an airbase at Wideawake on the mid-Atlantic island of Ascension, including a sizable 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 war. A small force had already been sent south to re-capture 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. One of these flights was intercepted outside the British self-imposed exclusion zone, by a Sea Harrier; the unarmed 707 was not attacked because diplomatic moves were still in progress and the UK had not yet decided to commit itself to war. 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 Squadron (SB Sqn) 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. The first Royal Navy ship to arrive was the type 42 destroyer HMS Glasgow. On 23 April, a submarine alert was sounded and operations were halted, with the Tidespring being withdrawn to deeper water to avoid interception. On 24 April, the British forces regrouped and headed in to attack the submarine. On 25 April the ARA Santa Fe was spotted 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 it with its pintle-mounted General Purpose Machine Gun; the Wessex also fired on the 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 submerging. The crew abandoned the submarine at the jetty at King Edward Point on South Georgia. With the 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 force, 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." Prime Minister Thatcher broke the news to the media, telling them to "Just rejoice at that news
The Operation Black Buck raids were a series of five attacks on the Islands by RAF Avro Vulcan bombers of 44 Squadron, staged from Wideawake airbase on Ascension Island, close to the equator. The aircraft carried either 21 1,000 lb bombs internally or four Shrike anti-radar missiles externally. The overall effect of the raids on the war is difficult to determine, as the raids consumed precious tanker resources. The raids did minimal damage to the runway and damage to radars was quickly repaired. Post-war propaganda states that the Vulcan raids influenced Argentina to withdraw Mirage IIIs from the Southern Argentina to the Buenos Aires Defence Zone. It has been suggested that the Black Buck raids were pressed home by the Royal Air Force. The British armed forces had been cut in the late seventies, and the RAF may have desired a greater role in the conflict to prevent further cuts. A single crater was produced on the runway, rendering it impossible for the airfield to be used by fast jets. Argentine ground crew repaired the runway within twenty-four hours] and produced fake craters to confound British damage assessment. The runway was also available for MB-339 Aermacchi jets. On 1 May operations against the Falklands opened with the "Black Buck 1" attack on the airfield at Stanley. The Vulcan had originally been designed for medium-range stand-off nuclear missions in Europe and did not have the range to fly to the Falklands, requiring several in-flight refuellings. The RAF's tanker planes were mostly converted Handley Page Victor bombers with similar range, so they too had to be refuelled in the air. Thus, a total of 11 tankers were required for only two Vulcans, a huge logistical effort, given that both the tankers and bombers had to use the same strip. The attack yielded only a single hit on the runway. The raids, at almost 8,000 nautical miles (13 000 km) and 16 hours for the return journey, were the longest-ranged bombing raids in history at that time (surpassed in the Persian Gulf War of 1991 by USAF Boeing B-52G Stratofortresses flying from the continental United States but using forward-positioned tankers. They are often credited with the strategic success of causing the Argentine Air Force ("Fuerza Aerea Argentina") to withdraw all their Mirage IIIEA aircraft to protect against the possibility of similar bombing raids on the Argentine mainland. However, according to the FAA version, Group 8 Mirages were deployed to Comodoro Rivadavia and Rio Gallegos in April (before the raids) where they remained until June to protect against any Chilean threat and as reserve for the strike units. Their lack of aerial refuel capability and a smaller internal fuel capacity, as compared to the IAI Daggers, prevented them from being used effectively over the islands, as was shown by their only engagement of the war on 1 May, so they were relegated to mainland duties. Concerned about the possibility of Chilean strikes or SAS raids, the FAA was forced to disperse its aircraft in the areas surrounding their southern airfields. For example, several parts of the national route #3 were used for this purpose. Only minutes after the RAF's Black Buck 1, nine Fleet Air Arm BAE Sea Harrier FRS Mk 1s from HMS Hermes followed up the raid by dropping BL755 cluster bombs on Stanley and the smaller grass airstrip at Goose Green. The Harriers destroyed one FMA IA 58 Pucará at Goose Green and caused minor damage to Stanley airfield infrastructure. The remaining runways were fully operational through the rest of the conflict. Other Sea Harriers had taken off from the deck of HMS Invincible for combat air patrols. The Argentines nevertheless claimed that two Sea Harriers were downed that morning in the general area of Stanley. Of the five Black Buck raids, three were against Stanley Airfield, with the other two anti-radar missions using Shrike anti-radiation missiles.
The Falklands had only three airfields. The longest and only paved runway was at the capital, Stanley, and even it was too short to support fast jets. Therefore, the Argentine Air Force (FAA) was forced to launch its major strikes from the mainland, severely hampering its 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 (McDonnell Douglas A-4 Skyhawks, Israel Aircraft Industries Daggers, English Electric B Mk 62 Canberras and Dassault 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 Sea Harriers operating from HMS Invincible. A Dagger 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 without enough fuel to return to its mainland airfield. The plane made for Stanley, where it fell victim to friendly fire from the Argentine defenders. 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 Escuadron Fenix, 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, who was the highest-ranking Argentine officer to die in the War. During the course of the air war, 23 Argentine aircraft were shot down in air to air engagements to 0 losses on the British side. 17 further Argentine aircraft were successfully destroyed by the British Task Groups missile and gun air defences. 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 such as the Franco-German Roland) and Swiss-built 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 few RN Sea Harriers were considered too valuable by day to risk in night-time blockade operations, and their Blue Fox radar was not an effective look-down over land radar. The only Argentine Air Force Hercules shot down by the British was lost on 1 June when TC-63 was intercepted by a Sea Harrier in daylight 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.
Two separate British naval task forces (surface vessels and 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 formerly the USS Phoenix, a survivor of the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. The nuclear-powered submarine HMS Conqueror, captained by Commander Christopher Wreford-Brown, sank Belgrano on 2 May using Mk 8 Mod 4 torpedoes of WWII-vintage design; these were chosen as they carried a larger warhead and contact fuses and there were worries surrounding the reliability of the newer Tigerfish torpedoes. Three hundred and twenty-three members of Belgrano's crew died in the incident. Over 700 men were rescued from the open ocean despite cold seas and stormy weather. Losses from Belgrano totalled just over half of Argentine deaths in the Falklands conflict, and the Belgrano remains the only ship ever sunk by a nuclear submarine in combat, and only the second warship sunk by a submarine since the end of the Second World War (the first being the Khukri, an Indian frigate sunk during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971). In a separate incident later that night, British forces engaged an Argentine patrol gunboat, the ARA Alferez Sobral. At the time, the Alferez Sobral was searching for the crew of the Argentine Air Force English Electric Canberra light bomber shot down on 1 May. Two Sea Lynxes fired four Sea Skua missiles against her. Badly damaged and with eight crew dead, the Sobral managed to return to Puerto Deseado two days later, but the Canberra's crew were never found. Initial reports conflated the two incidents, contributing to confusion about the number of casualties and the identity of the vessel that sank. The loss of ARA General Belgrano hardened the stance of the Argentine government and also became a cause célèbre for anti-war campaigners who declared that the ship had been sailing away from the Falklands at the time. The vessel was outside the exclusion zone, and sailing away from the area of conflict. However, during war, under international law, the heading of a belligerent naval vessel has no bearing on its status. In addition, the captain of the Belgrano, Hector Bonzo, has testified that the attack was legitimate. In later years it has been claimed that the information on the position of the ARA General Belgrano came from a Soviet spy satellite which was tapped by the Norwegian intelligence service station at Fauske, Norway, and then handed over to the British. However, Conqueror had been shadowing the Belgrano for some days, so this extra information would have been unnecessary. The sinking occurred 14 hours after Constitutional President of the Republic of Peru Fernando Belaúnde Terry had proposed a comprehensive peace plan and called for regional unity. With the comprehensive failure of diplomatic efforts to that point and so without any hope that additional diplomatic efforts would lead anywhere, and with the knowledge that the delay that would be incurred by such efforts would eliminate the military option due to the closing winter weather, this plan was not entertained by the UK. Regardless of controversies over the sinking, it had a crucial strategic effect: the elimination of the Argentine naval threat. After her loss, the entire Argentine fleet returned to port and did not leave again for the duration of hostilities. 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.
Two days after the sinking of Belgrano, on May 2, the British lost the Type 42 destroyer HMS Sheffield to fire following an Exocet missile strike. The Argentine Navy had only 5 of these air-launched AM.39 Exocet anti-ship missiles when the war began. They had plenty of surface-launched MM.38 Exocets but they were unsuited for aircraft operation. Sheffield had been ordered forward with two other Type 42s in order to provide a long-range radar and medium-high altitude missile picket far from the British carriers. After the ships were detected by an Argentine Navy P-2 Neptune patrol aircraft, two Dassault Super Étendards (serial no. 202 and 203) were launched from their base at Río Grande, each armed with a single Exocet AM.39 missile. Refuelled by an Argentine Air Force KC-130H Hercules after launch, they went in at low altitude, popped up for a radar check at 50 miles (80 km) and released the missiles from 20 to 30 miles (30 to 50 km) away. Glasgow, Sheffield’s sister ship and the northernmost of the three-destroyer picket, detected the two Étendards on their first pop-up, and warned the fleet-wide anti-air warfare coordinator in Hermes. Hermes dismissed the report as one of the many false alarms already that morning. Glasgow continued to monitor that bearing and detected the second pop-up, and this time the tell-tale Exocet seeker radar via the ship's ESM equipment. Again Hermes ruled the detection as spurious, but Glasgow continued to broadcast handbrake, the codeword for Exocet radar detected. The first missile missed HMS Yarmouth, due to the deployment of chaff in response to the warning, whilst Glasgow repeatedly tried, without success, to engage the other with Sea Dart missiles. Still Hermes ruled that this was a false alarm. Sheffield was unable to detect directly the seeker radar as, in a case of bad timing, the SCOT satellite communications terminal was in use which deafened the onboard electronic warfare support measures (ESM) equipment and was incompatible with the radar fitted to the Type 42. It is not known why she did not respond to Glasgow's warnings, but no chaff was fired and a shipwide warning of attack went out only seconds before impact when a watchkeeper identified rocket trails visually. Sheffield was struck amidships, with devastating effect. Whether the warhead actually exploded is debated, but raging fires started to spread, ultimately killing 20 crew members and severely injuring 24 others. The other missile splashed into the sea half a mile off her port beam. Whilst alongside rendering assistance, Yarmouth repeatedly broke off to fire anti-submarine weaponry in response to Sonar reports of torpedoes in the water (later believed to have been a misdiagnosis of the outboard motor of the small inflatables helping with firefighting), as well as visual reports of torpedoes (in actual fact the Sheffield was ridding herself of torpedoes to prevent explosion). Sheffield 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 May 10, whilst under tow from Yarmouth, becoming an official war grave. In one sense Sheffield served her purpose as a part of the missile picket line she took the missile instead of the aircraft carriers. The tempo of operations increased throughout the second half of May as 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 had a profound impact on the British public.
Given the threat to the British fleet posed by the Etendard / Exocet combination, plans were made to use Special Air Service troops to attack the home base of the five Etendards at Río Grande, Tierra del Fuego. The aim was to destroy the missiles and the aircraft that carried them, and to kill the pilots in their quarters. Two plans were drafted and underwent preliminary rehearsal: a landing by approximately fifty-five SAS in two C-130 Hercules aircraft directly on the runway at Rio Grande; and infiltration of twenty-four SAS by inflatable boats brought within a few miles of the coast by submarine. Neither plan was implemented; the earlier airborne assault plan attracted considerable hostility from some members of the SAS, who considered the proposed raid a suicide mission. Ironically, the Rio Grande area would be defended by four full-strength battalions of Marine Infantry of the Argentine Marine Corps of the Argentine Navy, some of whose officers were trained in the UK by SB Sqn years earlier. After the war, Argentine marine commanders admitted that they were waiting for some kind of landing by SAS forces but never expected a Hercules to land directly on their runways, although they would have pursued British forces even into Chilean territory if they were attacked. 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 May 17, but bad weather forced it to land 50 miles (80 km) from its target, and the mission was aborted. The pilot flew to Chile and dropped off the SAS team, before setting fire to his helicopter and surrendering to the Chilean authorities. The discovery of the burnt-out helicopter attracted considerable international attention at the time. On May 14, the SAS carried out the raid on Pebble Island at the Falklands, where the Argentine Navy had taken over a grass airfield for FMA IA 58 Pucará light ground attack aircraft and T-34 Mentors. The raid destroyed the aircraft there.
During the night on May 21, the British Amphibious Task Group landed on beaches around San Carlos Water, 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. The 4,000 men of 3 Commando Brigade were put ashore as follows: 2nd battalion of the 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), 3 Para from the amphibious ship HMS Intrepid were landed at Port San Carlos (Green Beach) and 45 Commando from RFA Stromness were landed at Ajax Bay (Red Beach). 42 Commando on the liner SS Canberra was a tactical reserve. Units from the Royal Artillery, Royal Engineers etc. and tanks were also put ashore with the landing craft, the Round table class LSL and mexefloat 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 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 (June 14). At sea, the paucity of the British ships' anti-aircraft defences was demonstrated in the sinking of HMS Ardent on May 21, HMS Antelope on May 21, and MV Atlantic Conveyor (struck by 2 AM39 Exocets), with a vital cargo of helicopters, runway-building equipment and tents on May 25. The loss of all but one of the Chinook helicopters being carried by the Atlantic Conveyor was a severe blow from a logistics perspective. Also lost on this day was HMS Coventry, a sister to HMS Sheffield, whilst in company with HMS Broadsword after being ordered to act as decoy to draw away Argentinian aircraft from other ships at San Carlos Bay. HMS Argonaut and HMS Brilliant were badly damaged. However, many British ships escaped terminal damage because of the Argentine pilots' bombing tactics. In order to avoid the highest concentration of British air defences, Argentine pilots were forced to release ordnance from very low altitude, consequently their bomb fuses did not have time to arm before impact. Historical photo of an Argentine Air Force A-4C Skyhawk flying to the islands. The low release of the unretarded bombs (some of which were sold to the Argentine FAA by the British years earlier) meant that many never exploded as there was insufficient time in the air for them to arm themselves. Simple free-fall bombs will, at low altitude, impact almost directly below the dropping aircraft, therefore there is a minimum safe altitude for release. The pilots would have been aware of this, but due to the high concentration levels required in order to avoid the anti-aircraft defences of SAMs and AAA, as well as any British Sea Harriers, many failed to climb to the necessary release point. The problem was solved by the improvised fitting of retarding devices, allowing low-level bombing attacks as employed on June 8. Thirteen bombs hit British ships without detonating. The Argentines lost nearly twenty aircraft in the attacks.
From early on 27 May until 28 May, 2 Para, (approximately 500 men) with Artillery support from 8 Alma Cdo Bty, approached and attacked Darwin and Goose Green, which was held by the Argentine 12th Inf Regt. After a tough struggle which lasted all night and into the next day, 17 British and 55 Argentine soldiers had been killed, and 1,050 Argentine troops (including around 350 FAA non-combatant personnel of the Condor airfield 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. 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 bridgehead. On 27 May, men of 45 Cdo and 3 Para started walking across East Falkland towards the coastal settlement of Teal Inlet.
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