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On 2 April 1982, Argentinemarker forces mounted amphibious landings of the Falkland Islandsmarker ( ). The invasion involved initial defence organised by the Falkland Islands' Governor Sir Rex Hunt giving command to Major Mike Norman of the Royal Marines, the landing of Lieutenant-Commander Guillermo Sanchez-Sabarots' Amphibious Commandos Group on Mullet Creek, the attack on Moody Brook barracks, the engagement between the amphibious personnel carriers of Hugo Santillan and Bill Trollope marines east of Stanleymarker, and the battle and final surrender of Government House. It was the first engagement of the Falklands War.

Defence

Governor Sir Rex Hunt was informed by the British Government of a possible Argentine invasion on 1 April. At 3:30 pm that day he received a telegram from the Foreign and Commonwealth Officemarker stating:

Forces involved

The Governor summoned the two senior Royal Marines officers of Naval Party 8901 to Government House in Stanley to discuss the options for defending the Falklands. He said during the meeting, "Sounds like the buggers mean it", remaining composed despite the seriousness of the situation that the islands faced.

Major Mike Norman was given overall command of the Marines due to his seniority, while Major Gary Noott became the military advisor to Governor Hunt. The total strength was 68 Marines and 11 sailors, which was greater than would normally have been available because the garrison was in the process of changing over. Both the replacements and the troops preparing to leave were in the Falklands at the time of the invasion. This was decreased to 57 when 22 Royal Marines embarked aboard the Antarctic patrol ship Endurance to observe Argentine soldiers based at South Georgiamarker. The Royal Navy, on the other hand, states that a total of 85 marines were used. Their numbers were reinforced by at least 25 Falkland Islands Defence Force (FIDF) members. Graham Bound who lived through the Argentine occupation reports in his book Falkland Islanders At War that the higher figure of approximately 40 (both serving and past) members of the FIDF reported for duty at their Drill Hall. Their commanding officer, Major Phil Summers, tasked the volunteer militiamen with guarding such key points as the telephone exchange, the radio station and the power station. Skipper Jack Sollis, on board the civilian coastal ship Forrest operated his boat as an improvised radar screen station off Stanley. Two other civilians, former Marine Jim Alister and a Canadian citizen, Bill Curtiss, also offered their services to the Governor.

Operation Rosario

The Argentine amphibious operation began in the late evening of Thursday 1 April, when the Argentine destroyer ARA Santisima Trinidad halted 500 metres off Mullet Creek and lowered 21 Gemini assault craft into the water. They contained 84 special forces troopers of Lieutenant-Commander Guillermo Sanchez-Sabarots' 1st Amphibious Commandos Group and a small partyunder Lieutenant-Commander Pedro Giachino, who was normally 2IC of the 1st Marine Infantry Battalion, that was to capture Government House. The Argentine Rear Admiral Jorge Allara had requested that Rex Hunt surrender peacefully, but the proposal was rejected.

The operation had been called Azul (Blue) during the planning stage, but it was finally renamed Rosario (Rosary).

Attack on Moody Brook barracks

Two Argentine NCOs, members of the Amphibious Commandos party who seized Moody Brook
Giachino's party had the shortest distance to go: two and a half miles due north. Moody Brook Barracks, the destination of the main party, was six miles away, over rough Falklands terrain. Lieutenant-Commander Sanchez-Sabarots, in the book The Argentine Fight for The Falklands, describes the main party's progress in the dark:

The main party of Argentine Marines assumed that the Moody Brook Barracks contained sleeping Royal Marines. The barracks were quiet, although a light was on in the office of the Royal Marine commander. No sentries were observed, and it was a quiet night, apart from the occasional animal call. Lieutenant-Commander Sanchez-Sabarots could hear nothing of any action at Government House, nor from the distant landing beaches; nevertheless, he ordered the assault to begin. Lieutenant-Commander Sanchez-Sabarots continues his account:

The noise of the grenades alerted Major Norman to the presence of Argentines on the island, and he thus drove back to Government House. Realising that the attack was coming from Moody Brook, he ordered all troop sections to converge on the house to enable the defence to be centralised.

Although there were no Royal Marine witnesses to the assault, descriptions of the state of Moody Brook barracks afterward contradict the Argentine version of events. After the action, some of the Royal Marines were allowed to return to barracks to collect personal items. Major Norman describes walls of the barracks as riddled with machine gun fire and bearing the marks of white phosphorus grenades—"a classic housekeeping operation".

Amphibious landing at Yorke Bay

There was a more pressing action on the eastern edge of Stanleymarker. Twenty US-built LVTP-7A1 tracked amphibious armoured personnel carriers from the 1st Amphibious Vehicles Battalion, carrying D and E Companies of the 2nd Marine Infantry Battalion, had been landed from the tank landing ship Cabo San Antonio at Yorke Baymarker, and were being watched by a section of Royal Marines under the command of Lieutenant Bill Trollope. The armoured column trundled along the Airport Road into Stanley, with three Amtracs (Numbers 05, 07 and 19) in the vanguard, and, near the Ionospheric Research Station, at exactly 7:15 am, was engaged by a section of Royal Marines with anti-tank rockets and machine guns. This from Lieutenant-Commander Hugo Santillan's official post-battle report:

The Amtrac on the right manoeuvred itself off the road into a little depression and as it did so, disembarked the Marines inside out of view. This encouraged the Royal Marines to think that Marine Mark Gibbs had scored a direct hit on the passenger compartment of the APC.

Lieutenant Bill Trollope, with No. 2 Section, describes the action:

Lieutenant Trollope and his men withdrew along Davis Street, running behind the houses with Argentine Marines in hot pursuit, and went to ground firing up the road when it became obvious they could not reach Government House.

Battle of Government House and surrender

One of the Amphibious Commandos after the fall of Stanley's Government House


Lying on a small hillock south of Government House, Lieutenant-Commander Giachino faced the difficulty of capturing this important objective with no radio and with a force of only sixteen men. He split his force into small groups, placing one on either side of the house and one at the rear. Unknown to them, the Governor's residence was the main concentration point of the Royal Marines, who outnumbered the Commandos by two to one. The first attack against this building came at 6.30 a.m., barely an hour before the Yorke Bay amphibious landing, when one of Giachino's platoons, led by Lieutenant Gustavo Lugo, started to exchange fire with the British troops inside the house. At the same time, Giachino himself, with four of his subordinates, entered the servants' annexe, believing it to be the rear entrance to the residence.Three Royal Marines, Corporals Sellen and Fleet and Marine Dorey, who were placed to cover the annexe, beat off the first attack. Giachino was hit instantly as he burst through the door, while Lieutenant Diego Garcia Quiroga was shot in the arm. The remaining three retreated to the maid's quarters. Giachino was not dead, but very badly wounded. An Argentine paramedic, Corporal Ernesto Urbina, attempted to get to Giachino but was wounded by a grenade. Giachino, seeing what had happened, pulled the pin from a hand grenade and threatened to use it. The Royal Marines then attempted to persuade the officer to get rid of the grenade so that they could give him medical treatment, but he refused, preventing them from reaching his position. After the surrender of the British forces at Government House, some three hours later, Giachino was taken to Stanley Hospital but died from loss of blood.

At the Governor's office, Major Norman received a radio report from Corporal York's section, which was positioned at Camber peninsula, observing any possible Argentine ship entering Stanley Harbour.
ARA Granville
The Corporal proceeded to report on three potential targets in sight and which should he engage first. What are the targets? the Major enquired. Target number one is an aircraft carrier, target number two is a cruiser, at which point the line went dead.Corporal York decided to withdraw his section and proceeded to booby trap their Carl Gustav recoilless rifle, before paddling their Gemini assault boat north across Port William. As he did so, York claimed an Argentine destroyer began pursuing them (the corvette ARA Granville according to Argentine sources). His initiative led to the Gemini reaching an anchored Polish fishing vessel, hiding the small assault boat in its shadow. They patiently waited for a chance, before moving to the shore and landing on a small beach.

Back at Government House, the Argentine commandos' pressure continued unabated. There is some evidence that their use of stun grenades and their continuous shift of firing positions during the battle led the Royal Marines inside to believe they were facing a company of marines and were hopelessly outnumbered. Actually, after the failure of Giachino's platoon to break into the residence, the British were surrounded by only a dozen elite troops. These men were under Lieutenant Lugo, Giachino's 2IC. The Land Rovers used by the Royal Marines were disabled by automatic gunfire from the commandos. Governor Hunt called Patrick Watts (at the radio station, Radio Stanley), by telephone and said he believed the assaulting force to be the equivalent of a reinforced company:

We're staying put here, but we are pinned down.
We can't move.
They must have 200 around us now.
They've been throwing rifle grenades at us; I think there may be mortars, I don't know.
They came along very quickly and very close, and then they retreated.
Maybe they are waiting until the APCs [Amtracs] come along and they think they'll lose less casualties that way.


Consequently, Hunt decided to enter talks with Argentine commanders around 8 o'clock. The liaison was Vice-Commodore Hector Gilobert, the head in the islands of LADE, the Argentine government's airline company. Gilobert and a Governor's deputy went to the Argentine headquarters displaying a white flag. A de facto ceasefire was put in place at that time which was occasionally breached by small arms fire.

Vice-Commodore Hector Gilobert on his way to Government House


While the negotiations were still going on, another incident occurred inside the residence. Three Argentine survivors of the first skirmish along the compound inadvertently alerted Major Noott to their presence, while they had been preparing to leave their hiding place. The Major fired his Sterling submachine gun into the ceiling of the maid's room. According to British reports, the stunned commandos tumbled down the stairs, laying their weapons on the ground.They became the first Argentine prisoners of war of the Falklands War, albeit by then, Governor Hunt had already been in contact with Argentine officials negotiating the terms of surrender. The Argentine version is that the three men kept their fighting position right to the end of the hostilities.

Meanwhile, the Governor's envoys reached the Argentine commanding post in Stanley. The Argentine chief accepted the British offer of a face to face meeting with Rex Hunt in his battered office.
Eight FIDF members taken prisoners by Amphibious Commandos heading to Government House


Shortly after, the Royal Marines in the House saw the approaching Amtracs that had been engaged earlier by Lieutenant Trollope and his section. The vehicles pushed on toward Moody Brook to link up with Sanchez-Sabarots, whose commandos were plodding slowly along the road to reinforce their colleagues besieging Government House after taking some prisoners near the racecourse. Major Norman had earlier advised Rex Hunt that the Royal Marines and the Governor could break out to the countryside and set up a 'seat of government' elsewhere, but when he finally met the commander-in-chief of the Argentine operations, Admiral Busser, he agreed to surrender his troops to the now overwhelming Argentine forces at 9:30 AM.

Corporal York's section remained at large. On 4 April, they reached a secluded shepherd's hut owned by a Mrs Watson. York had no radio, and due to worries about possible civilian deaths chose to surrender to Argentine forces. They gave their position to the Argentines using a local islander's radio, and York subsequently ordered his men to destroy and then bury their weapons.

After the surrender, the Royal Marines and the members of the FIDF were then herded onto the playing fields. Pictures and film were taken of the British prisoners arranged face-down on the ground. This was probably an attempt by Argentina to demonstrate the lack of British casualties, but it backfired: The images galvanised the British public when they were broadcast on television and increased public opposition to the invasion. Soon afterwards, the Royal Marines were moved to a C-130 Hercules transport aircraft, which would take them to Uruguaymarker and on to the United Kingdommarker. Members of FIDF were not taken to Argentina along with members of NP 8901; instead they were disarmed and returned to their homes. As the Marines were being taken off the island, one of said to an Argentine guard "dont make yourself too comfy here mate, we'll be back".

In Buenos Airesmarker, huge flag-waving crowds flooded the Plaza de Mayomarker upon hearing the news. Argentina's losses in the operation were one dead and three wounded. In Londonmarker, where the bad news were fully known from Argentine sources, the government was in a state of shock. The crisis prompted the resignation of the British foreign secretary, Lord Carrington.

The next day, Argentine forces captured the island chain of South Georgia, 1350 km to the east of the Falklands. In that action, the Argentines suffered one sailor from the corvette ARA Guerrico and two marines killed (Navy Corporal Patricio Guanca and marine conscripts Mario Almonacid and Jorge Aguila). One British Royal Marine was wounded when his position was fired on by the Guerrico's 40 mm cannons.

Informing London

At 4.30am on 2 April, the Governor's telex operator had this conversation with a Ministry of Defence operative in London, announcing that the islands were under Argentine control.

LON (London): HELLO THERE WHAT ARE ALL THESE RUMOURS WE HEAR THIS IS LON

FK (Falklands): WE HAVE LOTS OF NEW FRIENDS

LON: WHAT ABOUT INVASION RUMOURS

FK: THOSE ARE THE FRIENDS I WAS MEANING

LON: THEY HAVE LANDED?

FK: ABSOLUTELY

LON: ARE YOU OPEN FOR TRAFFIC IE NORMAL TELEX SERVICE?

FK: NO ORDERS ON THAT YET ONE MUST OBEY ORDERS

LON: WHOSE ORDERS

FK: THE NEW GOVERNORS

LON: ARGENTINA?

FK: YES

LON: ARE THE ARGENTINIANS IN CONTROL?

FK: YES YOU CAN'T ARGUE WITH THOUSANDS OF TROOPS PLUS ENORMOUS NAVY SUPPORT WHEN YOU ARE ONLY 1600 STRONG. STAND BY.

Operation timeline

  • A. 21:30 1 April – The Type 42 destroyer ARA Santisima Trinidad begins loading marines of the Amphibious Commandos Group into 21 small inflatable motor boats. These set out for Mullet Creek but sail too far north and are caught up in beds of kelp, which cause problems for the boats. They decide to head for the nearest beach, which is near Lake Point.
  • B. 23:00 1 April – The first group of 84 men lands on an unnamed beach at Lake Point. The group splits into a smaller force commanded by Lieutenant-Commander Giachino which heads towards Government House, and a larger force commanded by Lieutenant-Commander Sabarots which heads towards Moody Brook barracks.
  • C. 04:30 2 April – A small advanced team of the Tactical Divers Group is landed undetected from the Submarine ARA Santa Femarker at Yorke Bay.
  • D. 05:30 2 April – Lieutenant-Commander Sabarots' force reaches and surrounds the barracks. They throw tear gas grenades into the buildings and fire over the buildings. They find the buildings are deserted.
  • E. 06:00 2 April – 20 FMC Amtracs and several LARC-V stores-carrying vehicles land on Yorke Bay from the assault ship ARA Cabo San Antonio. The force splits into 3 groups:
    • A four Amtrac vanguard. Including one carrying the Army Platoon.
    • The main force of 14 Amtracs.
    • The second in command, a recovery Amtrac and LARC vehicles.
  • F. 06:30 2 April – The first Amtracs meet no resistance. The Army platoon captures the deserted airport.
  • G. 06:30 2 April – A 16-man Argentine force reaches Government House, where they are stopped by 31 Royal Marines, 11 armed Royal Navy personnel and 1 local. Three Argentines are wounded (one later dies), and another three are later captured inside the House, although by then (around 8:00) talks with Argentine officials about the surrender had already begun.
  • H. 07:15 2 April – Having met no resistance, the Argentine Amtracs advance on Stanley, when they are ambushed from a house about 500 metres from the road. Royal Marines use rockets and machine guns. The Royal Marines fall back to government house. One of the Amtracs is scarred by machine gun fire, and there is one minor injury.
  • I. 08:30 2 April – The Argentine Amtrac force secures Stanley.
  • J. Argentine Navy divers begin clearing the runway and seize the lighthouse.


Reaction in the United Nations

On 3 April 1982 the United Nations Security Council comprising the 5 permanent members and the 10 elected members (Polandmarker, Spainmarker, Irelandmarker, Panamamarker, Guyanamarker, Japanmarker, Jordanmarker, Uganda, Zairemarker, and Togomarker) passed a resolution demanding an immediate withdrawal of all Argentine forces from the islands. Panamamarker voted against this resolution, with Chinamarker, Polandmarker, Spainmarker and the USSRmarker abstaining. All 10 remaining members voted for the resolution.

See also



Footnotes

  1. Bound, Graham, Falkland Islanders at war, Pen and Sword Books Limited, ISBN 1 84415 429 7.
  2. http://www.royal-navy.mod.uk/server/show/nav.5874. accessed 26 August 2007.
  3. Anderson, pp. 17–19.
  4. Busser, Operación Rosario. The force was composed of 76 Amphibious Commandos and 8 members of the Buzos Tácticos elite group.
  5. The so-called Patrulla Techo (Roof patrol).
  6. Naval Party 8901 And the Argentine Invasion (Britain's small wars)
  7. Ruiz Moreno, page 21
  8. Bound, Graham, Falkland Islanders at war, Pen and Sword Books Limited, ISBN 1 84415 429 7
  9. Insight team Sunday Time (1982), Chapter VIII: An Ungentlemanly Act, page 88
  10. Bound, page 60
  11. Way, p. 134, increases the number of Argentine troops around the House to 600.
  12. Insight team Sunday Time (1982), Chapter VIII: An Ungentlemanly Act, page 89
  13. Insight team Sunday Time (1982), Chapter I: Surrender (I), page 20.
  14. Insight team Sunday Time (1982), Chapter I: Surrender (I), page 20. Instead, in an article published by an Argentine newspaper, the 1982 commander of the Tactical Divers Group (Buzos Tácticos) states that the three men withstood a fierce three-hour gun battle with the Royal Marines. (La Voz del Interior, 1 April 2007)
  15. En su trayecto [el grupo de comandos] recibió la rendición de una patrulla de ocho soldados ingleses, en proximidades del Hipódromo, y momentos después se encontraron, de acuerdo con lo previsto y como hemos visto, con la Vanguardia de la Fuerza de Desembarco, que debía rastrillar la parte norte de la península de Camber. Mayorga, page 77
  16. These troops seem to have been FIDF men on patrol around Stanley's racecourse in order to prevent helicopter landings ( Telegraph.co.uk).
  17. Bound, pp. 35 ff.
  18. Duncan, Andrew, The Falklands War, Marshall Cavendish Books Limited, ISBN 1 84415 429 7


References

  • (Spanish).
  • (Spanish).
  • (Spanish).
  • (Spanish).


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