The British 3rd Commando Brigade “yomped” across East Falkland Island and successfully assaulted and occupied the five hill masses that surrounded Port Stanley to the west. The 3rd Battalion of the Parachute Regiment (3 Para) seized Mt Langdon with some difficulty, but was fixed by accurate Argentine artillery fire and could not continue on to seize its eastern most spur, Wireless Ridge, whose occupation would render Argentine defenses on Mt Tumbledown untenable, and isolate Port Stanley from the north. The task to seize Wireless Ridge was given to 2 Para, who was fifteen kilometers away on the slopes of Mt Kent as the brigade reserve.
On the evening of 13 June 1982, 2 Para yomped the 15 km to its assault positions north of Wireless Ridge. 2 Para’s new commander, Lt-Col David Chaudler who was recently flown in from Britain (!) and replaced the former commander killed at Goose Green, vowed that the battalion would not attack without adequate fire support again. So in support, 2 Para was allocated a generous allotment: two batteries of 105mm tube artillery, 3 Para’s mortars, two Scimitar tanks (skinny), two Scorpion light tanks (stubby… you know what I am talking about… The cards, man, the cards) from the Blues and Royals, and the 4.5 in deck gun of HMS Ambuscade (One of my favorite words. We need to get the term “ambuscade” into doctrine).
Just after midnight, 2 Para assaulted on line after a diversionary attack on Mt Tumbledown by the Scots Guards, and a short but vicious preparatory bombardment on the dug in Argentine positions. D Co would actually assault Wireless Ridge, while other companies seized the small hillocks to the north. The assault on Wireless Ridge was tactically polar opposite from Goose Green. Argentine resistance was systematically rooted out by superior firepower, by the light tanks, artillery, mortars and machine guns, upon contact. The Argentinian soldiers of the 7th Infantry Regiment usually broke before they were engaged in close combat with 2 Para infantry. There were four notable exceptions.
The first was not by 7th Inf Regt soldiers, but by a platoons worth of troopers from the Argentinian 2nd Airborne Regiment on their way to Mt Longdon, who counterattacked west directly into D Co as it assaulted east. D Co fought them off over the next several hours. The second exception was a dismounted counterattack by the crews of an armored car squadron (read “troop” or “company”), which was annihilated by heavy machine guns and the Scorpions and Scimitars. The third attack by the Argentinians was by a bypassed 7th Infantry Regiment platoon who struck the flank platoon of D Co. The Argentinian platoon leader was furious after hearing his friend was killed, and rallied his men to counterattack. The surprised defenders were led by a brand new lieutenant fresh from school. The Argentinians nearly overran their adversaries, but were brought under intense and accurate fire support by the British platoon commander, who had to drop down to the fire support net in the confusion and coordinate his own support. D Co (the main effort) didn’t have a forward observation officer (?), and the other FOO’s were prioritizing their missions. The young platoon commander just asserted himself into the net, and probably saved D Co a very bad morning.
The fourth and final Argentine counterattack came as the sun came up. 200 Wireless Ridge survivors and staff officers were rallied by the 10th Brigade operations officer and formed a hasty defense on the west side of Port Stanley. Since about 4 am, the remaining Argentine artillery fired on Wireless Ridge. As dawn broke about six, 50 members of the ad hoc defense, led by the 7th Inf Regt executive officer and regimental chaplain, assaulted the ridge with fixed bayonets under cover of the bombardment. The Paras were initially flabbergasted at the lines of Argentinian infantry singing as they advanced, but they were eventually beaten back with great losses.
The failure of the impromptu Argentinian dawn assault broke the Argentine defenses and the Argentinian infantry to the south and west on Mt Tumbledown routed and fled back to Port Stanley. That evening the Argentinian commander in the Falkland Islands, with no further help from the mainland, recognized the futility of the situation and surrendered. The British reoccupied the South Sandwich Islands, the last Argentinian conquest in the South Atlantic on 20 June, and both sides declared an end to the hostilities.
The British landings on East Falkland Island from the San Carlos Water went well despite Argentine air attacks that mauled the defending task force, and sunk a destroyer, a converted container ship, and two frigates. Unfortunately, the Battle of San Carlos was perceived as a defeat for the British in the international media. The Thatcher government needed a victory on land to compensate for the losses at sea.
The Argentine 12th Infantry Regiment outside of the towns of Goose Green and Darwin, just south of the landing site, became the target. The Argentine position at Goose Green was initially intended to be isolated and bypassed during the move on Port Stanley. However, the British convinced themselves that the Argentinians there could potentially threaten the landing site when the British began their attack east toward the capital. Despite the media woes, both the Thatcher government in London and the British command in the Falklands balked at the idea to attack, but they were finally won over by the commander of the Second Battalion of the Parachute Regiment (2 Para) Lt Col Herbert “H” Jones’ determination. During a period of conflicting orders on the 26th, Jones was heard saying in the command post, “I’ve been waiting twenty years for this and now some f*****g Marine has cancelled it.” Eventually, 2 Para was ordered to attack.
Aerial reconnaissance was unavailable and the details of the Argentine defense were provided by an infantry squad sent ahead of the main body and an SAS observation post to the east. They did an admirable job of identifying the main Argentine defenses and minefields in front of Goose Green and the small town of Darwin, but completely missed mutually supporting perpendicular trenchlines on the east side of the Darwin Hill saddle, and the two reserve companies around the airfield. Since their air transport and most of their vehicle transport was at the bottom of the San Carlos Water, 2 Para conducted a “yomp” or approach march of 13 miles with full kit across the cold, wet, and barren island to their assault positions, on the evening of the 27th. To make matters worse, the Argentinians were expecting them because the BBC announced to the world about the impending attack the night before.
In the early morning hours of 28 May 1982, the 690 paratroopers of 2 Para assaulted over the open terrain at the dug in positions of the 1100 Argentinian defenders of the reinforced 12th Infantry Regiment and supporting air force personnel manning anti-aircraft guns. The tough defense of Lt Col Italo Piaggi’s soldiers caused significant delays in the attack. Most British troops were pinned down with accurate direct and indirect fire, and many trenches had to be stormed and cleared at bayonet point. Lt Col Jones and his command group eventually moved forward to rally the men. He was killed early in the battle by fire from the unknown trenches on the east side of Darwin Hill while he personally assaulted a trench line. His command fell to his 2IC, Major Chris Creeble. It was through his calm leadership, and the leadership of several other junior officers and NCOs, that kept the attack from breaking down in the face of determined Argentine resistance. Had the Argentinians counterattacked in strength at any point in the battle, the British would probably have been defeated in detail.
By the early afternoon, 2 Para cleared Darwin and Darwin Hill of defenders, but the attack culminated in front of the town of Goose Green. Inside the town, were 600 Argentinian soldiers and 200 British civilians, and 2 Para was exhausted and disorganized. Via Argentinian POWs, Creeble asked for their surrender to spare the civilians in the town the inevitable airstrikes and artillery bombardment. LtCol Piaggi, with nowhere to withdraw to, agreed.
2 Para’s assault at Goose Green inflicted 190 Argentine casualties, and captured over 900 for the cost of 18 killed and 65 wounded. The Battle of Goose Green is the textbook example of a successful hasty dismounted infantry attack by a battalion sized force against a numerically superior enemy force in a deliberate defense.