Special Air Service (SAS) - The Falklands Conflict
When Argentina invaded the Falklands in April, 1982, Britain dispatched a large Naval Task Force to recapture the Falklands. Steaming south with the British fleet were D and G Squadron of the SAS, with supporting signals units. Accompanying the 2 Squadrons was Lieutenant-Colonel Mike Rose, the Commander of 22 SAS.
For the last 30 years, the SAS had been deployed around the world in a series of small conflicts, honing its skills in counter insurgency and counter-terrorism. For the first time since World War 2, the Regiment was about to take part in a large scale conflict.
Operation Paraquat - South Georgia
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G Squadron Reconnaissance Operations
On the 1st of May, as the Task Force got within helicopter range, SBS and G Squadron SAS reconnaissance teams were airlifted onto the Falkland Islands. The SBS were mostly assigned the beaches and coastal areas whilst the SAS would handle the inland sectors. The reconnaissance teams were to hide up and report on Argentine troop positions, movements and morale.
G squadron 4-man patrols were inserted by helicopter, at night, at least 20 miles away from their objectives. The countryside offered virtually no natural cover - no trees or bushes or folds to hide in. To make things harder, a thin layer of top soil quickly gave way to rocky ground. The SAS men resorted to digging out shallow scrapes into which they crawled, covering themselves with camouflaged chicken wire. The reconnaissance patrols were heavily laden with supplies and ammunition. They would avoid a contact as much as possible but if they were compromised they were on their own and had to be able to fight their way out of trouble.
One G Squadron patrol called in Harrier strikes against Argentine helicopter bases which had been dispersed around the islands, often relocating their hides night after night as they hunted their quarry. After several frustrating attempts, the SAS were finally able to bring in Harriers and destroy several Argentine heavy lift helicopters, thus denying the enemy the ability to move forces around the islands in strength.
Another G squadron team put in an OP overlooking the Goose Green settlement and eventually called in a Harrier air attack on the fuel and ammo dump situated there.
One SAS patrol hid in a wrecked ship, the Lady Elizabeth in the middle of Whalebone Cove, from where it reported on enemy ship and aircraft movements around Port Stanley Harbour.
May 14th - D Squadron attacks the Argentine airstrip on Pebble Island, destroying multiple enemy aircraft.
Read more on the SAS raid on Pebble Island.
Sea King Disaster
On the night of May 19th, a tragedy took the lives of 18 SAS men, many experienced senior ranks. A Sea King helicopter from 846 NAS, was bringing back a mixture of D/G squadron SAS men and other personnel back from the islands to a Royal Navy ship. The helicopter was forced to circle until its landing spot became available. It was while the Sea King was orbiting that it crashed into the freezing water, probably the victim of a bird-strike into the engines. Out of 30 men onboard the helicopter, only 9 survived.
Darwin / Goose Green Raids
On the 21st May, as the main British landings take place at San Carlos, the SAS carried out diversionary attacks in the areas around nearby Argentine-held settlement of Darwin and the nearby Goose Green air strip. The attack consisted of 60 men from D Squadron attacking the Argentine positions with small arms fire, M203s, LAW rockets, GPMGs, mortars and Milan ATGMs, putting down a high volume of fire in order to keep the enemy's head down and prevent them from interfering with the landings. Intelligence gathered after the conflict show that the Argentine forces believed they were under attack from at least a battalion-sized formation.
The morning after the raids, the SAS linked-up with the main British landing force. The SAS occupied the high ground on Mount Osbourne and covered the British advance with Stinger missiles. These American shoulder-fired SAMs had been rushed to the SAS thanks to Delta Force, the US special ops unit with close ties to the SAS. Even though the trooper manning the Stinger hadn't been fully trained in its use, he was still able to shoot down an Argentinean Pucara attack aircraft that had come in to attack the British ground troops.
Operations on the Argentine Mainland
When the British Destroyer, HMS Sheffield was destroyed by a Exocet missile, the British command became concerned with the threat of the French-made weapon. With G and D Squadrons busy, it fell to B squadron, held in reserve at Ascension island.to intervene. The SAS inserted an 8-man team onto the mainland in order to recce and possibly attack the Rio Grande air base. The mission is subsequently aborted.
read more : the SAS vs the Exocets
Rumours of further SAS missions have been rife ever since. Some suggest that at least one SAS team clandestinely crossed the Chilean border into Argentina and set up OPs in order to send early warning of Argentine aircraft taking off for the Falklands. There were even newspaper reports shortly after the war ended saying that the Argentineans released a 7-man SAS unit who had been captured on the mainland. None of these rumours have ever been substantiated.
Forward G Squadron patrols had established that the high ground overlooking the routes in to Port Stanley, were largely unguarded. An initial recon element from D squadron inserted into the area of Mount Kent by helicopter on the 25th of May, paving the way for the rest of the Squadron who arrived on the 27th. D Squadron worked in troops to clear Mount Kent, fighting a series of skirmishes with Argentine special forces on and around the mountain before they were eventually reinforced by K company, 42 Commando, Royal Marines on the 31st, who inserted by Chinook. The combined SAS/RM force held the mountain until the rest of 42 Commando had 'yomped' to them.
Reconnaissance patrols from first G, and later D, Squadrons inserted onto West Falklands. On the 10th of June, a 4-man D Squadron team, led by Captain G.J Hamilton, who had led the SAS attack on Pebble Island, was compromised by Argentine Troops close to Port Howard. In the ensuing gun battle, 2 of the SAS patrol escaped, Hamilton was killed and another patrol member taken prisoner.
Blue On Blue
On the night of June 2nd a 'friendly fire' incident took place between the SAS and the Special Boat Squadron (SBS). An SBS patrol had apparently strayed into the SAS patrol's designated area and were mistaken for Argentine forces. A brief firefight was initiated during which one of the SBS patrol, Sergeant Ian Hunt, was gunned down. This tragic incident was the catalyst for improved cooperation between the rival units.
Port Stanley Harbour
The SAS, along with men from the SBS, attempt to carry out a diversionary amphibious raid on Port Stanley harbour on the night of June 13th. The plan was, as 2 PARA attacked Wireless Ridge, 4 rigid raiders, piloted by Royal Marines and carrying SAS soldiers (a troop from D Squadron) and 6 SBS men (3 section) would travel across the harbour and attack the oil storage facilities. The assault force was illuminated by a spotlight on an Argentine hospital ship before it could reach its objective. A massive volley of fire including AAA batteries arced down onto the SAS/SBS flotilla from positions along the shore, causing the raiding party to sensibly withdraw. The Rigid Raiders were badly shot up but miraculously none of the men had been seriously hurt.
The wisdom of this attack is later questioned as it was seen by some as a reckless operation with little strategic benefit.
The Argentineans surrender
On June 14th, Lieutenant-Colonel Mike Rose, the SAS Commanding Officer, 22 SAS, flew by helicopter, accompanied by an SAS Signaler into Port Stanely to negotiate the terms of the Argentine Surrender.
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