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Special Air Service (SAS) - Raid On Pebble Island


May 1982 : The Falklands Conflict.

As the British task force steamed towards the Falklands, they became aware of a potential threat emanating from a remote island. The Argentineans had taken over an airstrip on a small island at the northwest corner of West Falklands, called Pebble Island. British Harrier pilots had observed Argentine Pucara ground attack aircraft operating there. The Pucara was a formidable attack aircraft, able to carry an assortment of machine guns, cannons, bombs, rockets and napalm. Such aircraft would pose a major threat to any British ground force landing on the Falklands.

The threat from Pebble Island had to be dealt with. The British planners could either bomb the airstrip or send in men from D squadron, SAS to destroy the aircraft on the ground. Before any assault could go in, the airstrip had to be reconnoitered thoroughly to determine the strength and disposition of the enemy.

Pebble Island Air Strip (google earth kmz file)

On the 10th of May, an 8-man recon team from D squadron's Boat Troop paddled ashore in 2-man klepper canoes. Caching the canoes, they moved inland over the barren, wind-swept landscape, towards the enemy-held airstrip. As with the rest of the Falkland islands, the terrain did not offer much cover and establishing a covert OP (observation post) was difficult, although not impossible. The recon team dug in and started observing the enemy, radioing back their findings to D squadron HQ onboard the helicopter carrier, HMS Hermes.

Due to proximity of civilians close to the airstrip, the use of air strikes was ruled out and the SAS were given the green light to conduct the raid. On the night of May 14th, D Squadron boarded Seakings from Royal Naval Air Squadron 846. Accompanying them was a artillery spotter from 148 Bty who would direct gunfire from HMS Glamorgan onto the Argentine defenders.

Once landed on Pebble Island, the SAS force linked up with their Boat Troop colleagues who escorted them to the objective, using routes they had previously proved. Cut-off groups got in position to prevent the enemy leaving or counter-attacking the target area. A cover group, including a mortar team was established to keep any Argentinean defenders pinned down whilst the assault team went in.

As artillery fire from HSM Glamorgan and mortar fire from the SAS cover group slammed into the Argentine ammo and fuel dump, the assault teams moved onto the airstrip, placing explosives on the Argentine aircraft. The SAS placed their charges in the same part of each plane to prevent the Argentineans from cannibalising aircraft from spare parts. The assault teams also raked the parked planes with fire from M16s and M203 grenade launchers. Others fired 66mm LAW rockets at their targets.

The response from the Argentine garrison, housed in nearby buildings was noticeable by its absence. The SAS attackers had expected a heavy firefight but instead only received light return fire. Only 2 SAS men were lightly injured in the raid, at least one of these was hurt from when an SAS explosive charge detonated early.

30 minutes after the attack started, the SAS began to withdraw, leaving burning on the airstrip behind them 6 Pucaras, 4 TMC Mentors and 1 SkyVan transport aircraft. In one action, the SAS had destroyed half of the Pucaras the Argentineans had on the islands.

Related Book :

Pebble Island (Elite Forces Operations Series)
by Jon Cooksey

A highly detailed account of the daring SAS raid on Pebble Island.

An excellent read and a must for anyone interested in an in-depth look at the Special Air Service operation.

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