T H E A D V A N C
E A S H O R E
On 29 May, 2 Para continued their advance towards the two settlements. During the heroic march they were attacked by six Pucaras but managed to shoot down four with the shoulder held Blowpipe missile but not without the loss of a Scout helicopter. The weather was unsuitable to launch the "Harriers from the Carriers" to support the troops so they battled on without air cover. The weather then improved and the GR 3s were again launched to support them, and bombed Goose Green. The rest is well documented. Lieutenant Colonel H Jones led an attack on machine gun positions which were holding up the advance, and although he died in the attack it broke the defence of the Argentines and led to their surrender. 14 Paras died in the attack but they took 1400 prisoners in one of the bravest battalion actions ever. While the Paras were reaping in the results of their attack, the Royal Marines were quietly marching across a more Northern route and they took the strategic settlements of Douglas and Teal Inlet. The GR 3s continued their bombing runs this time attacking Port Stanley, Pebble Island and Mount Kent, and amongst all this excitement someone managed to shoot down a Mirage and a Skyhawk. All in all a very successful day where the ability of the British troops proved to be the ace in our hand.
Sunday 30th May saw the by no familiar retaliatory attack on the Task Force. Unable to gain success on land the Argentine Air Force seemed determined to avenge their losses ashore by dealing a crippling blow to a carrier. They launched a combined Etendard and Skyhawk attack on the Task Force but did not press it home with sufficient determination to hit a carrier. Launching on Exocet at the first contact that appeared on its radar screen the Etendard turned and ran for home while the Skyhawks attacked and bombed HMS AVENGER. The Exocet had been carelessly set at too low a height setting and had ditched harmlessly into the sea. All the bombs aimed at AVENGER missed and exeter's sea Dart splashed an escaping Skyhawk. The ships of the Task Force secured from Action Stations somwhat relieved and continued their efforts. It came as no surprise to receive outrageous news from Argentina that INVINCIBLE had been hit and seriously damaged in the attack. This was the third time she had been 'hit'. On the other occasions she had been. sunk! The Harriers continued their bombardments of Port Stanley and Mount Challenger and one was hit by ground fire, ditching on the way home. The pilot was safely rescued. In the evening there was another call to Action Stations for an Etendard attack. This was something different - a night attack. "Chaff" was fired everywhere and at one stage the flare of a chaff rocket was mistaken for that of an Exocet and for one awful moment it was thought that a missile was heading for us. Nothing materialised and it was thought to have been an Etendard returning from Port Stanley to Argentina after the afternoon's abortive attack. More bombing runs on Port Stanley were carried out over the next two days and GLAMORGAN, AVENGER and ALACRITY continued overnight bombardments.
The Glorious First of June saw the land forces only 12 miles from Port Stanley. There was little air activity but one Harrier was shot down north of the Sound, the pilot being picked up later. On the day of the last Exocet attack, the BRITISH WYE a civilian support tanker had reported that she has been attacked by a Hercules aircraft and that bombs, which were kicked out of the aircraft's back door, had bounced off her forecastle without exploding. This was a new tactic because the BRITISH WYE, was stationed well to the east of the main group, and it appeared that the Argentines had opted for a desperate, unorthodox method of homing using the Hercules because it had a greater range than the jets. It was probably a tactic developed to attack the QE 2 together with the embarked 5 Infantry Brigade. However unknown to the enemy the QE 2 was allowed no nearer than South Georgia and she transferred her troops to other ships including the CANBERRA. They did attempt a second attack on the 1st June but fortunately a Harrier on a routine patrol saw the Hercules to the north of the Sound and attacked with Sidewinder and cannon, splashing the aircraft in a one-sided fight. NORLAND, the prison ship, left with prisoners taken at Darwin and Goose Green to head for Montivideo. Onboard was broadsword's supply Officer, Lieutenant Commander Alan JOHNSON who was seconded to help after "owning up" to having spent one year on the army staff course at Camberley. Meanwhile BROADSWORD headed east to rendezvous with the CANBERRA and then both ships turned west and after being joined by others headed for the islands to land the remaining troops. Napalm was discovered at Goose Green which angered everyone and ALACRITY voiced her feelings by shelling Fitzroy.
The next day saw two Harriers fly in from Ascension Island to help boost our depleted force and AVENGER, ACTIVE and AMBUSCADE shelled Pebble Island, Fitzroy and Diamond Mountain respectively.
The 3rd brought another two Harriers from Ascension and yet another unsuccessful Vulcan raid. This was made even worse by one Vulcan getting into difficulties near Brazil and having to make an emergency landing at Rio De Janeiro. Events were going so well ashore however that a Forward Operating Base for Harriers was now established at San Carlos. Here aircraft could refuel to increase their time on task over the islands. The following day saw Two Sea Harriers and 2 GR 3s sent permanently from the carriers to operate from this base. ARROW shelled Port Howard and CARDIFF, AVENGER and YARMOUTH bombarded Bluff Cove to support the Paras who had foot-slogged it overland from Goose Green. More shelling continued with CARDIFF, AMBUSCADE, ACTIVE and YARMOUTH all playing their part. CARDIFF also scored a spectacular hit with Sea Dart, shooting down a spying Learjet at 39,000 feet. Again this must have come as a great shock to the pilot who probably thought he was well out of range of surface launched missiles.
Progress was made swiftly over these days and although little is said here about the details of events ashore, suffice it to say that the troops were continuing to sweep up stray Argentine patrols as well as shooting down the odd marauding aircraft. All seemed to be going very well indeed until this changed on the 8th when the Task Force suffered its saddest day.