The Argentinian Story
by David Aldea
East Falkland, May 28, 1982 at about 9.30 am: Darwin Ridge from Port Darwin to Boca Hill lay like an impregnable barrier between 2 Para and their objective, Goose Green Settlement. And it was in this area that the British commanding officer was mortally wounded. This is the story of Task Force Mercedes, whose commanding officer forced the British to fight a long battle by night and day, longer than any Argentine regimental commander would do in the Falklands.
The story of Task Force Mercedes began on April 12, 1982, when the 12th "General Juan Alvarez de Arenales" Infantry Regiment left its peacetime location in Mercedes, Corrientes Province to move to Comodoro Rivadavia, 1,200 miles on the South Atlantic coast from which they could provide a deterent to any Chilean intervention. After an incredible journey across Entre Rios Province and the Colorado River they reached Chubut Province replacing units from the 9th Infantry Brigade.
This deployment did not eventuate because by April 18 there was evidence that a force of British ships had sailed south from Ascension Island and on April 24, the 12th Regiment as part of the 3rd Infantry Brigade, commanded by Brigadier-General Omar Edgardo Parada, redeployed to the Falklands-know in Argentina as "Las Islas Malvinas".
It is not within the terms of reference of this article to delve into the history of the dispute between Argentina and Britain over the islands. Suffice is to say that diplomatic negotiations had been going on since 1965. All these attempts had fondered because the Argentines would only agree to a settlement in their favour. In an effort to break this deadlock, while at the same time creating a diversion from chronic economic and political conditions at home, the Military Junta led by Lieutenant-General Leopoldo Fortunato Galtieri, send its Marines to occupy the islands on April 2, 1982.
Most of the regiment with almost 800 dependants, embarked on civil aircraft on April 24 and the last elements flew out of Comodoro Rivadavia on the following day. Reaching the "Malvinas" was like a dream to most regulars in the 12th Regiment. "There was no need for speeches," said 1st Lt. Ignacio Goritti, the commander of B Company, as he recalled the regiment' departure from Comodoro Rivadavia. "From the begining we knew how important the Malvinas were. It was a kind of love; we were going to defend something that was ours." Moving into a bivouac area on the road outside Port Stanley, the capital of the Falklands, the 12th Regiment was ordered to Mount Kent, some 12 miles west of the capital, detaching BmCompany to the garrison's helicopterborne reserve.
On April 29 the 12th Regiment began deploying to the second largest settlement in the Falklands, Goose Green, and joined the first garrison, C Company 25th Regiment now redesignated Task Force Mercedes. A small garrison consisting of 1st Lt. Carlos Daniel Esteban's C Company 25th "Special" (Commando-trained) Regiment and an 8th Regiment platoon had already been established at Goose Green to protect a dozen FMA IA-58 Pucara ground attack aircraft there. There were also 202 Air Force personnel at Goose Green.
Goose Green, about 44 miles west of Port Stanley, lies at a neck of land a mile wide and five miles long that prevents East Falkland being sliced in two. Halfway down the isthmus lies a long series of low hills, Darwin Ridge. It was here that Lieutenant-Colonel "H" (Herbert) Jones was killed when, followed by his bodyguard, Sergeant Barry Norman, he went off to outflank the Argentines and was hit by rifle fire.
It was on April 30 that the regimental commander, the operations officer, Major Moore and the personnel officer, Captain Lavaysse flew across Wickham Heights to await the arrival of the 12th Regiment. The regimental commander, Lieutenant-Colonel Italo Angel Piaggi, was almost six feet tall and bore a striking resemblance to American actor Telly Savalas. At age 45, he was energetic and it was mighty hard to wear him out as was demonstrated in the battle which was to come.
Soon after their arrival Piaggi ordered 1st Lt. Jorge Antonio Manresa's A Company to a blocking position near Port Darwin and Darwin Bay, on Darwin Ridge, and 1st Lt. Ramon Duazo Fernandez's C Company to a similar position at Ramsground, about 2 miles south of Goose Green Settlement. The newly arrived 12th Regiment soldiers dug positions in the freezing wind. The Argentine winter parkas were excellent, but the danger of frostbite was always present, and the uncovered portions of their faces suffered from the biting wind. This was the start of winter, in the Southern Hemisphere, and the temperatures dropped well below freezing every night. The trenches were like ice chambers. The days were short, the nights endless.
The 125 troops of the 25th "Special" Regiment's C Company waited in reserve in and around Darwin School where they laid booby traps, and the job of clearing them would later claim the life of a Gurkha, 24-year-old Lance-Corporal Budhaparsad Limbu. Led by Lieutenant-Colonel Mohamed Ali Seineldin, 601st Commando Company's founder and first commanding officer, the 25th Regiment conscripts wore a shoulder patch depicting the "Malvinas". They were well armed, well trained and cadred by Commandos and Paratroopers.
The 12th Regiment was spread over four miles, with the main emphasis on facing an attack coming from Choiseul Sound and Brenton Loch. B Company was dug in on Mount Kent, an important position on the road to Stanley. When the action began at Goose Green airbase on May 28, they were moved by helicopter to Goose Green, just in time to be sucked into the capitulation of the 12th Regiment.
It was not until May 1 that three Royal Navy Sea Harriers screamed in to attack Goose Green airbase at dawn. All diplomatic efforts to produce a peaceful solution to the crisis had failed, the Argentines refusing to withdraw from the Falklands. Minutes before nine Sea Harriers had delivere twenty-seven bombs to the Stanley runway and surrounding area. 2nd Lt. Claudio Cesar Braghini, the commander of the Army 35 mm radar-guided gun detachment at Goose Green with its Skyguard fire-control radar, was taken by surprise as the British fighter-bombers appeared in the horizon. One of the bombs detonated on a Pucara. The pilot was killed, together with seven Air Force mechanics who were nearby. The Argentine anti-aircraft gunners were not to be caught dozing a second time.
Britain's military confidence suffered a knock with the downing of a Sea Harrier on May 4. At 1.45 pm Sea Harrier XZ 450 was shot down over Goose Green, caught in a stream of 35 mm fire from 3rd Troop B Battery from 601st Air Defence Artillery Group. It went up in a ball of fire as it neared the ground. The British pilot - Lieutenant Nicholas Taylor - was the first British pilot to die for Goose Green. The operator of the Skyguard, Corporal Ferreyra detected the raid coming in and warned Braghini and the fire control radar picked up the three Sea Harriers twelve kilometres out at sea. Buenos Aires television which showed the mangled Sea Harrier over and over, described how a second Sea Harrier departed trailing smoke.
Preparing clothes and equipment for battle kept the men busy. Each soldier wore a quilted Israeli-made parka. Most had woolen underclothes, sweaters, scarves, mittens and balaclavas. Each morning the Argentine troops had the green Guarani tea. It contains the same amount of caffein as a cup of coffee; it is stimulating and helps stem the pangs of hunger. The men had the same tea in the evening. Cigarettes and chocolate bars were rationed, but each soldier had a plate of mutton soup at 3 pm.
Although straitlaced, Lieutenant-Colonel Piaggi showed more thought for his young conscript soldiers than many of his contemporaries and won approval for his professional conduct. "I can clearly remember it as if it was yesterday walking my platoon down from Darwin Heights to have a hot bath and a good sleep to recover," said 2nd Lt. Ernesto Orlando Peluffo, a young platoon commander who had been a cadet only a few weeks previously. Life in Goose Green was therefore typical of that found in any Argentine regiment location in the Falklands, sometimes busy, often boring and occasionally dangerous.
Carlos beaches, Combat Team Eagle, 62 men strong, moved out by helicopter for the high ground around San Carlos Bay, about 12 miles to the north of Goose Green. It was comprised of 2nd Platoon C Company of the 25th Regiment, under the command of Second Lieutenant Oscar Roberto Reyes. They were backed by a platoon from A Company from the 12th Regiment under Second Lieutenant Jose Vasquez; it inflicted considerable losses on the British landing force on May 21, shooting down two 3rd Commando Brigade Gazelle helicopter gunships as they withdrew to Stanley.
On May 24, faced with the British beachhead at San Carlos, Brigadier-General Parada at Stanley, who had Task Force Mercedes under his orders, ordered Piaggi to extend his defence perimeter to the north. Manresa's men, who had constructed a strong defence line on Darwin Ridge protected by anti-personnel mines and 250 pound aerial bombs out in front, now had to move beyond the minefields and booby-traps. In retrospect, Major Alberto Frontera, second in command of the 12th Regiment, said "These orders we should never have carried out." A confused A Company and the Reconnaissance Platoon now dug positions about a mile and a half north of Darwin Ridge, near Burntside Pond.
The Argentines became aware of British patrolling on May 27. As A Company dug in at new positions on Burntside Hill and Coronation Ridge, a lookout spotted three British soldiers on the forward slope of Cerritos Arroyo. "I took up position on one machinegun and with a corporal we engaged them, " said 2nd Lt. Peluffo, "It was successful, I think. If not our target got a fright."
Unknown to Peluffo, an estimated 600 Paratroopers of the British 2nd Parachute Battalion (2 Para) were poised to attack Task Force Mercedes. Goose Green on the right flank of the approach to Stanley was a thorn on the side of 3rd Commando Brigade, commanded by Brigadier Julian Thompson. The 601st and 602nd Commando Companies at Stanley could have been flown forward by helicopter and attacked the British from Goose Green.
Throughout May 27 Royal Air Force Harriers were active over Goose Green. One of them in responding to a call for softening up fire from C (Patrol) Company of 2 Para attacked Darwin Ridge and that led to its loss. As the intruding aircraft disintegrated in a stream of 35 mm fire, a parachute blossomed, and its pilot - Squadron Leader Bob Iveson - landed several miles away, near Paragon House. The shooting down of Harrier XZ 988 was strategically unimportant in itself, but it greatly boosted regimental morale.
On the eve of the first battle of the land war there were 684 Argentine Army personnel at Goose Green, together with half of a 105 mm howitzer battery of the 4th Airborne Artillery Group. Air defence was provided by a battery of 20 mm Rheinmetall pieces manned by the Air Force and two radar-guided 35 mm Oerlikon anti-aircraft guns from the 601st Air Defence Artillery Group. In overall command was Wing Commander Wilson Rosier Pedrozo, but it would by Lieutenant-Colonel Piaggi's responsability to handle the coming battle. Contrary to British reports all of the airworthy Pucaras had been withdrawn to Stanley.
In many ways the situation of the 12th Regiment bore an ironic similarity to that of the German battalions in the Eastern Front during the latter stages of World War II. Piaggi, who had talked so graphically and emotionally to British historian Martin Middlebrook in Buenos Aires in 1987, claims he only had eleven 7.62 mm MAG machineguns out with his companies. His regiment should have possessed thirteen 105 mm Czekalski anti-tank guns, there was only one. Instead of ten 81 mm and four 120 mm Thompson-Brandt mortars, he only had two 81 mm and a 120 mm heavy mortar.
THE NIGHT ACTION
The battle started in the early hours of the morning of Friday May 28, and continued until late in the evening. It is not intended to recount the action in detail, but rather to note a number of features of the battle. The first hours of the battle were a disaster for the 12th Regiment. Most of Manresa's soldiers were from the Class of 1963, aged 18, so their training was limited. The British sprang out of the darkness under steadily falling rain and poured automatic weapons fire and phosphorus grenades into the forward Argentine positions on Burntside Hill. The British swept through Burntside Hill with a barrage of mortar, artillery and naval fire. The platoon under 2nd Lt. Gustavo Malacalza with a section covering the withdrawal, went south across Darwin Park, crossed Coronation Ridge and survived to fight again. During that action Privates Nestor Oscar Avelin and Roque Evaristo Sanchez gave their lives to cover the retreat for which they were posthumously awarded for bravery.
The 2nd Parachute Battalion's objectives were the settlements of Darwin and Goose Green: Burntside Hill to be taken in the first phase by Major John Crosland's B Company supported by the frigate HMS Arrow and three 105 mm guns from 8 Battery, Royal Marine Commando Artillery Regiment; and Coronation Point, overlooking Port Darwin, to be taken in the second phase by Major Dair Farrar-Hockley's A Company. The plan was relatively simple. The British A and B Companies moved on south taking a shoreline each, A Company on the British left and B Company on the right.
While this fighting was in progress 1st Lt. Carlos Alberto Chanampa and his artillerymen brought the Italian-built Oto Melara 105 mm guns into action with considerable accuracy. Fortunately for the parachute unit, the damp peaty ground absorbed the impact of the shells and reduced the killing power of the splinters.
Back in the Command Post (CP) Lieutenant-Colonel Piaggi felt that the defence of Manresa's original company positions was going to be critical at this point of the battle, so he ordered that no more ground be lost. Manresa ordered his platoon on Coronation Ridge to hold their trenches at all cost. As the Paras continued their advance, the platoon lay in wait concealed in the terrain.
The British march became confused as companies lost touch with each other. Lieutenant-Colonel Jones' Tactical Headquarters headed for Port Darwin, but came under heavy fire from the Argentines entrenched on Coronation Ridge. Advancing towards Darwin Settlement, three Paras of Major Philip Neame's D Company were shot dead by Argentines bunkered along Coronation Ridge. Much valuable time was lost clearing this position, but Neame's company took Coronation Ridge at about 6 am. Manresa delayed the Paras for six hours, but with tragic loss. Twelve members of A Company were killed during the night action.
THE MORNING ACTION
Percieving an urgent need to stabilize the precarious defence line on Darwin Ridge, Piaggi ordered 24-year-old Lieutenant Roberto Nestor Estevez's 1st Platoon, C Company 25th "Special" Infantry Regiment to take Middle Hill, the hillock south of Coronation Ridge. As Estevez's platoon moved away from Goose Green Settlement, the green-bereted conscripts sang the Malvinas March and that certainly raised their spirits. Reaching Darwin Ridge around 7 am local time, the first British soldiers suddenly appeared out of the mist on the shoreline that was Darwin Bay.
The Argentines mistook the British as Argentines and greetings were exchanged at times. "It was a very confusing situation when we saw troops approaching," said 2nd Lt. Peluffo. "At first we were not sure whether it was the enemy or part of our 12th Regiment that was withdrawing towards our line. We thought they could be our troops." Eventually shots were exchanged and the fight for Darwin Ridge really got underway.
With daylight the nature of the battle changed. The British who had had the initiative under cover of darkness, were now caught in the open, holed up in small hollows in the ground or behind tufts of heather. The situation provided the Argentines a brief session of revenge as they cut them down as the Paras scurried from cover in search of more suitable protection.
The British mortar crew were stuffing bombs down the barrel as fast they could, plastering any group large enough to engage while the machineguns, manned by Number 3 Platoon, A Company 2 Para, was now engaging the Argentine platoons from the northern side of Darwin Bay.
Lieutenant Estevez, although hit and bleeding heavily, kept his platoon organized and under control. Estevez was hit in the right leg and left arm as he moved about in the confusion encouraging his men and finally a British sniper marked him down and put a bullet into his right eye. Finding their way blocked by Major Farrar-Hockley's A Company, Corporal Mario Rodolfo Castro took the radio from his dying lieutenant and was shot dead shortly afterwards. Private Fabricio Carrascull picked up the radio and soon joined his companions.
But the heroic sacrifice of these brave men proved not to have been in vain. At 9.30 am the British A Company broke off the attack and began to withdraw. "H" Jones, fuming, went up to examine the situation and ordered Major Farrar-Hockly to try outflanking to the left of the defenders. It was a fatal gesture. While he was leading from the front, an Argentine sniper found his mark, dropping Colonel Jones into the Goose Green mud at about 10.30 am local time. The fighting was close. Corporal Osvaldo Faustino Olmos shot two Paras within 50 metres of his position, as they tried to charge his trench with grenades.
An ammunition resupply by Land Rover and artillery and aggressive small arms fire stopped the many British assaults. The Paras were suffering heavy casualties, but continued to press home their attack. Gradually as the British battalion managed in England to obtain sixty-eight 7.62 mm machineguns, they gained ground.
The Argentines occupied three hillocks and stiff fighting ensued to clear them of them. The line included Boca Hill (also known as Boca House Ruins). Second Lieutenant Guillermo Ricardo Aliaga's 8th Regiment platoon (3rd Platoon of C Company) held Boca Hill on the Argentine left. The 12th Regiment platoon under Peluffo, responsible for holding the central hillock, was typical. Half of the platoon were Guarani Indians. On Darwin Ridge Peluffo and his platoon uttered cries of "Sapukay!". This war-cry shouted by these young soldiers with their blood up and automatic rifle in hand no doubt sounded both strange and savage to British ears. Afterwards Captain Rod Bell, a Spanish-speaking Royal Marine Commando, attached to 2 Para, had an interesting conversation with Brigadier-General Parada and expressed his admiration for Peluffo. Peluffo had been a tireless platoon commander throughout the action, taking a hand in the sniping and shouting encouragement to his men. Volunteering for parachute training after the war, he served with the Argentine Army 4th Airborne Infantry Brigade.
During a lull in the fighting the Regimental Medical Officer, 1st Lt. Juan Carlos Adgigogovich summoned over the radio, was up with Manresa on Darwin Ridge, organizing Private Claudio Garcia and others, to act as stretcher bearers. The respite in the action also gave 2nd Lt. Aliaga the opportunity to send one jeep loaded with wounded down the track linking Goose Green and Darwin.
At this point 44 men of Combat Team Eagle were flown by helicopter to Goose Green. It took sixty minutes for Combat Team Eagle to spread over the schoolhouse position to face an attack coming from Darwin Ridge. It is an interesting speculation that if, Combat Team Eagle occupied Darwin Ridge, the British battalion would probably have been forced to withdraw and the battle might have taken a different course.
Not until 1.15 pm where the British Paratroopers able to climb Darwin Ridge and winkle the Argentines out. Now Major Neame moved to the assistance of Major Crosland who had taken casualties in their attempt to take Boca Hill. The new plan called for D Company to outflank the stubborn defenders on Boca Hill along the seashore, which they did.
No less than 18 Argentines were killed on Darwin Ridge, and many more wounded, including Peluffo and Aliaga. Lance-Corporal Framingham and Private O' Rourke moved among the Argentines and began to treat the wounded. The place smelt of cordite. Peter Harclerode in Para!: Fifty Years Of The Parachute Regiment revealed that the British had fired over 1,000 mortar rounds into the Darwin hillocks. The 25th Regiment platoon lost 6 men killed on Darwin Ridge. For their contribution to the defence, Lt. Estevez was posthumously awarded the Heroic Valour Cross, Corporal Castro was posthumously awarded the Gallantry In Combat Medal, and Private Carrascull recieved the same posthumous award for bravery. So far the British battalion had suffered 12 killed and 30 wounded and injured, the latter mainly cuts and fractures caused by cattle fences and the rough going.
The Paras completed the job under Major Chris Keeble, second in command of the 2nd Parachute Battalion. Keeble ordered D Company to seize the airbase from Boca Hill, while C Company moved through Darwin School to Goose Green and B Company, which had reorganized, were brought forward to capture the ground south of Goose Green Settlement.
THE EVENING ACTION
At 2.15 pm on May 28 the final offensive to wrest control of Goose Green Settlement began. Elements of the Argentine Air Force tried to defend Goose Green airbase, but withdrew through enemy mortar fire. It was a rout. However, as the British C Company moved down the forward slope of Darwin Ridge, 2nd Lt. Braghini brought his 35 mm guns into play and they did some damage, killing one man and wounding eleven.
Piaggi reasoned that the British would go for the airbase and neutralize the 20 mm anti-aircraft guns there so that reinforcement could be landed there. Accordingly he had organized 2nd Lt. Juan Jose Gomez-Centurion's 2nd Platoon, C Company 25th "Special" Infantry Regiment there. Gomez-Centurion had all the usual Special Forces skills. He was a trained parachutist,frogman, skilled climber and abseiler. With only 37 men, however, the platoon commander knew he had an impossible job. The task he set himself, therefore, was to hold out as long as possible. He ordered his conscripts on a rise overlooking Goose Green airbase to await the Paras. They did so, their hands tensely gripping their weapons.
Gomez-Centurion gave out the orders: only one round at a time. Lying down in the cover of trenches the Argentines began shooting into the air in order to make the British believe that the Argentines obstructing their advance were weak in numbers, badly trained, inexperienced and not ready for an all-out assault. It was a ruse. Gomez-Centurion was waiting for the British to swarm forward in one human wave and then wipe them out with grenades and automatic fire. He kept his 3rd Section back in reserve. To assist Gomez-Centurion the Pucaras from Stanley were to provide a napalm strike on those Paras that had survived.
"We found the first enemy position when one of the lads actually fell into a trench," recalled Private Graham Carter of 12 Platoon, D Company 2nd Parachute Battalion. "There were weapons and ammo all covered in mud, just left there. They'd all bugged out, so we never saw anybody. After an hour or so, we began getting effective fire on us. We started taking cover when we heard rounds whistling around us .... we saw who was firing at us and fired back .... the section commander [Corporal Paul Sullivan] who was behind me, was hit in the knee and screamed out, and then took two more straight through the head and was killed. I got on the radio to bring up some reserves into the dead ground to the left - to go through the enemy position. When they arrived back, the sergeant sent me back to see if Paul could be helped. It was no use. He'd gone."
What happened is well known is well known among members of the Argentine platoon. The Argentine fire eventually slackened and died. Then 2nd Lt. James Barry, 29, came out to urge the Argentines to surrender, promising good treatment. Gomez-Centurion had wondered for a moment, "Are the English in such a bad state that surrender is their only option? Well best for us." The 25th Regiment platoon commander answered Barry succintly, in perfect American English: "Son of a bitch! You've got two minutes to return to your lines before I give the order to open fire: Get out of here!"
Barry started walking back and was just climbing over a barbed wire cattle fence when the rattle of machinegun fire came from Darwin Ridge. The 25th Regiment platoon was hit by machinegun fire and Corporal Hector Oviedo was killed. The enraged Argentines opened fire and Barry was killed. Private "Baz" Graham told a different account of the incident: "I saw the white flage incident; I was in 11 Platoon. We were going up the hill and the flag went up. The officer [Barry] called the sergeant [sic], and the got halfway up the hill. Bang! They let rip into them. Killed them. One guy was hit in the knee and one of the bastards came forward and shot him i the head. He moved forward out of his position and shot him."
The battle for Goose Green airbase was cold, hard and brutal. The Argentine platoon ambushed 12 Platoon, killing three men. The British report of the action noted, in part: "He [Private Graham Carter] had been involved in a savage ambush which, as the Paras regained their initiative and fought back, turned into a vicious gun battle. His platoon commander had been killed, and his section effectively put out of action, with section commander killed and 2 ic [second in charge] seriously wounded. Despite being the most inexperienced man in the platoon, Private Carter had fought off the enemy, attended to the wounded, then got control of the section and called up the rest of the platoon to make a counterattack- all under continuous fire."]
The British platoon gained the upper hand and Sergeant Sergio Ismael Garcia rushed through the beaten zone, grabbed a machinegun and turned it onthe advancing Paras.
During that fight the British Paratroopers watched transfixed for a moment, while two conscripts, Ricardo Austin and Jose Allende, crawled towards them, one trying to draw their rifle fire, while the other clutched phosphorus grenades. Then they were shot. Both Argentines recieved posthumously the Gallantry In Combat Medal.
Only at about 5.45 pm did Gomez-Centurion realize that his ambush had gone seriously wrong and that he was being trapped. Unfortunately for the Argentines, the platoon's radio was damaged and the 120 mm mortars at Goose Green Settlement couldn't be used. Gomez-Centurion yelled to his men to get out and the Argentines hurried away in good order, dragging their wounded. Garcia continued to hold his position with his machinegun against repeated British attempts to cut their withdrawal route. But he was eventually shot dead through the head, shoulder and spine. His bravery was later recognized by the award of the Gallantry In Combat Medal.
The 25th Regiment platoon lost seven men dead and 13 wounded. Just one wounded member of the platoon, Corporal Juan Fernandez was left behind, which speaks volume for the morale, discipline and leadership in the 25th "Special" Infantry Regiment. Corporal Fernandez spent a terrifying night among the 12 Platoon dead, watching the Paras evacuate their wounded.
During the action at Goose Green airbase two naval Aeromacchis from Stanley attacked D Company and one of them was shot down by a Blowpipe missile at 4.36 pm. The jet crashed, and its pilot was killed. Shortly after 5 pm two Pucaras attacked British troops near the airbase. The second Pucara was caught in a blizzard of small arms fire, which caused the Argentine pilot to eject among British troops and was taken prisoner.
As night fell some Paras in the Darwin School area began to snipe at Goose Green Settlement and in response 2nd Lt. Braghini concentrated his 35 mm guns on the schoolhouse, and the building was destroyed. During this time D Company came under heavy fire from the 35 mm guns, and a splinter hit Private Steve Dixon in the chest and killed him. It was here that 2 Para's advance stalled again. Under heavy mortar fire 2 Para's Patrols Platoon had no choice but to withdraw into the safety of the shoreline of Carcass Bay. Just as their position seemed quite hopeless, three Royal Air Force Harrier jets swept overhead, almost at ground level, and their cluster bombs and rockets rained down on where the two Army 35 mm guns were gathered, knocking out the generator for the radar-guided guns.
It was 5.30 pm when B Company of the 12th Regiment landed by helicopters at Ramsground. Mindful of the possibility of being counterattacked, Major John Crosland decided to pull back B Company and go firm on high ground near Goose Green airbase. A fierce sniper battle ensued with 1st Lt. Fernandez's C Company, 12th Regiment, now dug in around Goose Green Settlement. There were some close calls, and Private Burridge in 12 Platoon, D Company, was grazed by a bullet.
Time was running out for Task Force Mercedes. The settlement was encircled, artillery shells and mortar rounds were pounding the outskirts. The situation at Goose Green was such that Major Oscar Ramon Jaimet's B Company, 6th "General Juan Viamontes" Regiment at Stanley Common (Outskirts), was ordered to concentrate on Two Sisters Ridge and given a warning order to be prepared to move by helicopter to Cerritos Arroyo at first light. By then, however, Piaggi, surrounded and threatened with aerial attack, offered to surrender his force to the 2nd Parachute Battalion and the helicopterborne operation was cancelled. Piaggi had recieved orders from Parada to resist as long as his troops were physically capable of doing so, but allowing Piaggi to be the judge.
A CREDITABLE EFFORT
The performance of Lieutenant-Colonel Piaggi, if undistinguished, was better than British assessments would indicate. During the battle, Piaggi did not panic when he was out of touch with what was happening and took up the reins as soon as it became possible. At no time did he completely surrender the initiative - his artillery, mortars and anti-aircraft guns and infantry were used to counter every move made by the British. At the critical point his reserve plugged the gaps. On a personal level, his calm and determination inspired his men in the line of fire.
By the time the battle for Goose Green had ended the 12th "General Juan Alvarez de Arenales" Regiment had suffered 32 killed, the 25th Regiment had suffered 13 killed and 18 wounded. After the capture of Task Force Mercedes, when casualties were counted, the total number of 12th Regiment wounded was revealed to be 72.
Task Force Mercedes had more than made the Paras sweat. Brigadier Julian Thompson in Ready For Anything estimated that Goose Green cost around 70 British casualties. It was a warning of what was to come. Nevertheless Piaggi and Frontera were punished for being defeated, as often happens, relieved and retired.