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'Zulu!'

The attack on Mount Kent began with a recce patrol led by Lieutenant Chris Fox. Their mission was to locate Argentine bunkers, and they were now waiting for darkness to fall before returning to the assault base of 45 Commando some miles across a wide-open valley and over the ridge of Mount Kent.

An Argentine patrol stumbled on the patrol and rifle fire poured down on the patrol from above. Fox received a bullet through the hand, and although he had no orders to fight back, under these circumstances he had no choice. He and his men returned a hail of SLR and sub-machine gun fire. Twelve Argentines were killed and a further three suspected hit. When darkness arrived, the Marines slipped away without any casualties.

Two SistersLieutenant Fox was flown back to the medical centre at Ajax Bay, but soon rejoined the command with a stitched hand and scarred finger. His work earned him an MC. The Marines had expected to go in within 24 hours of arriving, but had to wait eight days for 5 Infantry Brigade to arrive as reinforcements and for Brigadier Thompson to decide to give the order to go. The Brigadier had learned the lesson of under-supported attacks from Goose Green and had decreed the maximum level of artillery support for the battles in the hills around Stanley. Whenever the mist and blizzard lifted, helicopters ferried in ammunition and eventually five batteries were dug in around Mount Kent, each with six 105mm guns and every gun with 1200 rounds.


 

Two nights before the attack, 45 Commando suffered its worst disaster of the war- a friendly-fire clash between their own mortar troops and a patrol. The patrol was mistaken for Argentines in the dark and the mortars opened up, to be met with a withering hail of fire in return. In the confusion, five died including the mortar troop sergeant and two were wounded.

Lt-Col Whitehead, CO of 45 Commando, was determined to take Two Sisters with the minimum casualties and the attack was planned as a silent approach and noisy battle, with the maximum weight of artillery brought to bear as the riflemen stormed the Argentine positions. While 45 Commando took Two Sisters, 3 Para would assault Mount Longdon to the north and 42 Commando Mount Harriet to the south. HMS Glamorgan provided naval gunfire support.

Two sistersThe start line was at Murrell Bridge, a rickety structure over the Murrell River at the foot of Mount Kent. The lead company for the assault was X (or X-Ray) Company led by Captain Ian Gardiner and should have been at the start line at midnight. The company was delayed by peat and fearsome rock-runs over which they had to hump the heavy weapons. Whitehead was on the radio threatening to 'come down and kick' the company into action as they began to cross the dead ground towards the southern ridge of the hill.


 

The Company made the lower ridge of the southern peak without problems but quickly came under ferocious machine gun and mortar fire that pinned them down. Argentine 0.5in machine gun sent streams of red tracer down the hill from the bunkers above, as the British guns unleashed their fire from behind in support.

X Company scratched what cover they could from the rocks and peat ridges and tried to pinpoint the enemy bunkers and work out routes to the enemy trenches. Whitehead decided to change the whole battle plan and brought the other two companies up the northern peak to avoid X Company having to storm the twin peaks and sustain massive casualties.

Two SistersZ Company charged an enemy strongpoint shouting their 'Zulu!' war cry without losing a man, having clawed their way up the northern peak. Two of Y Company's three troop commanders were wounded by mortar fire and an engineer was killed. The rifle companies battled their way to the summit and once the companies broke through the first layer of Argentine resistance they were able to advance steadily, wearing the enemy down at each point with massive fire. Many of the defenders trickled into the darkness before the Marines could reach them.

The next morning the helicopters crept along the contours of the hill picking up the dead and wounded, seemingly oblivious to fog or enemy fire. The men of 45 Commando dug in and waited for the next battle. The Paras watching from Mount Longdon had seen the sheer weight of fire coming down on the hill and exhibited sympathy for the Marines. The Marines had had the same reaction to the firefight on Mount Longdon with one man saying 'Not event the Paras' will be able to walk on water after this one.'

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