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SAS Operations

When Argentina invaded the Falklands on 2nd April 1982, both Brigadier Peter de la Billiere and Lieutenant-Colonel Mike Rose, the Commander of 22 SAS, fought hard to have the regiment included in the task force. By early April, members of both D and G squadrons were on their way.

South Georgia

During the operation to retake South Georgia, bad weather trapped SAS men on a glacier and a Wessex 3 and two Wessex 5s were sent to retrieve them. The first Wessex lifted off as the wind whipped up the snow. The Wessex from RFA Tidespring lifted off, but the pilot lost his bearing in the snow and crashed, skidding for some 50 yards, with the Wessex tipping over. The other two helicopters now embarked their troops. They lifted and landed next to the crashed Wessex and took on her aircrew and soldiers. Both aircraft dumped fuel to carry the extra load.

wessex crashVisibility by this time was practically zero and the wind and snow had not abated. The helicopters lifted off, and the Wessex 3, equipped with radar, took off with the Wessex 5 following astern and made their way down the glacier. Seconds later, the helicopters traversed a small ridge and the Wessex 5 flared violently and struck the top of the ridge. It rolled onto its side and could not be contacted by radio. The remaining overloaded helicopter returned to the ship, some 30 miles away to the north, and disembarked its passengers. The Wessex 3 returned to the crash site, but was unable to land. They made contact by radio and confirmed there were no serious casualties. The Wessex 3 returned to Antrim to wait for a break in the weather. An hour later an opportunity presented itself and the Wessex 3 flew back and embarked the survivors and was flown back to Antrim by Lt-Commander Ian Stanley RN, who was awarded the DSO.

The following night, 23rd April, 2 Section SBS was landed by helicopter. Five Gemini inflatable craft set out with troops of D Squadron's Boat troop aboard and two suffered engine failure. One of the crews was picked up by helicopter while the other crew got to shore. The Antrim group moved in again, on the 24th April, to drop off more troops and in doing so, located and beached the Argentine submarine Sante Fe. The Antrim's small company of Marines was landed following a hasty conference and the seventy-five Marines, SBS and SAS, under naval gunfire support, landed by helicopter. When they reached the settlement of Grytviken, they found white sheets fluttering from several windows. An Argentine officer complained to the SAS that they had just walked through his minefield. At 5:15am, the Argentine commander formally surrendered. The following morning, after threatening defiance by radio overnight, the small enemy garrison at Leith, along the coast, surrendered without resistance. The scrap merchants, whose activities had precipitated the entire war, were also taken into custody, for repatriation to the mainland. To complete the victory, a helicopter picked up a weak emergency beacon signal from the southernmost tip of the island, Stromness Bay. The helicopter homed in on it and found the lost three-man SAS patrol from the missing Gemini. They had paddled ashore with only a few hundred yards of land left between them and Antarctica. No British troops had been lost.

Goose Green Diversionary

The SAS mounted a diversionary raid at Goose Green on the night before the main landing at San Carlos. 60 men of D Squadron hit the garrison at Goose Green with the aim of simulating a battlion-sized attack. The soldiers marched for 20 hours to reach the hills north of Darwin before attacking the Argentines with LAW and MILAN missiles, machine gun and rifle fire. The enemy were taken completely by surprise and were unable to pinpoint the SAS positions and responded with only sporadic fire. Early next morning the SAS withdrew, the main landing complete.

Pebble Island

Crashed helicopter on Pebble IslandOn the night of 14-15 May, the SAS carried out a daring raid on the Pebble Island Airstrip on West Falkland. Twenty members of Mountain Troop, D Squadron, led by Captain John Hamilton, assaulted the airstrip to destroy all eleven aircraft. The attack was supported by fire from HMS Glamorgan, while the SAS used 81mm mortar, M203 grenade launchers, 66mm LAWS, and small arms fire to drive the Argentinians to cover. The Argentines were forced to take cover and the SAS moved onto the airstrip ad fixed explosive charges to the aircraft. The assault destroyed six Pucaras, four Turbo-Mentors and a Skyvan transport before the party withdrew.

Despite some last minute hitches, the aircraft had all been destroyed or rendered irreparable and one Argentinian lay dead. Two of the Squadron were wounded by shrapnel when a mine exploded, although not seriously hurt.

© David Pentland / Cranston Fine Arts
Raid on Pebble Island 
by David Pentland 
© David Pentland / Cranston Fine Arts
The above painting is available 
on line at http://www.war-art.com/

Please note that BSW dose NOT profit from any sales of this painting.
We are very grateful to the people at Cranston Fine Arts
for allowing us to display David Pentlands work


The Sea King Crash

On 19th May, the Regiment suffered a tragic loss when a Sea King crashed while cross-decking troops from HMS Hermes to HMS Intrepid and killed 22 men.  The Sea King had taken off from H.M.S. Hermes at dusk. The Aircraft was slightly over loaded but because it was short fight the pilot reduced his fuel load to lighten the helicopter. At 300 ft the Sea King started it's decent towards H.M.S. Intrepid. those on board heard a thump, then another from the engine above them. The Sea King dipped once then dived . Within four seconds it hit the water. Some men were killed instantly and other knocked unconscious in the initial impact. Amazingly 9 men managed to scramble out of the open side door before the helicopter slipped below the waves. They were the only survivors. Rescuers found bird feathers floating on the surface were the helicopter had impacted the water. It is thought that the Sea King was the victim of a bird strike. One theory is at the Sea King was hit by a Black Browed Albatross which has a 8 ft wing span. The SAS lost 18 men on this night. The regiment had not lost so many men at one tine since the end of the second world war. The accident killed a member of the Royal Signals and the only RAF casualty of the war Flt Lt G.W. Hawkins.

West Falkland

On June 5th five Four man SAS patrols were inserted onto West Falkland to observe and report the movements of the two large Argentine garrisons on West Falkland. One of these patrols was commanded by Captain Gavin John Hamilton, formerly of the Green Howards. Although Hamilton had only been with the Regiment for 5 months he was in command of G Squadrons Mountain troop.  He had proved himself to be a excellent SAS officer during Operation Paraquat and the raid on Pebble Island. 

Captain G. J. Hamilton

Hamiltons grave on West FalklandOn the 10th of June Hamilton and his four man patrol were using a well established OP near Port Howard when they were surrounded and out numbered by Argentine forces from the 1st Section 601 Combat Aviation Battalion. Two SAS men managed to get away but Hamilton and his signaler, Sergeant Fosenka, were pinned down. Hamilton was hit in the back by enemy fire and told Fosenka to get out while he covered him. " You carry on, I'll cover your back" Moments later Hamilton was killed. Sergeant Fosenka was later captured when he ran out of ammunition.  Fosenka was not badly treated by the Argentines and Hamilton was buried with full military honors by the Argentines.  The senior Argentine officer praised the heroism of the SAS officer. Hamilton was posthumously awarded the Military Cross. Some think he should have been given a VC. But because no British Officer was present during  this action (apart from Hamilton himself ) no VC was awarded.

Thank you to Julian M Taylor for some of the above information on Captain G. J. Hamilton

Mount Kent

Using Mount Kent, some 64 km behind enemy lines, as a forward operating base under the noses of the Argentine 12 Regiment, also on the mountain, the SAS continued their reconnaissance role until 26th May, when the Argentines were hurriedly airlifted to Goose Green by a mix of Huey and Chinook helicopters, leaving much personnel equipment behind. This sudden move left the mountain, which was dominant high ground, open to seizure by No.3 Commando Brigade. On 30th May, Sea King helicopters with Royal Marines aboard, took off but were forced by severe weather to turn back to San Carlos.

In the late afternoon of 31st May, elements of K Company, 42 Commando and two SAS officers, took off with the aim of arriving after dark. the helicopter pilots, using passive night goggles to mount a ground-hugging approach. This first liftoff had to land as many men as possible and were filled beyond capacity with men and weapons. They arrived behind a ridgeline about two miles from the summit of Mount Kent, where they were confronted by the sight of a night fire-fight in progress . The Marines quickly spread out and took cover and secured their landing zone as they offloaded their weapons and equipment. The firefight died down and Major Cedric Delves, of D Squadron, 22 SAS, appeared to assure his boss all was well. The SAS had encountered an Argentine patrol and had destroyed it.


© David Pentland / Cranston Fine Arts
"Is the Mountain Clear" 
G Squadron 22 SAS, Mount Kent
by Graeme Lothian 
© Graeme Lothian  / Cranston Fine Arts
The above painting is available 
on line at http://www.war-art.com/

Please note that BSW dose NOT profit from any sales of this painting.We are very grateful to the people at Cranston Fine Arts
for allowing us to display Graeme Lothians work


Wireless Ridge

The last major SAS raid was mounted in East Falkland on the night of 14th June. This involved attacking the Argentinian rear while 2 Para assaulted Wireless Ridge, just a few kilometres west of Port Stanley. A total of 60 men from D and G Squadrons and six men from the SAS, using rigid raiders to assault Port Stanley harbour, set fire to the oil tanks while laying down suppressive fire.

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