On this day in history….8th June 1982

On this day in history : 8th June 1982 – Fifty-six British servicemen are killed during an Argentine air attack on two supply ships in the Falklands conflict – in what becomes known as the ‘Battle of Bluff Cove’….

Anchored off of Fitzroy, Port Pleasant, supply ships RFA Sir Galahad and RFA Sir Tristram were in the process of being unloaded, when at 14.00hrs local time five A-4 Skyhawks from the Argentine Air Force’s 5th Brigade made a surprise attack….

RFA Sir Galahad – Image credit : Dmgerrard at English Wikipedia CC BY-SA 3.0

Three bombs hit Sir Galahad and it instantly burst into flames…. With the fire spreading rapidly ammunition onboard began to explode and men jumped overboard to escape…. A further two bombs hit Sir Tristram – helicopters that were being used to ferry supplies rushed to help….

At 16.50hrs a second air attack took place…. Four Skyhawks sank a landing craft utility which was carrying vehicles to Bluff Cove – six Royal Marines were killed…. this time a Sea Harrier combat air patrol was able to respond and three of the Skyhawks were shot down…. A third wave of Skyhawks arrived shortly afterwards, attacking ground targets – but with little success…. HMS Plymouth was also targeted in a separate attack, which caused considerable damage and injured five onboard….

In total 56 British servicemen were killed in the attacks, 48 of these were onboard Sir Galahad and 2 on Sir Tristram…. A further 150 were injured – many through burns…. Sir Tristram was later rebuilt but Sir Galahad was beyond repair and so was towed out to sea and scuttled….

RFA Sir Tristram after the Argentine attack – Image credit : Ken Griffiths – own work – CC BY-SA 4.0

Among the wounded onboard Sir Galahad was Simon Weston…. His injuries were so severe that 25% of his skin suffered third degree burns…. He was to endure years of reconstructive surgery which was to involve over 96 operations and procedures….

Weston was later to travel to Argentina for a TV documentary and was to meet Carlos Cachon, the Argentinian Air Force pilot who had carried out the bombing on Sir Galahad…. The visit was returned when Cachon and his family visited Weston in Liverpool…. The two became great friends….

Simon Weston – Photo credit : cropped image (Wikipedia) taken from original photo by Phil Guest via Flickr – CC BY-SA 2.0

On this day in history….25th April 1982

On this day in history : 25th April 1982 – Royal Marines land on the island of South Georgia and re-establish a British presence in the Falkland Islands….

On the 19th of March 1982 a group of 40 Argentinian scrap metal workers had landed on South Georgia and raised the Argentine flag…. Some believe they were an advance party for what was to come…. Two weeks later Argentinian forces arrived and Royal Marines stationed on the island were forced to surrender…. South Georgia had fallen under Argentine control – as had the rest of the Falkland Islands….

img_3035
South Georgia Islands – Image credit: Danny Pabst CC BY-SA

On the 5th of April the British dispatched a naval task force – comprising of 127 ships: 43 Royal Navy vessels, 22 Royal Fleet Auxiliary and 62 merchant ships – to engage the Argentine Navy and Air Force….

‘Operation Paraquet’ – the code name for the recapture of South Georgia — was put into motion on the 25th of April…. Helicopters attacked the Argentine submarine ‘Santa Fe’ and the Royal Navy provided a bombardment lasting a couple of hours…. At 16.00hrs, London time, British Special Forces and Marines landed by helicopter at Grytviken on South Georgia…. Within two hours they had taken control, the Argentine forces on the island surrendered with little resistance….

The victory message sent to London said : “Be pleased to inform Her Majesty that the white ensign flies alongside the Union Jack in South Georgia. God save the Queen”….

img_3033
Royal Marines of M Company, 42 Commando,at Grytviken after liberating South Georgia (recoloured from original black and white photograph) – Fz81z6 CC BY-SA 4.0

There were no British casualties in the South Georgia operation – although some Argentinians were injured on the Argentine submarine….

An announcement was made outside 10, Downing Street by Defence Secretary John Nott, with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher by his side…. When reporters fired questions at her afterwards her response was to cut them short by replying “Just rejoice at that news and congratulate our forces and the Marines”….

img_3034
HMS Antrim – one of the Royal Navy vessels which took part – image U.S. Navy – Public domain

The Falklands War was to last for a total of ten weeks; a cease-fire was called on the 14th of June and Argentina finally surrendered on the 20th…. 907 were killed in the conflict: 649 Argentinians, 255 British servicemen and 3 Falkland Islanders….