Goose Green at 40

The most significant land battle fought by modern Western armies since WWII took place some 40 years ago this week, pitting some ~700 British paratroopers of 2 PARA, augmented by elements of the Royal Marines and SAS, against some 1,200 Argentines including conscripts of the 12th (12IR) and ranger-style elite troops of the 25th Infantry (25IR) Regiment with supporting forces. Although fought in 1982, other than the use of a handful of shoulder-fired guided missiles and the fleeting presence of helicopters, it was not much different from a battalion-level scrap in 1945.

In the end, it came down to little groups of men with rifles, sub guns, and, yes, even bayonets, fighting for inches and paying with blood.

At the end of the day, 2 PARA suffered so many casualties– including its commander — to meet the historical definition of being decimated while the Argentines were all either killed or captured.

Cheerful soldiers of 2 Parachute Regiment, wearing full combat gear, celebrate the surrender of Argentine forces at Goose Green. By Hudson, Ronald (Sergeant) IWM FKD 2323 http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205124336

Argentine prisoners of war pass a wrecked Pucara ground attack aircraft, Goose Green, 1982 NAM

Despite their name and unit history, 2 PARA arrived in the Falklands by ship, made a “feet wet” amphibious landing on 24 May, and walked almost the entire route from San Carlos to Port Stanly across inhospitable terrain, fighting both at Goose Green and again a fortnight later at Wireless Ridge, then walked into Stanley for the liberation on 14 June.

Their only airlift, from Darwin to the Fitzroy, was a brief one on 2 June by the sole British CH-47 (Bravo November) that made it ashore in which some 81 Paras were crammed into the chopper. A second trap crammed 75 men. 

Talk about a rough three weeks.

Landing craft sail past HMS Fearless, carrying men of 2 Para from SS Canberra to San Carlos, during the Falklands War

Heavily laden British soldiers of 11 Platoon, D Company, 2 Para wait to embark in a helicopter at Fitzroy during the Falklands Conflict. The three seen are (left to right) Private Dave Parr (who was killed shortly afterward during the assault on Wireless Ridge – having earlier been shot at Goose Green), Lance Corporal Neil Turner, and Private Terry Stears. IWM FKD 2124 http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205190560

2nd Battalion The Parachute Regiment enter Port Stanley on foot, in 1982. NAM. 2004-12-35-8

Just after Goose Green, Para-qualified Lt. Col. David Chaundler was rushed from a staff position with MoD in London, boarded an RAF C-130 for Wideawake Airfield on Ascension Island, then carried another 3,300 miles for a solo parachute landing into the sea from 1,500, feet into the South Atlantic, landing near the frigate HMS Penelope. Dubbed Operation Ursula, it remains the longest distance combat drop (8,000 miles all told) into an active conflict zone in history, and Chaundler, who led 2 PARA at Wireless Ridge, was the only member of the Parachute Regiment to jump during the Falklands.

Falklands land campaign, note the path of 2 Para at the bottom in dark red.

The British over the weekend marked the 40th Anniversary of the liberation of Goose Green, East Falkland.

“With a brisk wind blowing snow across the monument, a service of commemoration was held to remember those who gave their lives in the battle.”

Peter Kennedy was a 25-year-old Lieutenant at Goose Green and spoke in a recent 21-minute interview about the battle, in which he was suddenly thrust into leading the final attack.

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