From the first shots to the last, the Royal Marines were involved in ground combat in the Falklands in 1982.
To open the conflict, it was the platoon-sized Naval Party 8901 that fired 6,450 rounds of 7.62 (along with five 84mm and seven 66mm rockets) in defense of the initial Argentine landings on 2 April, suffering three casualties. One section of RMs, led by Corporal York was even able to displace and hide out in the sparse countryside for three days.
Providing the muscle for most of 3 Commando Brigade in Operation Corporate, the RMs sent all three Commando battalions at the time (40, 42, and 45) along with most of the crack SBS frogmen and even the Mountain and Arctic Warfare training school cadre down to liberate the islands. The men of NP 8901, repatriated by the Argentines, clocked back in to get some payback, forming J Company of 42 Commando.
Royal Marines lined up for weapons check-in the hanger of HMS Hermes in the South Atlantic on their way to the Falklands in 1982
A Westland “Junglee” conducting fast rope training with RM Commandos on the way to the Falklands. It was an 8,000 mile trip from the UK to the “front”
The first ground combat of the liberation came with the recapture on 26 April of the windswept island of South Georgia in Operation Paraquet, conducted by 42 Commando and assorted SAS/SBS operators.
Members of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines hoisting the Union Jack and White Ensign over Grytviken, capital of South Georgia, April 1982. Before the Falkland Islands could be recaptured the island of South Georgia had to be taken. On 26 April 1982, after a short naval bombardment, a force of Royal Marines, Special Air Service (SAS) and Special Boat Service (SBS) went ashore and the Argentine garrison surrendered. NAM. 1988-09-13-22
Then came the landings on East Falkland, kicking off the 25-day land campaign to liberate the island, ending with the Argentine surrender of Port Stanley.
THE FALKLANDS CONFLICT, APRIL – JUNE 1982 (FKD 178) A Royal Marine of 3 Commando Brigade helps another to apply camouflage face paint in preparation for the San Carlos landings on 21 May 1982. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205124181
40 Commando Royal Marines. Note the L1A1 Sterling sub machine guns .Falklands 1982
Royal Marine Snipers and a GPMG Gunner prior to the Assault on Mount Kent. Falkland’s War, May 1982. Note the L42 sniper rifle and early starlight scope
British Royal Marine armed with a Lee Enfield L42a1 during the 1982 Falklands war. AN PVS starlight scope sniper
Lacking transpo, 45 Commando famously “yomped” 56 miles in three days from their beach landing at San Carlos harbor to engage the Argentines, carrying everything they had on their backs.
“They faced bleak conditions – horrendous boggy terrain, wind, rain, sleet, low temperatures – not to mention a series of battles on hills outside the islands’ capital Stanley before reaching their objective,” notes the RN. “The Plymouth [based] unit then skilfully ousted Argentine defenders from the slopes of Mount Harriet in one of the final set-piece actions of the war before marching down into Stanley after the surrender.”
A column of 45 Royal Marine Commandos yomp towards Port Stanley. Royal Marine Peter Robinson, carrying the Union Jack flag on his backpack as identification, brings up the rear. This photograph, taken in black and white and color, became one of the iconic images of the Falklands Conflict. IWM FKD 2028
Retracing the Yomp in 2012:
42 Cdo attack Mount Harriet
14 June, Royal Marines raised the Jack at liberated Government House, some 10 weeks after they saw it come down.
June 14 1982 Royal Marines prepare to raise the Falklands flag outside Government House
Royal Marine Commandos hoisting the original Union Jack at Government House, Port Stanley, 14 June 1982 NAM. 1988-09-13-24
The RN recently had three Falklands Royal Marines veterans; Russel Craig (then a 23-year-old RM), Stephen Griffin (also 23 at the time), and Marty Wilkin (then 26) talk to current recruits about their experiences in an incredible series, below:
Besides the initial invasion opposition, an outnumbered separate platoon of RMs famously gave the Argentines a “bloody nose” at South Georgia Island (followed later by Operation Paraquet by 42 Commando), and the men of 3 Cdo fought set-piece battles for the hills outside of Stanley at Mount Kent, Mount Harriet, and Two Sisters.
Of 255 British personnel killed in the conflict, the Royal Marines lost 27; two officers 14 NCOs, and 11 Marines, in addition to about three times that many wounded. While official battle honors fell on the Royal Navy (“Falkland Islands 1982”), RAF (“South Atlantic 1982”), and the British Army (“Falkland Islands 1982” with unit honors earned for “Goose Green,” “Mount Longdon,” “Tumbledown Mountain” and “Wireless Ridge”) for the campaign, as noted by Parliament:
“In accordance with a long-standing tradition which dates back more than 150 years, the Royal Marines do not receive battle honours for any individual operation or campaign in which they have been engaged. Instead, the corps motif of the globe surrounded by laurel is the symbol of their outstanding service throughout the world.”
The beret badge of the Royal Marines. The badge of the Royal Marines is designed to commemorate the history of the Corps. The Lion and Crown denote a Royal regiment. King George III conferred this honor in 1802 “in consideration of the very meritorious services of the Marines in the late war”. The “Great Globe”, itself surrounded by laurels, was chosen by King George IV as a symbol of the Marines’ successes in every quarter of the world. The laurels are believed to honor the gallantry they displayed during the investment and capture of Belle Isle, off Lorient, in April-June 1761.