Battle of Goose Green
The Battle of Goose Green (28–29 May 1982) was an engagement of the Falklands War between British and Argentine forces. Goose Green and its neighbour Darwin are settlements on East Falkland in the Falkland Islands. They lie on Choiseul Sound on the east side of the island's central isthmus. They are about 13 miles (21 km) south of the site of the major British amphibious landings in San Carlos Water (Operation Sutton).
The bulk of the Argentine forces were in positions around Port Stanley about 50 miles (80 km) to the east of San Carlos. The position at Goose Green and Darwin was well defended by a force of combined units totalling about 1,200 (at the start of the battle the number was thought by the British to be less than half this), well equipped with artillery, mortars, 35 mm cannon and machine guns. However, the force was fairly static and judged to present little threat to the beachhead. Consequently, it had no strategic military value for the British in their campaign to recapture the islands, so early plans for land operations had called for Goose Green to be isolated and bypassed.
Things changed in the days following the landings on 21 May. While the bridgehead was being consolidated, no offensive ground operations of any size were feasible and yet Argentine air attacks caused significant loss of and damage to British ships in the sea area around the landing grounds. This led to a feeling among senior commanders and politicians in the UK that the momentum of the campaign was being lost.
As a result, British Joint Headquarters in the UK came under increasing pressure from the British Government for an early ground offensive. And so, on 25 May, Brigadier Julian Thompson, ground forces commander, commanding 3 Commando Brigade, was ordered to mount an attack on Argentine positions around Goose Green and Darwin.
The British force consisted of three rifle companies, one patrol company, one support company, and the HQ company of Lieutenant-Colonel Herbert 'H' Jones' 2nd Battalion the Parachute Regiment (2 Para) which had the following support: three 105 mm artillery pieces with 960 shells from 29 Commando Regiment, Royal Artillery; one MILAN anti-tank missile platoon; Scout helicopters, and at dusk, air support was provided by three Royal Air Force Harriers later in the battle. HMS Arrow shelled the Argentine forward positions. Lieutenant-Colonel Jones commanded the battalion.
The defending Argentine forces known as Task Force Mercedes consisted of Lieutenant-Colonel Italo Piaggi's 12th Infantry Regiment (RI 12) and a company of the Ranger-type 25th Infantry Regiment (RI 25). Lieutenant-Colonel Mohamed Alí Seineldín, considered by many Argentines to be the 'father' of the Argentine commandos, who chafed at his role as commanding officer of an ordinary infantry unit, put all his conscripts through a compressed version of the commando course in March 1982, dressing them in the green berets of the Army Commandos and changing the title of RI 25 unofficially to 25th 'Special' Infantry Regiment.The 12th Regiment chaplain, Padre Santiago Mora, later wrote, The conscripts of 25th Infantry wanted to fight and cover themselves in glory. The conscripts of 12th Infantry Regiment fought because they were told to do so. This did not make them any less brave. On the whole, they remained admirably calm.
Air defence was provided by a battery of six 20 mm Rheinmetall manned by Air Force personnel and two radar-guided Oerlikon 35 mm anti-aircraft guns from the 601st Anti-Aircraft Battalion that would be employed in a ground support role in the last stages of the fighting. There was also one battery of four OTO Melara Mod 56 105 mm pack howitzers from the 4th Airborne Artillery Regiment. Pucarás based at Stanley, armed with rockets and napalm, provided ground support. Unknown to the Argentine outpost, a four-man Special Air Service (SAS) patrol, led by Corporal Trevor Brookes, had infiltrated the 12th Regiment's A Company area, attempting to pinpoint the Argentinian positions. For over a fortnight, Brookes successfully avoided Argentine helicopter and foot patrols. As part of the diversionary raids to cover the British landings in the San Carlos area on 21 May, which involved naval shelling and air attacks, 'D' Squadron of the SAS put in a major raid to simulate a battalion-sized attack on the Argentine troops dug in on Darwin Ridge.
On 4 May, three Royal Navy Sea Harriers operating from HMS Hermes attacked the airfield and installations at Goose Green. During the operation, a Sea Harrier was shot down by Argentine 35mm anti-aircraft fire, killing its pilot, Lt-Commander Nick Taylor. His body, still in the ejector seat, was recovered by residents of Goose Green, and buried with full military honours under Argentine supervision.
Just after 2.30 am of 28 May, 2 Para launched its attack on the Argentines to capture Goose Green 'before breakfast'. RI 12's A Company under First Lieutenant Jorge Manresa defended the Darwin Parks sector with two rifle platoons, and a mortar platoon. For 90 minutes the forward Argentine platoons were pounded with naval artillery from HMS Arrow. In the ensuing night battle about twelve Argentines were killed. The platoon under Sub-Lieutenant Malacalza fought a delaying action against the British paratroopers, blooding themselves on Burntside Hill before taking up combat positions again on Darwin Ridge.
Major Philip Neame's D Company was temporarily halted by the Coronation Ridge position. Two of his men, 25-year-old Lance-Corporal Gary Bingley and 19-year-old Private Barry Grayling darted out from under cover to charge the enemy machine gun nest that was holding up the advance. Both were hit 10 metres (11 yd) from the machine gun, but shot two of the crew before collapsing. He [Bingley] got hit in the head and I got hit in the hip, Grayling recalled in an interview published in 2007. Unfortunately, he didn't make it. Bingley was posthumously awarded the Military Medal and Grayling was decorated with the Queen's Gallantry Medal. With the enemy machine gun out of action, the Paras were able to clear the Argentine platoon position, but at the cost of three dead.
Then 2 Para moved on to the south via Darwin Parks. The Argentines made a determined stand along Darwin Ridge. As A and B Companies moved south from Coronation Ridge they were raked by fire from a couple of concealed Argentine FN MAG machine guns. An Argentine senior NCO, Company Sergeant-Major Juan Carlos Cohelo, is credited with rallying the RI 12's A Company remnants falling back from Darwin Parks. He was seriously wounded later in the day and for his bravery was awarded the Argentine Nation to the Valour in Combat Medal.
The first British assault was broken up by fire from Sub-Lieutenant Ernesto Peluffo's RI 12 platoon. Corporal Osvaldo Faustino Olmos, of RI 25 refused to leave his foxhole and continued firing at the British company as it moved forward. The Paras called on the Argentines to surrender. Corporal Olmos was later interviewed by the British newspaper "Daily Express" and credited with the killing of Lieutenant-Colonel Jones.
At this juncture of the battle, 2nd Para's advance had become stuck. A Company was in the gorse line at the bottom of Darwin Hill, and against the entrenched Argentines who were looking down the hill at them. As daylight was now all over the battlefield, Jones led an unsuccessful charge up a small gully resulting in the death of the adjutant, Captain Wood, A Company's second-in-command Captain Dent, and Corporal Hardman.
Shortly thereafter Jones was seen to run West along the base of Darwin Ridge to a small re-entrant, followed by his bodyguard. He checked his Sterling SMG then ran up the hill toward an Argentine trench. He was seen to be hit once, then fell, then got up and was hit again from the side. He fell metres short of the trench, had been hit in the back and the groin, and died within minutes.
Jones was later to receive the Victoria Cross for his efforts. As Jones lay dying, his men radioed for urgent casualty evacuation. However, the British Scout Helicopter sent to evacuate Jones was shot down by an Argentine FMA IA 58 Pucara ground attack aircraft. The pilot, Lt. Richard Nunn RM was killed and posthumously received the DFC, and the aircrewman, Sgt. Belcher RM badly wounded in both legs. 12th Regiment Corporal José Luis Ríos, who in the opinion of historian Hugh Bicheno killed Lieutenant-Colonel Jones, was later fatally wounded in his trench by Corporal Abols firing a 66 mm rocket.
By then it was 10.30 am and Major Dair Farrar-Hockley's A Company made a third attempt, but this petered out. Eventually the British company, hampered by the morning fog as they advanced up the slope of Darwin Ridge, were driven back to the gulley by the fire of 1st Platoon of RI 25's C Company, under the command of 2nd Lieutenant Roberto Estévez. During this action Lieutenant Estévez directed Argentine 105 mm artillery and 120 mm mortar fire that posthumously earned him the Argentine Nation to the Heroic Valour in Combat Cross (CHVC). 2 Para's mortar crews fired 1,000 rounds to keep the enemy at bay, and helped stop the Argentines getting a proper aim at the Paras.
It was almost noon before the British advance resumed. Inspired by their commanding officer's sacrifice, A Company soon cleared the eastern end of the Argentine position and opened the way forward. There had been two battles going on in the Darwin hillocks – one around Darwin Hill looking down on Darwin Bay, and an equally fierce one in front of Boca Hill, also known as Boca House Ruins. Sub-Lieutenant Guillermo Ricardo Aliaga's 3rd Platoon of RI 8's C Company held Boca Hill. The position of Boca Hill was taken after heavy fighting by Major John Crosland's B Company with support from the MILAN anti-tank platoon. Sub-Lieutenants Aliaga and Peluffo were gravely wounded in the fighting. Crosland was the most experienced British officer, and as the events of the day unfolded, it was later said that Crosland's cool and calm leadership of his soldiers on the battlefield turned the Boca House section of the front line.
About the time of the victory at the Boca Hill position, A Company overcame the Argentine defenders on Darwin Hill, finally taking the position that had caused many casualties on both sides. Majors Farrar-Hockley and Crosland each won the Military Cross for their efforts. Corporal David Abols received a Distinguished Conduct Medal for his daring charges which turned the Darwin Hill battle.
After the victory on Darwin Ridge, C and D Companies began to make their way to the small airfield as well as Darwin School, which was east of the airfield, while B Company made their way south of Goose Green Settlement. A Company remained on Darwin Hill. C Company took heavy losses when they became the target of intense anti-aircraft 35 mm direct fire suffering 20 per cent casualties. Private Mark Hollman-Smith, a signaller in the company headquarters, was killed by anti-aircraft fire while trying to recover a heavy machine gun from wounded Private Steve Russell.
Lieutenant James Barry's No. 12 Platoon, D company, saw some fierce action at the airfield. They were ambushed, by another platoon of the 25th Regiment but one of his men shot dead two of the attackers, and then reported the events to Major Neame. The platoon sergeant charged the attacking enemy with his machine gun, killing four of them. Private Graham Carter won the Military Medal by rallying No. 12 Platoon and leading it forward at bayonet point to take the airfield.
The RI 25 platoon defending the airfield fled into the Darwin-Goose Green track and was able to escape. Sergeant Sergio Ismael Garcia, of RI 25, single-handedly covered the withdrawal of his platoon during the British counterattack. He was posthumously awarded the Argentine Nation to the Valour in Combat Medal. Four Paras of D Company and approximately a dozen Argentines were killed in these engagements. Among the dead was 29-year-old Lieutenant Barry, who, along with two NCOs (Lance-Corporal Smith and Corporal Sullivan), was killed after a local truce in which the British officer tried to convince Sub Lieutenant Juan José Gómez Centurión of the need of his RI 25 platoon to lay down their arms. C Company had not lost a single man in the Darwin School fighting, but Private Steve Dixon, from D Company, died when a splinter from a 35 mm anti-aircraft shell struck him in the chest. The Argentine anti-aircraft guns reduced the building to rubble.
As day became night, two Argentine Air Force warrant officers who were POWs were sent to the Argentine commanders at Goose Green by the acting CO of 2nd Para, Major Chris Keeble, with the terms of surrender.
- "MILITARY OPTIONS
We have sent a PW to you under a white flag of truce to convey the following military options:
- 1. That you unconditionally surrender your force to us by leaving the township, forming up in a military manner, removing your helmets and laying down your weapons. You will give prior notice of this intention by returning the PW under a white flag with him briefed as to the formalities by no later than 0830 hrs local time.
2. You refuse in the first case to surrender and take the inevitable consequences. You will give prior notice of this intention by returning the PW without his flag (although his neutrality will be respected) no later than 0830 hrs local time. 3. In the event and in accordance with the terms and conditions of the Geneva Convention and Laws of War you will be held responsible for the fate of any civilians in Darwin and Goose Green and we in accordance with these terms do give notice of our intention to bombard Darwin and Goose Green.
- C KEEBLE
Commander of British Forces"
'Juliet' Company, 42 Commando (composed mainly of members of Naval Party 8901) was flown to Darwin to reinforce 2 Para and at the same time plans were made that night for 'Bravo' Company, 6th Regiment to be taken by helicopter to Goose Green in a spoiler move.
The following day Lieutenant-Colonel Piaggi surrendered all Argentine forces, approximately 1,000 men, including 202 men of the Air Force. He was later discharged from the army in disgrace. Major Keeble was awarded the Distinguished Service Order. The fourteen-hour battle had cost the British 17 killed and 64 wounded according to Surgeon Commander Rick Jolly, who was in charge of treating the wounded.
47 Argentines were killed and 120 wounded, with the 12th Regiment losing 32 killed and about 70 wounded. After the battle, vast quantities of Argentine weapons and unused ammunition, were deployed among ships of the Royal Navy moored at San Carlos Water.
During the planning of the assault of both Darwin and Goose Green, the Battalion Headquarters were listening in to the BBC World Service. The newsreader announced that the 2nd Battalion of the Parachute Regiment were poised and ready to assault Darwin and Goose Green, causing great confusion with the commanding officers of the battalion. Lieutenant Colonel Jones became furious with the level of incompetence and told BBC representative Robert Fox he was going to sue the BBC, Whitehall and the War Cabinet.
Argentine military trials of 2009
Argentine army officers and NCOs were later accused of abusing and killing their own troops at Goose Green. Our own officers were our greatest enemies, says Ernesto Alonso, the president of CECIM, a veterans group founded by Rodolfo Carrizo and other conscripts of the 7th Regiment. They supplied themselves with whiskey from the pubs, but they weren't prepared for war. They disappeared when things got serious. There are others who maintain that the conscripts were helped to make themselves as comfortable as possible under the circumstances and that their officers and NCOs fought well and tried hard to bolster morale.
In 2009, Argentine authorities in Comodoro Rivadavia ratified a decision made by authorities in Río Grande, Tierra del Fuego (which, according to Argentina, have authority over the islands) charging 70 officers and NCOs with inhumane treatment of conscript soldiers during the war. We have testimony from 23 people about a soldier who was shot to death by a corporal, four other former combatants who starved to death, and at least 15 cases of conscripts who were staked out on the ground, Pablo Vassel, under-secretary of human rights in the province of Corrientes, told Inter Press Service News Agency.
On 19 May a 12th Regiment conscript, Secundino Riquelme, reportedly died of starvation. There are claims, however, that false testimonies were used as evidence in accusing the Argentine officers and NCOs of abandonment and Vassel had to step down from his post as under-secretary of human rights of Corrientes in 2010. Other veterans are sceptical about the veracity of the accusations with Colonel Martiniano Duarte saying that it has become fashionable for ex-conscripts to now accuse their superiors of abandonment.
Former conscript Fernando Cangiano has also dismissed the claims about the supposed widespread sadism present among the Argentine officers and NCOs and the claim that the conscripts had not handled themselves well in the fighting. Former conscript César Trejo also accused the current Argentine Ministry of Defense, Nilda Garré of promoting a state of confused politics in favour of the CECIM.
Sub-Lieutenant Gustavo Malacalza is accused of handing out field punishment in his platoon in the form of having staked three conscripts at Goose Green, for having abandoned their positions to go looking for food and revealing their positions with gunfire. "We said it was going to be us next," said Private Mario Oscar Nuñez recalling the death of conscript Riquelme. Soon after the British landings, he and two other conscripts took the decision to kill a sheep. The three men were skinning the sheep when they were discovered by Sub-Lieutenant Malacalza, who was accompanied by fellow conscripts of A Company, 12th Regiment and given a beating. They started kicking and stamping on us. Finally came the staking.
References and sources
- p. 272 in Mark Adkin: Goose Green - A battle is Fought to be Won, 1992, Pen & Sword Books Ltd., ISBN 0-85052-207-2
- Suplemento de Historia Argentina (Spanish)
- Memories of the Falklands. Iain Dale. p. 73. Politico's, 2002
- No Picnic: Julian Thompson, 3 Commando Brigade in the Falklands, 200pp, Pen & Sword Books
- The Battle for the Falklands by Max Hastings, Simon Jenkins, pp. 264–265 (W W Norton, 1983)
- Blood and Mud at Goose Green. David Aldea & Don Darnell., EBSCO Host Connection.
- "When warned that his regiment was earmarked for deployment to the Falklands, Seineldin renamed it the 25th 'Special' Infantry Regiment although Argentine journalists later christened it the Seineldin Commando Regiment. In Stanley he enlarged it to five companies of about 100 men each by adding D and E Companies. Most of the officers and NCOs were commandos and paratroopers and with a highly trained and motivated training team, he brought the best from his conscripts in a short but tough commando course." Van Der Bijl, 9 Battles To Stanley, p. 13
- Nine battles to Stanley, Nicholas Van der Bijl, p.13, Leo Cooper, 30/09/1999
- Battle order at Goose Green
- Andrada, pp. 86–90
- Middlebrook, p. 253
- Rodríguez Mottino, Héctor (1984). La Artillería Argentina en Malvinas. Ed. Clío, pp. 193–194. ISBN 950-9377-02-3. (Spanish)
- Pook, Jerry (2007). RAF Harrier Ground Attack-Falklands. Pen & Sword Books ltd., p. 109. ISBN 978-1-84415-551-4 (English)
- Jackson, Robert (1985). The RAF in action: from Flanders to the Falklands. Blandford Press, p. 156. ISBN 0713714190
- Van der Bijl, Nicholas (1999). Nine battles to Stanley. Leo Cooper, p. 127. ISBN 0850526191
- At home on new battle front. An ex-British soldier is putting Pasco High on the state soccer map. By Izzy Gould. Tampa Bay Times. Published 9 February 2007
- La muerte de un coronel británico en Malvinas. Clarín. 18 June 1996
- Lost in the fog of war. Robert Fox takes issue with Hugh Bicheno's history of the Falklands conflict, Razor's Edge. By Robert Fox. The Guardian Published Saturday 1 April 2006
- Harclerode, p. 329.
- Fitzgibbon, pp. 147–148.
- Reynolds, David (2002). Task force: the illustrated history of the Falklands War. Sutton, p. 150. ISBN 0-7509-2845-X
- According to historian Mark Adkin, both Lance-Corporal Nigel Smith and Corporal Paul Sullivan were killed fighting: "Lance Corporal Smith aimed his 66mm rocket, but as he did so he was shot at the moment of firing. The rocket exploded in a flash of flame on his back; he died instantly. In the general confusion Corporal Sullivan was also hit and killed." Mark Adkin, p. 326, Goose Green: A Battle Is Fought to Be Won, Leo Cooper 1992
- The fight for the "Malvinas": The Argentine forces in the Falklands War. Martin Middlebrook. p. 189. Penguin, 1990
- The History of the South Atlantic conflict: The War for the Malvinas. Rubén Oscar Moro. p. 264. Praeger, 1989
- "Goose Green: The Argentinian Story" by David Aldea. British Small Wars website
- Argentine Forces in the Falklands. Nick Bijl. p. 18. Osprey Publishing, 19/06/2012
- The Falklands War, Paul Eddy, Magnus Linklater, p. 238, André Deutsch, 1982
- Argentina's Falklands War Veterans. 'Cannon Fodder in a War We Couldn't Win'. By Jens Glüsing, Spiegel.de, 4 March 2007
- 3 Para – Mount Longdon – The Bloodiest Battle. Elite Forces Operations Series. Page 55. By Jon Cooksey.
- Confirman el juzgamiento por torturas en Malvinas (Spanish), Clarín, Buenos Aires, 27 June 2009
- Argentina: Soldiers Report Torture, Murder – By Superiors – in Malvinas. By Marcela Valente. IPS
- Centro de Ex Soldados Combatientes en Malvinas de Corrientes (Spanish)
- Categorized | Feature, Human Rights The Enemy Within: Investigating Torture In The Malvinas. By Marc Rogers.
- Malvinas y el “Código de honor” (Spanish) (Malvinas and the Code of honour). By Fernando Cangiano. Izquierda Nacional, febrero de 2002 (National Left, February 2002)
- Críticas a Garré y respaldo para Bendini. Clarin Newspaper. 15 June 2007 (Spanish)
- "Falklands conscripts recall torture and death at hands of officers". The Times. 18 June 2009
- Andrada, Benigno (1983). Guerra aérea en las Malvinas. Ed. Emecé. ISBN 950-04-0191-6. (Spanish)
- Harclerode, Peter (1 May 1993). Para!: Fifty Years of the Parachute Regiment (Reprint edition ed.). Arms and Armour. ISBN 1-85409-097-6.
- Fitz-Gibbon, Spencer (1995). Not Mentioned in Dispatches: The History and Mythology of the Battle of Goose Green. Lutterworth Press. ISBN 0-7188-2933-6.
- Kenney Oak, David J. 2 Para's Battle for Darwin Hill and Goose Green. Square Press April 2006. ISBN 0-9660717-1-9.
- Falklands War Binderbook – Author Information Pending
- Martin Middlebrook (1989). The Fight For The Malvinas: The Argentine Forces In The Falklands War. Viking. ISBN 0-14-010767-3.
- See Naval-History.Net for detailed article and map of battle
- Major Chris Keeble recalls his battle
- Robert Bolia's detailed article reassessing the command abilities of the Argentine Regimental Commander at Goose Green
- Alejandro Corbacho's detailed article reassessing the fighting spirit and cohesion of the Argentine conscripts and regulars during the battle of Goose Green
- Twenty-five years on, the widow and son of Captain Chris Dent who died with Colonel 'H' Jones pay tribute to his memory
- Colonel 'H' Jones won a posthumous VC but his bravery did not undermine the defenders