Battle of Wireless Ridge

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Battle of Wireless Ridge
Part of Falklands War
Date 13 June 1982 – 14 June 1982
Location Wireless Ridge, Falkland Islands
Result British victory
Belligerents
Argentina Argentina United Kingdom United Kingdom
Commanders and leaders
Omar Giménez Lt. Col. David Chaundler
Strength
500 600
Casualties and losses
25 killed
125 wounded
37 captured
3 killed
11 wounded

The Battle of Wireless Ridge was an engagement of the Falklands War which took place on the night from 13 June to 14 June 1982, between British and Argentine forces during the advance towards the Argentine-occupied capital of the Falkland Islands, Port Stanley.

Wireless Ridge was one of seven strategic hills within five miles of Stanley at 51°40′14″S 57°55′55″W / 51.67056°S 57.93194°W / -51.67056; -57.93194 (Wireless Ridge)Coordinates: 51°40′14″S 57°55′55″W / 51.67056°S 57.93194°W / -51.67056; -57.93194 (Wireless Ridge) that had to be taken in order for the Island's capital to be approached. The attack was successful, and the entire Argentine force on the Islands surrendered later that day.

The British force consisted of 2nd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment (2 Para), a troop of the Blues & Royals, with two FV101 Scorpion and two FV107 Scimitar light tanks, as well as artillery support from two batteries of 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery and naval gunfire support provided by HMS Ambuscade's 4.5-in gun. The Argentine force consisted of the 7th Infantry Regiment and detachments from other units. The first Argentine unit to arrive in the sector was that commanded by José Rodolfo Banetta that took up residence inside the Moody Brook Barracks,[1] but this unit had to evacuate the area on 11 June when British fire struck the building, killing three conscripts and wounding the Argentine major. At first, the 7th Regiment on Wireless Ridge was relatively comfortable, shooting sheep and roasting them on an old bed frame the soldiers had found nearby.[2] Private Guillermo Vélez maintains that he personally shot and killed 50 sheep during his time on Wireless Ridge.[3]

Background[edit]

After heavy losses during the Battle of Goose Green, including their commander, Lieutenant Colonel 'H' Jones, command of 2 Para passed to Lieutenant-Colonel David Chaundler, who was in England at the time of the battle. Chaundler flew to Ascension Island on a Vickers VC10 and then to the Falklands on a C-130 Hercules that was dropping supplies by parachute. Chaundler jumped into the sea, where he was picked up by helicopter and eventually delivered to HMS Hermes for a briefing with Admiral Woodward and then to Major General Jeremy Moore's headquarters.

Four days after Goose Green, Chaundler joined 2 Para. After debriefing the battalion's officers about Goose Green and the events following, he vowed that the unit would never again go into action without fire support.

From Fitzroy, 2 Para were moved by helicopter to Bluff Cove Peak where they were held in reserve. The first line of hills: Two Sisters, Mount Longdon and Mount Harriet, were taken. Three other hills were then slated to be captured: Mount Tumbledown by the Scots Guards, Mount William by the Ghurkhas and Wireless Ridge by 2 Para. The final phase of 3 Commando Brigade's campaign, the battle for Stanley, would follow the capture of these hills.

On the morning of 13 June, it became clear that the attacks on Tumbledown had been successful. So 2 Para marched around the back of Mount Longdon to take up their positions for the assault on Wireless Ridge. As the action was expected to be concluded quickly, they took only their weapons and as much ammunition as possible, leaving most other gear behind in the camp. On Bluff Cove Peak, the Battalion's mortars and heavy machine guns were attacked by Argentine A-4 Skyhawks, which delayed their planned move forward, although they suffered no casualties.

Initial assault[edit]

Final Actions, 13 to 14 June 1982

In the closing hours of the 13 June, D Company (Coy) began the attack sequence, advancing upon 'Rough Diamond' hill north-west of Mount Longdon. It had been hit by an intense barrage from British guns, from land and sea.

In the preceding 12 to 14 hours, British artillery had fired 6,000 rounds with their 105 mm pieces, and as they began their push, they were further backed by naval fire and the 76 and 30 mm guns mounted on the light tanks. The approximately 80 casualties sustained by 2 Para two weeks earlier at the Battle of Goose Green (including the loss of their commanding officer), had induced them not to take any unnecessary chances the second time around. The Argentine Commanding Officer, Lt.Col. Omar Giménez, says that 3 or 4 times he was nearly killed by a direct hit during the softening up bombardment.[4]

When D Coy reached the hill, they found that the Argentine compañía C of the 7th Infantry Regiment had withdrawn due to the heavy bombardment. As Major Philip Neame's D Coy started to consolidate their position, the Argentine 7th Regiment launched a series of heavy recoilless rifle, rocket and mortar attacks on Mount Longdon, causing casualties to the 3rd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment (3 Para).[5]

With this massive fire support, A and B Coys were convinced the enemy on the 'Apple Pie' feature had been defeated, and began to advance confidently, but they met fierce resistance when they left their trenches. They came under heavy machine-gun fire; massive retaliation was initiated by the British machine-gunners and the guns of the Blues and Royals light tanks.

One Mount Longdon survivor from 3 Para recalled the British attack which was initially repulsed by the Argentines:

They tried going over the top first, but the incoming fire was too heavy so they went back behind the peat and waited for more artillery to soften them up.[6]

The Argentine defenders there eventually withdrew in the face of such withering fire and A and B Coys took their objective. By this stage of the battle, there were not many experienced Argentine officers left. The Forward Artillery Observation Officer (Major Guillermo Nani), the Operations Officer (Captain Carlos Ferreyra) and the compañía A and C commanders (Captains Jorge Calvo and Hugo García) and at least three senior platoon commanders (First Lieutenants Antonio Estrada, Jorge Guidobono and Ramon Galíndez-Matienzo), were wounded. C Coy then moved down from their northern start line to advance to a position east of Wireless Ridge where they found a platoon position to be unoccupied.

By about 4.30am, Lieutenant-Colonel Gimenez knew that the 7th Infantry Regiment had been decisively defeated; Communications are lost, my whole regiment is finished,[7] but other attached units continued to fight.

Final assault[edit]

D Coy then began the final assault from the western end of Wireless Ridge, under the cover of heavy fire from HMS Ambuscade's 4.5 inch gun, tanks, twelve 105 mm artillery pieces, several mortars and anti-tank rockets. Earlier Argentine GHQ had sent the dismounted 10th Panhard AML squadron to make a reconnaissance foray into the western rocks of Wireless Ridge.

Captain Rodrigo Soloaga was particularly effective in persuading his men to engage the British light tanks, Milan Platoon and the Machinegun Platoon on 'Apple Pie' while the 7th Regiment's HQ sorted themselves out. In two hours the cavalry unit suffered five dead and about 50 wounded.

Major Neame's D Coy took the first half of the objective after a hard fight with Argentine paratroopers from Second Lieutenant Gustavo Alberto Aimara platoon of the 2nd Airborne Infantry Regiment, with ex-Para Tony Banks later writing about the engagement:

The word was given to advance and we scrambled through peat bogs and what we later learned was a minefield. We reached the first enemy trenches, but there was nobody there. They’d bolted. But as we started out along the ridge, a scene from Star Wars erupted with tracer rounds flying everywhere. We were up against well armed, well disciplined and highly motivated enemy soldiers in good positions.[8]

Neame's company suffered two killed (Privates David Parr and Francis Slough) before being able to overrun Aimara's men, but then came under fierce attack from Major Guillermo Berazay's compañía A of the 3rd Regiment which had tried to move forward to Mount Longdon during the fighting two nights earlier but had only reached Moody Brook valley. With Lieutenant José Dobroevic's 81mm Mortar Platoon providing fire support, the company, in the form of the platoons of Sub-Lieutenant Carlos Javier Aristegui and 2nd Lieutenant Víctor Rodriguez-Pérez advanced to contact. Private Patricio Pérez, who had just left school, recalled the unnerving experience of 66 mm rockets coming straight at them like undulating fireballs.[9] He believed he shot a British Paratrooper, possibly 12 Platoon's commander, and became enraged when he heard that his friend, Private Horacio Benítez from his platoon, had been shot.[10]

The platoon of 2nd Lieutenant Rodriguez-Pérez in fact closed with the British 12 Platoon, under the command of Lieutenant Jonathan Page (following the death of Lieutenant Barry at Goose Green). The fight surged back and forth. Lieutenant Page managed to hold the line, but only just.

Major-General John Dutton Frost of the British Army describes the resulting attack on 12 Platoon:

For two very long hours the company remained under pressure. Small-arms fire mingled with all types of HE [high explosive rifle-grenades] fell in and around 12 Platoon's position as the men crouched in the abandoned enemy sangars [a type of fortification] and in shell holes.[11]

According to Major Neame:

Then from the east we got this counterattack. Jon Page, whose platoon I had left up that end did a really bloody good job. He managed to get hold of our artillery by flicking his radio onto their net, as we were still without our FOO. That broke up their attack.[12]

Major Neame's officers and NCOs rallied the men to capture the final part of their objective and in the face of heavy fire, the Argentines having run out of ammunition, broke and retreated under the covering fire from the supporting machinegun fire, controlled by Lieutenant Horacio Alejandro Mones-Ruiz of Berazay's compañía. Privates Esteban Tríes and Lupin Serrezuela of Rodriguez-Pérez's platoon, volunteered to stay behind and rescue their wounded platoon sergeant, Manuel Villegas, laboriously carrying him to Port Stanley.[13]

Private Michael Savage and other survivors from Compañía C were the first 7th Regiment troops to reach the relative safety of Port Stanley, only to be greeted with shock and disdain, he recalls, by immaculately dressed staff officers:

They had been sleeping in houses, in warm beds. They had shiny shoes, pristine ironed uniforms and waxed moustaches. They even had heating in their cars. I was so furious with them.[14]

The battle was not over yet. One of the Argentine Army staff officers, the 10th Brigade Operations Officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Eugenio Dalton, during the pre-dawn darkness of 14 June, was seen driving around in a jeep marshalling tired, panicky and dazed soldiers from various units into a company and led them into Stanley's western sector under heavy fire.[15] Some 200 Wireless Ridge survivors had been rallied by Dalton to form, under heavy gunfire, a last-ditch defensive line in front of the now silenced guns of the 4th Airborne Artillery Group near the racecourse. Near the church in Stanley, intent on helping Berazay, Major Carrizo-Salvadores, Second-in-command of the 7th Regiment, helped by the chaplain Father José Fernández,[16] mustered about 50 Wireless Ridge survivors and led them on a bayonet charge, with the soldiers chanting their famous 'Malvinas March', but were stopped by heavy artillery and machine-gun fire.[17]The Paras were momentarily alarmed and watched surprised, with Major Philip Neame describing it as quite a sporting effort, but one without a sporting chance.[18]Major Neame later gave more details: Then as daylight began we got another counter-attack, this time from the Moody brook side onto Sean Webster's platoon. I thought 'bloody hell, what's going on around here?' I wondered what we had got into and thought that this was most unlike the Argentinians. For a while they were quite persistent.[19]

The 2 Para had suffered three dead and eleven wounded. The Argentines suffered approximately 25 dead and about 125 wounded, (mainly by airburst rounds rather than direct shots)[citation needed] and about 50 were taken prisoner. In the final stages of the battle, Brigadier-General Jofre had been offered the use of Skyhawks to bomb Wireless Ridge with napalm but declined in the belief that the British response would be commensurate.[20][21]

For the bravery shown at Wireless Ridge, 2 Para was awarded three Military Crosses, one Military Medal and one Distinguished Conduct Medal. 29 Commando was awarded one Military Cross.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Desde El Frente Batallon De Infanteria De Marina Nº 5, Carlos H. Robacio, Carlos Hugo Robacio, Jorge Hernández, p. 216, Centro Naval, Instituto de Publicaciones Navales, 01/01/1996
  2. ^ ‘You never get over it, but I have a double problem. I was fighting against Brits, people who were as good as family' . By Sophie Arie. Published on Saturday 30 March 2002. news.scotsman.com.
  3. ^ Daniel Kon, p. 24, Los Chicos de la Guerra: Hablan los soldados que estuvieron en Malvinas, Galerna, 1982
  4. ^ “Cuando volví parecía un delincuente”
  5. ^ There is half an hour between dawn and the arrival of the first casualties, mainly Scots Guards from Tumbledown. Fitzroy are saturated, and Teal Inlet busy with 3 Para casualties from an all-night stonking of Mount Longdon by enemy artillery. Jolly, 1983; p. 127
  6. ^ The Scars of War, Hugh McManners, p.185, HarperCollins, 21/01/1993
  7. ^ Nine battles to Stanley, Nicholas Van der Bijl, p.209, Leo Cooper, 30/09/1999
  8. ^ An ex-Para tells of the horrors of the Falklands
  9. ^ Bilton and Kosminsky, 1989
  10. ^ I was carrying two rifles and I noticed that there was a sniper who was pinning me down. I wanted to come out of the rock and kill him but I couldn't because the firing was so intense. At that moment I heard somebody shout that he had seen the sniper. I came out, saw that he was leaning over the rock and shot at him and his gun fell silent. I saw him fall but I don't know whether he was wounded or dead. That kind of combat among the rocks is like a Western, but it all happens so fast that you don't quite realise what is going on ... What I felt at that moment was mostly hatred. I wanted revenge. I had forgotten fear by then, what sort of risk I was taking; the only thing I wanted to do, my obsession, was to avenge my fallen comrades. Whenever I saw one of my friends hit it was worse, it just made me want to continue fighting, it didn't matter for how long or at what cost. I didn't care about death at that time, the main thing was revenge ... We sent the wounded down and returned to the battle and fought on for four hours. Luckily after the surrender I found out that Horacio had survived. People greeted the surrender with relief. They were all crying. That wasn't how I reacted. I had been fighting for many hours and I was not prepared to give up my rifle until forced to do so. It's different for those who had been in actual combat. I couldn't give my rifle back until they took it away from me, and when I did give it back I made sure it was completely unusable. "Speaking Out" Bilton and Kosminsky pg. 192
  11. ^ Frost, 1983
  12. ^ Above All, Courage: The Falklands Front Line: First-Hand Accounts, Max Arthur, p.200, Sidgwick & Jackson, 1985
  13. ^ Rescatando al sargento Villegas
  14. ^ ‘You never get over it, but I have a double problem. I was fighting against Brits, people who were as good as family' . By Sophie Arie. Published on Saturday 30 March 2002. news.scotsman.com.
  15. ^ 5th Infantry Brigade in the Falklands 1982, Nicholas Van der Bijl, David Aldea, p.30, Leo Cooper, 2003
  16. ^ Nine battles to Stanley, Nicholas Van der Bijl, p.209, Leo Cooper, 30/09/1999
  17. ^ Razor's Edge: The Unofficial History of the Falklands War, Hugh Bicheno, p.312, Phoenix, 01/02/2007
  18. ^ Operation Corporate: The Falklands War, 1982, Martin Middlebrook, p.371, Viking, 1985
  19. ^ Above All, Courage: The Falklands Front Line: First-Hand Accounts, Max Arthur, p.201, Sidgwick & Jackson, 1985
  20. ^ Brigadier General Jofre had already refused an offer of Skyhawks to napalm Wireless Ridge because he believed the British response would be catastrophic Nine battles to Stanley, Nicholas Van der Bijl, p.214, Leo Cooper, 30/09/1999
  21. ^ Conflito Das Malvinas, Paulo de Queiroz Duarte, p. 348, Biblioteca do Exército Editora, 1986 (Portuguese)

External links[edit]

Sources[edit]

  • Bilton, Michael and Kosminsky, Peter (comp.) (1989). Speaking Out: Untold Stories from the Falklands War. André Deutsch Ltd. ISBN 0-233-98404-6. 
  • Frost, John (1983). 2 Para Falklands - The Battalion At War. Buchan & Enright. ISBN 0-7221-3689-7. 
  • Jolly, Rick (1983) The red and green life machine : a diary of the Falklands Field Hospital, London: Century, ISBN 0-7126-0158-9
  • McManners, Hugh (1994). The Scars of War. HarperCollins. ISBN 0-586-21129-2. 
  • Paul, James and Spirit, Martin (2002) Second time around for 2 Para: The Battle for Wireless Ridge, Britain's Small Wars, WWW site, Accessed 19 March 2007