Gavin Hamilton (British Army officer)

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Gavin John Hamilton
Born (1953-05-15)15 May 1953
Harrogate, North Yorkshire[1]
Died 10 June 1982(1982-06-10) (aged 29)
Port Howard, Falkland Islands
Buried Port Howard Cemetery
Allegiance United Kingdom
Service/branch British Army
Years of service 1975–1982
Rank Captain
Unit Green Howards
19 Troop, 22 SAS
Battles/wars

Operation Banner
Falklands War

Awards Military Cross

Gavin John Hamilton, MC (15 May 1953 – 10 June 1982)[2] was a British Army officer. He was the Officer Commanding 19 (Mountain) Troop, D Squadron, 22 Special Air Service during the Falklands War when he was killed in his 29th year whilst behind enemy lines on West Falkland.[3] He was the first posthumous recipient of the Military Cross.

Military career[edit]

Having graduated from the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, Hamilton was commissioned as a subaltern with the Green Howards, with the Service No.499793 in 1975, and served with the British Army in Cyprus, Belize, and South Armagh in Ulster during Operation Banner. He was transferred into the Special Air Service in 1981, being attached initially to its D Squadron, 19 (Mountain) Troop.[4]

Falklands War[edit]

South Georgia and Pebble Island[edit]

Having survived two helicopter crashes in adverse weather conditions on the Fortuna Glacier in South Georgia during Operation Paraquet, two days later Hamilton led the advance elements of the forces which captured the main Argentine positions in Grytviken. This action resulted in the surrender of Argentinian garrison occupying South Georgia. Shortly afterwards he led the Raid on Pebble Island, which resulted in the destruction of eleven FMA IA 58 Pucará and T-34 Mentor Argentinian aircraft on the ground.

Observation on Stanley[edit]

Once British ground forces had landed at San Carlos, Hamilton deployed with his S.A.S. Squadron 40 miles behind the enemy lines to observe the main enemy defensive positions at Port Stanley, his leadership proving instrumental in seizing this ground, from which the final attack on Port Stanley, which would bring the war of liberation of the Falklands to a victorious conclusion, would ultimately be launched. On 27 May 1982 he identified an Argentine probe into the squadron's position and in the ensuing fight captured an Argentinian prisoner of war. The next night his troop held off another enemy attack, in doing so enabling 42 Commando Royal Marines to fly in to reinforce the position on 31 May 1982, which was a key stage in the Falkland Islands campaign. On the following day his troop ambushed another Argentinian patrol, capturing five members of it, three of whom were wounded.

Skirmish at Many Branch Point[edit]

On 5 June 1982 Hamilton was deployed in command of a four-man observation patrol into positions behind enemy lines on West Falkland to observe Argentinian activity at Port Howard. He established himself in an observation post only 2500 metres from the Argentine positions, from which radio reports were dispatched. Shortly after dawn on 10 June 1982 he and a radio operator, Corporal Roy Fonseka, both together in the post, were discovered by an Argentinian patrol from the 1st Section of the 601 Commando Company, operating out of Port Howard. Fonseka engaged the enemy force followed by Hamilton. As the small arms fire-fight continued with grenades being exchanged, during which Hamilton was hit in the arm by a rifle bullet, Hamilton ordered that they should both attempt to fight their way out. Since the only withdrawal route available was to the rear, and was exposed to enemy observation on the up slope of the ridge for 50 yards to the summit, Hamilton maintained automatic covering fire from within the post at the Argentinian commandos to allow Fonseka to withdraw first in a co-ordinated fall-back manoeuvre. Hamilton then attempted to follow, and in the process was struck by Argentinian rifle fire and killed, Fonseka being afterwards taken prisoner of war.[5][6]

Hamilton's body was buried with military honours by the Argentinian garrison on West Falkland, the grave lying in the small cemetery at Port Howard.[7]

When the Argentinian Commander of Port Howard, Colonel Juan Ramon Mabragana, was interrogated by the British Forces after the Argentinian surrender on the Falklands, he recommended that Hamilton should receive a gallantry decoration from H.M. Forces for his actions during the fire-fight.[8] Hamilton was subsequently awarded the Military Cross posthumously.[9]

Subsequent events[edit]

The Argentine commando patrol commander from the engagement, José Martiniano Duarte, met Hamilton's wife (Vicky Hamilton) in 2002 at the Argentinian Embassy in London, expressing his personal regret for the events that had occurred at Many Branch Point 20 years before that had claimed her husband's life, and praising his bravery.[10]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Bone Marrow Operation First: The Week That Was October 11 to 18, 1982". The Yorkshire Post. 11 October 2016. Retrieved 16 March 2017. 
  2. ^ "Personal Details: Hamilton, Gavin John". Armed Forces Memorial roll of honour. GOV.UK. Retrieved 23 May 2015. 
  3. ^ "Soldiers remember Falklands hero". The Northern Echo. 9 November 2008. 
  4. ^ 'Special Forces.Com' website, entry for Hamilton in the 'Roll of Honour'. http://www.specialforcesroh.com/showthread.php?4646-Hamilton-Gavin-John
  5. ^ Janq Designs. "Special Operations.Com". Special Operations.Com. Retrieved 4 October 2012. 
  6. ^ "London Gazette". Gazettes-online.co.uk. 8 October 1982. Retrieved 4 October 2012. 
  7. ^ Grave entry in Findagrave. http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=32111753
  8. ^ 'S.A.S. Heroes', by Pete Scholey. (Pub. Osprey Publishing), P.260.
  9. ^ "Honour Regained SAS Operations". Britains-smallwars.com. 2 April 1982. Retrieved 4 October 2012. 
  10. ^ "El combate que empezó en Malvinas y terminó en Londres". Edant.clarin.com. 15 June 2002. Retrieved 4 October 2012.