The Battle of Goose Green took place on 27/28 May 1982. The Parachute Regiment fought against a numerically superior enemy in tough conditions but overcame them and took a massive amount of prisoners to return the area to British control.
The Argentinians decided to try and take the Falklands from the British. They seemed to think, wrongly, that they had a claim for them despite the British being in control of them for longer than Argentina have even been a country.
It was Friday 2nd April 1982 when an Argentine military force invaded the islands. The Royal Marines surrendered to ensure no lives were lost. The Marines had caused damage to the 2800 strong invading force . Meanwhile on the invaders side some reports claim 1 dead and 3 wounded. I haven’t read it yet but Ricky Phillips has just released his book First Casualty – The Untold Story of the Falklands War in which he tells the real story of the early days of the invasion. Phillips explains how they killed at least 83 enemy troops and maybe up to 100. It’s a book I want to read.
Sending the Task Force
So anyway after Maggie Thatcher finished her cup of tea she dispatched a task force to take the islands back. The ground troops consisted mainly of Royal Marines and Paras but also Gurkhas and other army regiments.
The British landed on the West coast of the island, furthest from the capital Port Stanley as they thought this would be safest. The enemy were unaware of the British troops landing. The Paras went ashore without loss where they were forced to sit tight for a few days. The task force had sufficient equipment and stores that were being unloaded from the ships in San Carlos water. Getting a large amount of equipment sorted is a big job when it’s thousands of men heading 8,000 miles with all their kit to a hostile area. Then they need landing without being spotted.
All the while the Argentine Air Force were fight fierce battles in the air and conducting bombing missions on the British ships, taking out HMS Sheffield in the first few days of the fighting. The British politicians were getting twitchy arses back in the UK and thought morale was dropping among the British public.
The MPs thought there was a lack of momentum from the British forces in the Falklands. They were losing ships and not moving the ground troops any closer to victory. The men were just patrolling and digging in positions. Back home there were fears that the UN would vote for a ceasefire. This would mean holding current positions and nothing else. The British would be restricted to the small area of their landing site while the Argentinians would have the rest of the islands. This situation wasn’t ideal, in fact that would be dog shit.
Goose Green – A Quick Victory?
The big wigs decided that to get a quick victory to appease the public, they would attack Goose Green. Goose Green sat 10 miles south of the Sussex Mountains. 2 Para would be the boys to get it back. This was thought of as a bit of a needless mission that would lose lads to enemy fire for no massive tactical gain in the war. If Port Stanley fell then Goose Green would fall automatically but the same couldn’t be said the other way around.
They were told to head on regardless. Only there was a problem. 2ic Chris Keeble wanted to cancel the attack after it emerged that the BBC World Service announced on the radio that the British were poised to attack Darwin and Goose Green. Well done you dickheads. The BBC had literally committed treason by announcing the British plans on the fucking radio for everyone, including the enemy, to hear. Luckily the Argentinians thought nobody would be that stupid and so dismissed it as a bluff. They were to continue with the plan. HMS Arrow would be ready to give naval gunfire support during the hours of darkness.
Heading off to Goose Green
On 26 May 2 Para, led by Col H Jones, were ordered to move south to attack Goose green. They left from Sussex Mountains just after dusk and headed towards their first stop of Camilla Creek house. The ground was boggy and marshy. The weather was cold; the winter wind from Antarctica had already taken out a few of the lads from frostbite.
They arrived at the house in the early hours of 27 May. They sheltered in the house for the night and the next evening C Company went ahead to clear the route to the start line with the rest of the battalion following behind a few hours later. From the start line they split in to their three companies. B Coy took the western side of the isthmus while A Coy covered the eastern side of the isthmus heading south towards Darwin and Goose green. D Coy followed behind to mop up any enemy left by the other two.
In total there were 450 British troops that headed towards Goose Green.
At 02:30 on the 28th May, HMS Arrow started getting some rounds down on Argentine positions. It was time to wake up the fuckers and deal with them. The lads prepared to cross the start line. They fixed bayonets. The going was tough. Ravines, bogs, rocks and more were a constant hazard for the Paras.
Burnside House – First Stop to Goose Green
Burnside house was the next step in the plan and A Coy peppered the house with 66mm anti-tank rockets and machine gun fire. The enemy ran. It seems they didn’t appreciate the Paras popping by to say hello. Two of the Argentinians were killed during the contact. They also found some civvies taking cover. None of them were killed thank god. B Coy pushed on south down the west side of the isthmus with D Coy following behind down the centre to clear up the remaining Argentine defenders.
They came under fire by some well dug in enemy trenches, about six in all. They assaulted the trenches using machine guns and phosphorus grenades. Three men from D Coy were killed during the assault but it was a success. The enemy responded by shelling 2 Para as they made their way south and came close to hitting the CO and the Adjutant.
A Coy had a slight setback in that they approached Coronation Point under the impression of coming up against a Company sized enemy force. Instead there were no enemy. It’s good that no fighting occurred but they had to reorganise and adjust their plans to then start making their way to Darwin Hill.
As A Coy was moving to Darwin, B Coy was moving to Boca House. A Coy met some fierce resistance as they tried to reach the high ground on a ridge where they could dominate the area and move down in to Darwin with fewer problems. They were trapped in the gully and losing men to enemy fire. A lack of heavy fire support meant it was tough to get the advantage and have the momentum to move forwards and take the position.
Col H Jones, the CO, had sent forward a few men to a lip where they faced heavy enemy fire. The enemy killed three men. The Adjutant David Wood, the 2ic Chris Dent and Corporal Hardman were killed. This wasn’t good news. It was here that Lance Corporal Toole said to the boss “Sir, if you don’t get out of here now, you aren’t going to.” They were under heavy fire and were losing officers.
Jones spotted an enemy position that was laying down heavy fire. While they were distracted in contact with A Coy, Jones sneaked round to approach from the side of their position. He ran up a gully, towards the enemy position but there was another position behind him. Jones was shot in the neck by this enemy position and killed. Col H Jones was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions.
A Coy attacked again, spurred on even more by the death of their leader. They broke through the Argentine defence and were happy to see them starting to surrender. A Coy had fired three Milan missiles at the enemy positions. The first one had missed but the two hit the targets. That convinced the rest that it was best to surrender.
B Coy was also having casualties build up and the men were forced to retreat. A well dug in enemy at Boca House had repelled the attack. B Coy suffered three wounded. Private Illingworth, who had already dragged one of these men to safety, was shot and killed by a sniper as he was pulling one of the wounded to safety.
B Coy couldn’t use mortars to assist the attack. The Paras had used all the mortar ammunition. That’s the hard thing about conducting an attack. You need momentum but you also need supplies to keep reaching the front. If you can cut off the supply chain to the troops then they won’t be anywhere near as effective.
Mortars rained down on the Paras and added to the white phosphorus grenades, it had set alight the gorse in the area. Some maroon elements flanked to higher ground and here they fought on, taking two enemy positions. The Argies were waving more white flags. The enemy didn’t want to be a part of this fight anymore. B Coy took between 40 and 50 prisoners at Boca House.
Pushing for Goose Green
D Coy came up from the beach after the capture of Boca House and pushed on to a ridge that dominated the area around Goose Green. Other companies joined them as they came together for the final assault. Now the aim was to clear School house and the airfield. On the forward slope of Darwin Hill they came under heavy enemy fire from anti-aircraft guns, mortars and heavy artillery.
Now, it was here when the infamous “white flag” incident happened. In front of School House the Argentinians had trenches. When attacking these trenches Lieutenant Jim Barry saw a white flag over the enemy positions. Upon moving towards the enemy to accept the surrender of the position the enemy opened fire and killed him along with two NCOs.
It is thought that it wasn’t an act of treachery. According to Robert Fox on the right hand side of the British forces, a machine gun fired on the enemy position. The enemy returned fire and killed the men. 14 men attacked school house with a barrage of M79 and WP grenades and LMG fire. The house caught fire in the explosions and an unknown number of men died.
At this time the enemy had sent some support in the form of two A4 Skyhawk and then after that two Pucara. The Argentinians didn’t hit any British forces before we destroyed one of the Pucara. A Royal Marine fired a blowpipe and took the wing off. Small arms fire from the Paras took down the second Pucara. The first pilot was killed, the second pilot was captured.
The lads heard more aircraft approaching and their hearts sank for a second. To have more Pucara coming to bomb them was the last thing they needed. Except this time it wasn’t the enemy. Three British Harriers arrived and dropped a cluster bomb attack on the Argentine positions. The enemy had guns and radar-controlled cannons and they got a smack right in the mouth from the Harriers.
As first light approached the Argentine fight started to die down. The Paras had them surrounded. The British had the upper hand despite being shattered. They had been sleeping with no cover, no extra clothes and it was winter. Lads had already gone down with frostbite but all their kit was still at San Carlos where they started.
It wasn’t over yet though. Another threat came to face the British. An enemy Chinook and six Huey helicopters landed just to the south of Goose Green. Reinforcements were on their way and this would make things harder. Keeble called for artillery fire on the position and sent some troops down to block an attack by the reinforcements. They weren’t interested in fighting back because they knew their situation wasn’t good. The troops filtered away into the hills. British troops captured them in the following days.
One fight remained for the men. One position to take that would ensure a full British victory in this part of the island. Goose Green itself. The enemy had strong positions. Probable mine fields would be a big obstacle and defensive positions would be hard to clear. Keeble contacted Julian Thompson who duly agreed to send more troops. J Coy 42 Commando could cover the southern approach to Goose Green.
Keeble wanted more firepower. He asked for three more guns with 2000 rounds of ammo, the six unused mortars they didn’t bring with a tub load of bombs for them and the Cymbeline mortar-locating radar. At this stage they had seventeen dead and thirty-five wounded. A Wessex helicopter was coming to evacuate the wounded but attracted heavy fire from the enemy so left after circling the area.
They waited until morning when Keeble wanted to get the Argentinians to accept surrender. They had two captured soldiers take a letter drafted in Spanish back to their own lines. The men returned instantly and said their commanders had agreed to meet them. The enemy agreed to surrender. They requested that they got to do it with dignity. The British accepted the deal.
Max Hastings put it well in his book Battle for the Falklands.
The British expected some eighty Argentinians to march out to surrender. Instead, to their astonishment, they watched a contingent of more than 150 men moving out from Goose Green to form up in a hollow square around Pedroza, just beyond D Company’s perimeter. The Argentinian made a brief patriotic speech. He called on his men to sing their national anthem.
Then, as they threw down their weapons, Keeble walked forward to take the commander’s pistol, noticing as he did so that all the men mustered around him wore air-force uniform. Where were the rest of the army contingent? At that moment, the astounded British saw a great column of men emerging from Goose Green, marching towards them in three ranks. More than 900 Argentine troops commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Italo Pioggi laid down their arms before D Coy. 2 Para had brought about the collapse of an enemy force more than treble its own strength. They buried 50 Argentinian dead and took 1,200 prisoners of war.
Keeble was replaced by a new commanding officer after the battle for Goose Green, despite his excellent triumph. 2 Para were excellent. With 450 men they took on and defeated an enemy four times their own size and didn’t know the enemy strength until they were on the battlefield. It set the standard for the rest of the war, before the Royal Marines took Mount Harriet.