Chapter 19: The Falklands war
Warrant Officer II ( Bomber) Hill was 40 years old when the Falklands War broke out, and British troops were sent in to retake the Falkland Islands from the Argentina Forces.
The conflict resulted from a long-standing dispute over the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands and South Georgia and the South Sandwich islands, which lie in the South Atlantic east of Argentina.
The Falklands war began on Friday, 2 April 1982, when Argentine forces invaded and occupied the Falkland Islands and South Georgia.
The Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, and the British government dispatched a naval task force to engage the Argentine Navy and Air Force, and retake the island by amphibious assault. The resulting conflict lasted 74 days, which eventually ended with the Argentine surrender on 14 June 1982 which return the island to British control. During the conflict 649 Argentine military personnel 255 British military personnel and three Falkland Islanders died.
The conflict was a result of a protracted historical confrontation regarding the sovereignty of the islands. In the period leading up to the war, and especially following the transfer of power between military dictators General Rafael Videla and General Roberto Eduardo Viola in late March 1981.
Argentina had been in the midst of a devastating economy crisis and large-scale civil unrest against the military junta that had been governing the country since 1976. In December 1981, there was a further change in the Argentina military regime, bringing to office a new junta headed by General Leopoldo Galtieri , who was made acting president.
Brigadier Basilio Lami Dozo, and Admiral Jorge Anaya, were the main architects and supporters of a military solution to the long-standing claim for the Falkland Islands, calculating that the United Kingdom would never respond militarily. The Galtieri government hope to mobilise Argentine’s long-standing patriotic feelings towards the islands and in doing so divert public attention from the countries chronic economic problems and the regimes ongoing human rights violations.
Tension had built up between the two countries over the sovereignty of the islands on 19th of March when a group of Argentine scrap metal merchants raised the Argentine flag on the island of South Georgia, an act that would later be seen as the first offensive action in the war.
The Royal Navy ice patrol vessel HMS Endurance was dispatched immediately from Stanley to South Georgia in response, subsequently leading to the invasion of the South Georgia Island by Argentine forces on 3 April, the Argentine military junta suspecting that the UK would reinforce its South Atlantic forces ordered the main invasion of the Falkland Islands to be brought forward to 2 April.
Britain was initially taken by surprise by the Argentina attack of the South Atlantic islands, despite repeated warnings by Royal Navy Capt Nicholas Barker and others. Barker believe that Defence Secretary John Nott’s 1981 review in which were described plans to withdraw HMS Endurance, Britain’s only naval presence in the South Atlantic, sent a signal to the Argentines that Britain was unwilling, and would soon be unable, to defend its territories and subjects in the Falkland Islands.
Warrant Officer Bomber Hill had now been put in charge of a small unit of Royal military Policemen alongside a British invasion force consisting of a SAS force and landing forces from the Royal Marines, and Para Brigade
The submarine HMS Conqueror had arrived earlier and was patrolling just west of the Falkland Islands on May 1st when she spotted the light cruiser ARA Genrakl Belgrano.HMS Conqueror fired three torpeddoes, hitting the Belgtano twice and sinking it. 323 Argentines were killed, and two days later in retaliation, an Argintine fighter sent from the Argintine mainland fired an Exocet anti ship missile at HMS Sheffield which was mooored as one of the supporting vessel in the bay, setting her ablaze.
Attempts were made by the naval crew to put out the fires which were now engulfing the whole ship but to no availe and the ship had to be abandond with the loss of 20 British lives.
Over the next few weeks HMS Ardent, HMS Antelope, HMS Coventry, and the MV Atlantic Conveyer, which was carrying a cargo of helicopters and supplies were sunk by Argintine aircraft fireing Exocet anti ship missiles.
Bomber and his unit alongside the British invation forces of 4,000 men commanded by Brigadier Julian Thompson, landed at San Carlos Water on the nortwest coast of East Falkland on the night of May 21.Their landing had been preceded by the SAS who raided the nearby Pebble Island’s airfield.
Brigadier Thompson began pushing his men south, planning to secure the western side of the island, before moving east to Port Stanley.By the 27 May Bomber and the RMP unit along with a further 600 men under the command of Lt Colonel H. Jones outfought over 1,000 Argintines around Darwin and Goose Green, ultimatly forcing them to surrender.
A few days later, British Commandoes defeated Argintine commandoes on Mount Kent. In early June, an additional 5,000 British support troops arrived under the command of Major Genral Jeremy Moore.
Genral Moore began his assault on Port Stanley on June 11, and after heavy fighting on the high ground they succeeded in capturing their objective. The attacks continued two nights later and Bomber and his men fought alongside troops who managed to take the towns last line of defence at Wireless Ridge and Mount Tumbledown.
The Argentines were now surrounded and were encircled on land as well as out at sea,. Realizing his situation was hopeless the Argintine commander Genral Mario Menendez surrendered his 9,800 men on June 14 which effectively ended the conflict.
The Argintine defeat led to the removal of their president Genral Galtieri three days later, and his downfall lead to the end of the military junta that had been ruling the country with an iron fist for the past five years.
For Britain, the victory provided a much needed boost to the national confidence, reaffirming its international position which assured another victory for the Prime minister Margret Thatcher in the following Genral Election. Bomber was overjoyed to see out the end of the Falklands War,and glad to have come out of the conflict in one piece and still alive, although he had sadley lost one of his men in the battle for Goose Green.
During the war Britain had suffered 258 men killed and 777 wounded in addition 2 destroyers, 2 frigates, and 2 auxillery vessels were sunk., but for the Argentine forces the war cost them 649 men killed 1,068 wounded and 11,313 captured in addition the Argintine Navy lost 3 submarines a light cruiser and 75 fixed-wing aircraft.
Bomber sailed back into the UK at the beginning of September 1982, and his wife Angela was at the Chattham dockyard to wellcome him home with open arms. His promotion to (RSM) Regimental Sergent Major, and his new posting back to his old unit at 160 Provost Company Aldershot had just been recieved from the Ministry of Defence, which was now to be Bomber’s last posting before his retirment from the Army and the Royal Military Police.