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Operation Corporate   >   Battles   >   South Georgia

   
 

South Georgia


South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands The fighting round South Georgia was the first significant engagement of the Falklands War. The capital Grytviken was held by a small Argentine garrison which had taken control after a very brief battle at the start of April with the tiny Royal Marine garrison. Additionally there was another small Argentine garrison at Leith.

The British campaign to retake the island began with an over-flight on April 20th 1982 by an unarmed radar-mapping Victor. The following day, the British attempted to land Special Air Service (SAS) and Special Boat Service (SBS) by helicopter from the RFA Tidespring and HMS Antrim. The plan was for these troops to perform a reconnaissance from an unexpected direction - the Fortuna Glacier. However, beset by atrocious weather and low visibility, two British helicopters transporting troops crashed, and the troops had to be rescued by HMS Antrim's Wessex helicopter - cramming sixteen people into a helicopter designed to transport four.

On April 25th, the Argentine submarine ARA Santa Fe which had just performed a supply-mission to the Argentine garrison was spotted by a Wessex helicopter from HMS Antrim. The submarine was attacked by a Wasp from HMS Plymouth, two more Wasps from HMS Endurance and a Lynx from HMS Brilliant. Santa Fe was seriously damaged and unable to submerge or sail away, so the crew abandoned the submarine at King Edward Point.

ARA Santa Fe

Later that same day, the British Special forces and Royal Marines moved to launch an assault on the Argentine position at Grytviken. However the garrison (now augmented with the crew of Santa Fe) surrendered afer a demonstration naval bombardment on the hills opposite Grytviken by HMS Antrim and HMS Plymouth. (The Argentine garrison at Leith surrendered the following day).

Brigadier Julian Thompson then sent the famous cable to London reading: "Be pleased to inform Her Majesty that the White Ensign flies alongside the Union Jack in South Georgia. God Save the Queen." British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher then announced the news, and told the British media to "Just rejoice at that news and congratulate our forces and the marines."


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