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Battle of Wireless Ridge

Battle of Wireless Ridge
Part of Falklands War
Date13 June-14 1982
Location
Wireless Ridge, Falkland Islands
Result British victory
Belligerents
 United Kingdom  Argentina
Commanders and leaders
United Kingdom Lt. Col. David Chaundler Argentina Lt. Col. Omar Giménez
Units involved

Flag of the British Army (1938-present).svg 3 Commando Brigade

United Kingdom Royal Navy
7th Infantry Regiment
10th Cavalry Squadron
Strength
600
2 Scorpion light tanks
2 Scimitar light tanks
12 light guns
1 frigate
500
Casualties and losses
3 killed
11 wounded
25 killed
125 wounded
37 captured
Battle of Wireless Ridge is located in Falkland Islands
Battle of Wireless Ridge
Location within Falkland Islands

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) 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 as well as 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 old bed frames 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

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 Sandy 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 Gurkhas 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 the 13th 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

Final Actions, 13 to 14 June 1982

In the closing hours of the 13th 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 softening-up bombardment, British artillery had fired 6,000 rounds with their 105 mm pieces, and as the British paratroopers 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 three or four 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.

SAS diversionary raid

The Special Air Service, along with men from the Special Boat Squadron, attempted to carry out a diversionary raid immediately north of Port Stanley on the night of 13-14 June. The plan was, as 2 PARA attacked the northern half of Wireless Ridge, 30 SAS and SBS commandos aboard 4 rigid raiders, would speed across the Murrell River entrance and attack the oil storage facilities on Cortley Ridge. However, the assault force was illuminated by a spotlight on the Argentine Almirante Irízar hospital ship (preparing to collect Major José Ricardo Spadaro's 601 National Gendarmerie Special Forces Squadron on Navy Point[8]for a major insertion behind 2 PARA[9]. Before it could reach its objective. A massive amount of fire, including 30mm anti-aircraft guns arched down onto the SAS/SBS force from positions along the northern shore, causing the British raiders to withdraw. Three British commandos were wounded and all the Rigid Raiders involved were damaged beyond repair.

Final assault

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.[10]

Major Neame's company suffered two killed (Privates David Parr and Francis Slough) before being able to overrun the Argentine paratroopers with Aimara and several of his men badly wounded in the action, but Neame's men 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 Luis 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 from Aristegui's platoon, recalled the unnerving experience of 66 mm rockets coming straight at them like undulating fireballs.[11]He believed he shot a British Paratrooper, possibly 12 Platoon's commander, and became enraged when he heard that his friend, Horacio Benítez from his platoon, had been shot.[12]

According to Private Horacio Benítez from Subteniente Aristegui's platoon:

The first of them to be hit was Private Eduardo Rinaldi, hit in the knee. Then Lieutenant Carlos Aristegui was hit in the neck, the bullet hitting his rosary beads. While that was happening, we moved up. There was a machine-gun position which I got behind; I was only a few metres away from them but I was able to climb up under the fire because of the slope of the ground. Sergeant Juan Vallejos told me to open fire with my FAP [Fusil Automático Pesado, or heavy automatic rifle]. I fired a magazine of twenty rounds; when I was replacing the magazine, it seemed to me that the British were laughing. I opened fire again. Then the British rushed at us. I fired another magazine and then got into some cover. They started throwing grenades at us. Next to me was another boy called Jorge Aumassanne. A grenade fell near him, and the force of the explosion blew him up into the air. He was badly hurt; he had six lumps of metal in his back. He walked across to me ― he didn't know what he was doing ― and told me he was going back. He gave his rifle to one man, his ammunition to another and off he went. Then another grenade came, a phosphorus one, and his clothes were on fire. We told him to get away because he was like a torch. He started to roll over the ground and tear his clothes off. I don't know how he saved himself. We did crazy things ― we were so desperate. One of our men, Private Ricardo Barrios, was also in the rocks not far from the British and was firing anti-tank grenades at them with his rifle. Perhaps the British thought there were many more of us but we were only a few. On our side, we thought it was only a patrol in front of us. but it was the whole of that Parachute Battalion, and we didn't know it. We had no communications with our headquarters. We were isolated. I was trying to get some ammunition from a dead man. I got a handful but, when I had filled my magazine and loading my weapon, I looked up and the British were right in front of me; one was pointing his rifle at me and he opened fire. The bullet hit the side of my helmet, entered and ripped my ear and lodged at the back of my head. That finished me off.[13]

The platoon of 2nd Lieutenant Rodriguez-Pérez delivered a frontal assault and in fact closed in 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 who commanded 2 PARA during the Battle of Arnhem in September 1944 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.[14]

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.[15]

Private Graham Carter from 2 PARA's D Company confirms that several men in Aristegui's platoon had managed to sneak into the rocks through which 12 Platoon had come earlier:

We were out in the open on limb, and it looked like 10 and 11 Platoons were shooting at us. We asked the OC [Major Philip Neame] to come over and check our position. He bimbled across seeming oblivious to tracer all around him, then wondered back. We thought, 'silly bugger'. Then our platoon commander [Lieutenant Jonathan Page] stood up, shouted to everyone to keep down and was knocked over himself, hit in the leg. He was screaming and shouting, but when the medic stripped him off there was no wound, just massive bruising where the round had hit his ammunition pouch.[16]

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, covered by supporting machine gun fire, controlled by Lieutenant Horacio Alejandro Mones-Ruiz of Berazay's compañía. Privates Esteban Tríes and José Cerezuela of Rodriguez-Pérez's platoon, volunteered to stay behind and rescue their wounded platoon sergeant, Manuel Villegas, laboriously carrying him to Port Stanley.[17]

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.[18]

The battle was not over yet. One of the Argentine Army staff officers that Private Savage talks about, 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.[19] 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,[20] 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.[21] 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".[22] 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.[23]

2 PARA had suffered three dead and 11 wounded. 2 PARA's mortar platoon also reported four mortarmen with broken ankles after having fired 'supercharge' rounds for extra range in order to repel the Argentine counterattack force that had attacked from Moody Brook.[24]The Argentines suffered approximately 25 dead and about 125 wounded, 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.[25][26]

Aftermath

Along with other key battles in the latter part of British activity under Operation Corporate, such as the Battle of Mount Tumbledown, the success at Wireless Ridge constituted one of the last major battles of the war before the subsequent surrender of Argentina. In the wake of the battle, British forces witnessed the Argentine soldiers pull back toward Stanley, before continuing to turn firepower onto them as they retreated, with one officer remarking “It was a most pathetic sight, and one which I never wish to see again.”[27]

Not wanting to replicate the heavy losses of Goose Green, the British had focussed a heavy artillery bombardment onto the opposing troops before undertaking the main assault, an action that would strongly affect the morale of the Argentine soldiers. The barrage lowered their will to fight significantly, spreading a sense of hopelessness through the forces as they retreated.[28]

With the opposing forces in retreat, and the successful capture of several key positions, including Wireless Ridge and Mount Tumbledown, the British obtained permission to advance on Stanley, with 2 Para leading the first troops into the town since Argentinian forces had first occupied the territory at the beginning of the war in April 1982.[29] After its’ recapture, the Argentine surrender came into effect from 14 June.[27]

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

References

Notes

  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. ^ Arie, Sophie (30 March 2002), You never get over it, but I have a double problem. I was fighting against Brits, people who were as good as family, 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. ^ Jolly (1983), The red and green life machine : a diary of the Falklands Field Hospital, p. 127, 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.
  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. ^ Gendarmería en Malvinas: Alacrán, un Escuadrón con justa gloria
  9. ^ "Next night, they met up with the Special Forces at Blanco Bay and then, with nine soldiers to each Rigid Raider, they sped across Port William Bay, but had the misfortune to be heard by a Border Guard commando collecting supplies on board the Almirante Irízar for an Argentine special forces infiltration operation en route to Beagle Ridge to raid and direct air and 155mm artillery fire on the British rear." Nine Battles to Stanley, Nick Van Der Bijl, p. 211, Pen & Sword Books, 1999
  10. ^ An ex-Para tells of the horrors of the Falklands
  11. ^ Bilton and Kosminsky, 1989
  12. ^ Bilton; Kosminsky, Speaking Out, p. 192, 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.
  13. ^ Argentine Fight for the Falklands, Martin Middlebrook, pp. 266-267, Pen & Sword, 2003
  14. ^ Frost, 1983
  15. ^ Above All, Courage: The Falklands Front Line: First-Hand Accounts, Max Arthur, p.200, Sidgwick & Jackson, 1985
  16. ^ The scars of war, Hugh McManners, p.186, HarperCollins, 1993
  17. ^ Rescatando al sargento Villegas
  18. ^ ‘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.
  19. ^ 5th Infantry Brigade in the Falklands 1982, Nicholas Van der Bijl, David Aldea, p.30, Leo Cooper, 2003
  20. ^ Nine battles to Stanley, Nicholas Van der Bijl, p.209, Leo Cooper, 30/09/1999
  21. ^ Razor's Edge: The Unofficial History of the Falklands War, Hugh Bicheno, p.312, Phoenix, 01/02/2007
  22. ^ Operation Corporate: The Falklands War, 1982, Martin Middlebrook, p.371, Viking, 1985
  23. ^ Above All, Courage: The Falklands Front Line: First-Hand Accounts, Max Arthur, p.201, Sidgwick & Jackson, 1985
  24. ^ "During the action at Wireless Ridge 2 PARA's mortars fired on supercharge for extra range and the teams had been forced to improvise to prevent the baseplates from sinking into the peat. Another problem was that the tubes would occasionally jump out of the baseplates on recoil. To prevent this, team members took it in turns to stand on the baseplates, but the shock was so great that four of them had suffered broken angles by the end of the battle." Task Force: The Illustrated History of the Falklands War, David Reynolds, p. 239, Sutton, 2002
  25. ^ 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
  26. ^ Conflito Das Malvinas, Paulo de Queiroz Duarte, p. 348, Biblioteca do Exército Editora, 1986 ‹See Tfd›(in Portuguese)
  27. ^ a b Fowler, William (1984). Battle for the Falklands:Land Forces. London: Osprey Publishing Ltd. p. 29.
  28. ^ Landry, Chris D. (2002). British Artillery During Operation Corporate. Marine Corps University, Virginia.
  29. ^ "Wireless Ridge | ParaData". www.paradata.org.uk. Retrieved 21 September 2018.

Bibliography

  • Bilton, Michael & 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

External links