Battle of Wireless Ridge


Battle of Wireless Ridge

Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=Battle of Wireless Ridge


caption=
partof=Falklands War
date=13 June 1982 – 14 June 1982
place=Wireless Ridge, Falkland Islands
result=British victory
combatant1=flagicon|UK United Kingdom
combatant2=Flagicon|Argentina Argentina
commander1=Lt. Col. David Chaundler
commander2=Omar Giménez
strength1= 600
strength2= 500
casualties1=3 dead, 11 wounded
casualties2=25 dead, 125 wounded, 37 POW|

The Battle of Wireless Ridge was an engagement of the Falklands War which took place on the night of 13 June and 14 June 1982, between British and Argentine forces during the advance towards the Argentine-occupied capital of the Falklands Stanley. Wireless Ridge was one of seven strategic hills within five miles of Stanley at coord|51|40|14|S|57|55|55|W|type:mountain|name=Wireless Ridge|display=inline,title that had to be taken in order for the city 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, 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 and detachments from other units.

Background

After heavy losses during the Battle of Goose Green, including their commander, Lieutenant Colonel Jones, command of 2 Para passed to Lieutenant-Colonel David Chaundler, who was in England at the time of the battle. In an adventure of its own, Chaundler flew to Ascension Island on a Vickers VC-10 and then to the Falklands on a C-130 Hercules that was dropping supplies by parachute. Chaundler jumped out into the sea, where he was picked up by helicopter and eventually delivered to HMS "Hermes" for a briefing with Admiral 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 2 PARA 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, the Two Sisters, Mount Longdon and Mount Harriet, were taken. Following this phase the next three hills would be taken; the Scots Guards taking Mount Tumbledown, the Ghurkhas Mount William and 2 Para Wireless Ridge. The final phase of 3 Commando Brigade's campaign, the battle for Stanley, would have been a street-fight but in the end wasn't necessary. On the morning of 13 June it became clear that the attacks on Tumbledown had been successful. 2 Para would now march around the back of Mount Longdon to take up their positions for the assault on Wireless Ridge. As the action was to be concluded quickly, they took only their weapons and as much ammunition as possible, leaving the camp behind. 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 causing no casualties.

Initial assault

In the closing hours of the 13 June, D Company began the attack, advancing upon 'Rough Diamond' hill north-west of Mount Longdon. It had been hit by an immense barrage from British guns, from land and sea. In the preceding 12 hours, British artillery had fired 6,000 rounds with their 105 mm pieces, and as they began their push, they were further backed by naval fire and the 76 and 30 mm guns mounted on the light tanks. The approximately eighty casualties sustained by the Paras a few 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.

When D Company reached the hill, they found that the Argentine C Company of the 7th Infantry Regiment had withdrawn due to the heavy bombardment. As Major Philip Neame's D Company started to consolidate their position, the Argentine 7th Regiment launched a series of heavy recoilless rifle, rocket and mortar attacks on Mount Longon causing casualties to the 3rd Parachute Battalion the Parachute Regiment (Jolly, 1983; p. 138).

With this massive fire support A and B Companies were convinced the enemy on Apple Pie were defeated, and began to advance confidently forward, but they met fierce resistance when they left their trenches. They came under heavy machine-gun fire and a 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 in Hugh McManners' "The Scars of War" (1994) which was initially repulsed the Argentines:

(McManners, 1994)

The Argentine defenders there eventually withdrew in the face of such withering fire and A and B Companies took their objective. By this stage of the battle, there were not many Argentine officers left. The Forward Artillery Observation Officer (Major Guillermo Nani), the Operations Officer (Captain Carlos Ferreyra) and the A and C Company commanders (Captains Jorge Calvo and Hugo García) and at least three senior platoon commanders (First Lieutenants Antonio Estrada, Jorge Guidobono, Ramon Galíndez-Matienzo) were wounded. C Company 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.

Final assault

D Company then began the final assault from the western end of Wireless Ridge, under the cover of heavy fire from HMS Ambuscade, tanks, twelve 105 mm artillery guns, several mortar pieces and anti-tank rockets. Earlier Argentine GHQ had sent the dismounted 10th Panhard armoured car 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 light tanks, Milan Platoon and the Machinegun Platoon on Apple Pie while the 7th Regiment's HQ sorted themeselves out. In two hours the cavalry unit suffered five killed and about fifty wounded. The British tankmen were so sickened by the slaughter that they held their fire as the walking wounded stumbled back to Moody Brook and stretcher-bearers tried to find the seriously wounded.Fact|date=July 2008 Major Neame's parachute company took the first half of the obective relatively easily but upon advancing to the second half, came under fierce attack from Major Guillermo Berazay A Company 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. Private Patricio Pérez, who had just left school, recalled the unnerving experience of 66mm rockets coming straight at them like undulating fireballs (Bilton and Kosminsky, 1989). He believed he shot a British Paratrooper (12 Platoon's commander?) and became enraged when he heard that his friend Private Horacio Benítez of his platoon had been shot ("Speaking Out" Bilton and Kosminsky pg. 192).The platoon of 2nd Lieutenant Víctor Rodriguez Pérez of Major Guillermo Berazay's company in fact closed 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 of the British Army describes the resulting attack on 12 Platoon:(Frost, 1983)

Major Neame 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.

The battle was not over yet. Some 200 Wireless Ridge survivors had been rallied by the 10th Brigade Operations Officer, Major Eugenio 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, 2IC of the 7th Regiment, helped by the chaplain Father José Fernández, 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. ("Razor's Edge" Hugh Bicheno pg. 312)

The Paras were momentarily alarmed and watched surprised, with one British officer describing it as 'quite a sporting effort, but one without a sporting chance'. ("Operation Corporate" Martin Middlebrook pg. 371) 2 Para had suffered three dead and eleven wounded. The Argentines suffered approximately twenty-five dead, about 125 wounded (mainly by airburst rounds rather than direct shots) and about fifty were taken prisoner.

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.

ee also

* British Military History
* Falklands War

External links

* [http://www.britains-smallwars.com/Falklands/Wireless-Ridge.htm Second time around for 2 Para: The Battle for Wireless Ridge]
* [http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/03/30/wmalvinas30.xml] Anglo-Argentine Alan Craig tells of fight for Wireless Ridge
* [http://thescotsman.scotsman.com/s2.cfm?id=341922002 recollections of Anglo-Argentine conscript Michael Savage of the 7th Infantry Regiment's C Company]

References

* cite book|author=Bilton, Michael and Kosminsky, Peter (comp.)
title=Speaking Out: Untold Stories From The Falklands War
publisher=Andre Deutsch Ltd
date=1989
id=ISBN 0-233-98404-6

* cite book|author=Frost, John
title=2 Para Falklands - The Battalion At War
publisher=Buchan & Enright|year=1983
id=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
* cite book|author=McManners, Hugh|title=The Scars Of War
publisher=HarperCollins|year=1994
id=ISBN 0-586-21129-2

* Paul, James and Spirit, Martin (2002) "Second time around for 2 Para: The Battle for Wireless Ridge", [http://www.britains-smallwars.com/Falklands/Wireless-Ridge.htm Britain's Small Wars, WWW site] , Accessed 19 March 2007


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