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The Surrender

The Surrender - A conflict ends - 14 June 1982

Introduction

As dawn broke on the 14th June 1982 the British Forces in the Falkland Islands controlled almost all the high ground around Stanley. 45 Commando were on Two Sisters, 42 Commando were on Mt Harriet, 3 Para were on Mt Longdon, 2 Para had just taken Wireless Ridge, the Scots Guards had captured Mt Tumbledown and the Argentinians on Mt William were running away from the advancing Gurkhas. This just left Sapper Hill, which was supposed to be the objective of the Welsh Guards, but after the disaster on the RFA Sir Galahad, the Welsh Guards were severely reduced in numbers. A and C Companies from 40 Commando were sent to join them on the 10/11 June to bring the battalion up to strength. On the night of the 13/14 June this composite battalion were to be in reserve for the attacks on Mounts Tumbledown and William, before moving towards Sapper Hill shortly after these objectives were taken. While in reserve, they became bogged down in a minefield, which took them a very long and frustrating time to extract themselves from.

Due to this delay, it was decided that 45 Commando should move forward from Two Sisters to occupy Sapper Hill. While 45 Commando were marching towards Sapper Hill the Welsh Guard/40 Commando battalion had escaped from the minefield and they were picked up by helicopter. They were landed on top of Sapper Hill just as 45 Commando were approaching, so both units invested then stayed on the Hill. After first light, 2 Para on Wireless Ridge could see numerous Argentinians retreating back to Stanley. Argentine artillery was still in action, however, firing on the British positions surrounding them. One gun emplacement near Moody Brook was destroyed by four Scout helicopters armed with SS-11 wire-guided missiles. The helicopters withdrew safely, only pursued by mortar fire. The British artillery also shelled up to the edge of Stanley in reply, to demoralise the retreating troops, and to keep pressure on the commanders.

2 Para asked for permission to move towards Stanley, but Brigadier Julian Thompson, Commanding Officer of 3 Commando Brigade, wanted to see the position first. He arrived by helicopter and after reviewing the situation he gave the go ahead for 2 Para to move. At 1300 hrs B Company moved down Wireless Ridge, through Moody Brook and onto higher ground on the other side. The tanks of the Blues and Royals moved down the ridge, to provide covering fire if necessary. A Company, followed by D and C Companies, moved down the road towards Stanley. A Company made it to the outskirts of Stanley where they were ordered to halt. This meant that 2 Para were the first British unit into Stanley, after their efforts at Goose Green and Wireless Ridge, many observers were moved to comment that this was a well earned honour.

2 Para were ordered to stop as at this point it seemed that the Argentinians wanted to talk. This was the culmination of four days of verbal pressure from the Task Force. Colonel Mike Rose and Captain Rod Bell had been broadcasting on radio to the Argentines to the effect that they were in a hopeless position and that by surrendering, numerous lives, military and civilian, would be saved. So far three civilians had been killed from British shells, but if fighting took place in the capital, it was likely that many more would die. The Argentines did not respond to the broadcasts until 14 June, when General Menéndez ordered Captain Melbourne Hussey to organize a meeting with the British negotiating team as soon as possible.

Colonel Rose, Captain Bell and their Signaller boarded a Gazelle and flew to Stanley where they were met by Captain Hussey at 1500 hrs. Captain Hussey took the British to the Secretariat where they met General Menéndez. Colonel Rose saluted him as the senior officer present and then the talks began. Eventually it was time to call General Moore who arrived at 2300 hrs Zulu. The surrender document was signed at 2359 hrs Zulu or 2059 local, and the war was officially over. On 15 June 2 and 3 Para moved into Stanley and the Royal Marines followed shortly after where they stayed until they were returned to the UK. 5 Brigade were disappointed not to be able to stay in Stanley, simply because there was no room. Instead, the Gurkhas returned to Goose Green and the rest to Fitzroy. After the war was over there was the problem of the 12,000 or so Argentinian prisoners. Firstly, the tents intended to house them had been sunk on the Atlantic Conveyor, and with the winter weather now worsening, there was a real danger of exposure casualties among the prisoners. They were assembled at Stanley airfield, then repatriated back to Argentina as quickly as possible on ships such as Canberra and the Norland, the majority being shipped back to Argentina within three days of the surrender.

The Argentine units on West Falkland, at Port Howard and Fox Bay, were dealt with by the Royal Marines of 40 Commando and HMS Avenger. The Marines of B Company crossed Falkland Sound by helicopter and trawler during the afternoon, an earlier attempt to cross by landing craft having turned back due to bad weather. On arriving in Port Howard, they accepted the surrender of the Argentine 5th Regiment, who were described as being hungry and demoralised. At Fox Bay, Lieutenant Commander Tony Bolingbroke took four lightly armed men into the settlement by helicopter and accepted the surrender of the 8th Regiment. Finally, Captain Chris Nunn of 42 Commando sailed in HMS Endurance with some of M Company to the South Sandwich Islands, and removed the eleven members of an Argentine scientific and weather team from Cook Island. Thus the last Argentines were evicted from British territory.

The Falklands War cost the lives of 255 members of the British Forces, approximately 746 Argentinians and three civilian Falkland Islanders. Many people at the time and afterwards have questioned the need for the conflict to be fought at all, or stated it was a politically motivated action. The fact of the matter is that a democratic territory for which Britain was responsible had been invaded, and the citizens forced to accept a regime they neither recognised nor wanted. A response, diplomatic at first, and then with military force when this was rejected out of hand, was inevitable and necessary. If the history of the twentieth century teaches us anything, it is that tyranny breeds further tyranny, and that allowance of a single illegal, despotic action will only result in yet more, ever worsening, from the perpetrators and encourage others of similar intent. The fact that the majority of the Argentine people did not agree with the decisions of the Junta was amply demonstrated by their rapid removal from power, an overthrow that resulted in an end to the oppression that had been perpetrated within their own country. The following year saw a democratic election take place, so it is only fair to say that one result of the Falklands conflict was the liberation of the Argentine people.

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