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Wireless Ridge

Wireless Ridge - 13/14 June 1982

Introduction

After their incredible success at Goose Green, then leading the leapfrog advance along the southern side of the East Falkland, 2 Para had been moved from Fitzroy to Mount Kent where they were tasked with supporting 3 Para and 45 Commando in their attacks on Two Sisters and Mount Longdon on the night of 11/12 June. They were not needed in those attacks as events turned out, so they then moved, on foot again, to an assembly point north of Mount Longdon where they dug in. On the 13 June they were attacked by Argentine Skyhawks but suffered no casualties.

2 Para were then given the task of assaulting Wireless Ridge on the night of the 13/14 June, at the same time as the Scots Guards were to be attacking Mount Tumbledown. Wireless Ridge was not as its name suggests a simple line feature, but a collection of ridges, hills and rills lying between the Murrell River and the north shore of Stanley Harbour. It was the last Argentine position of any strength on the north side of Stanley, and its capture, along with those of Mounts Tumbledown and William, would close the noose around the capital, and give the Argentines no land route of escape.

The plan was to attack the northern flank of the ridge. In contrast to their battle at Goose Green, this time 2 Para could call on massive fire support. The support units included two Batteries of artillery, or five in total if the situation became desperate, HMS Ambuscade, 3 Para's mortars as well as their own and they had two Scorpion and two Scimitar tanks of Lieutenant the Lord Robin Inness-Kerr's troop of the Blues and Royals. This last unit was to play a large part in the forthcoming battle. There was also to be a diversionary raid by a mixed group of Marines, SAS and SBS on the oil storage tanks at the eastern end of the promontory that leads out of Wireless Ridge on the north shore of Stanley Harbour.

Reconnaissance and patrolling during the 12 and 13 June found that a small hill to the north-west of Wireless Ridge was also in enemy hands. Lieutenant Colonel David Chaundler, who had parachuted from a Hercules into the sea near the Task Force in order to take over from Colonel H Jones, had agreed a plan for D Company to attack this position first. A and B Companies then would move up and provide fire support for D Company who would hook round and attack along the main spine of Wireless Ridge. A and B Company would each be supported by two of the tanks in what is known as a 'noisy' attack, Col Chaundler believing that the massive demonstration of firepower he could bring to bear on the enemy troops would lead to their abandoning the position and heading back into Stanley. The troops on Wireless Ridge were the 7th Regiment, those that 3 Para had faced and who had fought so well on Mount Longdon. They were deployed facing to the south, overlooking the track down to Moody Brook, and the road into Stanley, the expected, indeed, practically the only way to advance into Stanley itself. 2 Para then, as they 'tabbed' through the gathering gloom as night fell, were going to be starting the attack from behind them.

At 2030 hrs local time 2 Para left their assembly point and moved to their start lines. After half an hours artillery fire on the enemy positions, Major Philip Neame's D Company left their start line at 2145 hrs. The tanks helped the Company by locating enemy positions with their more sophisticated night-sights and firing on them. This fire was then used as a pointer by the troops, meaning that there were no nasty surprises waiting for them in the dark terrain. Under this superior fire power several of the Argentines were killed, the rest of the under-strength enemy Company from the first hill position retreated, so it was taken with no British casualties.

The Argentinians responded to this attack quickly with heavy artillery fire just as A and B Companies moved from their start lines. One Paratrooper, Colour Sergeant Gordon Findlay, was killed in the shelling. Again, the devastating combination of tank and machine gun fire as the Paras advanced persuaded most of the enemy to retreat, so the second objective was taken with little of the close fighting that had characterised the Goose Green battle, and 37 prisoners were taken. The northern half of Wireless Ridge was now in British hands, with one death and surprisingly few injuries. The plan, though ambitious, was working very, very well.

C Company, which had remained at the start lines, now moved round to a small hill next to the Murrell river, known to be occupied by Argentine troops. Here they found abandoned tents and even warm boots, indicating that the enemy had hastily departed. With this position neutralised they then returned to the rest of the battalion. By now A and B Companies had re-organized on their first objective to give fire support over the next stage of the Wireless Ridge attack. The tanks had restocked on ammunition and also moved up to this position to provide extra fire power, as it was estimated they were facing two full strength Companies of the 7th Regiment, along with the soldiers who retreated from the first positions. During this time, HMS Ambuscade and 7 and 8 Batteries of 29 Commando Regiment had been steadily bombarding the top of the ridge and the helicopters night-flying ammunition in to the battery's forward location were hard pressed to keep up sufficient supply.

D Company had progressed to their next start line at the western edge of the southernmost ridge, a three mile long expanse of Wireless Ridge. D Company quickly moved through their start line and moved west along the sides and top of the ridge, being preceded by covering fire from the other Companies, artillery and HMS Ambuscade. Once again the weight of firepower proved to much for the Argentinians and they pulled back further along the ridge. Halfway along, in between the two largest rocky outcrops on the ridge summit, D Company halted to let the supporting fire readjust. Unfortunately, at this point some British shells fell amongst them causing one fatality. D Company's advance then resumed, but this time the Argentinians stood their ground and fought well. The last part of the ridge was the subject of a fierce battle.

At one point D Company almost ran out of momentum, but Paras are Paras and the officers and NCOs rallied the men to capture the final part of the ridge. One man was killed and several injured in this action, during which several sources report that at times the sky was lit by tracer in sheets, not in individual tracks of fire. Most of the Argentine survivors retreated in the direction of Moody Brook to the south. The Paras had to stop before the true end of the ridge due to an SAS operation that was taking place further along the promontory which the Paras did not know about at the time. The Regimental Command Post for the 7th Regiment was on the small part of the ridge that the Paras had not been allowed to capture, but the seven officers in the Command Post were all injured, and there was no-one left on the ridge to command.

At this point General Menéndez and his second-in-command Brigadier-General Joffre realised they were very close to being in a hopeless position, with the British controlling all the high ground around the capital. Rapid orders were issued for a series of movements to meet the threats from the west, south and north. 3 Regiment, who had been responsible for the area south of Stanley, were moved west, to either counter-attack at Mounts William and Tumbledown, or at least to establish a new line of defence against any further advance. The problem for 3 Regiment was that there were no defensive positions left, save for Sapper Hill, and that was less than a mile to the due south of Stanley and overlooked by both recently captured mountains. The 6 Regiment, currently situated for the defence of the airport, were ordered to move the majority of their force to replace 3 Regiment, and counter-attacks were ordered on Mount Tumbledown and Wireless Ridge. The Argentine Commander was later to describe a counter-attack at Tumbledown being made by B Company of 6 Regiment, but there is no British record of this.

The Argentine counter attack on Wireless Ridge was a different matter. Major Roberto Berazay's A Company of 3 Regiment were to be supported by the Recce Troop of 10th Armoured Cavalry Squadron, who had dismounted the machine-guns from their armoured cars to form a strong fire support team. The accurate artillery and Milan fire from the Paras on the Ridge above destroyed these guns before they could be brought into action. The counter-attack force was to head for the 7 Regiment Command Post, but at the last minute Brig-Gen Joffre called it off. However, two of Berazay's platoons did not hear the cancellation orders so Lieutenant Rodrigo Pérez and Second Lieutenant Diego Arreseigor led their men into the attack, in what was described as "a sporting effort without a sporting chance" by Major Neame, D Company repulsed several spasmodic attacks in which only one Para was injured, and heavy artillery fire was directed onto anything that looked like a formation or forming up point after this. Wireless Ridge had been taken with only three British fatalities and eleven injured, a remarkable feat of arms considering the terrain and distance the Paras had to negotiate in the face of considerable enemy forces. Col Chaundler's plan had been daring and imaginative it is true, which assisted greatly in the neutralisation of the defences, but the men of D Company, the same Company which had taken so many casualties at Goose Green, had worked wonders during the night. The Company crossed two start lines, taken two objectives, including the main target of the attack, fought at close quarters in the last Argentinian stand on the ridge and then beaten off the counter-attacks in a continuous effort throughout the night.

While the Paras were attacking, a Special Forces operation, made up mainly of SAS but with some Marines and SBS also included, was taking place to the east of Wireless Ridge. After lying up for the previous day on Cochon Island in Berkley Sound, four Royal Marine rigid raiders came round to Blanco Bay following in the wake of the Argentine hospital ship Bahia Pariso on their final approach. Here they met the SAS and SBS men who had been landed earlier by helicopter before reached the bay on foot. Most of the men were left at Blanco Bay to set up a fire-support base, but a small party of men returned to the raiding craft and sped across the water. The idea was to land on Cortley Ridge, attack any enemy found and blow up fuel storage tanks located there. However, the crew of the Bahia Pariso spotted the raiders and as soon as they landed they were fired on. The raiders returned fire but three of the men were injured, so they retreated in their raiding craft. All the raiding craft reached the far shore safely, despite one losing its propeller, where they were abandoned. The mixed team withdrew into the hills where they were collected the next day by helicopter. The mission ended in an unsatisfactory fashion through bad luck. It interfered with the battles on Tumbledown and Wireless Ridge by requiring artillery to cover the retreat, and limiting 2 Para's area of prosecution on the Ridge itself.

The high ground had all fallen to the advancing British, the Argentines had their backs to the sea, and only the capital, Stanley, remained unliberated.

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