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18 September 2014
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Falklands Conflict Gallery

By Major General Julian Thompson
Royal Marine patrol passing the submerged fin of the Sante Fe at South Georgia
Royal Marine patrol passing the submerged fin of the Sante Fe at South Georgia ©
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The first British objective was to retake South Georgia, which Argentinean marines had seized on 18 March as a precursor to the invasion of the Falklands.

The assault started badly on 21 April, when an SAS insertion on to South Georgia's Fortuna Glacier failed in appalling weather with the loss of two helicopters. This was followed by two more abortive special forces insertions on 22 and 23 April amid high winds and ice.

The assault was further disrupted by intelligence that an Argentinean submarine, 'Santa Fé' , was in the vicinity. This forced the British task group, headed by the destroyer HMS 'Antrim' , to pull back 200 miles from South Georgia, taking the main body of the landing force with it. Then on 25 April, 'Santa Fé' was spotted on the surface, heading north from South Georgia, and was attacked by Royal Navy helicopters. Badly damaged, the submarine limped back to Grytviken, South Georgia, where it would ultimately be captured and scuttled by the British.

With the 'Santa Fé' no longer a danger, the British landing force commander, Major Guy Sheridan, pressed to be allowed to attack Grytviken without delay, despite having only 75 men immediately at his disposal. Permission was granted.

HMS 'Antrim' and the frigate HMS 'Plymouth' began with a bombardment, which was deliberately targeted some distance off, but moved closer and closer to shore. This persuaded the Argentinean garrison to capitulate to Sheridan's men, followed the next day by the surrender of the main garrison, at the old whaling station of Leith, without firing a shot. South Georgia had been liberated.

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