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18 September 2014
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Recent History - The Falklands

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Falklands Conflict Gallery

By Major General Julian Thompson
Two Royal Marines of 3 Commando Brigade
Two Royal Marines of 3 Commando Brigade "blacked up" ©
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The British repossession of the Falklands was finally accomplished in a series of night battles to seize the hills dominating the islands' capital, Port Stanley.

It was a deliberate strategy. Fighting at night is more difficult than by day, and usually more chaotic, so the better-trained and better-led British troops had the edge over the Argentineans in the ensuing fight. In daylight, the numerous Argentinean heavy machine guns were capable of inflicting heavy casualties on British troops advancing up long, bare hillsides.

In the opening battle, Mount Longdon was assaulted by 3 Para, the high ground of Two Sisters by 45 Commando, and Mount Harriet by 42 Commando. After a five-hour approach march in the dark, the British attacked. Despite bitter and determined resistance, they had secured all of their objectives by dawn.

The next objectives were Tumbledown, which fell to the 2nd Scots Guards, and Wireless Ridge the responsibility of 2 Para. Again the fighting, especially on Tumbledown, was fierce, but soon after daylight on 14 June, Argentinean forces had been pushed off the high ground and were in full retreat back through Port Stanley.

In every single battle there were moments when actions by individuals turned potential defeat into victory. Among these was Sergeant Ian McKay's charge directly at machine guns positions that retrieved a dangerous situation for his platoon on Mount Longdon. McKay was killed, but his courageous action was recognised with the Victoria Cross – one of two awarded during the Falklands Conflict.

Much has been made of Argentina's soldiers being young boys, but this is fallacious. They were not conscripted until they were eighteen and many were over nineteen. In any case, many British soldiers were in their teens, some as young as seventeen, of which two were also killed on Mount Longdon.

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