posted on Sep, 25 2005 @ 03:41 AM
here is an account of how 12marines came very close to sinking an argie warship in their cowardly invasion attempt
On the 2nd of April, Lieutenant Commander Astiz(this man i believe was charged with kidnapping and killing argentine citizens after the war), the
senior Argentine officer at
Leith, assembled his troops and informed them that the Malvinas had been retaken
from the British and from that day forth South Georgia was part of Argentina and
was to be called " Isal San Pedro “. The Argentine national anthem was played as
their flag was raised. Mills at Grytiken also heard the news that Stanley had
been invaded. Realizing that Grytiken would be next on the Argentines' shopping
list, he sent Corporal Nigel Peters and three Marines to the Jason Peak OP,
while he and Sergeant Major Leach planned the defence of Grytiken.
Mills chose a 35 ft plateau behind Shackleton House as his main defensive
position. As it was still summer and the grass was high, the plateau
offered excellent concealment for four two-man and two three-man trenches,
from which the Marines could cover the approaches to Grytviken and King
Edward Point. Corporal Thomsen's 5-man section armed with a GPMG placed
themselves in front of Shackleton House, ready to bring down fire on any
one trying to land on the beach. Marines Daniels, Porter and Church, mined
the beach in front of the Customs house.
They also mined some of the other buildings with home made explosives made from
empty ammunition cases and bits of metal. On the jetty they placed a command
detonated 45-gallon oil drum filled with a very unpleasant combination of
petrol, paint and PE. Mills overall plan was to hold out until nightfall, bug
out, and head North for Maiviken, where he and his men would try and carry out a
guerrilla war against the Argentines.
During the day of the 2nd, while the Marines were preparing their
positions, Captain Trombetta sailed the Bahia Paraiso close to Grytiken.
Trombetta radioed Martin and told him to stand by for an important
message. Mills radioed Baker aboard Endurance, which after receiving new
orders was now racing back to South Georgia after being " buggered about "
as Baker called it. Barker passed on a message to Mills tom London saying
" The officer commanding Royal Marines is not, repeat not, to take any
action which may endanger lives " This seemed very confusing to both Mills
and Barker. How would Mills resist an Argentine invasion if he was not
allowed to open fire?
At dawn on the 3rd, Marine Peters at the Jason Peak OP radioed that he had
sighted the Bahia Paraiso refuelling an Argentine warship and cross decking
Argentinean troops to the Bahia Paraiso. This warship was a French Type A69
frigate called Guerrico, armed with twin Exocets, dual-purpose 100 mm
semi-automatic gun and a 40 mm anti-aircraft gun. The troops Peters had seen
cross decking were Argentine Marines commanded by Second Lieutenant Luna. Soon
after making his report, Peters and the three Marines with him were picked up by
Sergeant Major Leach in a Gemini and returned to Grytiken.
Just after 9.30am, the Alouette helicopter flown by Lieutenant Busson, took off
from the Bahia Paraiso and headed for Grytiken. Busson was to see if he could
see any signs of a British military presence at Grytiken. Mills kept his men
well out of sight and despite flying over Grytiken for ten minutes, Busson could
see no sign of defences or troops. He returned to the Bahia Paraiso and reported
this to Trombetta and Astiz. At 10 am Trombetta sailed the Bahia Paraiso into
Cumberland East Bay. He then radioed Steve Martin and stated the following.
"Following our successful operation in the Malvinas, your ex-governor has
unconditionally surrendered the Falkland Islands and it's dependencies. We
suggest you adopt a similar course of action to prevent further loss of life. A
cease fire is now in force."
This statement contained many lies. Firstly, Hunt had only surrendered
the Falklands and NOT it's dependencies. Secondly there was no such
cease-fire in effect. Martin replied repeating what Trombetta had just
said and asked for some time to consider. He was buying time in the hope
that Endurance would return. When Martin had replied to Trombetta he
pretended that his VHF set was not working and used his HF set instead.
Knowing that Endurance's radio would pickup the message as well.
On the bridge of Endurance, Barker was informed of the Argentines message to
Martin and broke radio silence to try and get in touch with Mills to release him
from his rules of engagement and to "defend if he was provoked " The message was
sent, but because of bad weather no reply was heard from Mills, who never
received the message, although almost every other radio station in the region
heard Barkers message, including the Argentines.
Meanwhile back at Grytiken, Trombetta radioed Martin to say that he was sending
Argentine troops ashore and ordered Martin to assemble all remaining 13 members
of the BAS team on the beach. Martin informed him that if the Argentines landed
any troops at Grytiken, it would be seen as an illegal act and they would be met
by the British military presence on the island. Trombetta thought Martin was
bluffing as his helicopter reconnaissance earlier had not seen any signs of
British troops. Mills now took over command from Martin as it was obvious that
the Argentines were coming.
At 12pm Trombetta brought the Bahia Paraiso into Cumberland East Bay and
launched Bussan’s Alouette helicopter with seven Argentine Marines on board.
Busson headed towards Grytiken. At the same time the frigate Guerrico captained
by Commander Alfonso, came into the bay and trained her guns on Shackleton
House. Mills and Marine Daniels walked unarmed down to the jetty, expecting the
Argentines to send a boat. He was surprised to see Bussan’s Alouette land at the
end of King Edward Point and debark the seven Argentine Marines. The fifth
Marine to leave the helicopter saw Mills and Daniels and aimed his weapon at
them. Mills did a smart about turn and he and Daniels sprinted back to their
positions on the plateau. The Alouette quickly departed leaving the Argentine
Marines to take cover in the near by buildings. So far no shots had been fired,
but that was all about to change.
At the same time Mills reached his trench, 1st Lieutenant Alejandro
Villagra piloting a Puma Helicopter lifted off from the Bahia Paraiso
carrying another 15 argentine Marines to reinforce the seven already
ashore. Villagra brought the Puma too close to Mount Hodges, and Mills
gave his men the order to open fire. A hail of fire hit the Puma. Two
Argentinean Marines were instantly killed and several wounded, but
Villagra and his co-pilot were amazingly unhurt and managed to stop the
helicopter from dropping out of the sky.
Both pilots managed to coax the smoking aircraft across the bay to the Hummocks
were it crashed and rolled over on its side, injuring more Marines. The seven
Marines already ashore started to advance on Shackleton House. Lance Corporal
Thomsen waited until they were within 100 yards of his position, then told
Marine Holding manning a GPMG to let them have it, which he did. The Argentine
Marines dived for cover in the near by buildings. The Battle of Grytiken had now
Trombetta now realized that there was in fact a very healthy British
military presence at Grytiken and ordered Alfonso to bring Guerrico closer
in and to bombard King Edward Point. The Argentines now knew where Mills
and his Marines where positioned and opened fire with Guerrico's 100 mm
semi-automatic gun. But even at maximum depression the shells smashed into
the scree behind the plateau. Frustrated, Alfonso brought Guerrico closer
in, broadside to the Royal Marines. Mills waited until the frigate was 550
meters from his position, then ordered his men to open fire with every
weapon they had. A Type A69 frigate is a very big target and the Guerrico
shook under the impact of thousands of rounds ripping though her thin
Marine David Combes, who was normally the ships steward on Endurance now placed
his name in naval history books by firing his Carl Gustav 84 mm anti tank weapon
at the Guerrico. The Royal Marines watched as the 10lb projectile staggered
across the waves and then, on it's last legs, smashed into Guerrico's hull just
above the waterline, sending up a column of white water. They then heard a loud
rumble come from inside the ship. Below decks Argentine damage control parties
struggled to stop the flow of water that was now coming though the hole.
The explosion killed one Argentine sailor and wounded several others. It also
destroyed many electrical cables, including the ones used to power the 100 mm
gun's traverse mechanism making the gun useless at this close range. The aft 40
mm was still working until Marines Parsons and Chubb cut down the Argentine gun
crew with their LMG. Alfonso was having a hard time trying to manoeuvre the big
ship quickly inside the small bay. He knew he had to get out of the bay quickly.
As the ship came about, Sergeant Major Leach lying on a table up stairs in
Shackleton House, took his time and fired 15 shots into the bridge with his
sniper rifle. This caused panic and confusion as officers and sailors trying to
steer the ship had to take cover. With the ship turned, Alfonso steered the
ship out of the bay, but she had to run the gauntlet of fire from the Royal
Marines again before getting out of range. Marine Combes let go another 84 mm at
the frigate that smashed into the hull below the Exocets. The Marines also
managed to hit Guerrico at least twice with 66 mm rockets. Corporal Peters was
severely wounded in the arm while standing to fire his 66 mm. The rifle shot had
come from one of the Argentine Marines in the buildings near Shackleton House.
Guerrico finally made her way out of range. Later an Argentine officer
counted over 1,000 hits to her structure. The Royal Marines had taken on a
warship, and won the fight. While the ship to shore battle had been taking
place, Bussan’s Alouette helicopter had been ferrying more Argentine
Marines ashore, out of range of the British. These Marines soon advanced
and joined the others in Grytiken. Guerrico now out of British range
managed to fire off a salvo that bracketed Mills positions. Mills knew he
had proved a point and informed his men he intended to surrender. This
decision did not go down well with the veteran Sergeant Major Leach, but
he obeyed his officer and passed the word to all the Marines to
Mills left his position and holding a white coat to signify a flag of truce,
walked towards the Argentine positions. An Argentine Marine left cover and met
Mills halfway. Mills explained to the Argentine Marine that he wished to speak
to the Commander of the Argentinean forces saying he was prepared to surrender
his party of Royal Marines to prevent further blood shed. Mills's message was
passed to Astiz, who immediately came ashore and accepted Mills's surrender.
When the Royal Marines left their positions and marched into captivity, the
Argentines were shocked to find out that it had only been a force of 22 Royal
Marines that had almost destroyed their invasion plans and damaged their
frigate. Because of this the Royal Marines were treated with great respect by
their captors. Mills advised Astiz that his men had heavily booby-trapped the
jetty. Astiz asked that Marine Daniels ( who had placed the booby traps ) would
care to remove his unpleasant surprises. Daniels obliged although it was
contrary to the Geneva Convention. The only British casualty, Corporal Peters,
was taken aboard the Bahia Paraiso and received expert treatment from an
Argentine doctor on board.
By this time Barker aboard Endurance had arrived back in the area. Barker
placed Endurance out of sight of Grytiken and sent his Wasp helicopter,
flown by Commander Tony Ellerbeck and Lieutenant Wells, to see what was
happening at Grytiken. The Wasp crew landed their helicopter on the
mountains high above Grytiken unobserved. The two officers walked forward
and peered over the edge and witnessed the Royal Marines attack on the
Guerrico. Returning to their aircraft they quickly radioed Barker aboard
Endurance, asking for permission to attack the Argentine warship with
their rockets. Barker refused them permission because
of his orders from London. They quickly returned to Endurance and reported what
they had seen.
Barker addressed the crew of Endurance saying We're out side range of the
Argentines at the moment, in fact we're a lot closer than my directions
have allowed me to be. We're supposed to be 150 miles from South Georgia,
but as you can see if you look out, we're a lot closer to South Georgia
than that. ( Endurance was in fact just 1 mile off the coast of South
Georgia ) My directions are NOT, regrettably, to go into Grytiken and zap
the Argentine frigate Guerrico, which we could well have done this morning
while she was at anchor. But my orders are not to fire unless we're
provoked. Well maybe we're provoking them by being here. And if we do
provoke them, we'll give them as good as we get.
This address to the ships crew by Barker, was very much the Nelson touch.
Endurance was only armed with two 20 mm Oerlikon anti-aircraft guns and her two
Wasps. Frustrated that he'd seen this coming all along, Barker took Endurance
away from South Georgia to await the arrival of the Task Force.
The Royal Marines, except Mills, were disarmed and searched before being
ferried out to the Bahia Paraiso were they were placed under guard in
cabins below the flight deck. On shore the Argentines rounded up the BAS
team including Steve Martin, who had been sheltering from the fighting in
a cold and wet gully, dressed in only a shirt and slacks. Shortly after
dusk, Mills and the BAS team were also ferried out to Bahia Paraiso, which
then sailed for the Argentinean mainland. She docked the next day in Rio
Grande, where the Argentine dead and wounded ( including Peters ) were
The Royal Marines and the BAS team were then transported to Bahia Blanca Naval
Base. On the 15th Mills and Martin agreed to be interviewed by a tribunal of
senior Argentine Naval officers who wanted to find out about the conduct of
Argentine forces during the invasion of South Georgia. Mills however refused to
allow his junior NCOs to be interviewed.
Sergeant Major Leach was also interviewed by the Argentines, who were very
disappointed with his name, rank and number answers. On the 16th the entire
British party ( including the last of NP 8901, Cpl. York's party ) were taken to
a nearby airfield and flown to Uruguay, were they were handed over to British
Embassy officials. On the 19th of April the Royal Marines and the BAS party were
flown to Brize Norton in a RAF VC-10. During the flight members of the Joint
Service Interrogation Wing and the Intelligence Corps heavily debriefed them.
On arrival in England, Mills and his Marines were treated as heroes by the
British press and public. Mills was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross,
Captain Barker was made a Commander of the British Empire and Sergeant Major
Leach the Distinguished Service Medal. Marine David Combes was mentioned in
Dispatches for his effort in almost sinking an Argentinean warship. Mills and
his Marines, after a short leave, returned to their ship H.M.S. Endurance off
Grytiken on the 25th of May. They had traveled back to South Georgia via
Ascension Island, where they had the great satisfaction of guarding Astiz and
the other Argentines who had been captured on South Georgia on the 27th of
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