Monday 14 June 1982 began with fierce fighting in the dark on the freezing slopes of high ground to the west of Stanley, the capital of the Falkland Islands. But as the day ended, so did the fighting.
There had already been an early success for British forces that night – just before midnight, an Argentine Canberra bomber had been shot down to the north of Stanley by a Sea Dart missile from Type 42 destroyer HMS Cardiff. It was the last Argentine aircraft destroyed in the conflict.
Overnight and into daybreak the Scots Guards completed the arduous task of capturing Mount Tumbledown, by which time 2 Para had also taken Wireless Ridge to the north with considerable help from the main guns of frigates HMS Ambuscade and HMS Yarmouth, which provided an intense and accurate bombardment.
Though the Paras were facing some of the best troops in the Argentine forces, effective use of heavy weapons, light tanks and artillery/naval gunfire support saw them reach their objective by dawn, for the loss of three men.
The Scots Guards also faced tough opposition in the form of Argentine marines, but again with assistance from the sea – the 4.5in guns of Type 21 frigates HMS Active and HMS Avenger, with the latter also hitting anti-aircraft guns on Port Stanley racecourse – they clawed their way to their target by daybreak, losing 15 men dead with a further 60 or so wounded.
With Tumbledown taken, 1/7th Gurkhas streamed forward to capture the nearby Mount William, but found that their Argentine foe had vanished so occupied the peak with no opposition.
Into the mix flew members of 40 Cdo RM, flown in by helicopter along with Welsh Guards to take over the last remaining piece of high ground not in British hands, Sapper Hill, to the south-west of Stanley.
They faced some resistance, but had just about completed the job by the time members of 45 Cdo RM yomped in from Two Sisters Mountain.
The newly-captured territory was perfect for British artillery to bombard the Argentine defences of Stanley itself, into which poured the troops who had been dislodged in the overnight battles.
And it mean the road to Stanley was now in sight for what the British believed would be the final battle as Argentine troops – numbering around 8,000 – made their last stand.
Members of 2 Para were the first British troops to reach Stanley as their patrols probed at the defences on the outskirts of the town, but before the gathered might of 3 Cdo Bde and 5th Infantry Bde could begin their final assault, in the late morning the order went out to halt as surrender negotiations got under way.
Despite clear instructions from the Argentine junta to fight on, the local Argentine commander Gen Mario Menendez decided to negotiate with the British – his troops were surrounded, with artillery and warships aiming their big guns at his demoralised men, and much of their own artillery was destroyed or abandoned; the airfield was damaged and no aircraft was going to get in past the British ring of steel to relieve or even resupply the defenders.
The ceasefire ashore continued throughout the rest of the day as talks progressed, although Battle Group Commander Admiral Sandy Woodward made it clear to his team that the ceasefire only applied ashore, and that the ships were just as much at risk of attack as they had been since they arrived in the Total Exclusion Zone that encircled the Falklands.
That stance was maintained even after the formalities were completed, as Woodward accepted that while Menendez had surrendered, Gen Galtieri back in Buenos Aires had not.
Shortly after dark, a Sea King helicopter flew the Commander of British land forces, Gen Jeremy Moore RM, from his HQ aboard assault ship HMS Fearless to Stanley to accept the Argentine surrender, which was finally agreed and signed around 2130 local time – 0130 on 15 June in the UK.
The document covered all forces in East and West Falkland, and there was also the tiny, windswept, freezing outpost of South Thule, part of the South Sandwich Islands, to also take into account.
So while there was plenty of work still to be done by the British afloat and ashore, the combat element of the Falklands Conflict was over.
Today’s image from the Imperial War Museum collection (© IWM FKD 430) shows Maj Gen Jeremy Moore RM, Commander of the British Forces on the Falkland Islands, with the Instrument of Surrender signed by the Commander of the Argentine Forces, Gen Mario Menendez.
* These posts can only give a brief sense of what was a complex and fast-moving situation 40 years ago, and cannot cover the involvement of every ship, squadron and unit in detail – for a much more comprehensive account see the Falklands section of naval-history.net at https://www.naval-history.net/NAVAL1982FALKLANDS.htm
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