Just before dawn on 19th March 1969 2 PARA (less B Company) conducted an amphibious assault on the Caribbean Island of Anguilla known as Operation SHEEPSKIN. This was in response to popular unrest over proposed federation with other Caribbean states.
Civil strife led to armed insurrection and as the Island was a British Colony 2 PARA was despatched with 120 members of London’s Metropolitan Police to restore order.
It was decided not to conduct an airborne assault but instead land with Gemini assault craft from two Royal Navy frigates to soften the political profile of the intervention. Flashes around the beach landing area proved to be from a large contingent of the World’s Press waiting to record the landing, rather than hostile fire Royal Navy gunners were assuming they may have to silence.
Law and order was rapidly restored by the Metropolitan policemen while 2 PARA concentrated on ‘hearts and minds’ to win over the Islanders. B Company was flown in six weeks later while the rest of the battalion returned to the UK.
B Company participated in the ‘Grass Roots’ population census that followed and won over the inhabitants by their friendly and tolerant approach to maintaining the Island’s security; visiting all parts of the Island.
On 14th September B Company returned to England. 2 PARA’s efforts during its six month tour of duty was recognized by the award of the Wilkinson Sword of Peace by Field Marshal Sir Gerald Templer ‘for acts of humanity and kindness overseas’.