On 2 April 1982 Argentina invaded Port Stanley – the capital of the Falkland Islands Dependencies. With only about 80 marines for defence, the Islands and South Georgia were quickly overrun. A British Task Force was rapidly assembled to retake the Islands, with its Land Element centred on 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines.
At this time 3 PARA was spearhead Battalion and attached to 3 Commando Brigade RM leaving UK on 9 April on SS Canberra. 2 PARA at 5 days' notice to move, was also stood to and departed on 26 April on MV Norland. During the long voyage south, both Battalions carried out intensive training.
3 Commando Brigade RM went ashore at Ajax Bay on the Night of 21/22 May. 2 PARA established itself on Sussex Mountain protecting the South of the Bridgehead without opposition. 3 PARA landed in the North near Port San Carlos driving off a group of 40 enemy. Over the next week Argentinian air attacks against the beach-head and shipping took place almost daily.
On 26 May, 2 PARA was ordered to move South and engage the Argentinian Strategic Reserve and Airfield on the Darwin/Goose Green Peninsular. The attack began during the early hours of 28 May with Naval and Artillery support. By daylight, however, it was held up by strong enemy defensive positions near Darwin and the Commanding Officer, Lt-Col H Jones, was killed trying to take out a machine gun post.The assault continued with some ferocious trench to trench fighting and by last light the whole peninsular less the Goose Green Settlement was taken. Negotiations with the Argentinians produced their surrender the next day. Around 45-50 Argentinians were killed, and The Official History of the Falklands Campaign conservatively reports 961 Argentinian prisoners taken, although as its author Lawrence Freedman noted "the counting process was possibly less precise than the number suggests", and other accounts of the battle have reported a larger prisoner count.
Meanwhile on 27 May 3 PARA set off on foot by a Northern route to capture Teal Inlet which it did on 29 May taking some prisoners. On 11 June 2 PARA moved north to rejoin 3 Commando Brigade RM for the final battle for Port Stanley. An early but vital objective was Mount Longdon and this was attacked by 3 PARA during the night 11/12 June. The enemy was well dug in and prepared and it was only after ten hours of bloody fighting that 3 PARA secured the objective. They then held it for 48 hours under intense and accurate artillery fire. A total of 23 British airborne soldiers were killed during this operation.
Briefly under command of 5 Infantry Brigade, elements of 2 PARA conducted a coup de main operation, 28 miles inside no-man's land, on 2 June. They secured the objectives of Bluff Cove and Fitzroy, with a view to opening a southern flank of operations. On the night of 13/14 June 2 PARA passed behind 3 PARA and, supported by 3 PARA mortars, attacked another key objective - Wireless Ridge. This again was secure by first light and shortly afterwards the enemy resistance collapsed. Both Battalions followed up and were the first troops to enter Port Stanley.
Forty two members of The Parachute Regiment and attached personnel were killed in action, with a further 95 personnel from the two Battalions wounded in action. Two Victoria Croses were posthumously awarded to Lt Col H Jones, 2 PARA, and Sgt Ian McKay of 3 PARA. In total, some 71 gallantry awards for actions in the Falklands were made to attached personnel, members of The Parachute Regiment and former members on service with other units.
Battle Honour Conferred:
Falkland Island 1982