Following the Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands, 3 PARA were deployed as part of a British Task Force to retake the Islands. Having landed at Port San Carlos, they tabbed across the East Falkland via Teal Inlet to Estancia House from where they began to send out patrols to recce the area around Mount Longdon situated to the north west of Port Stanley, the capital of the Falkland Islands.
Before British forces could retake Port Stanley, it was essential that the high ground around the capital was taken. This included Mount Longdon, Mount Kent, the Two Sisters, Mount Harriet, Mount Tumbledown, Wireless Ridge and Mount William.
Of these objectives, 3 PARA was tasked with taking Mount Longdon on the night of the 11/12 June 1982, to coincide with attacks on the Two Sisters by 45 Commando and Mount Harriet by 42 Commando.
At 1930hrs on 10 June 1982, Lt Col Hew Pike gave his orders in the Regimental Aid Post at Estancia House for the attack on Mount Longdon. They were told to expect around 800 Argentine soldiers defending the Mount who were well dug in and provided with artillery cover from 3 Argentine x 105mm howitzers from Moody Brook and a further 155mm gun on Sapper Hill. In addition, the area had been heavily mined.
Mount Longdon is a long narrow feature of rocky terrain, running from east to west with two summits. As a result of its geography only one company attacking could advance along it. The plan was that the rifle companies would be led to the start line at the stream, west of Mount Longdon by members of D (Patrol) Company. H hour was set for 0001hrs, 12 June. The start line would be known as ‘Free Kick’.
B Company, on the right would take the two summits named ‘Fly Half’ and ‘Full Back’ following the ridge line. Meanwhile, A Company would be on the left to take ‘Wing Forward’, a spur running from the western side of the summit. C Company would be held in reserve.
The start line was crossed at 0015hrs by A and B Companies. It was a silent approach until Cpl Milne stepped on a land mine, which alerted the enemy to the attack. At this point the enemy opened fire and fierce fighting ensued. 4 Platoon took the brunt of the enemy fire, with one man killed and an additional four wounded, including the Platoon Commander. Sgt Ian McKay, therefore, took command of 4 Platoon and moved forward to attack a heavy machine gun position up a steep slope. It was whilst engaging this position he was killed in action. He would later receive a posthumous Victoria Cross for his actions.
Meanwhile, A Company was attacking from the northern side of Mount Longdon. They were coming under heavy, sustained and accurate enemy fire and so the decision was made by Lt Col Pike to withdraw them from that position. Instead they were to move through B Company and take ‘Full Back’. Having taken the western peak, they moved eastwards, under heavy artillery fire from Mount Tumbledown before taking the eastern peak.
Mount Longdon was taken by 1100hrs on the 12 June. By this time, 3 PARA had been fighting for ten hours and they would remain under heavy artillery fire for a further 36 hours from Mount Tumbledown. During this period an additional four soldiers were killed in action.
The Battle of Mount Longdon cost 3 PARA twenty-three dead, including attached personnel, and forty three wounded. Accounts vary on the Argentinean casualties, with between thirty to fifty killed, a similar number taken prisoner, and up to one hundred and twenty wounded.
Members of 3 PARA killed in action
Sgt I McKay VC
Cpl Stevie Hope
Cpl Keith McCarthy
Cpl Stewart McLaughlin
L/Cpl Pete Higgs
L/Cpl Chris Lovett
L/Cpl James Murdoch
L/Cpl David Scott
Pte Richard Absolon MM
Pte Gerald Bull
Pte Jason Burt
Pte Jonathan Crow
Pte Mark Dodsworth
Pte Tony Greenwood
Pte Neil Grose
Pte Pete Hedicker
Pte Tim Jenkins
Pte Craig Jones
Pte Stewart Laing
Pte Ian Scrivens
Pte Phil West