The Falklands War — Hunting the Enemy From Day One

When the Argies decided to invade and occupy the Falkland Islands it was the wrong fucking idea. It’s the wrong country to start on. It was time to put it right.

Cue the great Royal Navy sailing down with troops to kick the shit out of them and take back the Islands. Before the Royal Marines and the Paras kicked arse we had some work to do.

Before the first shots had been fired we had to recce the area. Knowledge is power. Intelligence is vital. Squadron Leader John Elliott was flying a Victor conducting reconnaissance around South Georgia. They are fuckoff big refuelling strategic bombers. Check them out.

A Handley Page Victor — The strategic bomber used to conduct early an recce around South Georgia.

See. I wasn’t lying.

Elliott had flown over 7,000 miles and for almost 15 hours. They found nothing that suggested that the Argies had any ships or submarines in the area.

Getting Troops Closer to Land

We had been trying a few times in the previous days to get troops in the area and land them on the islands (worthy of its own post in the future). SBS/SAS and Royal Marines were continually flown in and then out again before they could land due to bad weather.

On the 24th April, HMS Brilliant turned up. This was like the hoofing kid on the estate turning up to help when the rival gang were on top. HMS Brilliant was a frigate with guided-missiles and Lynx Helicopters on board. The power was stacking up in our favour now.

HMS Brilliant that came to join the party at South Georgia.

Intelligence then came in that claimed that the Argentine Submarine Santa Fe might be trying to enter Grytviken harbour the next day (25th April). The Task Group commander ordered a few ships down south to re-join Endurance off the coast of South Georgia. There were plenty of helicopters remaining and at first light a search began to hunt for Santa Fe.

The Hunt

Ian Stanley (the pilot who attempted, and succeeded to drop off and pick up the troops in the awful weather) took his Wessex, turned off the radar to avoid detection and headed towards Grytviken. He was stealthy. He could hide in the clouds that were overcast at 400 feet and visibility was as low as half a mile.

Santa Fe — The first to be hunted down by the British.

Lieutenant Chris Parry was the observer. He searched with his radar and made a contact a few miles off of the coast. They headed towards it right away. When they were three-quarters of a mile away they spotted a submarine on the surface.

It’s a Submarine!

Parry said in his book, Down South:

‘It’s a submarine,’ said our pilot, Lieutenant Commander Ian Stanley. ‘You’re joking,’ I said.
I quickly worked out the ballistic calculations for the movement of the submarine. He was heading 310 degrees northwest at eight knots. Talk about making it easy for us: we could just fly along the submarine’s track — and, when we were above, release. I fused both the depth charges.

Their Wessex was heading along the route of Santa Fe at just over 100 miles an hour. They closed in to attack.

What a moment. It is every Observer’s dream to have a real live submarine caught in the trap with two depth charges ready to go! I thought about the men we might be about to kill, but Ian started calling down the range.
As Ian called: ‘On top, now, now, now,’ I saw the fin of a submarine pass under the aircraft through the gap around the sonar housing and I released both charges.
Ian flipped the cab around violently to starboard to see the results. As we turned, the whole of the aft section of the submarine disappeared and two large explosions detonated either side of it. Plumes of water shot up.

Wessex helicopter at Ascension Island — 1982

They thought Santa Fe was starting to dive when they dropped the depth charges on it. There’s a fucking jackpot right in your mouth.

Anybody Else Want a Go?

It wasn’t over yet though and Parry wanted to ensure it was out of action.

I asked Plymouth to launch her Wasp helicopter armed with AS-12 missiles, since the submarine still posed a threat.
The low cloud was lifting, as if a curtain was being raised on a stage, to reveal a stunning backdrop of peaks and glaciers. Antrim and the frigates Brilliant and Plymouth were closing at high-speed from the northeast.
Plymouth’s Wasp fired an AS-12, which hit the submarine aft on the casing, causing a number of plates to fly off. The submarine was also attacked by Wasps from Endurance. We returned to Antrim, REFUELED, and relaunched with one depth charge to witness the final stages of the submarine flopping alongside the British Antarctic Survey jetty and the Grytviken whaling settlement on South Georgia.

The battered Santa Fe was out of the war. The crew ran ashore to get away from the stricken submarine. Game over for you sunshine. Don’t fuck with the British.

More Offensive Action

They put it well in Air War South Atlantic:

Now the attacking force had revealed itself, all pretence of stealth was abandoned and Antrim and Plymouth opened up a powerful bombardment just clear of the Argentine positions around the harbour to serve as a demonstration of force…

They continued…

Meanwhile the Wessex and two Lynx began ferrying ashore the small available force of soldiers and marines. By late afternoon British troops were closing on the enemy positions when, suddenly, white flags began to appear.

They even managed to conduct these actions successfully with nobody being killed. One sailor from the Santa Fe was seriously injured. The next day a small Argentine garrison fifteen miles away also surrendered and South Georgia was back in British hands.