Saturday 26 May 2012

British Troops Back In The Falklands.

During the night of 21 May 1981, British forces began an amphibious landing on beaches around San Carlos Water on the northwestern coast of East Falkland. Such was the severity of Argentine air attacks from low-flying jets that the site became known as Bomb Alley. The 4000 men of 3 Commando Brigade were put ashore from the ferry Norland, HMS Fearless, HMS Intrepid and RFA Stromness with 42 Commando being held on board SS Canberra as a tactical reserve. By dawn of 22 May the British troops had secured a beachhead from which to conduct their operations. It was planned to capture the settlements of Darwin and Goose Green before going on to the capital of Port Stanley. At sea the British had suffered losses:- the destroyer HMS Sheffield had been sunk on 4 May by a French exocet missile (despite claiming to support the British the French government kept a missile team in Argentina throughout the war) and 20 British crew members died. A number of British aircraft had been lost in the first weeks of May. The British had sunk or damaged a number of Argentine vessels:- the ARA General Belgrano on 2 May (323 crew members died), the ARA Alferez Sobral on 1 May, the trawler Narwhal was sunk on 9 May as was the supply ship Islas de los Estados on 10 May.
On 14 June 1983, The Falkland Islands issued a set of 4 stamps and a miniature sheet designed by Anthony Theobald which highlighted the 4 British services which took part in the landings at San Carlos Water, the date of issue coinciding with the first anniversary of the end of the war. The miniature sheet (above) combined all four values and depicted in its margins the badges of the participating forces:- The Royal Marines, Royal Army Chaplains Department, Welsh Guards, Queen Alexandra's Royal Army Nursing Corps, Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, Falklands Islands Defence Force, The Duke of Edinburgh's Own Gurkha Rifles, Special Air Service Regiment, Scots Guards, Royal Army Ordinance Corps, Blues and Royals, Parachute Regiment, Royal Corps of Transport, Royal Army Pay Corps, Queen Alexandra's Royal Naval Nursing Service, Royal Engineers, Royal Maritime Auxiliary Service, Army Catering Corps, Royal Fleet Auxiliary, Merchant Navy, the Royal Navy, Army Air Corps, Royal Pioneer Corps, Royal Army Medical Corps, Royal Military Police, Royal Artillery, the Royal Air Force, the Intelligence Corps, Royal Army Dental Corps and the Royal Corps of Signals. The 5p value, depicted above, showed British troops "yomping" across the island and the 17p depicted the all important air cover which the troops received (below), a "Harrier" fighter being the subject of the design. The 13p value was dedicated to the Merchant Navy and depicted the transport ships, the SS Canberra and MV Norland, both mentioned above. As illustrated in a previous blog, the Royal Navy was commemorated by the 50p value and showed the aircraft carrier, HMS Hermes.
The 17p design was reproduced for a stamp exhibition souvenir miniature sheet which was produced the following year and also included a facsimile signature of the Governor of The Falkland Islands, Rex Hunt, who had been expelled from the islands when the Argentines first invaded. It makes quite an interesting addition to any collection of Falkland Islands stamps even though it of course had no postal validity.
The British suffered terrible blows over the following days:- on 21 May the frigate, the Ardent, was sunk in San Carlos Water, on 24 May another frigate, HMS Antelope, was sunk by an exploding bomb and the landing crafts Sir Galahad and Sir Lancelot were hit by Argentine bombs and Sir Bevedere was also damaged by a bomb. On 25 May the destroyer, HMS Coventry, was sunk and 20 crew members were killed and on the same day, the Atlantic Conveyor, had to be abandoned after an exocet attack and 12 crew members died and 3 vital chinook helicopters were lost. From 21 to 25 May, 40 Argentine aircraft were shot down. On 26 May, the British government made the taking of Goose Green a priority and 2 Para set out for the settlement.

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