Known as the first major land battle of the 1982 Falklands War, the Battle of Goose Green saw the target and its surrounding area taken by the British, but their leader, Lieutenant-Colonel ‘H’ Jones, lost his life.
The Battle of Goose Green is seen by many as the first major land battle of the Falklands War and it was a resounding success in that British troops captured Goose Green and its surrounding areas. However, the commander of the troop involved in the conflict, Lieutenant-Colonel ‘H’ Jones, was killed during the battle.
Troops from 2 Para, the Parachute Regiment arrived at Blue Beach 2, San Carlos Bay on the East Falkland Islands on 21 May 1982 and from there were sent to the south side of the bay in order to ward off any approaches from Argentine soldiers based in the south. The British troops then travelled south to Goose Green and Darwin to fight the Argentine’s 12th Regiment troops, taking two day’s worth of battle supplies and weapons. The attack was due to start on 24 May, however it was then cancelled and reinstated for 26 May.
The troops began marching from Sussex Mountain, targeting Camilla Creek House as their starting point. Men were sent to explore on 27 May, to prepare for the attack and to work out where the Argentine had set up their machine gun posts and other defences. B Company, 2 Para, headed from an area close to Burntside Pond along the western coastline, while A Company, 2 Para, phased their attack past Burntside House along the east coast. H. Jones had planned his attack with the knowledge his men had gained in mind. However, it had not been noticed that the Argentine troops had based guns along Darwin Hill and this ultimately led to the death of H. Jones as he was killed while leading an attack on those guns. He had commanded the attack without knowing that there were six more Argentine trenches close to the one he was targeting.
Shortly after H. Jones was killed, A Company used 66mm anti-tank rockets to completely destroy the Argentine trenches that had not formerly being noticed by the British men and, as a result of this attack, the Argentines at Darwin surrendered.
Meanwhile, B Company had got to a position where they could attack Goose Green, along with help from D Company. However, they could not foresee the White Flag incident that was about to take place. Lieutenant Jim Barry and a D Company sergeant both lost their lives while they were accepting the surrender of Argentine men who were flying the White Flag. The Argentines could only escape from the sea to the east as they were locked in on each side by B Company, D Company and C Company, however they did not have the means to arrange this form of escape.
Major Chris Keeble, who was the acting commander of 2 Para, contacted the commander of Argentine forces on 29 May, giving him three options. The terms of surrender read:
We have sent a PW to you under a white flag of truce to convey the following military options:
1. That you unconditionally surrender your force to us by leaving the township, forming up in a military manner, removing your helmets and laying down your weapons. You will give prior notice of this intention by returning the PW under a white flag with him briefed as to the formalities by no later than 0830 hrs local time.
2. You refuse in the first case to surrender and take the inevitable consequences. You will give prior notice of this intention by returning the PW without his flag (although his neutrality will be respected) no later than 0830 hrs local time.
3. In the event and in accordance with the terms and conditions of the Geneva Convention and Laws of War you will be held responsible for the fate of any civilians in Darwin and Goose Green and we in accordance with these terms do give notice of our intention to bombard Darwin and Goose Green.
Commander of British Forces
At the surrender - which took place when the POW returned with the White Flag - there were 983 soldiers, 100 of whom had been taken prisoner during the conflict. While 2 Para had lost 17 men, over 200 Argentine men had been killed in the Battle of Goose Green.
Following the end of the Falklands War, this battle was called into question by experts, with some challenging the wisdom of attacking an Argentine unit that was located in the opposite direction to the Falkland Islands’ capital of Port Stanley. However, British commanders had decided that 12th Regiment did indeed pose a threat to British forces on their travels east, as well as posing a threat to the British bridgehead based at San Carlos.
It was also thought that the British Government was looking for a publicity grabbing victory for the British public following the extensive losses at sea, including the ship Atlantic Conveyor. However, this theory has also been debunked in part as the delay experienced by 2 Para has been attributed in the unit’s log to the questioning over the necessity of the fight from London.
Brigadier Julian Thompson, a senior military commander, was also said to have publicly questioned why troops were sent south when the land troops were going from west to east. Despite Thompson’s hesitation, it is said that H. Jones pushed the attack forwards, putting pressure on Thompson to give it the green light.
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