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Mount Longdon

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On the night of 11/12 June 1982, 3 PARA under the command of Lt Col Hew Pike conducted a deliberate assault against an Argentine position on Mount Longdon, north west of Port Stanley, which was held by B Company of the Argentine Infantry Regiment 7, together with a detachment of Engineers and a heavy machine gun platoon manned by Argentine Marines.

The original plan envisaged B Company 3 Para taking Longdon itself, whilst A Coy cleared a suspected Argentine position slightly to the north of the mountain before sweeping past assault Wireless Ridge. C Coy were in reserve.

In reality, Longdon alone turned out to be a battalion task. The Argentines were poorly led and deployed, and B Coy had actually unwittingly penetrated their position before the element of surprise was lost when Cpl Milne stepped on a mine. The Argentine defenders at the west end of the mountain were all asleep and an Argentine platoon commander - who was subsequently posthumously awarded the Argentine equivalent of the VC - was in fact killed as he was attempting to extricate himself from his tent.

The majority of 3 Para's casualties were in B Coy, who found themselves caught amongst the Argentine foxholes, though A Coy also suffered casualties at this point because they were in the main defensive arc of the Argentines on the mountain.

With B Coy bogged down, Pike eventually extracted A Coy from their position to the north of the hill and they took on the assault, passing through B Coy and clearing the position at around first light. Subsequent casualties were taken from Argentine defensive artillery fire.

Longdon was the second major land battle of the Falklands War and the costliest. Several factors account for this, including:

  • Underestimation of the Argentine will to 'stand and fight'
  • A poor fire plan (this was partly reversed by the intervention of Captain Willie McCracken MC, RA, an NGLO accompanying 3 Para who brought in pin-point fire from Royal Navy ships) which didn't allow the 3 Para Mortar Platoon to begin effective fire for some hours after the main body had crossed the start line.
  • An unrealistically over-optimistic aim.

On the other hand, the battle was won because of:

  • Superb leadership at section and platoon level.
  • Superbly trained soldiers.
  • Snot and aggression.

During the course of the fighting, Sergeant Ian McKay of B Coy led an ad hoc section in an attack against a well-defended Argentine machine gun position but was tragically killed as he took it. For this, he was awarded a well deserved VC.