A Collection of Medals for the South Atlantic Campaign 1982

Date of Auction: 5th December 2018

Sold for £3,200

Estimate: £1,800 - £2,200

The South Atlantic medal awarded to Marine A. C. Brindley, Royal Marines, a member of Naval Party 8901 taken prisoner after the invasion of Port Stanley by Argentine Forces on 2 April 1982

South Atlantic 1982, with rosette (MNE 1 A C Brindley PO39851D RM) good very fine £1,800-£2,200

Footnote

Marine Brindley was a member of Naval Party 8901 (NP 8901) Royal Marines under the command of Major Mike Norman, R.M. At the time of the Argentine invasion the islands were defended by NP 8901 that consisted of a Royal Marine garrison of about troop strength. It just so happened that NP 8901 was in the process of its annual rotation, with one troop arriving and one troop returning to the U.K., a fact that the Argentine intelligence did not know. Major Noott’s troop of Marines were being relieved by a troop commanded by Major Norman. This gave Rex Hunt a total of 67 Royal Marines to defend the Falklands. Major Norman, being the senior of the two Majors, was placed in overall command and Noott was made military adviser to the Governor.

Major Norman’s men had moved into Moody Brook barracks, while Major Noott’s party moved in with families with whom they had become friendly during their tour of duty. With an Argentine force expected to invade the islands the combined NP 8901 party would be the main British force to oppose the landings.

At 0400 on 2 April 1982, the invasion of the Falklands began with the Argentine spearhead landing south of Port Stanley at Mullet Creek. Once ashore they split into two groups. One group advanced over Sapper Hill and approached Government House from the rear. The other party went directly to the Royal Marines accommodation building at Moody Brook, one and a half miles to the west.

Unaware that the barracks had been evacuated, the Argentine ‘Buzo Tactico’ Special Forces Assault Group quietly surrounded the the barracks and then, without warning, raked it with automatic fire. Kicking down the door they raced through the interior, hurling phosphor grenades into each room and spraying the bunks with their sub machine guns. This murderous attack was intended to kill each and every British serviceman on the island in a single blow. Their lives were only saved by Major Norman’s and Major Noott’s precautionary moves in the face of an expected invasion, and by the coincidence of the date. If the Argentineans had launched their attack on the previous night, at which time Governor Rex Hunt and the marines had no indication whatsoever that they might be in danger, the plan could have succeeded. Given the almost total lack of warning, the marines could count themselves extraordinarily lucky to be alive. Rex Hunt and his wife and their fourteen guests were similarly fortunate.

Shortly before 0600 the people of Government House heard firing from the direction of Moody Brook, and soon afterwards fire was opened on Government House itself. Argentine marines forced their way into an outbuilding and a fierce fire fight began as the Moody Brook contingent joined the first group. The attackers were held at bay for two and a half hours, three of their number being captured and five, including one of their officers, a captain, being killed.

The main Argentine invasion force advanced in strength toward Port Stanley along the airfield road in their armoured personnel carriers (APC). Here they ran into the hastily arranged Royal Marine defences. Despite their overwhelming strength, the Argentines received a very bloody nose. Lieutenant Bill Trollope’s party scored a direct hit on the tracks of the leading APC with a round from their 84mm Carl Gustav rocket launcher. A second hit was then scored against the hull with a 66mm launcher. These vehicles normally carried ten soldiers. The hollow-charge missile punched a hole through the steel plate of the vehicle’s flank spraying the interior with small chunks of molten metal. Nobody got out.

Sheltering under a small desk in his office, equipped with a small transmitter now his ‘operations room’, Rex Hunt continued to broadcast a running commentary on the battle as bullets cracked through the windows, walls and roof of the handsome Victorian building. In Government House there was a sense of relief that the initial attack had been successfully repulsed. The Argentines had so far failed to capture Government House and the Governor himself. After the heavy firing the battle gradually reduced to sporadic sniping.

As reports came through of the approaching armoured units, however, Rex Hunt, faced the inevitable decision to surrender. He knew that the grossly outnumbered Royal Marines were willing to fight on, but he was deeply concerned for the civilian population in the town. Having had such inadequate notice of the approach of the enemy fleet, he had had no opportunity to evacuate the women, children and the elderly. A prolonged fire fight could only cause unnecessary loss of life without altering the final outcome.

At 0920 Admiral Carlos Busser, commanding the invasion force, was escorted into Government House. He complimented Hunt on the ‘bravery and professionalism’ of his soldiers, but urged him to give the order for the Royal Marines to lay down their weapons in order to avert further bloodshed. The unhappy Governor agreed and arranged with Majors Norman and Noott for a ceasefire to be broadcast. There was no formal declaration of surrender, no signing of documents, no hand over of power but, by 0925, it was all over.

The British had fired 6,450 rounds of 7.62mm small arms ammunition, four 84mm rockets and eight 66mm rockets launchers. The invading force lost between five and fifteen men killed and seventeen wounded.

Governor Rex Hunt was allowed to change into his official ceremonial regalia, complete with plumed hat and sword, and was driven to the airport in his official car, a red London taxi. At the airport he was placed aboard an Argentine C130 Hercules and flown to Montevideo and from there flown back to London.

No such niceties for the members of NP 8901. The Royal Marines were stripped of their weapons and webbing and forced to lie down on the ground in front of Government House with their hands behind their heads, to a man thinking they were about to be executed by a shot to the neck. They were not, however, either executed or otherwise physically abused, but the humiliation they all felt was hard to take, especially once the inevitable photographs hit the British tabloids with disgraceful accusations such as 'Surrender' and 'Shame' alongside reports that the Marines had run up the white flag with barely a shot fired.

But recently, 35 years after the triumphant end of the Falklands War, a new book, The First Casualty, has dramatically rewritten the fall of Stanley as a modern version of the heroic defence of Rorke's Drift in 1879 – where 150 troops held off more than 4,000 Zulu warriors in South Africa. Military historian Ricky Phillips has interviewed soldiers and officers from both sides of the conflict, pored over diaries and previously unseen documents and spoken to Falkland Islanders. His remarkable conclusion is that the small party of Royal Marines mounted a brave and fierce rearguard action that, he estimates, cost the lives of up to 100 Argentinean invaders without a single British casualty.

All members of NP 8901 returned to the South Atlantic after their release and served in “J” Company 42 Commando during the campaign to recapture the Falklands.