A Collection of Medals for the South Atlantic Campaign 1982
Date of Auction: 5th December 2018
Sold for £4,000
Estimate: £2,000 - £2,600
General Service 1962-2007, 1 clasp, Northern Ireland (MNE L M Church PO36081Y RM); U.N. Medal for Cyprus; South Atlantic 1982, with rosette (MNE L M Church PO36081Y RM) good very fine (3) £2,000-£2,600
FootnoteMarine L. M. ‘Laurie’ Church was one of the nine Marines from Naval Party 8901 who, together with a further twelve from H.M.S. Endurance, under Lieutenant Keith Mills, R.M., held off a large Argentine force in the battle of King Edward Point, on the Island of South Georgia on 3 April 1982. Church and the other Royal Marines inflicted considerable damage on the enemy, including the downing of a Puma helicopter, before being captured. He returned to the South Atlantic after his release and continued to serve with “J” Company 42 Commando during the campaign to recapture the Falklands.
The story of the battle for South Georgia is admirably told in Operation Paraquat by Roger Perkins, Picton Publishing, 1986. Marine Laurie Church is mentioned several times as one of the three-man explosives party preparing the beach against an attempted landing. He is also confirmed on the nominal list of the ‘Twenty-Two’ and features in the group photograph of the party at Grytviken before the battle commenced.
Battle for Grytviken, Saturday 3rd April - ‘That morning Guerrico and the Bahia Paraiso under the command of Captain Trombeta and by now with many of the marines re-embarked from Leith, arrived off Grytviken. The Magistrate was called on to surrender by radio, but he passed authority for the island to Lt. Mills, and at mid-day, with the Alouette going ahead to reconnoitre, Guerrico laying out in the Bay and the Puma about to land the first twenty troops near King Edward Point, battle commenced. As the troop-carrying Puma made her second trip in from Bahia Paraiso she was hit by small arms fire and badly damaged just off the Point with two Marines killed. Barely managing to lift off, she made it to the other side of King Edward Cove before crashing. The Alouette was also hit, but only lightly damaged and continued to bring in more Marines across from the base. Now Guerrico sailed in to support the landings and opened fire on the British positions, but it was her turn to be hit by hundreds of rounds of small arms fire as well as 66mm LAW and 84mm Carl Gustav anti-tank weapons before heading back out into the Bay.
From there, she used her 100mm gun against Lt. Mills’ men as the Argentine Marines moved around the Cove, through the whaling station at Grytviken and closed in. Trapped, with one man wounded and having convincingly defended British sovereignty, he decided to surrender. All 22 Royal Marines as well as the 13 civilians at Grytviken were taken prisoner.
Endurance arrived too late the same day to take part in the action, but from extreme range flew in a Wasp. Landing across Cumberland Bay from Grytviken, the crew could only observe the Argentines in possession of the scientific base. She stayed on station for two more days, before sailing north early on Monday 5th April to replenish and meet the first ships of the British Task Force. The Royal Marines returned in triumph to Britain on the 20th April by way of Montevideo, and just six days later, the Argentine forces at Grytviken and Leith were themselves in British hands.’
Sold with copied extracts from Operation Paraquat and other research, including nominal list of the ‘Twenty-Two’, together with Malcolm Angel’s book ‘Too Few Too Far - the true story of a Royal Marine Commando’, based on the reminiscences of Marine George Thomsen, one of the ‘Twenty-Two’, giving a detailed account of NP 8901 and the invasion of South Georgia - Laurie Church is mentioned frequently throughout.