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'Mills Marauders' - The Battle of Grytviken

Updated: Apr 11, 2022

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.

Falklands: NP8901 signal to Commandant General Royal Marines (1250Z) ("Illegal Landing South Georgia") [nine members of NP8901 embarked on Endurance; "sensitive subject", recommends CGRM take naval advice before acting further or relaying information] [declassified Aug 2015]

Early on 3 April 1982 Lieutenant Keith Paul Mills received a radio message from HMS Endurance relaying instructions from London that he should make only a token resistance to any Argentine violation of British territory. He allegedly replied "sod that, I'll make their eyes water", a remark that became famous.

The story of the battle for South Georgia is told in Operation Paraquat by Roger Perkins, Picton Publishing, 1986.

'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.

The ARA Guerrico became the first ship in history to be seriously damaged by land based Anti-Tank weapons, fired by members of the defending 22 Royal Marines on South Georgia. She needed extensive repairs before rejoining the Argentine Navy.

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.’

During the two-hour Battle of Grytviken on 3 April 1982, Lieutenant Mills' detachment of 22 Royal Marines inflicted damage on the Argentine corvette ARA Guerrico, hitting her with an 84mm anti-tank rocket and many rounds of small arms fire, and shot down a Puma helicopter, killing two Argentine Marines and one sailor, while sustaining one wounded on the British side.

The losses suffered at Grytviken prevented Argentina from occupying the rest of the island, with 15 Britons remaining outside Argentine control on several locations from Bird Island and Schlieper Bay in the northwest to St. Andrews Bay to the southeast.

South Georgia was retaken by British forces on 25 April 1982, during Operation Paraquet

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