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Operation KeyHole

Updated: Jul 4, 2023

Unit/ Formation: 42 Cdo RM

Location: Thule Island

Period/ Conflict: The Falklands War

Year: 1982

Date/s: 19 - 20 June 1982

After the Argentine surrender on the Falkland Islands on 14 June 1982 HMS Yarmouth, HMS Endurance, RFA Olmeda and the tug Salvageman sailed to the South Sandwich Islands with instructions to end the Argentine presence there. Marines from Endurance and 42 Commando Royal Marines were landed on Thule Island covertly to observe Argentine activities.

HMS Yarmouth, HMS Endurance, RFA Olmeda & tug Salvageman - Operation Keyhole

They encountered harsh conditions on the island with an air temperature of minus 20 degrees Celsius and a gale gusting to 60 miles per hour, the chill factor caused an effective drop to minus 52 degrees.

Yarmouth demonstrated her intention by firing her gun and several helicopters flew around the base. Under the threat of the Royal Marines party and the ships cruising in front of the base, the Argentinians raised a white flag.

Royal Marines of 'Mills Marauders' who were forced to lower the Union Flag on South Georgia on 3 April, now hoisted the Union Flag on Thule Island.

"Mills Marauders" posing in -20 with 60mph winds and a wind chill factor of -52 on this day in 1982. (@FirstFalklands - Twitter)

The final surrender of the war was signed in the wardroom of Endurance with all commanders present. Ten prisoners (one civilian and nine military personnel) were evacuated to the tanker Olmeda, accompanied by Yarmouth, and they departed for South Georgia.

The Corbeta Uruguay station on Southern Thule, 1981

The Argentine base "Corbeta Uruguay" was closed and the buildings sealed to make them weatherproof. The other ships Endurance and MS Salvageman followed and were back at Cumberland East Bay, South Georgia, by 24 June 1982. No deaths or injuries were sustained on either side.

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