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Raid on Deception Island

Unit/ Formation: Royal Marines

Location: Deception Island, Antarctica

Period/ Conflict:

Year: 1953

Date/s: 15th February 1953

HMS Snipe lands one officer, 2 corporals and 10 marines at the British base on Deception Island in Antarctica, which was occupied by 2 Argentine seamen, who were arrested and shipped out by HMS Snipe.

Documents released at the National Archives show that during his second stint as prime minister, Winston Churchill was so concerned that Argentina had military designs on the Falkland Islands and other British territories in the south Atlantic that he sent a Royal Navy frigate, HMS Snipe, from Portsmouth.

In a personal minute to defence chiefs, Churchill said: "Certainly a frigate should be kept in the neighbourhood of the Falkland Islands ... I had not realised your resources were so straitened that even an improvised Company could not be sent to Port Stanley."

When it emerged a short time afterwards that in February 1953 an Argentinian naval tug, the Chiriguano, had established a hut, tent and flag on Deception Island, part of the South Shetland Islands, some 400 yards from the British settlement, it was time for action.

A report on the counter-offensive, led by the marines armed with Sten guns, rifles and tear gas, said: "Argentine naval sergeant and leading corporal sole occupants of Argentine hut, Argentines, who offered no resistance, were searched for arms." It added: "Two detained men are described as resigned and possibly pleased to be leaving island."

Anxious not to portray their counter-invasion as an act of war, the British soldiers were accompanied by the chief constable of the Falklands Islands. The Argentinians were arrested and deported before their hut was dismantled by British troops along with an abandoned rival encampment set up by the Chileans.

Extract from: The Independent

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