The Battle for Mount Harriet, along with the Battle for Two Sisters, took place on the night of June 11th and June 12th, 1982. Mount Harriet gave its Argentine defenders a great height advantage and the position had to be attacked and taken if British troops did not want their route to Port Stanley made more dangerous by being attacked in the rear. Once Mount Harriet had been captured, the march to Port Stanley was just miles to the east.
42 Commando, Royal Marines, fought the Battle for Mount Harriet. Artillery from the 7th Battery, 29 Commando, Royal Artillery supported them. ‘HMS Yarmouth’ was offshore and in a position to use her 4.5-inch gun to give further support to 42 Commando when required. Lieutenant Colonel Nick Vaux commanded 42 Commando.
Against 42 Commando were men from the Argentine 4th Infantry Regiment who had built secure defences on Mount Harriet.
On May 30th, men from 42 Commando started to gather at Mount Challenger. The process of getting all the men and equipment there took a week. Patrols by both 42 Commando and men from the Welsh Guards informed Vaux that the slopes of Mount Harriet were well defended. Vaux knew that an attack on Two Sisters would take place at the same time as his attack on Mount Harriet. Two Sisters was just to the north of Mount Harriet. Therefore, Vaux could not attack his target from the north as this could have interfered with 45 Commando, Royal Marines, attack on Two Sisters. An old fashioned frontal assault – which would have included going across a minefield - would have been costly in terms of men lost. Therefore, Vaux decided to launch his attack from the south.
The plan was for the Welsh Guards to secure the Start Line for both L and K companies. This was to the southeast of Mount Harriet. J Company was to remain on Wall Mountain, to the west of Mount Harriet, and attack from the front when the Argentine defenders were suitably engaged by L and K companies. The plan was for L Company to attack the southwest flank of Mount Harriet at 20.30 on June 11th. This attack was planned to draw away some Argentine defenders from their dugouts. When this occurred, K Company would attack the southeast flank of the mountain at 21.30. When both companies were fully engaged, J Company would advance from Wall Mountain after a suitable clearance had been made in the area where mines were known to be laid.
The Battle of Mount Harriet started out as a ‘noisy’ battle. Whereas other attacks were silent, the battle commenced with an artillery bombardment of selected targets on Mount Harriet. In theory, this should have been unsettling and would have damaged morale. Targets on the rear of the slope were well within range of HMS Yarmouth, so there was no safety there for the defenders stationed there.
However, there was a delay in the attack. Both K and L companies failed to meet up with the Welsh Guards securing the Start Line at the designated time.
K Company started its attack at 22.00. The Royal Marines got to within 100 meters of the first dugouts of the 4th Infantry Regiment before being seen. L Company attacked through more difficult terrain and found the going more difficult. Argentine snipers based on Goats Ridge proved to be more than just awkward. Men from L Company used Milans to take out both sniper nests and heavy machine gun posts.
Once the attack on the slopes of Mount Harriet started, the plan went as Vaux would have wished. J Company advanced from Goats Ridge and this unit included men from Naval Party 8901 – the men who had been captured and then repatriated by the Argentine Army on the first day of the invasion. Vaux had stated that:
“The enemy are well dug-in in very strong positions but I believe that once we get among them they will crack pretty quickly.”
This assessment proved to be correct. The combination of accurate and deadly artillery fire combined with the determination of the men from 42 Commando meant that the men in the 4th Infantry Regiment either surrendered or quickly withdrew. 42 Commando was greatly assisted in its attack by the accurate fire laid down by the 7th Battery, 29 Commando, Royal Artillery. During the attack, they fired 3,000 rounds of ammunition and many of the shells landed just 50 meters in front of the advancing commandos giving them excellent cover.
42 Commando captured 300 prisoners in the attack and suffered 2 fatalities themselves – one on Mount Harriet and one on Wall Mountain.
For the bravery shown in the attack on Mount Harriet, 42 Commando was awarded 1 DSO, 1 Military Cross, 4 Military Medals and 8 men were Mentioned in Dispatches.