The Battle for Mount Longdon took place from June 11th to June 12th. Mount Longdon is situated to the northwest of Port Stanley, the Falkland Island’s capital, and had to be captured by the British forces as Mount Longdon gave the Argentine forces there a height advantage over the British and they would have continued to have threatened them if British troops had simply by-passed Mount Longdon on their advance to Port Stanley. The attack was co-ordinated with attacks on Mount Harriet and Two Sisters in an attempt to fully occupy all Argentine forces in the area so that one could not support the other.
3 Para, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Hew Pike, were tasked with capturing Mount Longdon. 29 Commando, Royal Artillery, who brought six 105mm artillery guns into use, assisted 3 Para in this task. ‘HMS Avenger’ used her 4.5inch gun to support 3 Para as they advanced. Facing 3 Para on Mount Longdon was B Company of the 7th Infantry Division. In crude terms, 450 British soldiers faced 278 Argentine soldiers. The Argentine force had used its time on Mount Longdon to dig in and had a system of well-prepared trenches to operate in. However, the static heavy machine gun posts were also vulnerable to shelling from ‘HMS Avenger’.
3 Para had set up their base near Murrell Bridge prior to the attack on Mount Longdon on June 3rd, just over a mile from the slopes of Mount Longdon. They then spent the next week patrolling the area. 3 Para advanced on their target in appalling weather – driving rain combined with a very cold wind to produce a wind chill factor that some members of 3 Para put at –40.
On June 11th, men from 3 Para moved to their Start Line. The attack on Mount Longdon started at 20.15. Pike had ordered a silent attack but as 3 Para advanced a man trod on an anti-personnel mine thus giving away their position. It was the start of a ten-hour battle.
The fighting was hard going for 3 Para. The men in the 7th Infantry Division had well dug-in heavy machine guns and sniper fire caused all manner of problems. For long periods of time, 3 Para was pinned down by accurate enemy fire and their advance up the slopes of Mount Longdon was halted. It was during one of these halts, that Sergeant Ian McKay led an attack on a heavy machine gun emplacement. The attack was a success and the advance regained its momentum. But McKay was killed. He was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross for his gallantry.
Even after Mount Longdon had been captured, 3 Para was not out of danger as accurate Argentinean artillery fire away from Mount Longdon killed a number of men.
By the end of the battle, 3 Para had lost 23 men killed and 47 wounded. The Argentine force lost 31 killed, 120 wounded and 50 men captured.
For the bravery displayed during the attack on Mount Longdon, 3 Para was awarded:
1 Victoria Cross (Posthumous)
1 Distinguished Service Order
2 Military Crosses
2 Distinguished Conduct Medals
3 Military Medals (1 posthumous)