The British Task Force started to land its troops at San Carlos Bay on May 21st 1982 after receiving the go-ahead from London. Brigadier J H Thompson, Royal Marines, led the troops from 3 Commando Brigade. His second in command was Colonel T Seccombe, Royal Marines. Men from 40, 42 and 45 Commando were landed in San Carlos Bay along with men from 2 Para and 3 Para, Parachute Regiment. The main priorities were to secure the beachhead from attack and land as many men and supplies as was possible. To prevent nearby Argentine forces attacking the beachhead and disrupting it, groups of Special Forces troops were sent out to deal with the known nearest threats.
A unit from the SBS attacked Argentine forces at Fanning Head (north of San Carlos) and occupied their positions and the SAS attacked positions near Darwin (south of San Carlos Bay). Both attacks took place as the main landing party approached the bay.
At Fanning Head, 25 men from 3 SBS attacked a force of 60 Argentine troops – their very presence on land that overlooked San Carlos Bay threatened the landing. The men from the SBS were landed by helicopter and attacked using mainly GPMG’s. They were supported by gunfire from ‘HMS Antrim’ that was able to fire accurately onto the Argentine positions as the SBS had taken with them a Royal Navy NGFO – Naval Gunfire Forward Observation expert. The Argentinean soldiers were given the opportunity to surrender (the SBS also took along Marine Captain Roderick Bell who could speak fluent Spanish) but refused to do so. 11 Argentinean soldiers were killed, 6 were taken prisoner and the rest fled.
At Darwin, the SAS attacked Argentine positions with a variety of weapons and were supported by gunfire from ‘HMS Ardent’. The amount of fire poured down onto the Argentinean positions led to the commanders at Darwin informing their superiors that a battalion was attacking them.
40 Commando, 3 Commando Brigade HQ and 2 Para landed at San Carlos (Blue Beach) in the first landing.
45 Commando along with artillery and logistic units landed at Ajax Bay (Red Beach) in the second stage of the landings.
42 Commando, 3 Para and artillery units landed at Port San Carlos (Green Beach).
From its landing base at Blue Beach, 2 Para were ordered to advance five miles to Sussex Mountains to ensure that no Argentine force had any chance of disrupting the landings.
The landing at San Carlos Bay was an overwhelming success in the sense that all the men and equipment that were due to be landed were put onshore. However, for the ships involved it was the start of a very dangerous period, which claimed a number of ships. The smaller transport ships anchored in San Carlos Bay while the larger escort ships anchored in the Falklands Sound. Stationary ships were obvious targets for the Argentine Air Force. Twelve Rapier missile systems were set up around San Carlos Bay to give protection against the expected aerial attacks, but the journey south had disrupted their delicate systems and each one took a number of hours to get operational.
However, by the end of May 21st, Brigadier Thompson must have felt pleased that the amphibious landings had gone well, though 2 Gazelle helicopters were lost to Argentine Marine gunfire. 2,400 soldiers had been landed and had dug in. Thompson’s next task was to move out his force and move on Port Stanley. For the men of the Royal Marines and the Parachute Regiment, this primarily meant having to go on foot carrying all their equipment. For the Paras this was ‘tabbing’ and for the Marines it was ‘yomping’.
From their base around San Carlos, the men from 2 Para were ordered to move south to attack the Argentinean force at Goose Green and Darwin, a force that had been so ably ‘bottled up’ by the SAS. For the Royal Marines, it was a ‘yomp’ east to engage the Argentine military at battles such as Two Sisters and Mount Harriet. 3 Para attacked the Argentineans at Mount Longdon. However, none of this would have occurred if the landings at San Carlos had not been effective.