The ship was struck by an AM39 Exocet missile fired from an Argentine aircraft six miles away. HMS Sheffield was the first British warship to be lost in action since the Second World War. Twenty members of her crew were killed.
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On 2 April 1982, Argentinian forces invaded the British overseas territory of the Falkland Islands. Argentina had claimed sovereignty over the islands for many years and their ruling military junta did not believe that Britain would attempt to regain the islands by islands by force.
Despite the huge distance involved – the Falklands were 8,000 miles away in the South Atlantic - Britain, under the leadership of Margaret Thatcher, undertook the extraordinary feat of assembling and sending a task force of warships and rapidly refitted merchant ships to the Falklands.
The task force reached the Falklands in early May. In a controversial move, on 2 May, the Royal Navy submarine HMS Conqueror sank the Argentinian cruiser General Belgrano, with the loss of over 300 of her crew. After this incident, Argentinian ships remained in port. However, the Argentinian airforce still posed a significant threat. The Royal Navy lost several warships to attacks from Argentinian aircraft, which were armed with exocet missiles. Its Fleet Auxiliary ships were attacked at Fitzroy and the supply ship Atlantic Conveyor was also sunk.
British forces landed on the islands on 21 May. After a series of engagements against a well dug in but ill-trained conscripted Argentinian Army, they began the battle for Stanley, the islands’ capital on 11 June.
The Argentinian forces surrendered on 14 June.
Royal Marines of 40 Commando, 3 Commando Brigade, line the rails of the liner Canberra as she prepares to sail from Southampton to the Falklands, 9 April 1982. The 45,000-ton requisitioned cruise liner Canberra sailed with around 3,000 men of 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines on board under the command of Brigadier Julian Thompson. The Brigade consisted of three Royal Marine Commandos (40, 42 and 45), two parachute battalions (2 and 3 Para) and supporting units. Fifty ships in total were requisitioned. This was the largest mobilisation of civilian shipping since the Second World War.
After landing at San Carlos, a heavily laden paratrooper of 2 Parachute Regiment heads south for Sussex Mountain on 21 May 1982. The main landing force at San Carlos faced little resistance and a beachhead was quickly established. It was a significant achievement to land a major amphibious force (more than 3,000 men) on a hostile coastline 8,000 miles from the UK with so few casualties. However, Argentinian air force attacks on British ships supporting the landings in San Carlos Water caused significant damage. HMS Ardent was sunk resulting in the death of 22 crew members.
The burnt out hull of the Cunard container ship and converted aircraft transport vessel Atlantic Conveyor, 1982. Atlantic Conveyor, was destroyed by an Argentinian Exocet missile with the loss of 12 lives, including her captain Ian North, on 25 May 1982. All but one of the Wessex and Chinook helicopters on board went down with the ship. This had a detrimental effect on the mobility of British land forces on the Falklands. Significant amounts of other stores were also lost, including tents for 5,000 men.
Fires on Hill 60 near Goose Green, Darwin, following the engagement between 2nd Battalion, the Parachute Regiment and Argentine forces on 28 May 1982. 2nd Battalion, the Parachute Regiment attacked the first enemy positions around Goose Green in the early morning of 28 May. The commanding officer, Lieutenant-Colonel 'H' Jones, was killed leading an attack against an Argentinian position and was subsequently awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross. After 15 hours of fierce fighting, 2 Para reached the outskirts of the settlement of Goose Green.
Burial of the dead of 2nd Battalion, the Parachute Regiment, following the capture of Goose Green on 28 May 1982. After fighting lasting all day on 28 May, the Argentinians surrendered at Goose Green. 2 Para had taken the settlement against a much larger Argentinian force. Seventeen British servicemen and 45 Argentinians were killed. The British took more than 900 Argentinian prisoners. This photograph, taken on 30 May, shows the burial of British troops on a hillside above San Carlos Water.
Sir Galahad Moored at Fitzroy. She continued to burn until she was towed out to sea and sunk as a War Grave. 16 June 1982, by Linda Kitson. Linda Kitson was commissioned by the Imperial War Museum as the official war artist with the Falklands Task Force. This drawing shows the remains of Royal Fleet Auxiliary Sir Galahad, which had been attacked on 8 June 1982 by Argentinian aircraft while the ship, together with RFA Sir Tristram, was moored off Fitzroy. Over 100 men were killed or injured in Sir Galahad.
A column of 45 Royal Marine Commandos marching towards Port Stanley, June 1982. By early afternoon on 14 June 1982, the Royal Marines of 3 Commando Brigade reached Stanley. After a few hours' negotiation, at 9pm General Menendez, the Argentinian Governor, surrendered to Major-General Jeremy Moore, the British Land Force Commander.
Pack worn by Major-General Sir Jeremy Moore KCB OBE MC Commander of Land Forces during the Falklands War, 1982. The naval Task Force sent to the Falklands was the responsibility of the Royal Navy under Rear Admiral Sandy Woodward. Once the 3,500 Royal Marines and paratroopers of 3 Commando Brigade landed on May 21, command passed to Brigadier Julian Thompson. On 30 May, Major-General Jeremy Moore arrived at San Carlos and after the arrival, on 1 June, of 5 Infantry Brigade, commanded by Brigadier Tony Wilson, Moore took overall command of British Land Forces.