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Who Dares Wins

How a small contingent of SAS operators changed the course of the Falklands War.

Published onDec 05, 2022
Who Dares Wins

The Falklands war was a short but intense conflict in 1982. The conflict saw Great Britain and Argentina fight bitterly over the Falklands Archipelago, with the British eventually emerging as the clear winners. The British Special Air Service was highly active during the Falklands war and performed a wide array of offensive and reconnaissance missions. These missions proved vital for the British initiative, and the SAS played a key role in achieving victory in the Falklands.

HMS Invincible en route to the Falkland Islands.  Royal Navy Photographer, IWM FKD 543.

Despite the British emerging as the clear victors of the war, their victory was nonetheless a hard fought one. The initial Argentine invasion force had overrun the small British Garrison on the islands, and it was no easy task taking back some islands that were halfway across the globe. Despite this, the British responded quick, assembling a capable task force that included multiple aircraft carriers, battle ships, attack aircraft and infantry regiments1. Accompanying them were the brave men of the Special Air Service.

The British High command hoped that the SAS could give the task force a tactical advantage through the use of sabotaging operations and long-range reconnaissance, disrupting the Argentine forces whilst providing essential information for the Task Force. The SAS had originally been founded for a similar purpose in 1941, and such tactics had remained among their core tasks ever since2.

With precisely these tasks in mind the SAS would go forth towards the Falkland Islands. The SAS was deployed earlier to the region then the rest of the Task Force so that they could have plenty of time to scout out the terrain and get everything ready for a British invasion. The SAS would first see action on the 21st of April and would from that moment onwards be inserting unto the islands via airplanes, helicopters, and small boats to gather information and set up listening posts3.

SAS operators preparing for an insertion via helicopters. Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images.

However, the SAS didn’t just gather information for the Task Force, as the SAS would frequently show its teeth in daring sabotaging operations. Such operations mostly took place at night, with the SAS fiercely attacking their unsuspecting enemy, overwhelming them with cunning and a show of brute force. These operations often had the goal of destroying or sabotaging enemy equipment, so as to render the Argentine forces helpless against the British. The most famous and successful of these attacks is the raid on Pebble Island. During this attack, a fairly large group of SAS operators attacked an Argentine airfield, destroying a large amount planes and weapons capable of badly damaging British forces4.

Even when the main invasion by the British forces took place the SAS did not idly sit by. The SAS performed multiple operations aimed at distracting the Argentines, taking away pressure from the regular British troops. When needed the SAS also directly fought with the Argentines, such as at Mount Kent, where heavily outnumbered SAS operators successfully defended their position from multiple attacks5. Although this was not the main task of the SAS in the conflict, they still performed such tasks admirably when it was asked of them.

British Royal Marines raising the Union Jack on the West Falklands after the Argentine surrender. Alistair Campbell, IWM FKD 435.

The Falklands war was a truly modern conflict that required a wide variety of tools to succeed, and the SAS proved itself to be one of the most effective tools the British had at their disposal. Conducting daring surprise attacks and combat operations against the enemy, all whilst supplying the British Task Force with vital information, the SAS was incredibly active during the conflict, in contrast to what most people thought. The SAS truly made their presence felt in the Falklands war, and the British could not have achieved such a swift and decisive victory if it weren’t for these brave men.

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