One of the weirdest wars in modern history was fought thirty-two years ago over a tiny set of mostly-pointless uninhabitable islands off the coast of Argentina known as the Falklands. The Falkland Islands measure roughly 4,700 square miles of frozen rock primarily inhabited by sheep and penguins, and is home to about 3,000 people, yet despite having a land mass smaller than 48 American states and a population that is roughly equal to the average attendance of the Academy Awards ceremony for some reason Argentina and the United Kingdom have spent an utterly-ridiculous amount of time and energy bickering and arguing over who owns it.
The story goes that Falklands were colonized by England way back in the golden age of the British Empire Owning Shit All Over the Fucking Place, and they maintained a garrison there for something like three hundred years. By the early 1980s, however, the power-hungry and tyrannical Argentinian military dictatorship decided it was dumb as hell to have a British military possession hanging out just off the coast of Buenos Aires, so the Argentinians sent in a bunch of troops to occupy the Falklands in July of 1982, rolled their flag up the capital, and officially declared it Argentine territory.
They figured the British would just say fuck it and decide they weren’t really interested in risking British lives to assert dominance over an ancient colonial holding located literally half a globe away from London. Just impotently shake their fists ragefully at the screen like a Call of Duty player who just lost capture the flag and is watching a digital representation of a grown man in full battle gear rubbing his balls all over the place before switching off their console in anger.
They were wrong. Because the Brits deployed aircraft carriers, paratroopers, and the Royal Fucking Marine Commandos.
The Royal Marines celebrated their 350th birthday last week, meaning that these guys have been kicking fucking nutsacks from Beijing to Calais for one hundred and seventeen years longer than the United States has existed as a goddamn country. They’re older than the colony of Connecticut, and you don’t get to hang around for that long unless you’re a top-shelf double-barrel oak-aged group of knife-fighting badass motherfuckers. If these guys are making the trip all the way down the Atlantic from Bristol to the Falkland Islands, they’re not going home until they get a little blood on their bayonets.
The capital of the Falklands is the college-campus-sized “city” of Port Stanley on the coast of the eastern island, and when the British Royal Navy rolled up the Argies had more troops deployed here than there were people actually living in the Falkland Islands. Port Stanley was ringed by mountains on three sides and a protected harbor from the fourth, perfect territory for a defensive war, and they’d garrisoned the town with howitzers, troops, and an airstrip that could launch badass ultra-modern Mirage fighters equipped with ship-killing Exocet missiles.
The British plan was simple. The harbor was too well protected, so they’d drop the Royal Marine Commandos on the far side of the island, march 80 miles across open ground hopefully undetected, and surprise sneak-attack the enemy from the direction they’d least expect it.
“Yomping” is a fake word the Royal Marines use to describe hiking for a ridiculously-long distance while lugging around a backbreaking full 90-pound pack of gear. These guys undergo some of the most intense training anywhere in the world, including a ridiculous 26 weeks of Basic Training followed by an additional six weeks of Commando School – all told, about eight months of non-stop training. They were dropped at San Carlos Bay and slogged eighty miles across rocky, ice-covered ground in the middle of the Argentine winter, walking the distance from Philadelphia to New York City in just under a week while wearing a backpack that weighs about the same as actress Demi Moore. At the end of their mud-and-ice cross-country epic Lord of the Rings-style journey, these guys were then ordered to go out in the middle of the night, charge through a minefield, up a fucking mountain, and attack a battle-hardened group of heavily-entrenched Argentinian Regular Army soldiers who were dug in to fortified positions complete with machine gun and anti-tank bunkers and sniper nests and outnumbered the Marines nearly two to one.
The Royal Marine Commandos didn’t even blink. They just unpacked their shit, finished their cigarettes, grabbed their rifles, and went to work.
The plan was for two Royal Marine units, 42 Commando and 45 Commando, to simultaneously attack up the two major mountains overlooking Port Stanley – Mount Harriet and a twin-peaker called the Two Sisters. They would proceed in standard operating procedure for the Royal Marine Commandos – move in under cover of darkness, infiltrate as close as possible to enemy positions, then ambush them by popping up right in front of their gun sights and shooting them at point-blank range.
On the evening of 11 June 1982, a couple Argentinian machine gunners thought they might have noticed some movement on the ridge below them. They fired up a flare to illuminate the darkness, and pretty much shit a brick when they saw a couple hundred Royal Marine Commandos spread out in assault formations less than 500 yards from their position.
The night lit up with tracer fire immediately. Mortars and artillery quickly followed from both sides, blasting the entire mountain range with towering fiery shrapnel-packed explosions.
The Marines dove for cover as bullets and tracers ripped through the night sky. Lieutenant Clive Dytor, commanding 8 Troop, Zulu Company, 42 Royal Marine Commando, ordered the men of his section to return fire immediately. The 25 year-old Welshman was in a pretty tough spot – he had just a dozen or so guys with him, and he was facing a couple hundred Argentinians with heavy weapons plastering his guys from an elevated position with Browning .50-caliber machine guns that ripped up the rock and ice around them like it was going through a food processor. His cover was good, but his two sections were also split up – they’d dove different ways for cover, and now there was a big gap between the first and second sections. Worse yet, mortars were starting to zero in on his guys.
Dytor and his men were pinned down for some time, and casualties quickly began to mount. His ammo was getting low, three Marines were dead, and one more had his leg blown off by a mortar. When another mortar slams nearby, wounding yet another of Dytor’s guys with flaming chunks of shrapnel, the Welshman remembered an old story from World War II – during the battle for Tobruk, the men of the Scottish Black Watch found themselves in a similar situation, pinned down by Germans in an elevated position with MG42s. The adjutant of the Watch, a big Scotsman with huge titanium balls, stood up in full view of everyone, screamed “Isn’t this the Black Watch?! THEN CHARGE!!!!!” That adjutant immediately got ripped in half by a Nazi machine gun, but his boys ran ahead and carried the day with their bayonets.
This gave Clive Dytor a weird idea.
Standing up in full view of his men – and the Argies – Lieutenant Clive Dytor, Royal Marine Commando, ordered his men to fix bayonets and follow him. Screaming his unit battle cry, “ZULU!!!!!” he locked a fucking bayonet on the end of his FAL L1A1 service rifle and started running full fucking speed uphill towards the enemy firing his gun from the hip Schwarzenegger-style. As he ran ahead, oblivious to a hail of .50-caliber machine gun bullets whizzing around him in every direction, he managed to make out a very British scream of confidence from one of his hardened sergeants:
“Get your fucking head down, you stupid bastard!”
But Clive Dytor did not get his head down. He ran like a bat out of hell, firing indiscriminately into the darkness, bayonet at the ready, straight towards the machine gun nest. When he reached it, he dove in, gun at the ready, bayonetting, swinging, and shooting.
It was only at this point that he realized his men were right there with him.
That got the whole thing going. My two front sections picked it up and came on through with me, and we swept up.
We took the position. We should have been cut to pieces - we were full frontal, straight on to heavy machine gun.
But we just kept on pushing through.
The Royal Marine Commandos, attacking an almost impossible situation, ran from trench to trench, fighting with tooth and nail, using everything from grenades and rifles to claw their way through enemy positions. Sniper nests were taken out with goddamn bazookas. Trenches were carried in hand-to-hand combat. The Argentinians fought heroically – particularly a conscript named Oscar Poltronieri who volunteered to man a gun and single-handedly held back an entire detachment of Commandos to buy the rest of his comrades time to withdraw and fired his fifty cal until he was killed at his post – but by sunrise the fight was over. The survivors surrendered, and the Marines were in control of the ridge. Port Stanley surrended the next day, and the war was over. The Royal Marines had suffered four men dead, ten wounded, but taken over two hundred prisoners.
Clive Dytor received the Military Cross for his actions at the Battle of Two Sisters. After the war, he’d return home and become a priest. He’s been the headmaster of the Oratory School in Oxford for the past twelve years.
What happened here was a miracle, and I want you
to fucking acknolwedge it.
Ford, Roger. The Whites of Their Eyes. Brassey’s, 2001.
Phillips, Ruska. A Damn Close-Run Thing. Shilka, 2011.
Van Der Bijl, Nick. Victory in the Falklands. Pen and Sword, 2007.