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Chapter Nineteen BUILD-UP TO SAN CARLOS The British Chiefs of Staff had concluded at an early stage that if diplomacy failed to produce an Argentine withdrawal there would be little choice but to land troops in the Falklands. There was some political support for the idea of a blockade, for example from Defence Minister John Nott. This could put diplomatic pressure on Argentina while reducing the risks of war. Nott recognized too that once Britain had put forces in great numbers on to the Islands it would, thereafter, be difficult to get them off. A permanent Falklands garrison, he believed, was not in Britain's long-term defence interests.1 The military would have none of this. Admiral Lewin was insistent that a blockade would be difficult to sustain, because of enemy action and the weather, while excessive delay could render an eventual landing impossible because of the problem of maintaining the task force in increasingly stormy and inclement weather over an extended period. Stuck on board ships the soldiers would lose combat readiness. Options to harass the enemy by small-scale raids or even troop landings on remote parts of the Islands would scarcely inconvenience the enemy and might hazard the islanders. As time went by British commitments to NATO would suffer and international support would diminish. There was little choice but to attempt a landing. On 16 April Admiral Fieldhouse and General Moore arrived on Hermes, anchored off Ascension Island, for a 'council of war' with the brigade staff and Woodward's staff. Fieldhouse told those present that the Government was committed to d e repossession of the Falklands 323 Combat by whatever means necessary. He also warned that 'this is the most difficult thing we have attempted since the Second World War.'2 However the landing was to be achieved, the planners were concerned to ensure that they had sufficient forces and that they could cope with the enemy threat, especially the air threat. The Operational Directive set just before this meeting was to 'prepare to land with a view to regaining the possession', which left open the type and extent offightingwhich might take place after a landing. It did not involve planning beyond that stage. A week later, as the Haig mission faltered and Lewin became convinced that fighting was virtually inevitable, he changed the mission to the simple 'repossession' of the Islands. Planning on the basis of the first directive provided for only enough forces to land and then to protect the landing area. That could be done with one brigade; anything more would require two brigades. The paper prepared by 3 Commando Brigade3 for the meeting warned that it would have insufficient forces to take Stanley: The imbalance of forces, lack of initial assault capability and subsequent inability to maintain a rapid rate of advance across country with appropriate fire support for a practical period, precludes an attack against Port Stanley by 3 Commando Brigade (without reinforcement) in any time frame. The landing force as currently constituted cannot retake Port Stanley.4 There had already been some preliminary discussions between Moore, in charge of land forces, and the Army about the possibility of sending 5 Infantry Brigade to the South Adantic as well but there was no formal advice from the Ministry of Defence. It was agreed to reinforce 3 Brigade with 2 PARA, then assigned to 5 Brigade. Thereafter , 5 Brigade began to be prepared for service in the Falklands. No formal decisions concerning its dispatch to the South Adantic were taken until late April. After a visit to Northwood, the commander of UK land forces reported to General Edwin Bramall, Chief of the General Staff, his belief that more troops were necessary. This Bramall reported to Lewin, who responded that he had received no such 324 Build-up to San Carlos request from Admiral Fieldhouse, commanding the task force from Northwood. When asked by Lewin, Fieldhouse was annoyed that the argument had not been put to him direcdy. There was some suspicion that the Army's main concern was that the Marines were taking the lead and that the Army were being left out ofthe action. However, now that the issue had been raised the question of 5 Brigade's role was addressed. The change in the operational directive to 'repossession' of the Islands argued for extra forces. Reports were now coming through of the arrival of Parada's 3rd Infantry Brigade in the Falklands and this raised the requirements. All...


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