Thatcher death: Coffin bearers’ Falklands history

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ALL three services from the armed forces are to play a role in Margaret Thatcher’s funeral next week, but particular reference is made to the Falklands conflict.

The coffin bearer’s party is made up of those from ships, units and stations notable for their service during the Falklands War.

Among the regiments involved in the Bearer Party are:

• Welsh Guards: The Welsh Guards was the regiment that suffered some of the heaviest losses during the conflict. On 8 June, 1982, 32 Welsh Guards were among 48 British troops who died when the Sir Galahad was bombed by Argentine jets, and many suffered terrible burns.

• Royal Navy/Royal Marines: The Royal Marines, along with the Parachute Regiment, were seen as the spearhead of the Task Force. After landing at San Carlos Bay, they fought at Mount Kent, Mount Harriet and Two Sisters before “yomping” into Port Stanley. The Special Boat Service also played a role, successfully attacking an important Argentinean position at Fanning Head that overlooked San Carlos Bay.

• Scots Guards: Scots Guards were involved in one of the Falklands’ fiercest battles, to take Mount Tumbledown, when British troops faced Argentine soldiers in a vicious fight using bayonets. On the night of 13 June, Scots Guards advanced up the western side of Tumbledown, and the battle raged on all night, resulting in a British victory by 8am. The Scots Guards suffered eight casualties, while one Royal Engineer was also killed, and 43 people wounded.

• Royal Artillery: Part of 3 Commando brigade, which was part of the land forces, 29 Commando Regiment went in with the Royal Marines, providing artillery support and gunnery observation, including much-needed support with their L118 Light Guns.

• Royal Engineers: 
The Royal Engineers, known as Sappers, provided combat support to troops in the Falklands, from minefield clearing to establishing water points and building bridges. Sapper Hill, on East Falkland – named after a troop of engineers – was of huge strategic importance.

• Parachute Regiment: The Parachute Regiment – 3 Para and 2 Para – were integrated into 3 Commando Brigade and joined the Naval Task Force. The Paras fought some of the key battles of the war including coming ashore at San Carlos, in north-western East Falklands, on 21 May, 1982, securing a British stronghold by occupying the slopes of the Sussex Mountains. In addition, 2 Para attacked the Argentine-held airfield at Goose Green, on East Falkland, on 27 May, 1982, in a lengthy battle that ended with Argentinean surrender. Forty-two members of the Parachute Regiment and attached personnel were killed in action.

• Royal Gurkha Rifles: The 1st and 7th Gurkha Rifles (1/7 Gurkha) and the Queen’s Gurkha Signals left for the Falkland Islands in March 1982. They were later joined by the Queen’s Gurkha Engineers. The Gurkhas were to provide support for the Scots Guards in a battle during the assault on Tumbledown. But when D Company, 1/7 GR, began their final attack, they found the Argentines had fled. The only Gurkha fatality was after the war, when Lance-Corporal Budhaparsad Limbu struck a grenade with his spade.

• RAF: The Royal Air Force operated from Wideawake airfield, on Ascension Island, but flew into the war zone. Some 17 squadrons operated during the conflict. The RAF lost seven aircraft.