Mountain and Arctic Warfare Cadre
The Battle for Top Malo House
A specialized training unit of the Royal Marines was formed from the Cliff Assault Wing of the 3 Commando Brigade from the cadre normally trained in winter Warfare. These specialists were highly skilled in military skiing and Arctic survival techniques. They were experts in deep penetration patrolling in adverse conditions, particularly in mountainous terrain. Brigadier Thompson was to use the cadre as the Brigade reconnaissance troop where they became a vital tactical reserve and were to fight the only daylight action against Argentinean Special Forces at Top Malo House.
Captain Boswell RM. and nineteen of his men of the M and AW Cadre were about to undertake a task that had originated from a report made on May 27th by a four man patrol from the cadre, sitting on Bull Hill. They had been in position since D-Day, 21st May, one of a number of small patrols that were the eyes and ears of the Commando Brigade. The four man patrol on Bull Hill, well forward on the route to Teal and Stanley, reported back to say that this may be their last message because two Argentine UH-1 helicopters were hovering over the OP. Eventually, and to the relief of the patrol, the UH-1s lifted and hovered and then flew in the direction of Mount Simon.
The Sgt. i/c of the patrol reckoned that they had probably deposited troops of the Argentine Special Forces on the lower slopes of Mount Simon. The message sent back to Commando Brigade Headquarters alerted the Brigade of the threat of Argentine Special Forces sitting on the high ground to the approaches of Teal Inlet and beyond. The Commando Brigade was about to move forwards to Teal Inlet, so this threat to their security must be eliminated. Boswell was to undertake this task with his men. On the evening of 30th May he received a message from one of the patrols in an OP on the lower slopes of Mount Simon, that they had just seen two UH-Is deposit a patrol of sixteen men at Top Malo house 400 meters from their position and that they had heard several other helicopters in the vicinity. It was this Argentine Special Forces patrol that Boswell was told to eliminate. He planned to arrive by helicopter about one hour before first light at a landing site about 1,000 meters away and in dead ground from Top Malo House, he would approach in the darkness and assault at dawn.
In a helicopter from the 846 Naval Air Squadron, the nineteen men piled into the helicopter with their rucksacks heavily loaded with supplies and ammunition to last for a week in the field without re-supply. Overloaded, the helicopter took off to deposit the assault force on exactly the right spot after a 45 kilometre flight, only possible by skilful flying and typical of the pilots and aircrew of the 846 Naval Air Squadron. The assault force set off and moved 1,000 meters away. A seven man fire group moved off to the left about 150 meters from Top Malo House, from where they would support the twelve man assault group led by Boswell. As Boswell approached the house he called the section commanders to him for a final check. As they lay looking at the target, Boswell realized that their dark uniforms on the snow covered ground would be a give-away to an alert sentry, and being Special Forces the enemy would surely have sentries out. The whole assault group crawled forward, only too conscious that the ground over which they were moving was overlooked by a window in the upper floor of the building.
When Boswell judged they were close enough to the house and in full view of their support fire group, he gave the order 'fix bayonets'. Boswell fired a green mini-flare, the signal for the fire group to fire six 66 mm light anti-armour rockets at the house. As the first rocket was fired, an Argentine sentry moved to the window on the upper floor. A Corporal, armed with a sniper rifle, shot him. As the 66 mm rockets slammed into the house it burst into flames; Boswell and the assault group charged forward, halted, fired two 66s into the house and charged again. The enemy ran from the house into a small streambed about 50 meters away, firing as they ran. One Marine Sergeant fell, hit through the shoulder, and then a Corporal fell hit through the chest. The ammunition stacked in the house exploded as the assault group ran forward and the smoke from the burning building shielded them from the enemy lying in the stream firing at them. The firefight went on for a few minutes as the assault group worked their way towards the enemy. The officer commanding the Argentine force tried to run off and was killed by two 40mm rounds fired from M79 grenade launchers. The Argentines stood up and threw away their weapons. It was over.
Five Argentines had been killed, seven wounded and the remaining five were taken prisoner. The British had three wounded. The whole operation had been a brilliant success by good field craft, good planning, and excellent flying by the pilot from 846. Unknown to the British the assault had been watched by two other Argentine OPs who, having seen the treatment meted out to their comrades, decided to call it a day. One OP stationed on the summit of Mount Simon walked into Teal Inlet where 45 Commando picked them up. The other group walked towards Lower Malo House and surrendered to 3 Para.