By no means could the pilot have seen the flock of birds. Even less avoid them with such heavy cargo. Helicopter operations are always dangerous—especially in the middle of the South Atlantic winter. The crash killed eighteen men.

Just three days before the main landings, 19 May, a helicopter crash had caused the worst SAS loss of life since the Second World War.

But before this catastrophe, and even before the raid on Pebble Island, British special forces had been active on the Islands for close to three weeks. For the landings to be successful the ground force commanders needed to have eyes on the Falklands.

Many questions needed urgent answers: what were the conditions of the beaches’? How many landing crafts could they support simultaneously? What was the best route for the landing crafts? Where exactly was the enemy? His fortifications? His weaponry? His morale?

Thus, they turned to the only units that could provide answers to these essential questions: the SAS and SBS.

Beginning in the early morning hours of 1 May, several patrols from the two units were inserted by 846 Squadron’s specially configured Sea King helicopters. They mainly operated in areas of interest such as San Carlos Bay, Darwin, Goose Green, Teal Inlet and indeed any place with strategic value.

Setting observation posts, they diligently observed the Argentinian movements and reported them back to their respective headquarters. With the troopships carrying the Task Force approaching fast after their Ascension Island interval, and with a yet unknown date for the landings, it was vital for the patrols to gather as much intelligence as quickly as possible.

Directly opposing this urgency was the abominable Falklands’ soil and the secrecy factor. Vast and exposed, riddled with rocks and small, sloping hills, the moorland of the Falklands not only denied any fast movement but also offered scant cover.