hawkeye (hawkeye7) wrote,

Falklands War

The Falklands War of 1982 is of great interest to Australian military historians it was fought in recent times between two nations of similar size and capabilities to Australia. A number of books have been written on the war, forming a small shelf here.

The Official History of the Falklands Campaign 
The 1982 Falklands War and Its Aftermath
by Lawrence Freedman

This book is the second part of a two-volume official history of the Falklands Campaign. The first, of little interest to myself, covers the centuries of claim and counter-claim to the islands. 

In this second volume, Lawrence Freedman attempts to provide an authoritative account of the war itself. The book clearly and lucidly describes the thinking of the British and the reasoning that led Prime Minister Thatcher to order the recovery of the islands. 

The book covers the political, economic and diplomatic as well as the military aspects of the campaign. This provides considerable insight into the way that politicians controlled the campaign and the interaction between politics and operations. The description of diplomatic aspects is somewhat less interesting, mainly because they were ultimately so fruitless. 

The book covers an number of topics of which I was unaware, although probably well-known to British readers, such as the navy's consideration of using nuclear weapons in the South Atlantic and details the numbers of nuclear weapons that were actually taken along.

This is probably the best book on the strategy of the war, which was driven by reality that the British did not have the capability to effectively blockade the islands and therefore had little choice but to storm them in the limited time available before the South Atlantic weather made amphibious operations impossible.

The book is less detailed in its coverage of actual operations, which are described from a high level and the administrative details are generally passed over. However the book does cover some of the political controversies arising from the war, such as the muddled response to the sinking of the Belgrano and the misreporting of the capabilities of certain weapons systems to enhance arms sales.


One Hundred Days
The Memoirs of the Falklands Battle Group Commander 
by Sandy Woodward and Patrick Robinson

Rear Admiral "Sandy" (later Admiral Sir John) Woodward  joined the British Royal Navy in 1946 at the age of thirteen and became a submariner, receiving command of the Valiant-class nuclear hunter-killer submarine Warspite in 1969. He was promoted to Rear Admiral in 1981 and in 1982 he commanded the Carrier Task Group in the Falklands War, which consisted of the aircraft carriers Hermes and Invincible

As such, Woodward was the senior naval officer present in the South Atlantic theatre but still only one task group commander among several. Although the experience of many other wars indicated the problems inherent in attempting to command a campaign for a remote location, this was what the British attempted in the Falklands. It left the task group commanders to co-ordinate with each other. This inevitably caused confusion and friction, which only increased with the arrival of Major General Jeremy Moore, who was senior to Woodward. 

As a submariner, Woodward was sometimes out of his depth in command of aircraft carriers and this contributed to his problems. His efforts to wrest control of the submarine task group seem to have been an attempt to move to something more familiar.

No one believes that anyone writes their own autobiography anymore and this one suffers badly from the fact that the man who wrote it up was not there. It appears to omit important incidents and gloss over others. The implication that he was somehow in charge of the task force aroused the ire of the other commanders, especially when it appears to take credit for decisions that were not his. It did however, inspire more books.  


Amphibious Assault Falklands
The Battle of San Carlos Water
by Michael Clapp and Ewen Southby-Tailyour

This book was written by two of the most important participants in the war, Commodore Michael Clapp and Major Ewen Southby-Tailyour. The former commanded the amphibious task group; the latter was an expert on the waters around the island (having previously written an unpublished book on the subject) who commanded the small craft. 

The book covers the technics and tactics of amphibious warfare, a form of warfare which the British Navy did much to develop. It tips a bucket on Woodward.



The Royal Navy and the Falklands War
by David Brown 

David Brown was head of the British Ministry of Defence's Naval Historical Branch during the war. He retired afterwards but returned to write this book. This is a fine history of the campaign from the naval perspective, giving a day by day, blow by blow account. There is a lot of detail here, with very good technical descriptions of certain actions. The book also has a separate chapter dealing with ships taken up from trade, (STUFT), and appendices listing all ships from both navies that took part in the war. 

However, it is matter-of-fact rather than critical in tone and does not go into the details of how the Royal Navy got into such desperate straights, with ships that it knew could not withstand missile attack and weapons that did not work.


Sea Harrier Over the Falklands
by Sharkey Ward 

The most enduring image of the Falklands war was of the versatile and unique Harrier fighter, which alone allowed the British to contest for control of the air and ultimately to recapture the Falklands. 

"Sharkey" Ward commanded 801 Naval Air Squadron, a Harrier squadron on HMS Invincible during the Falklands War. A real life maverick, gives a cockpit view of the war in the air, detailing exactly what it is like to be a modern fighter pilot. He also describes inter-service rivalries with the RAF, bureaucratic interference and gross ignorance among many senior commanders.  

Still, this is undoubtedly one of the best books on the war. The details of the Harrier missiles are wonderfully written.



No Picnic
by Julian Thompson 

Enough about the fighting at sea and in the air! In the end, the Army and Marines had to retake the island. And when most of their heavy helicopters were lost, many had to do it the old-fashioned way, by "yomping" across the island. 

Marine Brigadier (later Major General) Julian Thompson commanded the 3rd Commando Brigade, one of two brigades to participate in the war. Under him were five battalions of paratroopers and marine commandos. A historian, Thompson had written a lucid and engaging account of the land campaign.


Goose Green
by Mark Adkin 

There were nine battles fought by the land forces in the war but most attention for some reason has been given to the 2nd Parachute Battalion's fight at Goose Green. Initially this was due to the publicity of a fight against he odds and the heroic death of the battalion commander, Colonel "H" Jones, who was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross. 

Mark Adkin set out to correct the errors and misconceptions of earlier accounts, and to provide a detailed account of a single battle on a scale that would be impossible for a more general work. In this he succeeds and provides a well-written and very detailed account. In the process he paints a somewhat different account of the death of Colonel Jones.


Not Mentioned in Despatches
The History and Mythology of the Battle of Goose Green 
by Spencer Fitz-Gibbon 

Goose Green is also the subject of this work, which looks at the battle with a similar level of detail but also at the accounts of the battle, many of them very poor. Fitz-Gibbon looks at tactics and leadership with a critical eye and finds flaws in British doctrine, many of which had been well-known but uncorrected for a century. He shows how a well-trained battalion could be brought down by its own doctrine and paints an unflattering portrait of Colonel H. Jones.

The author argues that much of the chronicling of the battle has been distorted in a way that prevents meaningful lessons being drawn and tends to support the existing doctrine and procedures when in fact they failed badly.

This is a truly excellent account that deserves to be read, considered and debated by many armies.


Tags: books

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