Spearhead Assault: Blood, Guts and Glory on the Falklands Frontlines Hardcover – 24 May 2007
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The definitive, bloody account of Goose Green, the last great infantry battle fought and won by Britain
In the last great hand-to-hand battle of the twentieth century, the men of 2 Para bit off more than they could chew...but they chewed it anyway. On May 21st, 1982, nearly four hundred soldiers from the 2cd Battalion Parachute Regiment under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Herbert 'H' Jones, landed with a British Task Force at San Carlos Bay on the Falklands. Their mission: to take the strategic position at Goose Green where military intelligence reckoned there were a couple of hundred Argentine troops guarding an airstrip. The intelligence was wrong and when they attacked on May 27th, they were confronted by a 1,500-strong regiment of Argentine soldiers dug in with so much machine-gun ammunition they stood on the ammo boxes to keep their feet dry. Some of the enemy soldiers were Special Forces; some were Guarani Indians, a proud warrior race; a few even were Welsh-speaking members of a community founded in Patagoina in the nineteenth century. What they had in common were two .50 calibre machine guns in every position. It was going to be a hard and dreadful fight.Fourteen hours later when the smoke had cleared on the most ferocious battle in post-war British history, nearly 250 Argentine soldiers were killed. scores more were wounded and another 1,300 had been captured. Goose Green would cost 2 Para the lives of seventeen men, including 'H' Jones, who was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for his role in the action. Now, John Geddes, a former 2 Para close reconnaissance corporal, SAS hero and veteran of a fistful of hard wars tells the uncut story of the Battle of Goose Green, the decisive battle of the Falklands War. He tells it as he saw it. This is a no-holds barred account of what it was really like to walk into the storm of lead the Argentines hurled at their attackers. See all Product description
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If you've read contemporary military autobiographies from foot soldiers before, then the format of Spearhead Assault will be familiar to you: personal background, reasons for joining, training, the main event, reflections. This book sticks closely to that formula but thankfully, Geddes focus on what’s most important to his audience – the Falklands War itself. What helps really sell the book, however, is that Geddes captures a few poignant events that lend some humanity to the brutalities of his book, as well as illustrating the locations evocatively, whether that be the sweaty confines of the ship ride down to the Falklands or the harsh cold, wind and rain-soaked island themselves.
Geddes shows us the incredible bravery of those he fought with, of course but he is not afraid to portray the British soldiers in a negative light, if that is what he witnessed. Additionally, those in command also come in for some criticism, such as the decision to withdraw naval bombardment, the inaccuracy of SAS intelligence, the lack of air cover, the First World War medical back-up and quite specifically, the micromanagement of Lieutenant-Colonel Herbert "H" Jones.
John Geddes spends a few sentences on the political context of the war but this is certainly not the right book for you if you’re after a thorough analysis of the situation. Spearhead Assault doesn’t pretend to be anything but a frontline take on the Falklands War so I assume Geddes praise for Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and his general disdain for “liberal left & BBC types” who might dare to criticise the political decision makers was left in the book to give a more rounded appreciation of the Para’s mentality.
Ultimately, Spearhead Assault brings to the general audience a fraction of the intensity a frontline soldier must experience, particularly in the Battle of Goose Green, which was a “fix bayonets” fight. This book allows the reader to develop a deeper understanding of how a small force of highly trained and motivated soldiers, were able to overcome a well-entrenched, better-supplied and numerically superior enemy. John Geddes doesn’t pretend to give us anything but his first person account of a battle that has gone down in military history. This is a simple but effective read, a book full of praise for the men alongside him, moments of compassion on the battlefield and where due, criticism for mistakes that were made along the way.
This book concentrates solely on Geddes' experience of 2 Para's battle at Goose Green in 1982. He commanded a patrols section.
The book concentrates on their actions - the voyage down, to their battle.
It is good to read of the bravery and compassion of 2 Para's soldiers, to rescue their wounded comrades and take out the Argentine bunkers. In particular Geddes feels that a corporal, Dave Abols, turned the action in 2 Para's favour by working round to the machine-gun position which killed Colonel H, standing up in a hail of fire and firing an anti-tank rocket into it.
I was interested to hear his opinions of the actions of his CO, Colonel H Jones. Although apparently the best CO he ever had, Geddes feels that was doing the wrong job at Goose Green: instead of 'command and control', organising air strikes and bunker-busting fire support, Jones seems to have let things get too personal, turning down sensible ideas from his company commanders, and lost his life by letting rage at the death of his best friend, the adjutant Captain Wood induce him to make a foolish charge at machine-gun post.
Geddes also points out how all the soldiers were let down by the lack of logistical support - e.g. the infamously non-waterproof boots, and also the leaving behind not only of the bandsmen stretcher-bearers, but also their stretchers! Many men waited many hours on the battlefield for evacuation to the field hospital; one man waited for 20 hours for treatment!
I enjoyed this book, reading it in not much more than a single sitting - highly recommended.
This compelling account was written in a 'soldiers language' and, with his descriptive and first hand knowledge of the battlefield enabled me to appreciate the endurance, resillience and sacrifice of the members of 2 Para that fought so bravely. The author also tackles some of the controversial issues surrounding the battle and the War with a fair mixture of reflection and his feelings at the time. A great read!
I will be seeking out his other offering, Highway of Hell.
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