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A Very Strange Way to Go to War: The Canberra in the Falklands Paperback – 6 Feb 2014

4.9 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews

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Frequently bought together

  • A Very Strange Way to Go to War: The Canberra in the Falklands
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  • They Couldn't Have Done it without Us: The Merchant Navy in the Falklands War
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  • Logistics in the Falklands War
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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Aurum Press Ltd; PB Reissue edition (6 Feb. 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1781311846
  • ISBN-13: 978-1781311844
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.1 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 455,823 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

Review

A well-written and vivid account that provides a marvellous mix of personal recollection and the compelling tale of the almost surreal events of 30 years ago

(The Telegraph)

About the Author

ANDREW VINE is an award-winning journalist and assistant editor of the Yorkshire Post. He is author of Last of the Summer Wine: The Story of the World’s Longest Running Comedy Series, and of A Very Strange Way to Go To War: The Canberra in the Falklands. He lives in Leeds.


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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book tells the story of Canberra going to the Falklands war. The book is a thoroughly gripping account of the call up, conversion, sailing and service of the Great White Whale. From the secret rendez-vous at Gibraltar as the first conversion calculations had to be done, through to the homecoming, the author makes you feel as if you were there with them. The tales of the mini dramas along the way are told in detail, the equipment shortages, the make do approach and the pride of Canberra's crew in doing their bit. Like most wars it began with the delusion that a diplomatic solution was coming and many of the crew were looking forward initially to a different kind of cruise. The author tells of the early friction as the new passengers adjusted to their surroundings and the early pointless rows about things like not wearing boots to run around the deck. We hear some of the P&O head office dealings with MoD and the problem they faced when MoD insisted no non-Brits were to be on the ship.

The incongruity is sailing to battle at the ends of the earth in the glamorous surroundings of a cruise ship shines through the pages, the P&O crew doing their best to keep things as close to normal operation as possible, the band of the marines becoming strolling players providing entertainment. The story becomes more tense as all realize that they won't be turning back and you can feel you are there in San Carlos water as the Argentinians unsuccessfully target the ship repeatedly. The book tells of the great animosity between Canberra and QE2 when she eventually comes south. We hear how QE2 refused to transfer supplies of food to Canberra with the troops despite the latter ship running low - the cunarder claiming she needed it for the return journey.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I love this book, not least because I worked on Canberra for a number of years and recognised some of the characters who worked on her.

I think it would be a great read, no matter how unfamiliar you are with the ship. It gives a great perspective on how very different sets of people come together under strained circumstances and work as a team in preparing for the trip south, and what they experienced in the Falklands. It made me laugh and cry, and reminded me how great the human spirit can be, and what an amazing vessel Canberra was.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
An excellent book, well written, giving insight into many areas of the task force operations that I didn't know about It has some great photos especially the rear cover
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Format: Hardcover
The author has managed to largely avoid politics in this book, which is quite extraordinary given the nature of the book, although politics creeps in here and there. The war itself is given very limited coverage beyond Canberra's role, although the main events are mentioned briefly.

The author discusses the life of the Canberra from its beginnings in the fifties to its scrapping in the late nineties, but mostly focuses on its 1982 role as a troopship. It also carried supplies, served as a hospital ship when required, and also carried prisoners of war back to Argentina - well away from Buenos Aires, where by that time the junta was in trouble so it was wise to land those prisoners near the southern tip.

The book discusses the conversion of the cruise liner to a warship, explaining that it was far from ideal in that there was plenty of glass, wood and other material that would be avoided as far as possible in a warship, but that it had the capacity needed. Other advantages became apparent along the journey including excellent training space, but the ship was still vulnerable - and if the Argentine commanders had realized that the Canberra was carrying troops, they would have attacked her as soon as they spotted her at anchor. Britain must be grateful that initially, Argentina focused in attacking the warships.

Plenty of coverage is given to the way the facilities on board were adapted, the relations between crew and troops and how that developed as the days and weeks rolled by. There was also a dispute between the Canberra, which was in danger, and the QE2, which stayed well away from the main action, but brought extra troops to South Georgia along with much needed extra food, but refused to let the Canberra have any of that food.
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Format: Paperback
(publisher’s review copy)

This is the excellently narrated story, now released in paperback, of how the P&O liner Canberra was requisitioned (STUFT) in 1982 and despatched to the Falklands War as a troopship.

The book covers in fine detail the commandeering, conversion and loading up of Canberra for war. It goes on to provide a fascinating study in leadership as exercised by Captain Scott-Masson and his RN counterpart Beagle Burne [who died shortly after this book was first published, see [...] ], not only in harmonising the disparate tribal customs and expectations of the MN, RN, RM, Army (3Para) and the Press, but later in battle. The account of Canberra under sustained air attack is gripping. The P&O people stepped up to wholly unfamiliar tasks, such as helicopter operations, replenishment at sea and station-keeping, in a quite exemplary fashion and exhibited the same stoic courage that has characterised the British Merchant Service for hundreds of years.

Extensive arrangements had to be extemporised for handling wounded, British at first but later also Argentine. This reflected enormous credit on both RN and P&O medics, the RM Bandies and the numerous P&O volunteers who assisted what must have been, for them, a grisly and un-nerving task.

Risks have to be taken in war; it was incredibly risky but probably unavoidable that Canberra was sent in to San Carlos. It was sheer luck that this was not a risk too far, which, if it had gone wrong, besides the actual loss or damage to an almost defenceless ship and the probably large casualty bill, the damage to the entire expedition and at a remove to the Government hardly bears imagining.

As it was, there were some unedifying, unhelpful and dishonourable contributions by the BBC.
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