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on 19 August 2017
Very interesting read, with a different slant on the Falklands Conflict, telling of the political intricacies of the War which have not been touched upon previously.
Highly recommended for those that are interested for that era.
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on 14 June 2016
Very good
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on 10 April 2012
'Si vis pacem, para bellum' - Publius Flavius Vegetius Renatus, De Re Militari, book 3

There will be many books published and re-published to celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of our victory in the Falklands. This is the one to start with.

Command of the Ice Patrol Ship must have been the most unusual Captain's job in the Royal Navy. Besides a conventional naval presence - in an area where Defence Diplomacy presents unusual challenges, and relating to a continent where national jurisdiction is not well defined - there was support to be given to the British Antarctic Survey, the Scott Polar Institute, and other scientific bodies, and continuing hydrographic tasks for which the ship was additionally equipped. The 1980 HMS Endurance also carried an intelligence gathering suite in advance of anything in any other British warship, and its manning included fluent Spanish speakers. In 1980-2 there was also support needed for several BBC and other filming projects. There was a responsibility to the Governor of the Falkland Island Dependencies which included taking the Governor on an annual tour of his parish. The MoD, the Department of Education and Science, and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office jostled for priority, and presumably back in Whitehall reams of paper poured forth contesting funding for what, although basically unarmed, was from 1975 to 1982 the only regular British warship presence in the entire southern hemisphere. Barker explains all this and, even without the war which comes upon him in the second half of the book, he provides an entertaining and comprehensive guide to this (to most of us) unfamiliar area.

Two things happened in 1979 which immediately collided - Barker got his fourth stripe, and the Conservatives inherited from Labour the usual Socialist near-bankruptcy. Nott was put in to slash defence spending and, based on his vast knowledge of Defence gained as a National Service infantry subaltern, immediately took an axe to the Navy. His victims were to include the assault ships, HMS Invincible, and HMS Endurance which Barker joined in May 1980, the ship having returned for her annual refit in Chatham. Barker and the apparently-doomed Endurance inherited that situation, exacerbated by lack of any sort of policy in Whitehall towards the Falklands except to find some sort of formula to give the islands away, supine acceptance of an Argentine naval base on British territory on South Thule, and governmental pusillanimity and procrastination in extenso. Barker puts all this together and demonstrates how appeasement and complacency left us drifting in to a desperately expensive war, which it is now clear we could easily have lost.

Barker's guests on board were many and various - Governor and Mrs Hunt, David Attenborough, the distinguished naturalist Lord Buxton, and a Uruguayan naval officer came to stay. All manner of South American naval and service officers and ministers, British diplomats - of whom our man in Brazil comes out well, our man in BA (Williams) very much not so - came on board for the odd evening or were encountered ashore - from Lord Shackleton and his daughter who was the ship's sponsor down to the KGB spook assigned to the Soviet Antarctic scientific party. Barker comes across as a very clubbable man, duke or dockyard matey all the same to him, and he amassed from his unique set of contacts and intelligence intercepts a vast store of information on the situation and the threat to the Falklands as a result, all of which was passed on to London, where it was sedulously ignored in both naval and governmental circles.

Barker is absolutely specific that he was told in January 1982 and again in February by Captain Russo of the Argentine navy that Argentina was planning to conquer the Falklands by force, although no date was given - the Junta had not then decided that point anyway. This key intelligence was duly ignored in London, indeed treated as merely Barker making waves for his ship. From March 20th exact information came in from the scientists on South Georgia about Argentine activity there including the raising of the Banda Blanco y Azul, an insult to British sovereignty also reported.

Barker's efforts to explain the cheapness and utility of Endurance were much resented and were eventually countered by a letter from Margaret Thatcher to Lord Buxton pretending that the job could be done by the occasional frigate, a total falsehood cooked up by some landlubber staffie - no frigate could survive in the ice conditions in which Endurance could operate. The Endurance campaign gathered a momentum of its own quite independently of Barker, who, far away, was calumniated with all manner of lies cooked up by lesser men behind his back. The principal villains are named in the book; so also his supporters, most of whom - Brewer, Eberle, Outhwaite - were Gunnery officers because that is where the Navy used to keep its brains. One official calumniated at length is our Naval Attaché in BA, who escapes direct identification in the book but appears to have been Captain Julian Mitchell (CBE and beached 1986).

As to the War, the story of the invasion and recovery of South Georgia, where Endurance spent the entirety of the Falklands War, is told in full by the only person with a full grasp of what was going on. It is a tale of exceptional seamanship, navigation and leadership, particularly regarding Endurance's initial clandestine withdrawal from the area in the face of utterly superior forces. Antrim's captain was in charge of the recovery. Barker seems to have been unimpressed by him, something which may cast light on that gentleman's treatment by Admiral Woodward. However the idea that Antrim was the wrong ship to send is somewhat negated by the usefulness of her Wessex and the fact that the operation was successful; some may think that Barker is being a bit petulant. The communications problems with Endurance's Wasp helicopters, set out in Chris Parry's book `Down South', stem from their completely incompatible systems, but it is clear that their AS12 incursion did not add much to the attacks by Antrim's Wessex and Brilliant's Lynx. Nevertheless one cannot grudge Endurance's Flight and its Commander their recognition as it is clear that throughout the War the Wasps were operating far outside any sort of peacetime safety limits.

Endurance eventually became, effectively, South Georgia guardship until sent, belatedly, to recover South Thule to its British allegiance. Here Barker records the Royal Air Force's refusal to send him a Nimrod to help because the War was over and it was the weekend. `Beyond Endurance' is probably the only book which will ever tell these stories in reliable detail.

Barker was beached at the end of his Captain's time in 1988, clearly punished not just for being right but for saying so, regardless of his war service. The kiss of death was his telling the truth in a television interview. Thus his ship was the first to return from the Falklands not to be met by his C-in-C and the Prime Minister, although I suspect the Endurance's captain, officers and ship's company took comfort from the thousands of ordinary citizens who turned out to cheer her home to Chatham. Barker was the only CO to be cut out of Mrs Thatcher's Captains dinner party at no.10, and he is absent from Woodward's list of captains that Woodward regrets did not make Flag. However he won the argument and the Ice Patrol Ship has been retained - we are now on our fourth; the message got through, but at the expense of the messenger, for it can never be admitted that the junior party to an argument was actually right.

The story could well have been told earlier although it is as well Barker waited until after the Franks Inquiry was over, as he was then able to relate how one of its members told him that its object was to clear the Government, including Our Man in BA and the head of the FCO who both went on to knighthoods and greater glory. It is absolutely clear that the Franks Report was a meaningless whitewash, and that, Argentine ambitions apart, a catalyst for military adventure was the deliberate emasculation of the Royal Navy as above, engineered by Nott who was unaccountably knighted for thus triggering the deaths of so many British servicemen. The only thing that saved us was the Argentines jumping the gun - two months later and we should have been unable to get them shifted, with disgrace and humiliation incalculable. It is no thanks to Nott that that did not happen. I close this review to remark how justly Barker excoriates Nott in the book's introduction, and later in detail.

This book continues to be a seminal review of how we sleepwalked into the Falklands War and how we only won it by a whisker - a damned close-run thing I think is the phrase.

There is an excellent selection of photographs and a good index.
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on 8 June 2015
In the greater scheme of world affairs and history the Falklands war is little more than a foot note and a war which is probably of limited interest to anybody not from the belligerent nations of the islands themselves yet this short, brutal war was a pivotal event in the recent histories of both the UK and Argentina and it has produced a remarkably rich literature. In the aftermath of the war memoirs proliferated from British participants, from those at the top of the command chain such as Sandy Woodward down to enlisted men. Some of these memoirs fully deserve the status of classics of their genre, in particular "Amphibious Assault Falklands", "Reasons in Writing" and "100 Days". This book is one of the best books to be written by a participant and one of the more important books written on the war and deserves a place in the library of anybody with an interest in the subject.
As offered in the title, Nick Barker was the Captain of the ice patrol ship Endurance, the Endurance was a slightly navalised Danish merchant vessel bought by the Royal Navy, although ice strengthened she was not actually an ice breaker and with the exception of a powerful communications and signals intelligence suite and her helicopters was pretty much still a merchant vessel in terms of capability. Remarkably, despite her humble origins and limited military capabilities she flew the flag for Britain's naval presence in the Antarctic for many years and had a political importance far above anything her humble origins and capabilities might suggest. The decision to withdraw her from service as a result of spending cuts was then seen and is still seen as a major milestone on the Argentine path to war in that it was perceived as a signal of intent that Britain had lost interest in the South Atlantic and would not make a serious effort to protect the Falklands. Even more remarkably she played a key role in the campaign around South Georgia and played a dangerous game of hide and seek around the island.
This is a very personal account and Nick Barker clearly felt it his duty to present the truth as he saw it. His moral courage in being prepared to fight for his beliefs shines from every page and to my mind there is no doubt that he represented the finest traditions of the RN, a courageous man who was also down to earth, affable and under no illusions as to what war is. The story is really three stories, the first part is the movement towards war where the author recounts the steadily ratcheting up of pressure and signs of intent from the Argentine government to take the Falklands by force and the ineptitude of the UK government and its institutions such as the embassy in Argentina to either notice the signs or take any preventative measures. The scrap merchant saga of South Georgia which precipitated the war is covered in detail. All the while Nick Barker was fighting a rear guard action to try and save Endurance.
The middle section is the story of the role of Endurance in the war itself, and the potentially deadly game of hide and seek she played. I deft any reader not to feel a profound sense of respect and admiration for the courage and determination of Endurance and her crew and the role they played under the outstanding leadership of the author. Lest it be thought that this is some self serving rewriting of history, the story told here is fully consistent with other works and there has been unanimous agreement that Endurance served with distinction and punched above her weight. The oft told statement that Endurance was the first RN ship in and last out is not wrong, she was there at the outset of war and she led the eviction of the Argentina base on South Thule that closed out the war in military terms.
The final part reviews the subsequent inquiry and aftermath of war and in particular the way the government and higher leadership of the RN and MoD managed things. Here it is clear that Nick Barker still felt real hurt at the time of writing his book and there is a tone of bitterness. This is really very sad as throughout the rest of the book Nick Barker is clearly a genial, entertaining and witty man, "a blokes bloke" and comes across as the sort of fellow who would be a joy to spend time with.
One of the odd aspects of the RN in the Falklands was how many of the officers who served with distinction were never promoted to flag rank, the most appalling example being Michael Clapp who despite serving with distinction as Commodore Amphibious Warfare and playing perhaps the singularly most important role of any British officer in securing victory left the RN shortly after the war as a Captain, his skills and experience thrown away in a shocking way. Nick Barker left the RN in 1988 as a Captain and in his case it is clear that his battle to save his ship and failure to toe the party line cost him his career. The fact that he considered the truth and the needs of the Falklands to be more important than serving his own career interest is perhaps the ultimate testament to his moral courage. Sadly Nick Barker died shortly after completing this book, this book is a wonderful testament to a remarkable man and a remarkable ship.
A wonderful book which I cannot recommend highly enough, 5*
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on 17 June 2013
This a fascinating read that just confirms the astonishing stupidity of the Whitehall mandarins, politicians and senior military prior to and during the Falklands war. After reading this book I re-read the Franks report on the war. In it there is the statement Captain Barker did not give any warning of imminent invasion. This is astonishingly disingenuous statement since the warning given could only have been interpreted as very strong clues to the fact that an invasion was being planned. A lamentable failure at the highest level of Government and the MOD who could have saved hundreds of lives and millions of pounds of expenditure.
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on 9 August 2014
A first class account by Nick Barker extremely interesting
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on 21 April 2010
A marvellous story of Endurance versus Whitehall. It's a pity Nick Barker was muzzled by Thatcher and was unable to tell why she didn't want the truth out.
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on 20 February 2017
Great book with good detail on the operation of HMS Endurance and her role in the Falklands War.
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on 18 February 2016
Good clean book. Excellent service.

Thank you.
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