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A singularly credible account.
on 1 June 2007
2007 sees the 25th anniversary of the Falklands War of 1982. In the UK at least, it seems as though everyone and each of our television channels is reliving that war in one way or another. Some authors and commentators are simply climbing onto the bandwagon with material which, to put it simply, is suspect. NOT SO!, with this book.
Michael Clapp was "Commodore Amphibious Warfare" during the Falklands War and co-author Ewen Southby-Tailyour was a serving Royal Marine Officer during that same conflict and whose knowledge of the waters of the Falklands was so invaluable before, during and even after the landings. It was Southby-Tailyour who warned the officer in charge (Not!, the Commanding Officer I hasten to add) of the party of Welsh Guardsmen on board the "Sir Galahad" to get ashore before they were attacked and offered assistance to this end. That officer, incidentally, refused the request and the Sir Galahad was later attacked with great loss of life.
Those, then, are the credentials of the two men who have collaborated in the writing of this book. It is an important historic document.
The Captain of any ship is "Master" of that ship. He also commands all the ship's boats and is ultimately responsible for ensuring the safe embarkation and disembarkation of all on board. From ships lifeboats (even life-rafts) to assault craft, considerable training and expertise is required in getting passengers safely away and safely ashore. Never more so than when under fire from a belligerent enemy.
In early 1982, a hastily assembled Royal Navy Task Force was steaming towards the Falkland Islands which had been invaded by a foreign force. The British troops on board the various ships were tried and tested veterans of Northern Ireland but had no experience of what was to come. Worse still, apart from the Commandos, most had little or not experience in going to war by sea.
The responsibility for putting them safely ashore rested with their Royal Navy `chauffeurs' and that responsibility came down to Michael Clapp. In this book he reveals - with considerable honesty, the full story of the events that led to the resultant victory on land. In so doing he had to adopt old, forgotten methods in a bid to find common ground for all concerned. It upset some - but then nobody likes change foisted upon them, especially senior officers. Point is, it worked!
The reasons why San Carlos Water was chosen is fully explained and, with hindsight, is probably the one single factor - more than any other, that led to the eventual victory.
I can identify with a no-nonsense, straight-talking officer who cares not what feathers he may ruffle when given an important task. It says much for his style and the decisions he took that nobody - senior officer or below, has ever challenged his honesty or the importance of this book.
For those with an interest in the Falklands war of 1982, this is essential reading.
(Retired British army major)