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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)
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on 16 May 2015
This remains one of the best military memoirs of a campaign, and not just of the Falklands conflict. The two authors were clearly highly competent military officers and also articulate and capable of communicating complex concepts and arguments in a way which can be easily understood. Michael Clapp as the commander of the amphibious task group had the highly challenging job of getting the ground forces to the Falkland Islands, getting them ashore and then ensuring they were supplied, it was a job he achieved in the face of determined Argentine air attacks and with resources that were barely adequate. Ewen Southby-Tailyour was a Royal Marine with a great knowledge of the Islands whose advice was to be invaluable.

The authors come across as fundamentally decent human beings doing a difficult job in difficult circumstances. Throughout the book there is a feeling of honesty and that they are not re-writing history. Much has been made of what the book reveals about relations between the task group commanders and in particularly between Clapp and Thompson on the one hand and Sandy Woodward on the other. This book must be read in conjunction with the second or third edition of Sandy Woodward's own memoirs (also essential reading) to get a more rounded picture of this issue. I do not question the integrity of Clapp or Southby-Tailyour however there was another perspective and it must be remembered that Woodward himself was faced with an extremely challenging role and inadequate resources and that communications were nothing like as good in 1982 as in our own era. In the second edition of his book Woodward did recognise that communications had clearly not been as good as he considered at the time and did examine this from another perspective. Given the demands of the conflict and the resources made available it would be surprising if there had not been some tension and misunderstanding between the task group commanders and ultimately Woodward, Clapp and Thompson all served their country admirably and deserve the gratitude of their country.

Some have criticised the book for the detail and technical nature of the sections on amphibious warfare yet for me this is exactly why the book is so important and valuable. The book is almost like an instruction manual for the use of any officers following in the authors foot steps and provides answers to many questions as to why the campaign was fought as it was. Whilst some of it may seem to be minutiae of no interest, it is in this minutiae that answers to many of the bigger questions can be found. At the time there was much discussion over why the landings took place in San Carlos, this book provides a detailed explanation of why San Carlos was chosen and presents the case for San Carlos and why the alternatives were not suitable.

The book gives a detailed account of the sorry serious of mistakes that resulted in the losses at Fitzroy/Port Pleasant. Throughout the conflict Clapp had to live with the knowledge that his ships were vulnerable to air attack, he must have realised some of those under his command would not go home, it is a responsibility that I do not envy. Whilst the criticisms of 5 Brigade may seem heavy the account offered here is consistent with others and it is generally recognised that 5 Brigade made serious mistakes after their arrival in the Falklands.

The book is well written in an engaging style. Overall this is a superb book, essential reading for anybody with an interest not just in the Falklands Conflict but naval history in general whilst for anybody with an interest in amphibious operations it is a must have book. Very highly recommended indeed, 5*.
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on 26 June 2014
Commodore Mike Clapp commanded the amphibious assault force in the 1982 campaign to liberate The Falkland Islands from Argentine military occupation. His specialist knowledge of combined forces amphibious warfare and his contribution to the overall success of the mission may not have received the appreciation that they were due. This book provides a basic introduction to the arcane precepts of amphibious warfare, details the strategy of inserting a fighting force into a hostile landscape, and describes the many and varied obstacles to success that were conjured up by politicians, senior commanders, forbidding weather and (not least) the Argentine army, navy and air force. The author does a thorough job of describing his role in the campaign and his relationship to other senior officers; and, although naval life is strange and alien to the average reader, the author does a good job of guiding the reader through the fog of jargon that is an unavoidable consequence of any serious exploration of amphibious warfare.
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on 8 October 2013
Big thanks to the Authors! As a .. Junior officer who served in the task group I found that COMAW's deep insight great and thank both authors for putting pen to paper. I wish I had ignored QRs and kept a diary but I am so glad that those who did, recorded this unique naval war. Thank you.....SIR!
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on 27 February 1999
Commodore Michael Clapp was an experienced naval aviator, an observer not a pilot, who with the end of the large aircraft carriers found himself transferred to amphibious operations as the senior naval officer, something with which he had little previous contact. It is implied in the text that this was winding down to retirement, instead he found himself commanding the troopships and various supply ships in shooting war. This book makes clear as many do not that although junior to Rear Admiral Woodward Commodore Clapp's duty was as an independent commander performing a difficult and thankless task with a high degree of sucess. This is a point often missed if the operation he commanded had failed the war would have been lost and quite possibly many hundreds of soldiers could have died. Southby-Tailyour was a RM major who had served inthe Falklands prior to the war and acted as an advisor on the conditions to the British forces and I suspect prompted Clapp to tell his story see also Southby-Tailyour's book "Reasons in Writing"
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on 27 February 2014
Captain Michael Clapp is one of the central figures of the Falklands campaign yet one of the least recognised. Holding the position of Commodore for Amphibious Warfare in 1982, Clapp was at the heart of the planning and ultimately successful landing.

This is a revealing book in many respects. At the time – and thereafter – debate has rages about who was in charge. Clapp very helpfully sets out the command structure for the campaign and, crucially, when responsibility passed from one to another. Who knew, for instance, that Clapp instigated the role of Queen’s Harbourmaster with responsibility ship movements in Stanley Harbour when the conflict was over? Amphibious Assault Falklands” goes into organizational detail that is absent from other studies.

What is clear is the huge benefit that arose from Clapp, Julian Thompson of 3 Commando Brigade and their respective staffs spending time together on the journey south. This not only enabled relationships to be formed but allowed to each to anticipate/understand the thinking of the other later in the campaign. This lack of understanding, and general unfamiliarity with amphibious warfare, would later hamper 5 Brigade.

Although Ewen Southby-Tailyour is listed as a co-author, there is a clear difference in style between this and Southby-Tailyour’s more fluent “Reasons in Writing” (also published by Pen & Sword). Despite this, “Amphibious Assault Falklands” is a manual in how amphibious operations should be run properly and the consequences if they are not. Michael Clapp knew that his assets – men and ships – would suffer fatal attacks but his careful stewarding, and the odd slice of luck, ensured casualties were mercifully low.

Michael Clapp retired in 1983 and his experience was lost to the service. As one of the architects of the retaking of the Falklands his achievement will never be forgotten.
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on 14 June 2016
A good book - which doesn't get more stars due to its unbalanced and negative comment on Admiral Woodward's activities - in some ways its written from an overtly defensive point of view which is a shame as otherwise I quite enjoyed it. Apart from these issues though it is still a very good read
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on 16 May 2009
This is a very detailed account of what was happening behind the scenes during the Falklands Conflict. I took part in the conflict (Royal Signals attached to 2nd Bn Scots Guards) and I discovered information I had not been aware of. If this account is correct, I do not believe that the author got credit for his contribution to the final outcome. Worthwhile reading.
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on 3 January 2013
Great factual account of the falklands conflict. warts and all, reported from those who were there and not by some armchair general.
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on 5 March 2015
Great read.
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