It’s amazing the British forces managed to land on the Falklands with any equipment, consumables or resources at all, let alone campaign across the main island and take Port Stanley… while still being supplied! It could all have been a shambles (and sometimes was!) trying to get the right supplies to the right place at the right time. This is the detailed examination of how some incredibly talented officers managed to bring order from chaos and remain flexible when plans changed or disaster struck, as it did when the Atlantic Conveyor was sunk with its thousands of tons of supplies and helicopters to shift them. It’s a quite dry book – it’s not about the heroic actions fought in the Falklands. It’s just about the relentless, hard, grinding work of locating, moving, unloading, reloading, the right boxes in the right places. It ain’t glamourous!
In a similar vein (to above), Falklands Gunner covers another less well known aspect of the Falklands War – which is why I wanted to read it. It follows the day-by-day war diary entries of Second Lieutenant Tom Martin of the Royal Artillery, as he and his battery of 105mm field guns make their way from the UK to the South Atlantic and finally, suddenly, shockingly, onto the beach head at San Carlos. It is packed with photographs and images of his field notes and other documents. He returned in 2017 so there are a number of ‘then and now’ photos.
One thing that struck me is how dependant the artillery and everyone else were on helicopters. Normally the artillery would have plenty of vehicles to haul guns and ammunition. On the Falklands, 29 (Corunna) Field Battery had a headquarters Landrover and a couple of motorbikes! All their equipment and ammunition had to be moved by hand or helo. Before reading it, I thought the artillery were fighting a mobile war, continuously on the move from site to site in support of the troops. Instead it seems to have been mostly static, moving only once or twice when helo availability allowed.
This is an overdue book that seeks to redeem the reputation of the Boulton Paul Defiant – at least partially. It lays out the formulation of the RAF’s developing strategy on fixed and free gun fighters in the inter war years when the focus was firmly on the bomber threat and the Air Ministry’s intention was to have three defence fighters – the Spitfire (interception & pursuit), Hurricane (general purpose) and Defiant (bomber destroyer). The Defiant was designed to be fast enough to fly under or alongside a bomber and blast it out of the sky. Unfortunately, politics and inefficient manufacturing led to a hopeless shortage of them at the start of the war.
There were only two squadrons. One claimed a record 38 kills in one day during the Dunkirk campaign (the Luftwaffe said 14), the other squadron was slaughtered when bounced by twenty-five of the Luftwaffe’s finest in Bf 109s. The jury is still out on whether the serious introduction of the Defiant (there were planned to be 9 squadrons) would have helped or hindered in the Battle of Britain – probably hindered – but it’s clear the Defiant was far from being the total failure it’s often made out to be.
I think the book is an interesting read, and it has received mostly good reviews, but one or two historians have pointed out the author’s tendency to focus on exaggerated battle reports.
An odd one this. You’d have to be a Brittany Ferries fan (they operate ferries between France, the UK and Ireland), or a geek who’s interested in the minutiae of maritime startups, the politics involved, the business strategy, and the marketing process. It’s not exactly your un-put-downable night time bestseller (in fact it might do the opposite and send you to sleep), but I actually found it interesting – interesting enough to recommend it here.
Masters of the Air is an amazing book that comprehensively covers the strategic thinking and politics behind the formation of the USAAF bomber force in Europe in World War II. It focuses on the exploits and experiences of the men (and women) in the air and on the ground in the Eighth Air Force. Everyone, from the crews who scrambled to build complete air stations in the fields of East Anglia and Lincolnshire before the aircrews arrived; to the medical officers and the women of the American Red Cross who kept the aircrews going; to the downed pilots in German POW camps, those on the run in occupied Europe, and the resistance members who sheltered them; and the commanding officers who led them. Masters of the Air is also reported to be the basis of a new mini series being produced by the Spielberg/Hanks team who have already given us Band of Brothers and The Pacific.
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