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One Hundred Days: The Memoirs of the Falklands Battle Group Commander.

One Hundred Days: The Memoirs of the Falklands Battle Group Commander.

Sandy Woodward with Patrick Robinson. Harper Collins. 360pp. 18.00 [pounds].

How much the succes of thisi book is due to the professional writer's skill of Patrick Robinson, one does not know; suffice to say the character of Sandy Woodward flames through. A cornishman with just the right Celtic admix of toughness, sensitivity, intelligence and awkwardness, he was the right man to fight an impossible war. His earlier service as commander of a nuclear submarine taking split second decisions, inside a highy technical tin gave him nerve and stamina to survive events where the sometimes seemed to be hampered more by his |friends' than enemies; in particular the media which only an acute sense of humour countered. The press, he observed, |did not see itself on our side' but only looked for truth. As the Argentines admitted later, ninety per cent of their intelligence came from the British Oversea Service. Churchill would have had a different word for this |leaking for truth' which belw the amphibian landing cover. Lt-Colonel Jones of 2 Para threatened to sue the BBC for manslaughter, but was himself killed in an Argentinian ambushs, for which some blamed BBC information.

The Argentinian invasion of the Falklands took place on April 2nd, 1982. The question of war lingered. The experts (MOD, Army, RAF, John Nott) were against it. The US army said recapture was impossible. Mrs. Thatcher, Admiral Leach and probably the majority of the British wanted Argentine aggression out. They said we coulnd't do it so we did. With the loss of seven ships and 250 men out of 25,000 men and 100 ships in six weeks we succeeded.

Our operatios, over 8,000 miles away from home, had to be completed before witter set i; we had very littl etime margi ad tie was o the Argentie side. In a welter of mixed orders from above Admiral Woodward had to deploy his forces against ship, soldier, airplane, submarine and exocet missile. There was some impossible weather; fog and gale; there were whales which sounded like submarines on sonar systems; he did not know where mines were laid and had no mine sweepers; he came within minutes of shooting down a Brazilian liner which strayed into an enemy plane's path. Instructions on TEZ (Total Exclusion Zone) and ROE (Rules of Engagement) sometimes seemed so confusing, he was fighting with both arms tied and needed a Nelson with two blind eyes. In the middle of this, on May 2nd, there was the Belgrano, an ex-American cruiser with bigger guns than anything the navy had, wavering along the TEZ. Woodward puts a convincing case for her sinking. Like Hiroshima, many lives were saved, for the Argentine fleet went home and never came back to battle.

This book is rivetting reading, whether among Woodward's wry comments or the blow by blow account of naval activities where the margin for error and defeat was closed and General Winter arrived on the eve of surrender. Even with hindsight, the navy did a magnificent job.

Sandy Woodward did not expect a hero's welcome home and he was noot disappointed. Roman generals in their triumphal marches kept a half naked slave by them as an intimation of mortality. Sandy's first intimation was a letter from the naval pension board pointing out that he had spent 3.85 [pounds] on entertainment in the last quarter. This was being reduced and backdated. He therefore owed the Board 649.70 [pounds] and would he pay it in full. He did not need a slave to whisper |Hominem te memento'. He had the Civil Services.

Molly Mortimer
COPYRIGHT 1992 Contemporary Review Company Ltd.
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Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Mortimer, Molly
Publication:Contemporary Review
Article Type:Book Review
Date:May 1, 1992
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