The Falklands 1982 - Ground Operations in the South Atlantic

By Paul Robinson 01 Mar 2013 0


In at least one way the Falklands Conflict (as it is commonly referred to in the UK) does not quite fit with the tagline for Osprey Publishing?s Campaign series-?Accounts of history?s greatest conflicts, detailing the command strategies, tactics and battle experiences of the opposing forces throughout the crucial stages of each campaign?-I think anyone would be hard pressed to classify it as one of the greatest conflicts in military history.  However in other ways it is an ideal subject for this series; a small self contained conflict over a restricted geographical area involving relatively limited numbers of troops on both sides. It all fits very nicely into the just under a hundred page format of Campaign series books.

The author, Geoffrey Fremont-Barnes is a senior lecturer in War Studies at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.  Whilst his previous books have been on nineteenth century military subjects clearly his current position means he will provide an authoritative perspective on this famous twentieth century conflict.  The artwork in the book is provided by Graham Turner who has illustrated a great many Osprey books.  Whilst he is normally a medieval specialist I think he has done a great job on this modern day subject.

The book follows the usual format for the series with the book set out in chapters covering the chronology of the events; describing the opposing commanders, forces (including detailed orders of battle) and plans; the actual campaign itself; the aftermath and a short section on the battlefields today.  Two things you should know from the outset.  Firstly as the tagline of the book says this is a history of the ground campaign.  The naval and aerial operations are covered only where they relate to the action on the ground.   Secondly, whilst I think this is a fair account of the conflict the book is written from a very British point of view (the bibliography and further reading appear to be an entirely British affair!).  Also there is something of a clue in that the title is the British name for the islands rather than the Argentine ?Malvinas?.  Of course the Argentine forces are covered; it takes two to tango after all (a slight pun is intended!).   Their initial invasion operations are covered in some detail.  But the reader is most definitely taken along with the British forces as they retake the islands!

The author sets out his stall on his view on why the British were successful very early in the book.  In the Introduction he says ?the advantages bestowed by superior numbers-even when holding a defensive position and blessed with greater firepower-count for comparatively little when faced with highly professional, well led, superbly trained, exceptionally fit troops imbued with a strong sense of purpose and enjoying high morale?.   He actually regards the success of the British, once they had committed to recapturing the Falklands, as inevitable as long as they ?could maintain the momentum of attack?.  He then takes us through the events of the campaign in a sensibly conventional chronological order.  And it is at this point that the format of this type of Osprey books really helps convey the story in a way that a more conventional work cannot.   Because as well as the artwork depicting action from the battlefield the text is supported by a number of 3D birds eye view maps of the significant battles.  These are set within the text describing the action so not only can you follow the movement of the troops but you get a sense of the terrain they were operating over.  In a conflict where the terrain played such a prominent part this is a really valuable part of the book.  These 3D maps are provided for 2 Para?s attack on Goose Green, the attack of 2 Scots Guard on Mount Tumbledown and 2 Para?s assault on wireless ridge.  It is a pity all the main assaults could not be so illustrated.  However these (including the Argentine attack on Port Stanley and its environs) are covered by more conventional but full colour maps.

There are three pieces of original artwork in the book.  Now one might ask what such artwork can contribute to books covering conflicts in a period of colour photography.  The answer is pretty obvious in at least two of this book?s paintings.  The artist can depict events that even the boldest war photographer cannot hope to capture (other than by sheer dumb luck).  The first painting shows the negotiations that led to the surrender of the British Royal Marines force (Navy Party 8901) who formed the garrison of the Falklands) to the Argentine invaders.  This is a useful guide to the uniforms of the troops involved in the early stages of the conflict.  The second painting shows the controversial death of Lt Col ?H? Jones the commander of 2nd Battalion the Parachute Regiment (2 Para) during the attack on Goose Green.  The third shows members of 45 Commando (Royal Marines) attacking an Argentine Sanger on Two Sisters ridge.  This is a well put together work showing the techniques developed by British troops to take on these stone built bunkers-pin the enemy with machine gun fire go close quarters with grenades and bayonets!

As well as this artwork there are plenty of colour and black & white photographs showing British and Argentine troops during different parts of the campaign and some post campaign pictures showing key terrain features.  All these are great for modellers and wargamers. The uniforms of troops on campaign soon become very personalised and so actual photos from the time are invaluable to get those little details correct on your models or miniature warriors.  Also as I have mentioned the terrain on the Falklands had a major impact on how operations and manoeuvres were conducted. Therefore actually seeing how barren it was (is) gives a real understanding of why night attacks were so favoured by the British.

This is very nearly the perfect Campaign series book.  Well-written, supported by excellent maps, colour artwork and photography.  Also because of the limited nature of the conflict the book doesn?t suffer from trying to cover too much in its limited format.   I enjoyed it very much and it made me realise that whilst I have read a lot about the Naval and Aerial side of the war and dipped into individual battles or operations (eg Goose Green and the SAS raid on Pebble Island) I had not read a full narrative history of the ground campaign.  If you are in the same position this book is a very good place to start.  It is a great resource for anyone wishing to wargame this conflict although you would probably need to dip into some of the earlier Osprey books on the conflict to get more details on the uniforms of the combatants.  Highly recommended for those interested in modern warfare!

Available now in paper back from Osprey Publishing, normal price £14.99/$19.95 (ISBN 9781849086073)

Review written by: Paul Robinson



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