Across an Angry Sea.

Across an Angry Sea.

Lieutenant General Sir Cedric Delves
ARRSE Rating
4.5 Mushroom Heads
This is a very interesting book of some 280 pages of relatively small font which if larger would have made a book of far more pages. It tells of the experience of Cedric Delves during the Falklands Conflict as a Major commanding D Squadron 22 Special Air Service Regiment (SAS). The foreword is written by the journalist and renowned military historian Sir Max Hastings, who actually appeared on a mountain top helicopter landing site with the Regimental Commander at night, during operations.

The author has related his experience of himself and his troops in what was an environment that they never expected to find themselves in having trained and equipped more for a war in Europe than the barren places of the South Atlantic Islands. He relates the shortcomings of both equipment and training in the book.

His descriptive narrative of environment where he and his Squadron are operating is outstanding whilst conveying the military situation; he does so in a particularly readable way which allows the reader to enjoy a fast paced narrative which is never boring. He has related the triumphs and the tragedies of the operations including Colonel ‘H’ Jones of 2 PARA and of Captain John Hamilton who was operating on West Falkland.

His writings reveal many of the operations from his perspective of which we as the general public had no knowledge at the time due to the media clampdown but now 37 years later we have a depth to that knowledge which the author relates. The operations on South Georgia are shown through his writings to be of particular risk with helicopter operations in extreme conditions and the dangers to his men.

Delves relates the despair he felt at the loss of 22 men when a helicopter crashed whilst ‘cross decking’ from HMS Hermes to HMS Intrepid, all highly trained professional servicemen and some who had vital skills and abilities to the Squadron that were difficult to replace. This was a helicopter war in that the prosecution of the campaign would have been far far longer if at all possible without them. His admiration for the crews is unbounded for their tenacity and bravery in the face of the conditions they operated in.

The author also describes his deep admiration for both, the Royal Navy and the Royal Fleet Auxiliary crews and ships as to their steadfastness in the face of repeated air attacks whilst at anchor during the offloading operations. Also, his working relationship with the ships’ command teams and crews in particularly is well documented.

Whilst on land a close working understanding developed with the Royal Marines throughout from the start of operations. He admired the naval commander Rear Admiral Woodward as a decisive thoughtful commander who made his decisions quickly. He relates the change of command structure did cause problems, in that the momentum of movement was in grave danger of being lost by decisions made further up the command chain by changing the land force commander.

Delves never allowed the insanity of war to affect his humanity and the adherence to the laws and customs of war, even when a prisoner was found to be in possession of prohibited ammunition or when a boat was illuminated from a hospital ship.. The attitude of not taking life needlessly is conveyed to the reader but the requirement to use overwhelming force to gain a result quickly against an enemy is demonstrated.

This book shows that Cedric Delves had an interesting war, not within a normal line unit but one with a degree of latitude in planning operations and later undertaking those actions, which he used to the full with the full support of his Special Forces chain of command. This shows how he had the skills and ability to rise to the heights of command within the Army, a career cut short by an accident for which he was medically retired.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would hope that the author writes a follow up book about some of his other exploits as a Special Forces operator.

I would award 4.8 mushroom heads for this book.

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