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The Falkands War - There and back again (Maj Mike Norman and Michael Jones)


Maj Mike Norman's account of NP8901's defence of Stanley, plus the formation and exploits of J-Company during CORPORATE

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I've just finished it. In effect it's a four part book - the context behind modern British military involvement in the FI and the circumstances that led to the Argentine Invasion, the invasion itself, Norman's efforts to rectify public opinion towards NP8901s defence, and the Ascension Island to liberation phase involving the hastily-assembled J Company.

In terms of the events of 2 April 1982 - there's not really anything revelatory, but it's an extremely detailed chronological account. I won't stray into a comparison with Ricky D Phillips' version of the same events (which, in fairness, Norman and Jones reference in the appendix) but it is an interesting contrast in both tone and hyperbole.

Where this book really adds value is the extra detail surrounding the lead up to the Argentine invasion. Previous commanders of NP8901 outline how they were prevented by the MOD and Foreign Office from confronting an pretty obvious strategy of testing British resolve through increasingly blatant provocation.

Similarly, how the simultaneous prospective drawdown of forces in the region - and the RN more widely - was interpreted in Buenos Aires, failure to replace broken or missing infantry equipment, critical appraisals of Argentine military capability being withheld from Norman (especially their SF, which led directly to his dispositions on the day to prevent an expected heli- or seaborne invasion and resulted in them being completely wrong-footed with their withdrawal route blocked off).

Also surprising was the picture painted of Rex Hunt. He had a propensity to change his mind without consultation - such as backtracking on the agreed defence plan and failing to tell Maj Norman that he'd sent the FIDF home and left key points unguarded. He also subsequently withheld key details from Margaret Thatcher in order to preserve the reputation of the Foreign Office. Norman remains respectful towards him, but hardly flattering.

On his return to the UK, he was clearly incandescent about the utterly false media picture about NP8901s defence of the islands - and his backchannel determination to rectify this deserves a massive amount of credit. I think it took a fair amount of guts to go toe-to-toe with the nation's media on behalf of those under his command.

The latter part of the book (i.e. the Ascension Island and Op Corporate stuff) mostly covers his observations of events at Goose Green and his company's movements in support of actions on Mounts Kent and Harriet. The book becomes much more matter-of-fact here. I got the sense there was more 'Norman' than 'Jones' in this bit.

If I were being really critical, i'd say that other apsects are given surprisingly little focus. For instance he doesn't really mention the death of Maj Giachino in the grounds of Government House, which features heavily in other works and the BBC dramatisation "An Ungentlemanly Act". The disbandment of his company post-war and his later career are also somewhat rushed.

Overall, Maj Norman comes across as a real no-nonsense commander and thus his account is entirely credible. Where he can't prove (or didn't witness) something, he sticks to the facts as he sees them, and the book is largely absent from any form of exaggeration. The book is very much worth a read for the way in which it explores - at a tactical level - the lead up to the Argentine invasion, and effect of individual incompetence that had a significant impact on how that day unfolded. History could have been much different.

I have to admit, seen in this light I concluded 'no wonder they bl--dy invaded'. It was completely brought upon ourselves, and in the circumstances, we should perhaps be amazed that NP8901 managed to put up the fight that they did.

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