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Falklands Air War

Falklands Air War

Published: 29 Oct 2012
Review by Lester May posted on the Amazon website.
This book is both impressive and depressing. As a non-aviator but a naval officer who served "Down South" in 1982, I am impressed with the detailed information in Appendix Five about the ships involved and the aircraft embarked, although it is not impressive that no photograph is included of any of the Royal Navy aircraft operating from the ambulance ships.
The foreword by Air Chief Marshal Sir Peter Squire, of which the authors and publishers are obviously so proud that it is mentioned on the dust jacket, is an utter disgrace. It is so Royal Air Force and land-based air biased that one wonders if he, or the authors, really know what this war was about or how it was fought!
I know that Wing Cdr Squire commanded a squadron of Harriers embarked in an aircraft carrier and that they arrived on board HMS Hermes on 18 May 1982 but given his foreword, and the entries in the index, those who rely on this book for fact and truth might well get the impression that it was the RAF that won the Falklands War - and, of course, it was if you believe the RAF PR spin from 1982 and the following thirty years! ACM Squire manages, in his one-page foreword, to write about himself and his squadron and the geo-political general picture, but fails to mention any of the following words or phrases: Royal Navy, Royal Marines, Army, Fleet Air Arm, naval aviation, naval air squadron, Army Air Corps, aircraft carrier, ship, navy, maritime, sea (except for the one mention of Sea Harrier; even then to use it as a foil for the broadly unsuccessful RAF Vulcan Black Buck raids). Reading this smiling Air Chief Marshal's foreword, one would not know that this was a sea war, fought at sea and in the air, an amphibious landing and a land war, fought from the sea and in the air (aircraft embarked in aircraft carriers). I salute Wing Cdr Squire and his aircrew's part in the war, albeit only the last 27 days of it, but I am absolutely shocked at the man's front in air-brushing out the principal maritime element!
This commonplace re-writing history by senior RAF officers is an utter disgrace. Not only this warped version of history a lie, but it is disservice to those in the junior ranks of the RAF whom they mislead with their peddling of the RAF's "we won it" non-tri-service attitude. For an author and publisher to be in cahoots with this nonsense is appalling.
Much of this book is good, over detailed for the non-aviation reader, but it is spoiled by ACM Squire's partisan view of tri-service defence. Tri-service, I joke - he sees only the air element, an element which is seen as but one of many weapon systems available to sea and land commanders in war (but the only element on offer from the RAF, so they big it up at every opportunity).
A look at the index is informative. Lt Cdr Sharkey Ward, the Sea Harrier exemplar, and commanding officer of 801 Naval Air Squadron, is mentioned in the index ten times and Wg Cdr Squire 24 times, yet the naval aviator was embarked in HMS Invincible from early April onwards and the RAF boaster in HMS Hermes from 18 May, his squadron having gone south in the container ship Atlantic Conveyor.
The naval aviator Captain Bob McQueen, who commanded Ascension Island, is not mentioned at all. Whitewash. There are no photographs of people bar ACM Squire, smirking at his front for writing such partisan a foreword. Of course, the RAF-biased authors would not wish to show the faces of naval aviation.
Let's make something clear here. Of the 27,500 proper medals for the South Atlantic (awarded by HM The Queen) - let's ignore for the moment the 2,000 medals for Ascension Island, some 3,700 miles north - only about 200 were awarded to the RAF. This makes clear enough that this Falklands War was a victory won by the Royal Navy (non-aviators and aviators), the Royal Marines, the Army and the Merchant Navy, with a little bit (not a lot at all) of help from the RAF.
The £7bn a year RAF certainly has an Ace squadron - its Public Relations Squadron. I am amazed that the Battle of Britain is not evoked as inspiration for the RAF's winning this war of 1982, despite the useless sea-time and naval folk. The RAF claim they were important in the Korean War too - another war where most of the aviation was at sea in aircraft carriers. Question for your pub quiz: When was the last year when an RAF aircraft, flown by RAF aircrew, shot down an aircraft of the enemy of the UK? It was 1945 (for all those 'kills' since were chalked up by the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm!).
There is some good stuff in this book, aspects of the war I've not read elsewhere. But, given Squire's biased foreward, I suggest all intelligent readers have some salt to hand when they read it. For those with a naval or maritime background, especially if you are feeling low right now, buy this book and have a good laugh. The Crabs are an extraordinary bunch!


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