Musings on the worlds of aviation, military and international affairs.
With reviews of books that cover these topics
The Book Guild, 25 July 2014
One man’s account of his part in the Falklands conflict. The book has only appeared now because the underlying matters were covered by the 30 year rule. Sidney was a Wing Commander in the RAF with a fast jet pedigree, but, crucially, he spoke good Spanish, and had been Air Attache in Madrid. So his Falklands War involved being sent to Santiago to act as the main military liaison between the Chilean and British Governments. Chile was keen to see its Argentine neighbour defeated, and its geography provided a vital launch platform and its military a crucial intelligence resource for the British campaign. What comes over clearly is how Thatcher’s government already enjoyed a good relationship with Pinochet and his junta – this relationship only become deeper during the war.
Possibly the single most helpful act of the Chileans was to warn Britain every time the Argentine Air Force launched a strike mission. Having no airborne early warning assets to speak of, Britain need the advance notice provided by Chilean radar stations. Edwards describes how the only time this chain fell down resulted in the Argentine A4 attack which sunk the Sir Galahad.
The Chileans were also helpful in allowing use of their base on the tiny San Felix island for the launch of Nimrod and C130 sorties. Setting up such activity required Edwards to travel a fair amount during his war the (great) length and (small) depth of Chile. On one such trip he describes an encounter with a cunim which sounds as bad as a pilot or passenger can endure, and still survive.
Also of interest is his account of his mopping-up after a SAS mission resulted in a burnt out Sea King appearing on Chilean soil – all very enlightening about the level of subterfuge and denial in international warfare.
So, the book does shed light on interesting facets of this conflict. But there are reservations: it is a slim volume – only 96 pages. Edwards does not dwell on his service career either before or after the battle. But more importantly, Edwards writes in a technical style (as if writing a service report), which becomes decidedly monotonous after a short while. Nowhere is this better illustrated than in his buttoned-up description of the party at the British Embassy to celebrate the ultimate victory. Contrast with, say the parties in the “Boys” series, and you will see what I mean.