The Falklands War There and Back Again...
...The Story of Naval Party 8901, from Pen and Sword
Title: The Falklands War There and Back Again
Author: Mike Norman and Michael Jones
Publisher: Pen and Sword Books
This new book from Mike Norman and Michael Jones details the story of the Royal Marines who made up Naval Party 8901, the small unit that was assigned to be stationed on the Falklands for an annual posting prior to the Falklands War itself. Mike Norman was to be in command of the new members of 8901 who were to take over from the outgoing Marines that happened to coincide with the Argentine invasion in April 1982. So in fact, both the outgoing and incoming groups were there when the invasion happened.
The start of the book tells us the background to Naval Party 8901, along with the gathering of volunteers who would make up his new command, their training and his preparations for taking over on the islands. It goes on to give a detailed account of how they had little time to prepare their defences after very short notice of an impending attack. Their weapons were limited and his men were thinly spread to cover possible landing points. He also provides the most detailed account of what happened as the bulk of his men had to withdraw to the defence of Government House, located in Stanley itself. Even amidst the fighting through the town, there are one or two amusing stories they encountered. The Marines inflicted casualties on the invaders, including the destruction of one of their large Amtracs which approached Government House, the Marines and the Governor, Rex Hunt. At this point I have to say I had a special interest as he was my uncle. It was he who decided to order the surrender against the overwhelming numbers of Argentine troops and to save the lives of not only the Marines but also the Falkland Island civilians within the town. Reading how the Marines felt during the period, including their humiliating treatment by their captors and subsequent poor reporting at the hands of the British Press was worthy of being put straight.
The final part of the book details the preparation and assault to recover possession of the Falklands from the Argentines, and how the members of 8901 fought to take part in the Task force and make up for their earlier expulsion from the Islands. It also details their part in the 'Yomp' from San Carlos Water and the battles leading to the recovery of Stanley and the Argentine surrender. Fittingly, they were also the group to raise the Falkland Islands flag again over Government House.
Now 37 years later, the Falklands War has special memories for me. My eldest some was born the same week as the invasion took place and we were concerned about the safety of my uncle and aunt. Since then I had the honour of meeting a number of those who had a role, including Captain Nicholas Barker, Captain of HMS Endurance, who was sitting next to me in the church at the wedding of my cousin to one of the members of Naval Party 8901, and later to meet Simon Weston. Later still, when at work one day, a recently joined Project Manager surprised me by saying 'I was with him that day you know'. A young marine, he was standing behind a mattress at my uncle's bedroom window in Government House. It can be a small world. To read this new account of the Naval Party and especially the detail of their initial defence to the invasion I found especially interesting and one I couldn't put down until I had finished the whole book. Definitely recommended.
Thanks to Pen and Sword for my review copy.