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5th Infantry Brigade in the Falklands (Paperback)

Modern Warfare Falklands More History

By David Aldea, Nick Van der Bijl
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Pages: 256
ISBN: 9781783462636
Published: 12th February 2014

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NO-ONE CAN COMPLAIN THAT THE FALKLANDS' WAR has been neglected by authors and publishers. Countless books have been published, covering this mercifully brief and successful campaign over the years. It is all the more remarkable that Nick van der Bijl and David Aldea unearthed a central subject that had been overlooked, namely the role played by the British 5th Infantry Brigade.

The decision to send 5 Brigade was taken some time after 3 Commando Brigade had been despatched with, as bad luck would have it, many of 5 Brigade's own units. This in itself caused tensions within and without the Brigade and these were exacerbated by its hasty reconstitution and all too brief training prior to the long voyage south on the Cunard Liner Queen Elizabeth II and other vessels. With the military and media spotlight firmly fixed on 3 Commando Brigade, the 'other brigade' made up principally of two Guards battalions, fresh from ceremonial duties, and a battalion of Gurkhas inevitably felt neglected. Yet their moment was to come in both glorious and tragic circumstances and, by the close of the hostilities, the Brigade had certainly made its mark, despite the many handicaps under which it had to operate.

Yet the drama and controversy were not over. For reasons that have long mystified many observers, the Brigade Commander was conspicuously overlooked in the post-war distribution of medals and awards.

This book is mandatory reading for all those who wish to understand a fascinating aspect of one of the most extraordinary military ventures in Britain's long martial history.

This is a super book which is essential reading for anyone interested in the Falklands campaign.

Who and what comprised 5th Infantry Brigade is set out in great detail. The chopping and changing of components that took place in the UK and down in the South Atlantic is well described, as is the evident confusion about what the role of the Brigade was intended to be. Was it to garrison the Falklands when the war was won, or to help win that battle?

One cannot but feel sympathy for Brigadier Wilson and his Brigade, fighting a war for which they had not trained with assets that were either unfamiliar (amphibious ships) or in short supply (helicopters). The coordination with 3 Commando Brigade is also covered.

Despite the title, this book is much more than the story of “5th Infantry Brigade in the Falklands War.” There is extensive detail on the strengths of the Argentine units, with first-hand accounts from the defenders. Input from the other British commanders paints a sympathetic but also honest account of the campaign.

Yes, there are errors and I would reject the authors’ assertion that it was “one of the most pointless wars of the 20th Century.” British forces emerged victorious for good reason and many were rewarded with honours. Julian Thompson, the shrewd and astute head of 3 Commando Brigade, has been very candid since the war ended on the successes and mistakes involved, including his own. It is a pity that Tony Wilson’s voice is yet to be heard and that others tell the tale. This book is highly recommended.

Peter Weedon

About Nick Van der Bijl

Nick van der Bijl served with distinction in the Intelligence Corps, particularly in the Falklands. He is now retired and working on security in the NHS.

He is the author of 6 books on 20th Century military history. He lives at Mark, Somerset.

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