A history podcast that explores the narratives, turning points and characters that shape conflicts, encompassing a blend of social and military history. Following on from the series on the Falklands War, best-selling military historians Patrick Bishop, and Saul David turn their attention to the war in Ukraine.
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Mon, 11 Apr 2022 01:00
Once Mrs Thatcher had resolved to send a military Task Force to the Falklands following the Argentine invasion, how easy was it for the navy to mobilise in such a short period of time? Two of the key military commanders - Rear Admiral Jeremy Larken, then captain of HMS Fearless, and Major General Julian Thompson of the Royal Marines' 3 Commando Brigade, join Patrick and Saul to discuss the 'lash-up' and the convoluted command structure under the controversial figure of Rear Admiral Sandy Woodward.
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Hello and welcome to episode 2 of the Battleground Podcast with me, Saul David. How me Patrick Bishop. This week as part of our Falklands War series told in real time we're concentrating on the main event of the first week of the war, which was of course the departure from the portsmot of the Tarsports. So what exactly was the Tarsports? Well, it was a mixed fleet of two aircraft carriers, eleven destroyers and frigates, three submarines, the assault ship Fearless, which is going to of course be vital for the landings and numerous naval auxiliaries. And their joined at various stages by merchant ships of all kinds, taken up from trade, including the PNO cruise liner Canberra, which was carrying the 3,000 ground troops of three Commando Brigade. Eventually, as troop numbers increase, more than a hundred ships carrying 25,000 men would be sent to the Falklands. And as much as anything for a country and supposedly terminal decline, it was an astonishing logistical achievement. Okay, so let's remind everyone of a few key dates. You've got the actual invasion Friday the 2nd of April. Argentine forces go ashore on the Falklands. The following day, the Saturday, a much smaller group goes and establishes a proper military garrison on South Georgia, 800 miles away to the east. Now Monday, Monday the 5th, the first big chunk of the Tarsports set sail. That's the carrier group, the two carriers, Hermes and Invincible, who will be absolutely vital in the whole operation. They set off from Portsmouth. The following day, the amphibious assault ship fearless leaves as well. Then finally, bringing up the rear, but obviously very important. Friday the 9th of April, the Cambra, the troop ship Cambra, sails off from Southampton with me on board. Yes, but it's not all about you, Patrick, is it? And this week we'll also be talking to not one, but two of the key participants in the story. Major General Julian Thompson, then a brigadier in Commando, 3 Commando Brigade, and the rear admiral Jeremy Larkin, who in 1982 was the captain of HMS Fearless, the assault ship. But before that, it might be useful to set the scene a little bit, I think, by reading a quick extract from the book that Patrick and his fellow journalist, John Widhorow, now editor of The Times, wrote about the departure of the aircraft carrier HMS Invincible from Portsmouth on the 5th. Because I think it will give listeners a little bit of a flavor of the drama of that day. Patrick, please, would you do the honors? Thank you, Saul. Well, this is this chapter, the first chapter of the book is entitled The Empire Strikes Back. This is very much a cliché, very quickly. But it's seen to encapsulate the flavor of The Times, and it goes. HMS Invincible edged away from the key side shortly before 10am on Monday, the 5th of April, tugs and small chaseboats buzzing around her, like impatient flies. She moved grandly down the Portsmouth channel, exchanging salutes with ships, and it doledging the cheers of thousands of people lining the rooftops, keys and beaches in the crisp spring sunshine. Union Jack skipped and curled above blurred heads, and caps were doped in extravagant gestures. From the admiral's bridge, we could see the lone sea harrier fixed to the ski jump, its nose pointing skywards. At the stern, helicopters squatted on the flight deck, their blade strapped back like broken insects. The order to come to attention to the 500 men lining the deck in their best rig was swept away by the wind, and they came too, like a group of conscripts on their first day's drill. We moved away from the small boats, passed the old sea forts and into the channel. Behind us came HMS Hermes, the old warhorse, already looking stained and weather beaten. A small group of men, but once not caught up in the urgency of departure, stood staring back at Pompey, others gazed towards the horizon. It had been a long time since the country sailed to war. OK, that of course was the departure on the 5th. You weren't on that boat, Patrick. You left on the Canberra on the 9th, but we're going to come to that in a minute. But I think it's worth mentioning at this stage, actually in the light of the images we had recently from Westminster Abbey, when the Queen's second son escorted her into the memorial service for his father, the Duke of Edinburgh, that the Duke of York, then his Royal Highness Prince Andrew, was actually on HMS Invincible. And this is interesting because it's kind of principle of the Royal family that second sons should be allowed to go to war. The Queen apparently actually makes it clear that the Prince, who was of course then serving on Invincible as a Seeking helicopter pilot, would be going with the task force. His grandfather, King George VI, had fought at Jutland, and she was absolutely determined that there would be no question that a member of the Royal family would be treated any differently from other servicemen. Andrew's stock of course has fallen in recent times, but it's worth acknowledging, I think, in the interests of fairness, his service for his country in 1982. More of that later. OK, now back to you, Patrick. You leave on Canberra on the Friday the 9th of April as the correspondent of the observer at Newspaper. How on earth did you, just 29 years old at the time, get that gig? Well, I think that's partially because by no means clear that this was going to end in a shooting war. It was, I think, widely regarded as an enormous exercise in saber rattling at that stage, and that with any luck, diplomacy would do the job and there wouldn't be any need to actually land on the forkers. For us, hacks, there were about 30 of us on board. Most of us were, like me, kind of fairly junior. There were a couple of grandees, Max Hastings, among them, but by a large, as someone steeringly put it, they'd sent the second division on this one. We certainly didn't know much about the military. I mean, we'd all done a bit of Northern Ireland, but that's very much not the same sort of exercise that we were undertaking on this day. So there was a little bit of mutual incomprehension and indeed a little bit of mutual suspicion between the military and the media, but that very quickly changed. We'd been fed a kind of rather negative image of, certainly, army because of Northern Ireland, it was our own kind of, I went to say dirty war, but it certainly was quite grubby war times. Two things struck us about the soldiers we came across. We were living cheek by gels, so we were a very close proximity. One was their incredible enthusiasm and cheerfulness. And the second was their thoughtfulness and their efficiency. We sort of imagined they wouldn't really give a great deal of contemplation to what was going on, but we found it to be very intelligent. And also very up for what they were doing. I never heard anyone really at any point express any dismay of what was going on. There were certain doubts about the feasibility of it, but everyone was absolutely up for it. And I think that was, you know, from our point of view, from our morale point of view, it was great to be surrounded by these terrifically positive people. But one thing was certain was that there was a great challenge lying ahead and we didn't know whether we really had the wherewithal to pull it off. OK, but before we get to the challenge, just want to ask you a quick question, Patrick. You know, this is a great opportunity for you professionally, isn't it? But you must have been in two minds about whether if it was going to be a shooting war, whether you wanted to be involved, yes, there were career opportunities, but also there's your health to consider, isn't there? Yes. So there is this sea sort of emotions. You've got the lust for glory for journalist, Dick Laurie tips you one way and then fear for your own life, tips you the other. So that was a constant throughout the whole war, I have to say. Of course, it was going to be an extraordinary challenge for the task force going down to the South Atlantic where, frankly, all the military odds are going to be stacked in favour of the Argentinians. But first, we need to find out how the task force has even put together. And to do that, we're going to be talking to two of the key participants in part two. See you then. Welcome back to part two. Now going to speak to two of the key players in the story of the task force, Rear Admiral Jeremy Larkin, who was then skipper of the amphibious assault ship HMS Fearless, and Major General Julian Thompson, who was then commanding the main strike force heading down to the Falklands, three Commando Brigade. Thompson was one of three British commanders heading south, all of roughly equivalent status. The others were combat all Mike Clap, commanding the amphibious landing force, and Rear Admiral Sandy Woodward, the naval task force commander, and in effect, Premus Interparees, or first among equals. The overall commander, based at Northwood in London, was Admiral Sir John Fieldhouse, Commander in Chief Fleet. So that's the background. We spoke first to Rear Admiral Jeremy Larkin, who remembered when he first realised they might be called into action. We did just about back a week before, from, or ten days before, from our final exercise on Recommissioning the ship in Norway, which meant we got pretty well together with the Royal Marines and the aviation, our Red Army aviation, and it was a Thursday evening, and I heard that there was some concern the Argentine's might be going to invade the Falklands, and I invited him to have a drink in my wardrobe, where we all said, well, you know, British Navy, but that, you know, it'll be some kind of foreign office fix, and I went home the next morning Friday in my second command, John Kelly rang me up and said, look, you better get in, because we put on a priority of store second energy to the deterrent, so you better come in and frantic four days followed, because we sailed the following Tuesday, and we were to stay at actually when we were in maintenance and everything had been taken to bits, and we put together again, so we threw everything together again, and embarked an extraordinary load of people and equipment, and meanwhile I was busy trying to get my brain round what this was going to involve, not the interesting meetings, listening to an extraordinary day in the House of Commons, which Alan Clark, it is memoirs, said it was the most intense day in the House of Commons he recalled, or thought of since 1940, a bit extreme, perhaps and lots of meetings with people who were trying to give advice, what we're going to do, what the command structure is going to be, and chance for people like Jeremy Black who I knew well, Captain Imitates Paul, he said, mm, next is that, the exact set that's not going to be too funny, is it, sort of thing, and a wonderful man, Admiral, I want Jim Eberley, who was then, come on and achieve now of home, a great role model of mine, said, well in advice I've got to give Jeremy, I've never actually been in a war, amazing I thought, and by the way he said, someone told me that if people get hurt, by the way, do make sure that people don't drop the weapons, because the medical people will get on with it and you can't do that sort of time, just as one of the sides that you gather in amazing times like that. Tell us a bit about your ship, it's getting all a bit, isn't it, at this stage, but it's still absolutely configured to do the job ahead of you. She developed a bit, she was originally built as a Loric carrier, would you believe it, the best of the army, and we fitted it with a few other things, and a flight deck, and so on, and she gradually evolved into an extraordinary polyglot sort of ship really, with two complete command centers, my guests being as it turned out, the amphibious commanders, a common or Michael Knapp, who was the maritime commander and Brigadier, he was then Julian Thompson, who was going to be the land force commander, and all of their staffs, my own ship staff, of course, by the custom in the Navy as a captain of the command ship or the flagship, you are the chief of staff to the Fag Officer or the common law, and I've practiced that before, I'd actually done that previously, first of John Fieldhouse and previously in Connetions, I've really practiced that the role, but the ship is fitted with easy command centers, also equipped to carry about 300 fully equipped troops and their support arms, and the back end is a mixture between a swimming pool when you dock a ship down and open the stern gate, and a railroad ferry as it were, except everything comes in at the back end, the decks were used to vehicles, guns, tanks even, if you wish, and four big landing craft, which docked in the back area, in the stern area, and four more landing craft, which dangled on David's side of the ship, which obviously was smaller, and a flight dock on which we were equipped ready to carry two helicopters of the Seeking variety, troop carrying variety, but we managed the stuff for in the great deal, else for the event, including the blues and royals with some light tanks, for instance, and lots and lots of food, including Argentine bully beef with calls, amusement snacking the decks. If that gives us all the reasonable fuel, so fairly ancient, 20 years old then, which is five and other 20 as long as you can, reasonable communications equipment, good satellite communications, recently fitted, ad defense not very good, some ancient single 40 millimeter bofers, and four Seekout missile systems, which were the back end of effective life. Jeremy, you tell us a little bit about the actual day of departure, so this is Tuesday, the 6th of April, you're leaving Porzmord, and I gather you actually have to pick up some of the landing ships outside the main harbour, is that correct? Well, we couldn't dock down sufficiently also in the ship docked down the stern sinks, the Porzmord harbour isn't even up for that, so we always would embark and disembark the landing craft, big landing craft outside the harbour, it's a bit ahead anchorages, and yes, we'd have to hover with our four landing craft coming as stern obvious, we then dropped anchor, it's a bit ahead one, the anchorages and embark landing craft, also quite spooky really, because we pass what's known the Rhyme Tower, it's a harbor entrance where many famines have gathered in quite emotional scenes, and there we sat at Spithead with the radios on the local media, interviewing wives and loved ones, or in some considerable state of excitement, and in some cases distress, and I reflected on it, I deal thinking V Brown the ship on the day of departure as it went, and that evening, as I recall, we set sail and companyed by an Oracle landing ship logistics, the together heads of Tristram and that lot, of course, had some petty bad and sad experiences later in the campaign. Tell me about your thoughts about the enterprise itself, you're obviously very busy on the minute of your departure, but did it strike you that you were taking on a huge challenge at that moment? Well, it did, we were, of course, trained for it, and I spent my life being in the submarine service as a deterrent against war, and I thought that was all fairly successful, curled war stuff, but suddenly to be thrust into it was, as you say, something of a surprise, and my job, obviously, and my excellent team's job was to, a customary one, to what we were likely to be informed. We were obviously, we were not pleased with Galtihari if invading the fortunes, we felt pretty strongly about that. We were also pretty confident that something might be achieved in a diplomatic area, but nevertheless, it was very important to sail the task force and the very least is a major deterrent element to improve the strength and negotiations, and everyone, I think, felt pretty much that way about it, a very positive view, albeit one of apprehension, and rather hoping that something would be resolved before it actually came to something unpleasant. Now you mentioned the two commanders you had on board, Thompson and Clap. How did you get on with the two of them? It's a strange relationship, of course, isn't it? Your captain of the ship, but technically they're your superiors. It was one I was very familiar with, it was a very comfortable number of freebies in foundations. I knew Michael Sapp quite well, I knew during the Thompson's list, we'd all been together in Norway for the previous month, and I was very comfortable with the concept. My ship was fitted to do this, it was his job, and my job was to make sure that we'd ride them with the utmost support. As I said, I was also in group with the staff, I wasn't just distant host, I was in group with the staff, and in a very realistic way, it wasn't just playing at it, I was Michael Clap's chief of staff, and as is the custom, the number of the ship's officers were also served as staff officers. It was a pre organized relationship. You were in the fortunate position of having served under two key Navy commanders, John Fieldhouse at the very top, and then Sandy Woodward, who's one of these three in theatre commanders. Can you tell us a bit about the personalities of those two, and then we'll come on if you don't mind to talking about the slightly unwieldy command structure that perhaps understandably given the urgency of the situation had been put together for the operation? Well, I'll start with Errol Sandy Woodward, who I knew very well, and I think of all the people then, and certainly alive now, I know him better than anyone. He'd been my first attendant when we built the first all British nuclear power supply in the valley, and he was my first attendant, and I was an avigator. Subsequently, I was very fortunate that he was my teacher on the paris of the submarine command qualifying course. A course which he fundamentally reformed from being something of an alcoholic marathon to something which really rather can't be thought out and orchestrated. And I'd substitute then being his second in command running the submarine sea training authorization where we qualified submarines or oversaw the qualifications of reads emerging from refit or new build, the first safety effectiveness and an operational effectiveness effectiveness. And finally, he'd been my boss briefly in the naval plans division, minister of defence. I recognize you, Sandy pretty well. He's an extraordinary character, a very private man seen in public to be austere and impetuous, but he was very sort of an extremely bright. And actually, privately, he's one of these people who couldn't talk without being entertaining. He couldn't put a sentence together without being a doormatant or a son sort. He did have a weakness, we all have weaknesses. And he wasn't really terrible good with people who wanted to reasonably, in terms of interchange on a comparable and intellectual level. So sailors found him completely incomprehensible. And in war spite, we should demand it in your Karpard submarine review known as Dr. Spock, for instance. But he was eminently well prepared to be the Air Force, the aircraft carrier commander. And I think that did that superbly well. As Max Hastings said, he got all the big, all the big issues right. And subsequently, we became quite those personal friends and helped us with our company more recently. But not everyone's cup of tea there. I mean, there's, I think, well, a tested stories of both Julian Thompson and Mike Klapp, finding his manner quite difficult to deal with, no? Yes, it was unfortunate the way all that turned out. And I did do my utmost to try and anticipate it, because I knew things were going to be tricky. Well, Sandy was someone who would fire out ten ideas a day, many of which were quite deliberately completely over the top. And as his chief of staff, which I'd been in submarine three train, for instance, it was very important to make sure the staff didn't get busy on any, but more than the two of ten, that were worth pursuing. Otherwise, it worked out outside for a week and sent it all by. I didn't expect you to do any work on that. I knew that was going to be the way it would go. And when we had a critical meeting, which we can get on to, I'll cover it now if you wish, at Ascension Island on, I think, 17th, April, thereabouts. As soon as Sierra's got within reach of Ascension, where Sandy already was, and Carrier heard me, his head got completely approaching. So with Sandy on board, I did try to prepare Michael and Julian for what I knew was going to be a sparking of entuality. Sandy was very much focused on some matrices, of course, and with Dean was London in a way that Michael and Julian did later, but weren't doing the same degree then. And of course, he came on board with, as far as finding off, ideas, more directions. Because I have to say, little tacklers, which was Sandy's way here, and it just didn't go well. And I was very sad, both Julian and Michael were to some degree offended, and it did set that relationship off in an unfortunate way, which we all got through. And after all, we did win. And people, I think, make too much of it because I can't think of major command events as the sort when the wind tensions between the commanders, but they were on the Hill constructive tensions and when things went wrong, it was because the information you sidehead of the other was not sufficiently complete, well, that's typical. Can we also talk a little bit about John Fieldhouse? And when you've given us a bit of a character sketch, can we then move on to that crucial meeting, which you mentioned the earlier meeting? I think that was actually the 15th of April. So if we move on a couple of days to the meeting on the 17th of April, that Fieldhouse himself participated in? Well, John Fieldhouse is a very different personality and it's wrong to assume that it was the whole command structure of the submarine's stitch up because actually John Fieldhouse and Sandy would draw their new child, the well and respect each other. They had quite different views on various matters. So John Fieldhouse, I first knew him when he was captain of the Red Nought, which was the first British nuclear subpar puzzle. I mean, put it back in, it wasn't all British. It was sort of IKEA, IKEA job really in terms of submarine construction. Of a very sage, balanced steady person, he had great presence as did Sandy and he's quite different way. He arose very quickly through a verati of post to be a major rare apple young. And I really got to know him quite well when he was first appointed as a rare apple, the flag off the second settiller, as it was called, flying a flag in the nation of Sklemorgan, a Guadalaj Missile that's flying, which by extraordinary, serious occurrences, I happen to be commanding as rather junior in the rank of commander at the age of 35, which is extraordinary for one of those vessels, but it was robust by Captain Gottiild and it was great, I should run every. So I was John Fieldhouse as a fact captain for six weeks in some very operational situations and got to know him well as a man I greatly respected and with a deep understanding of a really all aspects of maritime warfare and beyond. He then was a snag off the submarine when I was a submarine when I myself was driving H. Miss Valdean, which I commissioned as the navigator 10 years before. And again he was a great support, very steady. And a highly perceptive man, I knew him subsequently finally as Chief of Dvenstar, if I went from that capacity too, and I think he had a very good broad and steady understanding of defense overall. He was of course the four star commander of Northwood for the campaign and there's lots of controversy about how that was organized and delivered and I lived all about elements of that. On the whole, I have the conclusion that deficiencies tend to be on the whole exaggeration because I think we did manage the extraordinary circumstances. I mean the circumstances this war was absolutely remarkable in the speed which it developed. And what I think distinguishes it from other wars and number of aspects, well one particular respect is that it did actually go extraordinarily well given the speed of development. I look at what's happened to Russia's new crane. It's been a complete disaster. He managed out of the blue sky with a navy train to deal with anti submarine warfare in the Atlantic and support of principally American carrier groups who actually conduct this extraordinary campaign 8,000 miles from home and succeed. I think what's fascinating about that Patrick, if you think about the beginning of the interview is how chaotic it all was, how suddenly he was faced having effectively decommissioned his ship having returned from Norway to suddenly getting it up to speed again and how quickly they had to do that. I mean just literally a matter of days, four or five days to do that in and yet no panic, calmly went about his business, went to an awful lot of meetings and then slowly but surely put the show back on the road. And I think it sums up really, doesn't it? That kind of fleagmatic calmness of British servicemen even in a crisis. However luck was very much on their side. If this had happened a couple of weeks later or a couple of months later, there'd be no fearless for people to get on to, to head off to the South Atlantic. This was kind of surplus to requirements, as was the sister ship and trepid. These were designed for wars that no one expected to fight again. So it was an incredible stroke of luck for the British that they hadn't actually headed off to the scrapyard or wherever else they were destined for. Timing plays a big part in this story, doesn't it? But the other thing that fascinated me, not knowing much about amphibious assault ships, is really how the whole ship has structured. He talked in detail, didn't he, about how it worked, the sort of number of people that they would generally be on it, up to 300 extra troops, 600 total in all. And yet for pretty much the whole of the Faulkner's war, he had 1400 people constantly changing people coming on board and going in one go. And it's pretty amazing to think that this ship that was built to carry lorries originally and then they'd effectively been adapted. And adapted very well, it seems, because as we'll discover, it was designed to do a job and amphibious assault and it does that very well. Yeah, it also actually does a kind of R&R center. If you managed to get off the island as I did once or twice during the conflict and onto Jeremy's ship, you eat despite a huge strain on the resources of this ship. You've still got a very warm welcome there. If you were lucky, you might actually get a bunk bed for a few hours. But the kitchen staff, they deserved the South Atlantic medal and they should have had a bar attack strip, they're incredible efforts they made to keep everyone fed, but not just with stuff to provide some calories and keep them going. It was really high class tucker, including if I have my memory is correct. So really Chinese chefs aboard and they served us some really good Chinese knots, so good on them. Yeah, the other interesting thing he mentioned is, of course, now I knew exactly what was going to happen next, but he's very clear that it was necessary for the task force to sail. I mean, this was a knife edge decision as we've already heard. Leach really convincing the Prime Minister that it can be done. And his point was, yes, of course, we don't know what's going to happen next, but you can't let something like this, you know, this unprovoked assault on the Falkens go, go unchallenged, frankly. They felt fear, apprehension as he put it, but hoping that something would be resolved before he gets to a proper shooting war. Yeah, interesting that he actually comes out and says he doesn't want to worry. I found that among quite a lot of the senior commanders, they were much more apprehensive about what war meant than they're meant, perhaps because they knew a lot more about it. I was also interested in him standing up for Sandy Wood with a controversial figure. And I must admit, you know, from what the word at the time was that he was a difficult guy. I mean, this was filtering down to us as journalists. And I must admit, everything I've heard about Sandy Wood would since makes me think that I wouldn't like to be dealing with him in a command situation. I mean, there's a time and place for everything. And I think being a sort of super clever, or rather regarding yourself as super clever, wanting the rest of the world to know it by firing off all these impractical suggestions, it's all very well in a kind of normal or a sitch, not lethal situation. But I think in a crisis, you want somebody just tells you what they want you to do, or to have a kind of discussion within very tight parameters about what the possibilities are, not to have some kind of brainstorming session. Yes, you're right. It's almost like it was almost like a sort of Oxbridge tutorial, wasn't it, where you throw out ideas and nothing is discounted. But you can see quite clearly that Jeremy Larkin has had a long and close professional relationship with him. And that obviously made a difference. And yet at the same time, he understands him. And I think this is part of the problem in life as in war, miscommunication, basically. And a sense that feathers get ruffled because people say the wrong thing at the wrong time, which quite clearly was the case, as we are going to hear, actually, I feel from Jeremy Thompson when they have that first crucial meeting. That's right. But to be fair to Woodward, we must be fair. He did, I think, by general consent, get all the major decisions right. So despite his rather kind of challenging demeanor, he saw him knew what he was doing at the end of the day. I love the quote, the description of him when he was on HMS Wallsbyte, Dr. Spock. Known by his men, I mean, it's lovely, isn't it? The other interesting thing we heard, of course, was the pen portrait of Fieldhouse, the commander. Again, a character who has divided opinion, really, in terms of his control of the campaign from Northwood. He was, of course, commander and chief fleet back in the UK. And again, a pretty positive portrait of him coming from Jeremy Larkin. And an interesting portrait. And in some ways, you get the sense that he was more level headed and was able to see through the fog of war, I suppose, a little bit more effectively than Woodward. Yeah. I think distance cuts both ways. It can mean that you'll very remote from events on the ground, but it can also give you a bit of perspective. And that might have been the case with Fieldhouse. I think one thing that strikes me is perhaps a generalisation, but I wonder whether Royal Navy personnel aren't more loyal to their superiors than their army cast to us, because the army certainly don't, as we'll be hearing again, don't hold back what it comes to criticizing their superiors. Anyway, I think the one thing that everyone agrees could have been done better is that instead of having these three commanders in the field or in the battle zone, if you like, who sort of hold equal rank, although strangely enough, Woodward is meant to be premise and to par at least, it's meant to be first among equals. It causes a lot of confusion. And I think in hindsight, a lot of people and people are even saying it at the time, it would have been better to have one operational commander who could then convey everything straight up to Fieldhouse without having three competing narratives reaching him back in Northwood. Well, they're saying, of course, the same thing, aren't they? Now, Patrick, about the Russians in Ukraine, the suspicion that there is not a single operational commander. Well, anyway, let's hear the slightly different perspective from the Royal Marines now, from Major General Julian Thompson, who in 1982 was commanding three commander brigade. And we asked him where he was when the crisis blew up and what was the situation with his brigade. Well, I knew a bit of political background because Royal Marines had served in the foreclans and quite a lot I'd never had, and I was particularly friendly with UNSouth Bittelia, who was to play a very important part in this campaign. And he and I had, well, great chums, I used to say these yachts and say he used to tell me about the Fortland Islands and what a strange place it was. And I also knew that he carried out a personal wreck of all the best beaches, pretending that he was looking to see where the Argentines would land, but actually with the name of writing a pilot book for chap sailing yachts down in the South Atlantic. And he handed this in to the Navy in the Admiralty some two years earlier in 1980. And a tie drug of a rope back and said these are the amateur jottings in the right tenor at yachtsman who have new interest in this department. So anyway, he then joined me and came south and was able to tell us a huge amount about him, place we had heard about, but knew very little indeed. This is very fortuitous, there's a lot of luck involved in this story. But your kind of outlook on future scenarios, the whole entire military, British military, was very much pointing in the opposite direction, wasn't it? It was still very much a NATO mindset, Cold War mindset. Can you describe what the sort of general situation posture was of the military at this time? I think we ought to remind this is that even though this was a tall order you were being given, the British military was in a much better place than it is now in terms of numbers in terms of ships and in terms of lift capability than we are today. Well, the position was that we expected to get war against the Soviet Union, either in North Norway, South Norway or in Denmark and in Schleswig, Hodgedam. So that's what we rehearsed for. Of course, it was actually very good training for fighting in the faultlands because we were Arctic trained. And of course, a lot of the time there isn't any snow in the Arctic, it was just pissing with rain and bogs and peep balls rather likely faultland islands. So we were used to operating extremely unpleasant conditions, which was a useful starter for what we were about to face. But the problem really arose and saw what his finger on it, it was time. We had two big problems. One was time and one was distance. We were going to go a thousand miles further than Tokyo is from London to carry out an amphibious operation further from its home base than any other amphibious operation in recent history other than the attack on the French colony that was in the Indian Ocean. So we were doing something that had not been done before with very little time. And of course, without contingency plans, which were very useful, even if they don't actually fit the operation you're going to do, you take them off the shelf and dust them down and change them to what you want to do. So we did actually that. We got hold of our reinforcements from Norway plan and of course, it soon became totally out of date. But it gave us an idea of the sort of scale of shipping we would need. And my brigade was getting bigger and bigger by the minute. I mean, normally we went to Norway with two commander groups, which is not very many people. We eventually ended up five and a half thousand guys with guns and all the rest of the paraphernalia and something like 27,000 tons of stores, which had to be offloaded from the depots into ships. And ships had to be taken up from trade. So the cry of the time was get stuffed, stuffed standing for ships taken up from trade. And they were hauled in from various places around the United Kingdom. So you might look up in the book which told you what ships were entitled to have. And so I'd like that one. They said, Terasaur, it's all of California, I mean, God, have it for another 10 days. So they just sail the nearest ships to the nearest ports. And then the stuff from various depots around the UK ammunition, fuel, defend stores, mines, food, etc. were just taken from the depot to the nearest port, which could be Liverpool or Bristol or wherever, hurled into the nearest ship, which was in sail. And the whole lot did get to see as old and of course it was the right thing to do. They were totally chaotic because the decision was made to sail the task force. And it's easier to keep going once you're going and tied up alongside. And people say, oh, show me sail, show me not as much as you sort of get your foot out and get cracking and signal that to the officers. Julian, can you tell us a little bit about the day of departure? For you, I think it was the fifth. That's Tuesday the fifth in HMS Fearless. How did you get to Fearless? And what was that departure day like? Well, it was a claggy. We flew to Fearless from a football pitch at Stonehenst Barrett, which is in Timoth. And it was quite a foggy day. And I remember, Julian South Italy was there. And his wife was there with their children to come and wave us goodbye. And we leapt on board this helicopter. Mike Rose was there as well, the Muon and one and two other people and star officers. And we'd coasted along the Dorset, the Devon and Dorset coast to meet the ship, which was coming out of line bay at the time. And we would balloon the level of the cliffs because the tops were covered in mist. And as the thought went through my head and we were pity to crash into the cliffs, just a diss stage in the battle for him to get there. And these thoughts never stopped going through my head when I'm riding in the helicopter. Thousands of hours of air had been done. And eventually looked out of the side and we saw the wake of Fearless, the white wake, and we caught her up. And she was pitching quite badly. She was outside the safety limits for landing apparently. We weren't told there. We landed and it was getting dark and we went up into the back end of Fearless, upper ladder inside and met by Jeremy Larkin, who was captain, who was a submariner and the red light thrower inside the ship. And I'm not a very tall chap. And I couldn't understand where my head was brushing against the deckhead with ceiling. And the reason was we were walking on three layers of comfort rations because Jeremy had stopped his ship like a submarine on patrol. And Mike Cap, who was with me at the time, the commander said, we're in a submarine on any safety s. So until we'd eaten down through the rations, we'd walked around double. So that was our arriving in Fearless. And it was actually wonderful to get going. And really we were then committed. And one felt this was it. And I never allowed myself to think it ain't going to happen. Nor did I encourage talk like that from anyone else. I said, we're going to go to war. So get down to it and start thinking about it. Now you don't actually get to hear about what you're supposed to be doing until you meet up with Sandy Woodward, one of the three premas into Perez commanders. We'll come onto the command structure a bit later on. But tell us about that first meeting with him, which I believe was on the 15th of April, is that right? Yes, the first time I met, what happened was it was actually quite interesting. It was on our way down with sort of saying, what are we meant to be doing? So we decided what we would do is work out what we could do. So in case we were asked with that stage, there's also to talk about blockading the place, raiding it, standing off, threatening. So we went through all the options and said, we can do this, we can do that. And these would be the penalties we tried this. For God's sake, we always came and don't land on any other island, other than the main one. Because otherwise you're going to have to carry out another round of fibrous operation. Anyway, yeah, but as I understand it initially, that was quite a big option. Indeed, it was the favorite option it seemed to be when you met. Just to get the sequence of events right, I think there's an initial meeting you have with Sandy Woodford. I think on the 16th of the 16th of the 16th on the fearless. And then two days later, the sink fleet, i.e. the Royal Naval Admiral, who's going to be in charge of the whole operation, comes down. There's a meeting on Hermes with you and the guy who went exactly the evil learn forces. Sure. Come on to Jeremy, but when these issues are actually hashed out. But before we met Sandy, we'd worked out and I heard what we could do. So we had our clear minds and we then had a signal saying, Woodward is about to descend on you, without any warning whatsoever. And so he then left into an entremble, I think, from Hermes, came back towards us. We still are our way south to Central and appeared. And he unrolled a chart and came up with it. He said, I want to know whether we could land on West Forkland and instruct an airship on that bit of land that juts out on the left of the map, I got them in the name of the place. And build an airfield that will take high performance jets in which, at those days, were phantoms. And I said, look, it'll take about six months to build. We need a whole airfield squadron and we'd be sitting there as close as it is possible to get to Argentina without being in the sea, which means we'd be under an air attack all the time. So a billion airfield is a complete waste of time. So he then said, well, I should want ammunition to back up your statements. I sent for Rodin McDonnell my sapper and said, dream up, not dream up, but think above the way of killing this ridiculous plan at once. So he did. And we then presented our findings at the meeting which we talked to when Fieldhouse came and held a meeting in Hermes, which Jeremy Moore was also present in, and Mike Clap was there and Woodward was there. And that killed that idea dead, I'm glad to say. But there was still talk about landing on West Forkland. I think it was all this sort of, how can we get away without fighting, St. Ram? We'll seize a bit of their land and then say, well, bargain it for Stanisles. Crap. Because actually when you work out and what all the Argentines had to do, sit in Stanley, and they'd also work that out. The all they had to do is a whole Stanley and they held the Faulkner lines. Julian, what was your preference at this stage? You're sort of, again, things are, you know, you're working out things as you go down there. And there is no sort of definite plan as you're explaining. But what was your instinct? What was your preference at this stage? Our preference at this stage. We hadn't selected where we'd land. It was to land somewhere where they weren't in any strength. Because they did not have the far power and the sort of stuff they had in Normandy, like swimming tanks and swimming guns and things like that. To do a head on straight up the middle, a haired little, type landing, it had to be somewhere where they weren't in any great strength. So we'd get our foot on the shore, then use our wits in order to get to the final objective. So we hadn't come up with a plan at that stage. It was then that Fieldhouse said to Jeremy, to Mike, Clap and me, I want you to make a plan to select the beach and tell me and I will then decide whether you can do it. At that stage, that gave us the cue to get cracking and not then, obviously, at that meeting. But to go away and start working out how we'd do it. Yeah, well, thank heavens that it was Julian and Mike Clap who had that decision, which was a strictly military one. I think all the talk of West Falkens was basically political trying to buy time for some sort of negotiated settlement. Something will be coming on to in great detail in the next episode. Yeah, and it's fair to say, of course, that at this stage, the person who was under pressure from the politicians were not the guys on fearless, of course. It was Woodward himself. So he was getting a fair bit of political pressure and I'm sure you're absolutely right, Patrick. I mean, some fascinating stuff from Julian Thompson. You know, the sheer quantity of kitten people he had to get together, 5,500 soldiers. And that number would expand, of course, as the campaign went on and 27,000 tons of stores all in a very short space of time. Amazing stuff. Okay, well, we'll be hearing about how things develop in the next episode. The diplomacy and the politics, but also the first military action of the whole campaign. The retaking of South Georgia. Join us.