Perceptions of Life Aboard Royal Navy Task Force Ships During the Falklands Crisis, 1982

University of Kent School of History War Studies Dissertation

Perceptions of Life Aboard Royal Navy Task Force Ships During the Falklands Crisis, 1982

By Matthew Coates

Supervisor: Prof. M.L. Connelly 

15647 Words

Introduction

The Falklands conflict offers many opportunities for original work. In terms of the historiography surrounding the Royal Navy’s experience of the war, the focus has shifted in recent years. The earliest accounts emerged from journalists who accompanied the task force. After this, the memoirs of the senior officers in command of the British task force were published and became prevalent. Now, approaching the 30th anniversary of the war, the historiography is dominated by the accounts of the ordinary soldiers. This shift has increased our understanding of the conflict as a whole, but the fact that memoirs and personal accounts are the predominant form of material available on the Falklands creates an imbalance in the available perspectives. What is lacking in the historiography of the Falklands war is academic investigation that collects the views given in available memoirs and analyses them in conjunction with each other, to create a broader work. This is particularly true in the case of the naval history of the campaign. Whereas an account of a pivotal event during the land or air campaign is easily cross referenced with another, naval history poses a unique problem since the experiences of those who served on board are individual to the ship itself.Memoirs alone make it difficult to examine the experiences of sailors aboard task force ships, as they can only speak from the experience of their own ship. For example, it would not be effective to consider the memoirs of someone who served aboard the aircraft carriers, Hermes and Invincible, which had to be kept at a safe distance from the islands, and were, therefore, less exposed to the dangers of bombing, and to generalise their experiences as representative of the experience of the whole task force. Not all ships were involved in the fighting, neither did all ships suffer casualties, or suffer attack by the enemy. It is highly likely that the unique experience of each ship has created vastly different perceptions between crewmen from these ships. To establish if this was the case, what is needed is an investigation that compares the experiences of sailors from as many different ships as possible to find out if there really was a common experience of the war at sea. In doing so, it is possible to satisfy the current historiographical trend for the personal accounts of ordinary servicemen whilst also building upon it, and providing an academic investigation that combines many different perspectives into a more balanced work, useful for future investigations into this area.A soldier’s perceptions to a large extent dictate how they remember the events in which they took part. Given the prevalence of first hand accounts and memoirs of the Falklands conflict, and the current lack of secondary material investigating these, it is important to give perspective to such perceptions so that, in the future, those studying the wealth of memoirs can have a context for why former servicemen viewed the conflict in the way they did. The conclusions from such a study could greatly benefit those aiming to fill the gap in the historiography and create a secondary work from the memoirs available.With reference to the current naval history of the conflict, and its historiography, the experiences of sailors and their perceptions of life aboard ship are frequently referenced. Accounts regularly mention and quote sailors with regards to specific events. However, they rarely investigate their experience as a whole in a way that accounts for the various differences between ships and individuals. It would be easy to argue that the large number of memoirs available account for this, but memoirs cannot give an overview of how different groups of sailors perceived the events of the war. They speak from a restricted perspective, namely from the context of their ship alone. In order to understand the issue of how sailors perceived life aboard task force ships using the available historiography, it is necessary to cross-reference extracts that speak about common issues, but from different perspectives. Although there is little specific discussion in the historiography detailing how sailors perceived their experiences, the existing texts are nevertheless exceptionally useful for this project.Initially, the historiography of the Falklands campaign was to a large extent dominated by works that attempted to cover each major event of the war. An example of this is the work produced by Hastings and Jenkins, two journalists who accompanied the task force. Hastings and Jenkins work spans the entire conflict, and provides a narrative on each individual major event. This is supported with numerous quotes from sailors aboard separate ships. Because of the breadth of the narrative, there is little room for discussion of day-to-day life aboard ship. Statements pertaining to their experience are occasionally generalised to all ships of the task force, particularly when discussing morale. This is a recurrent feature of works which attempt to cover the entire conflict. Another example of this is provided by Martin Middlebrook. His study also discusses every major event of the conflict and, again, does not place emphasis on discussion of day-to-day aspects of crew’s experience. Owing to their heavy use of brief accounts from ex servicemen, their work effectively provides a context and sets the scene for further discussion. As such, they are both exceptionally useful as a starting point for this project.Following the primacy of general accounts, the historiography of the Falklands conflict saw a large number of memoirs published by senior officers in command of the task force. Examples include the memoirs of Sandy Woodward, commander of the task force, and those of Mike Clapp, commodore amphibious warfare. It would be easy to assume that memoirs such as these would go far towards accounting for the lack of discussion of personal experiences in previous investigations. Nevertheless, in the case of these memoirs, the focus is again on other aspects of the conflict, in particular problems of command and control. Statements regarding life aboard ships tend to be insightful rather than comprehensive. An example of this is Woodward’s mention of civilian technicians working aboard HMS Brilliant. This raises questions such as how many ships employed civilian personnel, and what effect they had on the running of the ship during combat. Because of these insights, these memoirs are again highly useful towards providing a background for a discussion of life aboard ship, without providing a comprehensive explanation on their own. Such a discussion would be outside of the remit of what the author was attempting to achieve, and so is only touched upon.Recently, memoirs have begun to emerge from crewmen of lower ranks. These accounts represent the shift in historiography that has taken place since the 25th anniversary of the conflict. One such account is provided by David Yates, a former rating who produced an account based around his experiences aboard HMS Antrim. Yates’ account adopts a different format to those published by senior officers of the task force. The focus of Yates’ narrative is entirely on life aboard ship and the daily concerns of the crew. Rather than describing major events or a narrative of the conflict itself, Yates instead gives emphasis to issues that concerned the men at the time. These range from personal fears and worries , to worries about pay. Accounts such as this are incredibly useful in a study into perceptions of combat, but it nevertheless possesses the limitation of speaking from the perspective of one ship alone. Considering that there are not memoirs for every ship of the task force, accounts such as that provided by Yates only provide one part of a more complicated overall experience. A collection of perspectives is necessary to account for this in this sort of investigation. McManners’ Forgotten voices of the Falklands is another example of a source that represents the experiences of ‘ordinary’ combatants during the Falklands crisis. It presents the accounts of a huge variety of individuals on the major events of the conflict, and as such could potentially account for the centralised perspective of memoir type narratives. Nevertheless, for this to be the case the accounts themselves would have to be segregated and analysed before they could be used to provide an argument regarding how groups of sailors perceived life aboard ship during the crisis. McManners has used accounts to create a narrative of the conflict through the eyes of those who were there, rather than using the accounts to draw conclusions.Another of McManners’ works, Scars of War, is the only secondary work that includes discussion of perceptions of conflict in the Falklands crisis. McManners investigates experiences of war and their effect on servicemen in several conflicts. The case of the Falklands is used as an example in a wider investigation. There is discussion of how events shaped perceptions of combat aboard ships, but it is not comprehensive. In the context of perceptions of combat, other avenues of investigation are frequently highlighted by McManners’ statements. An example of this is his suggestion that those aboard ship who were able to fire at Argentinean aircraft with small arms endured less stress during the battle. This raises the question of whether those able to take part in combat directly had a different perception of combat overall. Because the focus of McManners’ work is not on the Falklands exclusively, discussion is highly relevant, but of too limited scope to completely cover an investigation into how life aboard ship was perceived during the crisis. Again we have an example of a work that touches on the issue, but cannot provide a comprehensive set of conclusions on its own.An important observation it is necessary to make when considering sources such as these is the fact that the majority of works dealing with the Falklands conflict are populist, aimed at a wide audience. They aim to tell the story of the conflict through the eyes of their authors. Of the examples so far discussed, only McManners’ Scars of War and Hastings’ and Jenkins’ The Battle for the Falklands take an analytical approach, and offer arguments towards the various issues raised by the conflict. Although this is also the case in memoirs, such as those by Woodward, their arguments aim to tell the story of the conflict from the authors perspective, generally to silence their critics, rather than to challenge academia. Nevertheless, it is important to emphasize that the lack of genuine academic sources and the predominance of this story-telling style is actually a benefit in the context of this project. The objective here is to see the underlying ways in which the conflict has been perceived by these different authors. The large degree of populism in the historiography of the conflict is therefore not an issue, especially since telling the story of the conflict is exactly what the authors have attempted to do. To summarise, the historiography of this aspect of the Falklands conflict is dominated by memoirs and individual accounts. There is already an inverse relationship between the number of secondary to primary sources, and, in the case of perceptions of life aboard ship, this is particularly true. The majority of relevant accounts are memoirs that suffer the limitation of providing a viewpoint that cannot be generalised into an argument for how combat was perceived in a broader context. The examples of secondary resources that cover this aspect of the Falklands conflict use their discussions in a wider context, and so do not provide a comprehensive investigation. How life aboard ship was perceived is a topic area with a wealth of material available, but so far, a lack of direct analysis on the part of authors. This lack of analysis is a symptom of the dominance of populist writing on the conflict so far, but since the aim of this project is to collect the perspectives in current writing in order to offer an aid to the creation of a broader academic work, this does not create a problem.It is easy to account for the lack of material that directly deals with sailor’s perceptions. Since the Falklands conflict took place thirty years ago, the majority of those who served at that time are still alive. To gather material for this project, it was necessary to contact ex servicemen and obtain their recollections. This was achieved by contacting veterans’ societies for each task force ship that took part in the conflict. Humphries points out the importance in oral history projects of deciding who to involve in the project , and since the aim of the project is to account for the restricted perspective provided by memoirs, it was necessary to obtain accounts from as wide a variety of backgrounds as possible. For this reason, all of the task force ships and submarines and their associations were considered valid sources of volunteers. Having made contact with veterans’ associations, it was necessary to consider how the volunteers’ accounts were going to be acquired. The most practical method was an interview questionnaire to be sent directly to the participants for them to complete and return. It would have been preferable to conduct face-to-face interviews, but owing to logistical difficulties this proved impractical. In creating the questionnaire, it was necessary to consider the strengths and weaknesses of oral history technique. Humphries points out the importance in an interview of a smoothly flowing set of questions that have a clear sequence. It was decided to separate the sets of questions into themes, in order to ensure this smooth flow. Each of the themes was designed to acquire a response which would allow a picture of how the respondent perceived their experience of life aboard ship to be constructed. The themes are Training
” Conditions of life aboard ship
” The relationship between officers and men
” The presence of soldiers aboard ship
” Media representatives aboard ship
” Expectations of combat
” Participation in combat
” The effect of tragedy Having established the themes that were to be used, it was then necessary to decide upon the questions themselves. Thompson highlights the importance of avoiding questions which might influence the responses given. He states that “the less their testimony is shaped by the interviewers questions, the better”. For this reason, the questions decided upon were kept as neutral and as brief as possible. It was decided that each theme should have a maximum of three questions, in order to avoid overloading the respondents with questions and decreasing the quality of the response. Considering that, in Thompson’s opinion, the purpose of the interview should be to reveal the respondents’ ‘historical consciousness’ , each question was further designed to evoke memories, rather than to acquire information in the form of basic facts which are already easy to acquire through the historiography. In attempting to learn the way in which the respondent remembered an event or issue, one can see how they place themselves in the event, and from this, how they would like to be perceived and also their underlying opinions.It is also necessary to collect information on the social background of the respondent, in order to give a context for the analysis of their response. This posed a unique problem, considering social conventions and the fact that it was not possible to meet the respondents face to face. It was decided that to avoid jeopardising the likelihood of receiving a response, the respondents would be asked for only basic background information. This included their rank, and position aboard ship. Certain questions in the questionnaire itself were modified to elicit other background information that might be useful towards acquiring this information. Although potentially less reliable, this was felt to be more likely to lead to a positive reaction to requests for responses.The analysis of responses will take the form of comparing these responses, in order to check for commonly recurring ways of perceiving events. Responses will also be compared with accounts provided in the historiography. This will allow each piece of testimony to be cross checked for accuracy. Humphries points out the importance of checking accounts for potential bias. It is true to say that accounts which respondents are able to take time writing and preparing gives them ample opportunity for editing and modifying. If bias is present in the responses, it is likely to be present to a large extent. If this is the case, it is also likely to become evident during the analysis. Because of this, it will be necessary to be particularly careful to check for potential sources of bias when analysing the responses provided.This potential for bias represents a major weakness in the acquisition of responses. However, the largest weakness in this type of account is the amount of time that has elapsed since the Falklands conflict, and the effect this will have on the memories of those responding to the questionnaire. Given the time available for those participating to have altered their opinion of the conflict, or to have changed the way they view events, it is likely that a certain degree of ‘erosion of memory’ has taken place. Nevertheless, it is possible to account for this by carefully ensuring that the interviews are cross referenced with existing accounts, particularly those produced shortly after the conflict and taking particular care when cross referencing responses and existing material. A good source of testimony taken shortly after, and sometimes during the campaign is available at the sound archive of the Imperial War Museum, and interviews taken from this resource have therefore been used extensively in this project. By placing recollections from shortly after the conflict alongside recent recollections, the extent to which personal testimony changes over time is made instantly clear. Furthermore, in some cases it is possible to contrast the accounts of respondents with accounts they have already given in the historiography. An example of this is the account of Ian Inskip, navigation officer of HMS Glamorgan during the conflict. He has responded to this investigation, but is also author of his own set of memoirs into the conflict, entitled Ordeal by Exocet. This type of cross referencing will easily highlight any changes in memory, especially those regarding specific events, which may have taken place since the end of the conflict.The project report has been arranged into separate chapters each reflecting one of the themes used in the questionnaire. Perception of combat is a broad topic, and the aim of this division was to enable the final report to be much clearer in its presentation. The conclusions from each chapter have been brought together in the final chapter which presents an overall suggestion of how life aboard ship was perceived by those aboard task force ships.Out of the requests made for interview respondents, seven accounts were obtained. Three were former crewmen from HMS Invincible, including a former watch leader, junior rating and the leading radio operator. Two respondents had formerly served aboard HMS Glamorgan, one of which was a senior officer. One interviewee had served aboard a submarine attached to the conflict, in this case HMS Conqueror. The final respondent had served aboard HMS Brilliant as a close range weapon loader. These responses were highly valuable towards this project, and represent a diverse range of perspectives. Out of these crewmen, the carriers, destroyers and submarines are represented along with officers and men. In addition to this, some of the interviewees had been able to directly take part in combat, and this was useful in offering a contrast to those whose role aboard ship prevented them from doing so. Nevertheless, these responses did not include anyone from a ship-taken-up-from-trade, nor did it include media representatives, two groups essential to this discussion. To provide a balanced selection of accounts, the sound archives of the Imperial war museum, London, were consulted. Ten accounts were chosen to diversify the range of material available. Out of these, two were from ships-taken-up-from-trade. Another was taken from HMS Fearless, one of the amphibious assault ships of the landing force. Two accounts were selected from media representatives attached to the task force. An account from an army gunfire support officer attached to the task force was also chosen, along with a crewmen who served with the fleet air arm. Finally, the accounts of captain Jeremy Black of Invincible, captain Roger Lane-Nott of HMS Splendid and captain Hugh Balfour of HMS Exeter were chosen to represent the experiences of captains aboard ship. This selection diversifies the range of accounts available and represents most sections of the task force. When combined with memoirs and accounts available in the historiography, it was decided that this range of accounts offered a good insight into the varied perspectives of those aboard task force ships during the course of the conflict.Training: Did it prepare the task force for war?The training that sailors undertook during their time in the Royal Navy had a key impact on their experience of the Falklands campaign. Training dictated their level of preparedness and also shaped their reactions to the events they witnessed. It is important to remember that the Falklands conflict took place during the latter years of the Cold War. The greatest emphasis on all aspects of Royal Navy training was on preparing for a conflict with the Soviet Union, and specifically the Navy’s role in NATO plans for such a war. It has been argued that this ‘Cold War mindset’ influenced Britain’s preparedness to face Argentina in a very different type of conflict to what they had been expecting. John Whetstone, deputy chief of naval staff operations, stated in an interview that he did not feel that all had been done to train the navy properly, and that preparations were almost exclusively for blue water fighting in the Norwegian sea with American co-operation. In particular, he stresses the lack of air defence training this encompassed. If this were the case, then such a mindset would have had a direct effect on the perceptions of those aboard task force ships, particularly considering the fact that air attack was the prime threat the task force faced. The investigations undertaken for this study, however, show that such a mindset was not prevalent aboard task force ships. The majority of sailors had great faith in their training, and felt prepared to deal with any situation they might face. In order to demonstrate this, specific examples taken from interviews and memoirs will be highlighted. It will be shown that a ‘cold war mindset’ was a serious concern to only a small section of servicemen. Furthermore, examples will be given of servicemen’s actual perception of their level of preparedness to face Argentina. It will be shown that the constant and varied drilling and training undertaken by the Royal Navy gave the sailors a feeling of preparedness, despite the fact that they would not be facing the kind of war previously expected. It is first necessary to examine how this ‘cold war mindset’ has been presented. In his work concerning the activities of HMS Conqueror, Mike Rossiter states that they had trained exclusively to deal with war against the Soviet Union, and that by contrast, they were now “heading into the unknown”. He quotes Roger Lane-Nott, captain of HMS Splendid to argue that it was “the wrong war, against the wrong enemy”. In an interview conducted with Lane-Nott in 1997, he elaborated on this concept. Lane-Nott felt that intelligence and tactics were focussed on the Russian threat, and that the area of countering diesel powered submarines had been neglected. This is of particular relevance considering that the only submarines Argentina possessed were of this variety. Furthermore, he heavily criticised the level of intelligence Britain possessed regarding Argentina, despite the fact that there had been joint exercises undertaken in the past, and even an Argentine Naval attaché in Portsmouth! It is evident that Lane-Nott was highly concerned with his perception of a lack of preparedness, but it should be remembered that his views, and those of Rossiter, are concerned with a specific example, namely HMS Splendid. Through his statement, Rossiter has generalised Lane-Nott’s concerns to the whole task force. Those serving aboard the submarines were much more likely to be affected by the atmosphere of the Cold War, purely because of the nature of their work. This does not necessarily apply to those serving aboard the aircraft carriers and destroyers. An examination of the statements made by crewmen from different sections of the task force reveal this to be the case.First, the perceptions of a crewmen serving aboard one of the destroyers should be considered. Ian Inskip served HMS Glamorgan. In an interview, Inskip stated that he felt fully prepared to do his job. Glamorgan was fully worked up, and to add to this, had just taken part in the extensive SPRINGTRAIN exercise. Training had made his preparations second nature. From statements such as these, it is clear that the training he had accomplished encouraged confidence rather than concern. His perception was not unique amongst those serving aboard the destroyers. Also serving aboard Glamorgan was Norman Richardson, who pointed out the level of experience of the crew. In his opinion, they felt “well equipped to deal with the situation”. Crewmen aboard other ships also shared this view. John ‘Shadie’ Lane, a close range gunner serving aboard HMS Brilliant, stated how the Royal Navy’s training is reputed to be the best in the world, and that this made the crew feel well prepared, even if they did not initially believe they would have to fight. It is impossible to deny that the Navy’s training was thorough. Upon learning that they would be joining the Falklands task force, HMS Exeter was able to conduct an air defence exercise with the Air National Guard of San Juan, flying A4 Skyhawks in attack profiles towards the ship. This offered a very similar set of circumstances to those they actually faced in Falkland Sound once they arrived at the Islands. Furthermore, they benefited from an extensive briefing on the pitfalls of damage control from Sam Salt, captain of the HMS Sheffield. With preparations as extensive as this, it is easy to see why crewmen had faith in their training. Besides the submariners, mention of a cold war mindset is non existent in accounts. Mark Iles, Leading radio operator aboard HMS Invincible, points out how the Navy trains continuously, and were used to spending large amounts of time at sea. Indeed, in his opinion, “it was pretty run of the mill until the shooting started” The only caveat that is necessary when presenting this argument is the fact that, although crews had great faith in their training and felt able to do their jobs, there is still recurrent reference to the idea that no amount of training can really prepare someone to face war. Mick Kessell, who served as a junior rating aboard Invincible, pointed out that he felt well trained to deal with whatever was coming, but felt that “nothing could prepare you for the real thing and the possibility that your ship might be holed or sunk”. He nevertheless chose to not dwell on such thoughts. This feeling is shared by Robin L’Oste-Brown, sonar officer aboard HMS Conqueror. He states that the crew performed their various tasks effectively because of their rigorous preparation, but still felt that no amount of preparation can prepare people completely for war. Despite this, it should be remembered that this is an attitude formed after the war, resulting from their experiences. It is unlikely that this affected their feelings of preparedness until the actual fighting started. As such, and considering prior statements, it is still valid to argue that training resulted in an overall feeling of confidence.Overall, then, it can be seen that a wider variety of ships do not place emphasis on a ‘cold war mindset’ when considering their training prior to the conflict. Recollections appear positive towards training, and the impression is given that crewmen felt confident that they would perform well. The central issue in considering training as it relates to perceptions of combat is how their preparations made them feel. It is important to state that this does not invalidate Lane-Nott’s’ statements; it is very possible that a focus on countering the Russian threat and a lack of focus on air defence may have had a literal effect on the fighting itself. This was nevertheless not an issue that dominated the minds of those aboard the task force ships when they considered their personal level of preparedness.Living Conditions aboard ships of the task force. Each task force ship, whilst at sea, was a unique environment. Each had a unique crew, its own atmosphere and group dynamic. Sailors on different ships lived in varying types of accommodation. Furthermore, individual sailors had separate friendships and routines aboard ship. In the accounts examined for this study, there is a huge amount of variation in the circumstances of individual respondents. The primary issue arising from this is the question of whether people’s living arrangements affected their perception of the conflict. For example, it could be asked whether ships with more comfortable living arrangements create higher levels of morale amongst the crew. What it is necessary to do is to examine examples of the statements made regarding living conditions. It will be possible to examine the extent to which these conditions affected the experiences of those aboard the various ships. To achieve this, it is necessary to consider the differences in accommodation that existed between individual ships. It is also necessary to consider the relationship between crewmembers. In doing so, it will be shown that living conditions between different ships did not necessarily influence sailors’ perceptions to a large extent.The first issue to be examined is how the various ships differed from each other in terms of living conditions, and the implications this had for the experience of the crew. The passenger liners requisitioned to carry troops to the islands, with their accommodation designed for maximum comfort, afforded the most luxury to those on board. Even their ships-taken-up-from-trade (STUFT) designations belied their opulence. QE2, for instance, was described as a ‘landing platform luxury’. Very few of those aboard had experienced the sheer opulence of the ship. Aldea, in an account of 5th Infantry Brigade’s journey south, points out how many soldiers “had to convince themselves that they were in fact off to war, and not a pleasure cruise”. Canberra offered similar levels of comfort, and Captain Michael Verney Bradford stated in an interview that the ship was so comfortable, and the food so good, that stores were diminishing far faster than had originally anticipated. Nevertheless, the passenger liners were not the only ships famed for their comfort. Accommodation on board the type 22 frigates was comfortable to the point that it had become “a standing naval joke”. In stark contrast life aboard the carriers offered “surprisingly little open air” , and Hermes in particular was noted for being cramped and uncomfortable. In contrast again were the submarines that accompanied the task force. Rossiter highlights the way in which life aboard a submarine is especially confined, owing to the nature of their operation. It is evident that each ship was a unique environment in which to live. With many different varieties of ship, individual differences were even more apparent. In contrast with cramped and uncomfortable Hermes, for example, Invincible has been described as “more comfortable than what we had ashore” by crewmen and as “a real home from home”. Nevertheless, these physical differences between ships have had little influence on recollections. Accounts of living arrangements offer great detail, but little emotion. The main focus of recollections tend towards the practicalities of life and the tension produced by the events surrounding the ship, rather than the conditions of the ship itself. An example of this can be found in the recurrent mention of rationing, and the effect it had on the experience of the crews. Hastings and Jenkins place great emphasis on the trials forced upon the crews through rationing, and in particular the shutting down of fryers, to reduce the risk of fire. Also harmful to morale was the rundown of beer and chocolate, the treats beloved by all of the crews. Indeed, this aspect of the supply situation caused much “soul searching” to both the officers and crews of the task force. The fact that issues surrounding food creates more emotion in recollections strongly suggests that the sailors were concerned with immediate issues, and therefore no more affected by their permanent environment in wartime than they were in peacetime.Having established that immediate concerns, such as rationing, were more likely to affect morale than the environment of the ship itself, it is necessary to examine other immediate issues that may have affected the perceptions of the crews. One such issue is the relationships people had with their fellow crewmen. The extent to which the crews had positive interpersonal relationships is an obvious factor in considering their experience of the war as a whole. Immediately, it should be stated that accounts make clear the overall positive experience the crews had in this area. It is evident that crews were close-knit and friendly, and that they enjoyed positive relationships with each other. Ian Inskip, for example, speaks of the “mutual trust” between the ship’s company aboard Glamorgan . This is certainly not a phenomenon unique to any one ship. John Lane provides more support for this idea by emphasizing the high morale consistently present aboard Brilliant , and Robin L’Oste-Brown tells of how the relationship aboard Conqueror was equally friendly and professional. Crews clearly enjoyed a positive and highly functional relationship conducive to good morale. It should be pointed out nevertheless that relationships could still become strained due to the pressures of war. Richardson points out the fact that living with a large number of other crewmembers, and facing stress and boredom, tempers would occasionally fray. It should also be remembered that although crews were close knit communities, it would be inaccurate to depict everyone being close friends. Mick Kessell points out that interdepartmental mixing occurred rarely due to the nature of their respective work. Lane points out the fact that in the Navy, crewmen had many acquaintances but few close friends, which was the norm aboard ship. Crewmen evidently had a very individual experience of their relationship with the rest of the crew, but considering that the overall flavour of the accounts has been positive, it would be fair to argue that in the case of the relationships between crewmen, it would be reasonable to generalise and depict them as positive on each ship overall.To summarise, the living conditions aboard individual ships, although highly varied, were not a factor in influencing the crew’s perceptions of the war. They were experienced sailors used to life aboard ship, and the comparative luxury or sparse state of their accommodation did not have much influence on their experience. More influential were pressing issues linked with morale, such as food rationing and the scarcity of treats, such as beer and chocolate. Sailors had highly individual relationships with their fellow crewmen, and although this would suggest variation in their resulting experience of the war, the overall impression given by accounts is positive. As a result, it would be reasonable in this instance to argue that ship’s companies in all sections of the task force enjoyed an overall positive working relationship. This is likely to have resulted in a corresponding positive influence on their experience of the conflict.
Soldiers aboard task force ships. Many ships of the task force assisted in transporting soldiers from the units involved in land based fighting. In the case of the Falklands conflict, the sheer number of soldiers transported meant that it was definitely an out-of-the-ordinary situation. Soldiers embarked on ships offered problems such as an extra burden on stores, and the space taken up by having to house and cater for them. It was also possible for sailors to forge friendships with the soldiers they shared living space with. Since the soldiers left the ships to fight on the Islands, it is relevant to establish whether such friendships affected the morale of the ship’s crews by incurring anxiety for their friends’ safety in the fighting on land. When accounts describing the effects of having soldiers on board ship are examined, however, it becomes clear that the influence their presence had has been overstated in the historiography of the naval campaign. Instances of sailors being in close contact with soldiers for enough time to form friendships were rare, affecting only a small section of the task force. Furthermore, soldiers were frequently not on board the carriers and destroyers long enough to cause significant supply problems. An examination of these accounts show why this was the case. The memoirs of David Yates offer an example of an account from a ship that had soldiers aboard for significant lengths of time, in close contact with the crew. He describes the way in which the additional troops on board created difficulties in providing space for the soldiers to sleep. He nevertheless points out how these close living arrangements encouraged friendships to develop between the crew sharing mess space with these soldiers. He emphasizes the fact that this created concern for their safety when they left to participate in the retaking of South Georgia, and speaks of the “worries about our SAS friends”. Evidently, it was possible for close proximity between soldiers and sailors to encourage friendships to develop between them which could have affected their perception of the battle on land. Nevertheless, this is certainly an exception rather than the rule. HMS Conqueror sailed all the way from Faslane with a large contingent of SBS marines on board, and being a submarine offered an even closer environment for the soldiers and sailors to mix. Despite this, they did not necessarily form friendships with the crew. L’Oste-Brown, who served aboard Conqueror, states that the crew “saw very little of them, as they were housed in the fore ends”. Furthermore, other ships experienced similar degrees of aloofness from the soldiers embarked. On board Invincible, the troops aboard “kept themselves to themselves” , although it should be pointed out that when they were aboard Invincible it was often just for a short period of time. Some army personnel were by necessity in close contact with the crew, such as the naval gunfire support officer attached to Glamorgan, who became known as a ‘Jonah’ after being ‘sunk’ in three separate ships. Despite this, it was generally true to say that, as John Heritier describes, they were “anonymous faces”. Since Heritier also served aboard Antrim, but, unlike Yates, does not have any particular memories of the soldiers aboard, it is evident that the soldiers present aboard the ships did not exert a large amount of influence on the perceptions of more than a small section of crew from a small section of task force ships.It is still important to emphasize that this was the case for the destroyers and carriers, but certainly not the ships specifically tasked with transporting the soldiers. With regards to these, the recollections of former crewmen are highly positive towards the soldiers. Prominent among these are Michael Bradford, deputy captain of SS Canberra, who pointed out that the troops in fact presented fewer problems on board ship than a passenger liner would experience under normal steaming conditions. Even with the worrying combination of Marines and members of the Parachute regiment aboard the same ship, there were no problems. Similarly, Donald Arthur Ellerby, captain of MV Norland, emphasizes his surprise at the sheer lack of discipline problems caused by the troops aboard the ship. Evidently, these ships enjoyed a good relationship with their charges, and this is likely to have influenced a positive perception of their experience.One final issue of relevance when considering a contrast between the soldiers and sailors is the fact that the crews of task force ships were precluded from having contact with Falkland Islanders. It could be argued that this lack of contact affected their perception of the conflict by preventing them from seeing what exactly they were fighting for. Mark Eyles-Thomas, a member of the Parachute regiment who travelled south aboard Canberra, stated that “believing the islanders wanted our intervention and assistance gave me a good feeling. It convinced me that what we were doing was correct and right, however painful”. Nevertheless, even without opportunities to meet the islanders, sailors felt the same. Inskip, for example, felt that “the islanders knew that we were there for them every time we came in to bombard.” It is most likely that there was not a great deal of difference in the perceptions of the islanders between the soldiers and sailors. They simply found other legitimate ways to achieve this feeling of purpose.Overall, it is clear that soldiers aboard task force ships had a significant effect only on the perceptions of those on board ships specifically tasked with carrying them. In this case, this perception was positive overall. Soldiers impressed ships’ crewmen with their good behaviour and morale, and aided a positive post war image of their conduct. On the destroyers and carriers, by contrast, there was little relevant contact between soldiers and crewmen. In a few small cases, a small section of crewmen from specific ships may have developed friendships with soldiers which created anxiety for their safety once they left the ship, but this was the exception. Generally, there was limited contact, and a corresponding lack of influence on their perceptions.The relationship between officers and men. The standard of leadership displayed by the ships’ officers has a direct impact on how the men who served under them perceived their overall effectiveness as a unit. Since the officers of each ship had their own leadership style based around their personalities, this is an influence in making the experience of each ship unique. With no exception, officers of the task force made great efforts to maintain the morale of their ship’s companies. There are numerous examples of the various ways in which they achieved this, and examining them will highlight the positive affect these efforts had on the crew’s experience of combat. An interesting contrast is offered by accounts describing the attitudes towards senior officers in overall command, such as Sandy Woodward. Senior leadership has had comparatively little influence over recollections in comparison with attitudes towards the officers closest to the crew and their own commanding officers on board their own ships. This is relevant considering the dominance of memoirs by senior officers in the historiography of the conflict. When considering leadership, the focus has been on the influence of overall command, rather than the influence of individual officers on individual ships. A reassessment that examines the influence of their leadership will help to account for this. To achieve this reassessment, it will be necessary to look at examples of these individual leadership styles, and contrast these with the perceptions of those in overall command. It will be shown that, in fact, individual leadership had a much greater influence on the experiences of the men than leadership referred from higher levels.Every captain made efforts to raise morale amongst his men. This varied from ship to ship. Most captains made use of the ship’s on board television systems to give a frequent broadcast to the ships company to raise morale. Aboard Antrim, Yates cites these as “briefing us, warning us, congratulating us and above all else, inspiring us”. These broadcasts aided in informing the crew, and this information was useful for maintaining morale. On board Splendid, for example, Lane-Nott’s decision to keep his crew as informed as possible has been cited as influential in maintaining morale, particularly considering that a submarine was particularly isolated from the outside world. Other officers took more unexpected measures to keep spirits high. On board Antrim, Yates tells of an officer who, after seeing crewmen wearing captured Argentinean helmets to protect themselves in case of shrapnel, wore a helmet with cow horns attached. This was “just the sort of thing that kept morale on board as high as it undeniably was”. Treats were also important in maintaining morale, one such example being a commander who found morale improved dramatically after he allowed the ship’s fryers to operate for a day, and to produce a vast supply of chips. In the case of captains, their main responsibility where morale was concerned was to lead by example. On board HMS Exeter, for example, Captain Hugh Balfour made particular effort to keep the atmosphere on board ship light hearted whilst sailing south from Ascension Island. During combat, he would give the crew a blow-by-blow account over the ship’s intercom, and in periods of tension he would occasionally pretend to sleep in the ops room, to keep everyone calm. This nevertheless created the occasional difficult moment when he would abruptly ‘wake up’ to contradict an order! Humorous touches, such as a petty officer bringing Balfour a glass of whiskey during an air raid, again aided morale, and are indicative of this very individual type of example-setting. Given the variety of examples that can be found of this type of leadership, it is evident that officers in command of ships took the morale of their crews exceptionally seriously, and the influence this has had on their recollections is indicative of the positive effect it had on their experience at the time. Ian Inskip, himself an officer aboard Glamorgan, praises Captain Mike Barrow on the way in which he “welded us together as a close knit team”. John Lane, aboard Brilliant, states that Captain John Coward “gave everybody confidence in all he did”. Aboard HMS Invincible, Mark Iles felt that “we had the best CO possible, and this bolstered our confidence”. It is possible to offer the criticism that quotes this positive suggest a degree of sentimentality or nostalgia on the part of ex servicemen. It could be argued that this is a possible bias in descriptions of leadership. Nevertheless, it is important to consider the fact that descriptions of officers are almost universally positive from across the task force. If a bias towards positive descriptions were present, it is not likely that it would affect every account in the same way. What is evident to a greater extent from these universally positive examples is that captains, independent of their individual leadership style, were liked, respected, and exerted a positive influence on the experience of the men during the conflict. Having established that the officers closest to the individuals on board ships had a positive influence on their experience of the conflict, it is now necessary to consider overall leadership of the task force, and the influence senior command had on the experience of individuals. It is true to say that Sandy Woodward’s leadership style has been heavily criticised in the historiography of the conflict. Hastings and Jenkins present him as “dispatching his abrasive signals from the distant operations room of Hermes” , and it is difficult to fault their conclusion when one examines an example. Radio supervisor Anthony MacFarlane, of HMS Coventry, recalls a signal that read “you are to remain in your current operating position. You are a missile target.” Neither has Woodward escaped criticism in more recently published memoirs. Yates, for example, is highly negative towards Woodward, and tells of the feelings he and his mess-mates had towards him during his stay aboard Antrim, following a supposed order to prevent their crossing the line ceremony. He tells of a group of ratings singing ‘Woodward is a plonker’ below his cabin in the middle of the night, and describes him as a “grumpy admiral”. If one takes these criticisms at face value, a very poor image of the relationship between senior leadership and the men of the ship’s companies is created. Nevertheless, it is actually the case that such criticisms are overstated, and the majority of individual crewmen had few opinions regarding Woodward during the conflict. Some, such as Norman Richardson, had little knowledge of Woodward at that time, and others had no knowledge of him at all. Mick Kessell points out the way in which senior officers rarely travelled with ships, and so he had not actually heard of Woodward until the conflict broke out. It is difficult to see how vehement negative feeling could arise from someone that crews had little actual knowledge of. In fact, there was confidence in his abilities as a leader. John Lane felt that most people had confidence in Woodward, despite the fact that they rarely saw or heard from him. Furthermore, when one examines specific criticisms, such as Yates’ argument that Woodward only transferred his flag to Glamorgan because he did not have a good relationship with Captain Young, CO of Antrim , they are shown to be mere speculation. Woodward himself makes no mention of any ill feeling between himself and Young, and states that he transferred his flag simply to be in more comfortable surroundings , and Inskip, who was present on board Glamorgan at this time, argues that the transfer was actually due to their good working relationship with Woodward’s staff, and their better communications facilities. Yates’ criticisms are clearly his own opinion, and not necessarily indicative of any general feeling of discontent regarding Woodward, particularly considering the ambivalence otherwise prevalent in accounts. It would therefore be a fairer assessment to present senior officers as less influential to morale than officers immediately in command of individual ships. They were separated from crews because of their command roles, and, therefore, had less relevant contact with crewmen themselves. It is important to emphasize that this does not mean they were unconcerned with issues such as morale. The opposite was the case. Mike Clapp, commodore amphibious warfare, for example, sent a signal to all ships under his command urging them to keep him informed of all morale problems encountered. They simply exerted less influence, owing to their removal from the daily lives of the crews themselves.Overall, officers behaved in a way which inspired confidence and morale. Accounts present a very positive image of their influence on the experience of the crews on board the ships they served. The officers in command of individual ships have exerted a greater level of positive influence on their crews, owing to their proximity and the closeness of their working relationship. Their individual styles of leadership do not seem to have created a varied experience, and instead all ships seem to have shared a general positive experience of their relationship with their officers. Senior officers have exerted less influence, owing to their separation from the daily lives of the ships’ crews. Their influence was more general, whilst the influence of ships’ own officers was more personal. Senior leadership could damage or improve mood on board depending on where they sent the ship or what roles it was given. In contrast, ships’ own officers constantly influenced the experiences of the men through their continual exercise of command on an interpersonal level. From this, it could be argued that the historiography has overstated the role of senior leadership to a small extent, and it would be a fairer assessment to present crews as more ambivalent towards senior leadership during the conflict. Media representatives aboard task force ships The media representatives who accompanied the task force ships during the conflict provide a unique insight into life aboard ship. Their experience provides a civilian perspective into the atmosphere and mood of the ships. The way they were viewed and treated by the crews illustrates the effect of their presence, and is helpful in showing the influence of wartime reporting on the attitudes of crewmen. To investigate these elements, it is necessary to highlight the attitudes of crews towards the media representatives they came into contact with, and the resulting way in which they treated these people. This can be contrasted with the experiences and recollections of the reporters themselves, in order to suggest how they experienced the conflict. Finally, the effect of the information given by these media representatives on task force morale can be considered, to suggest the influence reporting had on the experience of the crews. Overall, this discussion will offer an insight into both how the journalists and reporters saw the conflict, whilst also suggesting the effect they, and their reporting, had on the crews.From the moment reporters were attached to ships sailing south, they immediately created problems aboard ship that persisted throughout the conflict. Captain Jeremy Black, of Invincible, recalls that the five media representatives who had joined the ship were completely unprepared for the journey, bringing no suitable kit or clothing suited to where they were going. It was necessary to provide them with everything they needed, and find them a place to sleep on board the ship. Not only were their living arrangements a source of problems, their reporting represented a grave security risk, and it proved a clerical nightmare for officers to sort through the large amount of material they produced, so as to screen it for information potentially useful to the enemy. Captain Black describes the challenge presented by the sheer volume of copy produced by the reporters, and notes just how difficult it was to avoid glossing over potential security breaches. Some ships made efforts to restrict the information that reporters had access to, so as to avoid this potential hazard to security. Michael Verney Bradford states that controlling reporters in this way was in fact one of the most difficult jobs of the war. Indeed, he states that stories on the BBC often contained information he and the crew were not even aware of! Mark Iles, of Invincible, had the job of typing up the various reports the reporters wished to send back to their papers, and states that it caused “total chaos”. He points out the fact that this task greatly interfered with the running of the communications department and took up the work of a department member for a whole work shift, a fact that he finds “disgraceful”. Nevertheless, not every ship felt this way about the reporters. Captain Jeremy Larken, aboard HMS Fearless, “made them feel very welcome, and told them what was happening. They arrived thoroughly disaffected, then appeared overjoyed at the welcome they received. We made some firm friends.” Evidently, to regard the presence of the media as a sheer inconvenience was not a universal trend aboard task force ships. Larken’s allusion to the disaffection of the reporters as they arrived on board Fearless suggests that their own attitudes may have been responsible for their treatment. It is important to establish how the reporters themselves saw their actions aboard ships before a conclusion can be drawn.Michael Thomas Nicholson, an ITN correspondent attached to Hermes, offers an example of an account by a media representative describing the media’s experience of the conflict. He speaks of the way in which Admiral Fieldhouse, who had been ordered to attach media representatives to the task force, “loathed the press”. He describes this as a “typical naval senior officer reaction”. Instantly, we can see a depiction of distrust between the navy and the media. In Nicholson’s opinion, Fieldhouse had deliberately ordered the press to be starved of information, and this is a consistent theme in his account. He describes the navy as “very, very restrictive” and has “extremely unhappy memories of them”. Furthermore, he offers examples of the hostility crewmen frequently showed towards the reporters, and gives an example of a helicopter pilot who, when in charge of helicopter operations, told the media representatives that “I loathe you guys. You are at the bottom of the list”. In his opinion this was an “astonishing attitude”. Evidently, the reporters themselves felt that their treatment was unjustified. Nicholson himself felt that “this was our war” and that he and the other reporters were “fighting alongside our own people” He himself felt positively towards the servicemen, so it is easy to see how he perceived such injustice at their treatment by the navy. There were frequent examples of this sort of attitude. Nicholson recalls cameraman Bernard Hesketh’s anger at being accused of spying for the Argentineans, considering that he had been an ex serviceman himself. Nevertheless, at the root of their treatment lies the fact that the principle responsibility of the media was informing the British public, not protecting the task force. Nicholson alludes to this in his description of the British public “gasping for information” whilst the reporters had nothing to give them for weeks. The overall attitude is summed up by Robert Fox, a BBC correspondent also attached to the task force. In his opinion, “the actions of men and women fighting for their country can only be reported by media people with the military units. There is no choice.” It is this division of responsibility that lead to the media representatives being at odds with the crews of the ships. Their main goal was to give information to the British public, whilst the Navy had the goal of limiting this information, to aid security. When one considers the information actually given away by the reporting of the conflict, the effect the media’s attitude had is made particularly evident.The perceived accuracy of the reporting had many negative and differing effects on the ships crews, and this took many forms. The crews of some ships, such as HMS Coventry, felt that the focus of the media was on the carriers, which happened to be where the reporters were stationed, and were, therefore, angered by their lack of recognition. Furthermore, there were many cases where crewmen were angered by the inaccuracy of the reporting they perceived. Mick Kessell, for example, felt that the majority of the reporting was “fabricated or grossly embellished”. He describes the way in which the communications department of Invincible made a game of seeing what was actually printed in comparison with what they actually sent. A more humorous example of this inaccuracy is offered by Hugh Balfour, who, with HMS Exeter in port, was approached by a reporter and asked if the rumours that his ship had been sunk with the loss of all hands were true. One can only imagine his reaction to such a question. Worse than the anger produced by inaccurate reporting was the reaction to open breaches of security that directly threatened the safety of ships’ crews. Yates gives an account of the fear produced by the announcement by the BBC world service that the bombs dropped on ships were not detonating due to their incorrect fusing. Also contributing to tension was the announcement that Canberra, with its two thousand soldiers aboard, had entered the total exclusion zone. Eyles-Thomas uses this example to point out the way in which “the blokes cursed the media and its blasé attitude towards giving information to the British public and supplying the enemy with intelligence”. It was felt by some that this leaking of information was in fact deliberate, and Mike Clapp describes this as “possibly the greatest threat to our morale”. Considering that for many, the BBC World Service was the only source of media information available to the crews, it is easy to see why this was the case. The severity of this impact on morale is best summed up by Mark Iles, who points out that because of such leaks of information, he “personally holds them accountable for the loss of a great many lives”. It is evident that following these leaks, the media was seen as a threat to the safety of the crews, and it is easy to see how such negative assessments of media representatives were formed. With few exceptions, the media was regarded as a thorough inconvenience, and a danger. It had a negative affect on morale, and contributed to stress and fear. It is clear that despite the intentions of the media representatives themselves, they exerted a negative influence on crew’s experience of the conflict. Expectations of combat Accounts from individual servicemen show that their expectations of combat were one of the most individual aspects of their experience of the war. With the exception of a few general trends, many had a very unique set of feelings and expectations upon learning that they would be going to war. The best examples of this can be found in an examination of sailors’ attitudes towards the Argentineans prior to the conflict, and by examining the differences in expectations aboard each type of ship. It is very important to remember that few crewmen, with the exception of a selection of senior officers and older servicemen, had actually experienced combat prior to 1982, and it is likely that this was a large factor in encouraging such a variety of expectations to form since no one had an example on which to base their expectations prior to this. Nigel ‘Sharkey’ Ward noted that he had never been in combat, and regarded the war as an opportunity to prove all of his training. Norman Richardson, who had also not yet seen combat, did not form an expectation of combat as he did not even feel that they would actually end up at war. He noted that the only person he knew on board who had seen action was a gunnery officer who had served during Suez. Others again, such as Hugh Balfour, noticed a general ‘what will we do attitude’ since none of the crew had yet been in combat. The overall lack of experience and knowledge of combat was evidently highly influential in dictating their expectations. Other influential factors include a lack of prior knowledge of the capabilities of the Argentines, and the huge variety of individual differences present amongst the crews themselves. Sailors aboard task force ships had highly varied expectations of what sort of enemy they would face in the Argentines. Some felt very confident upon hearing about the war. Yates, aboard Antrim, felt that the Argentines “presented no fears” to those on board. Indeed, the word ‘rationing’ spread more fear than the Argentineans. Some felt that they knew little of the Argentineans, and based their opinions on the briefings that crews were given on their equipment and capabilities. Fuller recalls these briefings , as does Kessell, who recalls that besides the information imparted by this briefing, his only opinion was that “they were the bad guys and had to be dealt with”. These briefings certainly exerted an influence on the experience of the men in combat. Inskip shows how this was the case by highlighting a briefing in which they were told of the Latin temperament. It was thought that those of a Latin temperament would fight tenaciously from the outset, but would fold if their resolve was eroded. This accounted for the emphasis on morale sapping night bombardments carried out by the destroyers during the conflict. Others, however had knowledge of the Argentines because of pre-war contact. Iles recalls that two of the Type 42 destroyers in service with the Argentines had actually been supplied by the UK. Consequently the navy was well aware of their capabilities, as well as those of their aircraft carrier, cruiser and submarines, all of which had European or American origins. With the knowledge that much of their equipment and training came from the UK or other European nations, crewmen like Robin L’Oste-Brown fully expected the Argentines to be professional. Richardson goes further, pointing out that in the past, joint exercises had been carried out between the British and Argentine navies. In the most unfortunate cases, however, this contact between the British and Argentine navies had resulted in friendships. Captain Mike Barrow recalls that Glamorgan had played host for the Argentine destroyer Hercules during its post build work-up. He had become friendly with its commanding officer, and felt that facing Hercules in combat would be very difficult, since he knew them personally. A similar situation existed aboard HMS Sheffield. Lieutenant Peter Walpole had social contact with crewmen from the Argentine destroyer Santissima Trinidad during its stay in Portsmouth, and felt that it would be “most unfortunate if we were to encounter the Santissima Trinidad in action”. It is evident that some sections of the task force were actually quite aware of the Argentines and their capabilities. Nevertheless, considering that this knowledge was only possessed by those who had been involved in exercises, or had prior contact with the Argentines, it would not be accurate to present this as a broad trend. The majority of crewmen would have had little knowledge of their enemy prior to the conflict. Despite this, it is still true to say that those who did possess knowledge of the Argentines had a very different perception of what combat would be like, as evidenced by the concerns of Barrow and Walpole. Nevertheless, the greatest level of variation in expectations of combat originates from the huge individual differences present amongst crewmen, and it will be necessary to examine these before a final conclusion can be drawn. There were a huge range of individual reactions amongst the crews of the ships once they found out they were going to be involved in combat. Some, like Inskip, felt “horror at the likelihood of a shooting war”. Others, like Commander Ralph Wykes-Sneyd, decided very early on that there was a high likelihood of combat, and felt corresponding apprehension. Captain Jeremy Larken noted great anxiety on the part of the civilian laundrymen , whilst Graham Edmonds, Lieutenant Commander aboard HMS Broadsword noticed that the civilian laundrymen aboard his own ship were not frightened at all. This certainly highlights the differences that existed amongst even similar segments of different ships. Others again, like Ellerby, did not even think that the ships would reach the Falklands, and that there would be no hostilities. As a captain of a ship-taken-up-from-trade, his expectation of combat was again different from that found on other ships, as he felt a particular responsibility towards the safety of the ship, owing to it being a civilian vessel owned by a civilian company. It is true to say that the feeling that hostilities were unlikely was quite widespread amongst the task force ships. John Lane points out that even upon arrival at the total exclusion zone, “nobody thought we would fight”. Nevertheless, despite this particular trend, it is evident from the examples given that there was a great variety in expectations of how the conflict would be. It is certainly true to say that this is the aspect of the sailor’s experience that shows the greatest level of variation overall, and was therefore the most unique to each individual.Participation in combat.The fact that crews of different ships had very different roles to perform meant that some saw combat, and some did not. Furthermore, individuals on board each ship had very different jobs to perform. Some were able to take up small arms or man weapons systems that allowed them to participate in combat. Others were forced to carry on with their normal roles whilst under the stress and tension of enemy attack. Others again were forced to simply look on. McManners, in his discussion on naval combat in his book The Scars of War, uses the Falklands as an example. His is one of very few discussions in the historiography of the Falklands that analyses combat experience on board task force ships. He argues that combat in the Falklands provided a continuous period of stress and tension, broken only by short bursts of severe anxiety and danger. He speaks of the “savage release of tension afforded by gun battles and the sense of getting to grips personally with the enemy” , and this alludes to the difference in experience that this would create between individuals. He also highlights the differences that would be found between the experiences of individual ships, with his statement that some ships kept a degree of normality despite the war raging around them. Unfortunately, his assessment is only a small part of a much larger discussion on the experience of servicemen at war, so is limited in scope. He is not able to go into detail surrounding the various differences that were found in how separate crews experienced the war. What is necessary in the context of this discussion is a wider range of perspectives, and examples of how people from different ships, and with different roles experienced combat. It will be necessary to examine the differences in experience between the various types of task force ships, and also the differences caused by different types of roles aboard ship. McManners’ conclusions will be shown to be vindicated, by the addition of an extra level of detail to his assessment.The first obvious example of a difference between the experiences of different types of ships can be found in the contrast between the carriers, who were by necessity kept far from the threat of air attack, and the destroyers, who had many combat roles ranging from bombarding Argentine positions on land to providing air defence in San Carlos bay. Captain Christopher Brown, of the Royal Artillery, provides an example of how this separation affected the attitudes of those on board the carriers. He speaks of witnessing an ‘exercise attitude’ among those on board Hermes and Invincible, distinct from that of Plymouth, who had been in action. He points out a “clear split between we ground force people drinking and telling war stories up one end of the bar, and the rest”. Those aboard the carriers had at this point not yet been subject to the worst of the air threat, and this clearly helped them to maintain the ‘exercise attitude’ that Brown mentions. Nevertheless, it would not be fair to argue that those aboard the carriers were spared this type of threat, and the fact that the Atlantic Conveyor was sunk in full view of those aboard Invincible and Hermes is testament to this. Michael Fuller, who was aboard Invincible at this time, describes the feeling of panic as the Atlantic Conveyor was burning on their Starboard side and a loud bang indicated the launch of a sea dart missile, something that he initially feared to be a missile hit on Invincible itself. Evidently, the carriers were not spared the tension caused by the air threat. The persistence of this air threat, and the constant calls to action stations the crew were subjected to makes it far more likely that their experience of this sort of tension was in fact similar to that found aboard the destroyers, despite the fact that the latter type of ship performed a broader range of combat roles. Ian Inskip offers a description of these various roles. When asked if there were any memories of combat that stood out, he described night bombardments of enemy positions, the Pebble Island raid and the role of Glamorgan in the deception plans of Operation Tornado. Wade Tidbury, radar operator on board HMS Alacrity, describes the effect these varied roles had. He argues that the number of different tasks the ship had been used for gave the sailors a ‘what next’ attitude. Indeed, Alacrity was used in so many varied roles that some crewmen felt as though Woodward had ‘singled them out’! The conclusion that can be drawn from this contrast is that although destroyers may have had a more varied range of roles to perform, the tension that the crews experienced was not vastly different to that of the carriers. The average crewmen, in the face of the tension that the various threats created, will have had a similar experience of the fighting which took place around him. The submarines that accompanied the task force offer another contrast to these other types of vessel. Whilst the feeling of tension, and frequent calls to action stations were again a constant of life aboard ship, it could be argued that the feelings of tension were rendered more acute because of the intrinsic vulnerability of the submarines compared to surface ships. Robin L’Oste-Brown describes the way in which the crew were very aware of the threat posed, and feared that “one lucky shot with an advanced weapon and we were all dead”. He describes the occasions in which the crew of Conqueror believed themselves to be under attack, and states that in hindsight, he has come to believe these to be false alarms, indicative of how ‘twitchy’ the crew were at that time. Submarines offered other differences in how their crews experienced combat. A unique aspect was the stealthy nature of combat aboard a submarine. Lane-Nott describes the intense frustration felt by the crew when presented the opportunity to attack enemy destroyers viewed in their periscope, but prevented from doing so by restrictive rules of engagement. One important caveat it is necessary to make when arguing for this difference of experience is that this was still subject to the influence of individual differences between crewmen. L’Oste-Brown points out the fact that in a submarine, “the sights and sounds of combat and training are much the same”. It is fairer to say that, besides the general backdrop of tension afforded by the conflict itself, the experience of these sorts of differences were most likely influenced by the individual crewmen themselves.To explore this further, it is now necessary to examine some of the individual differences between how crewmen in different roles experienced combat. To use McManners example, it will be necessary to consider two groups, one that was able to man guns or weapon systems and ‘take the fight to the enemy’, and the other group that because of their role aboard ship, were prevented from doing so. Jeremy Larken describes a scene he witnessed on the decks of Fearless, where he was impressed by the “coolness and good drill” of a group of young gunners operating a Bofors gun. John Lane, himself a gunner on board HMS Brilliant, describes the way in which “being on the upper deck during action was the place to be”. A contrast can be found in those crewmen who participated in combat by manning weapon systems rather than guns above decks. Ian Inskip is an example of such an officer. His role as navigation officer encompassed providing initial range and bearing for the gunnery system as well as enemy course and speed in order to direct the fire from the ship’s gun. He describes this as “very different from hand to hand combat”, and it is true to say that this is a somewhat detached form of fighting. Indeed, he states that he “had little feelings for those on the receiving end – mentally, they were just ‘the enemy'”. Despite this detachment from the results of his work, he was able to “take professional pride in getting the navigation spot on”. It can be seen that this form of contribution to the fighting also aided the release of tension that McManners describes. Contrast this with the description offered by David Yates, who describes life below decks during combat aboard Antrim. He describes the intense fear felt by those below decks, and the elaborate measures crewmen took to protect themselves. Yates himself made a ‘bunker’ out of vegetable and bean tins, and was horrified when he discovered how ineffective it proved to be following an attack. He describes a strong feeling of being a ‘sitting duck’, and states that others below decks described themselves as “rats in a barrel”. It is clearly true that those separated from combat through their role were denied the release of tension that being able to ‘take the fight to the enemy’ afforded those who were. Furthermore, being below decks exacerbated the stress these crewmen were put under because, unlike those above decks, they were not even able to know which direction an attack was coming from. Michael Verney Bradford describes how he felt less fear when he was on the bridge as he could see what was happening, and could “duck at the right time”. When one considers aspects of combat such as these, it becomes clear that McManners’ suggestion that, for most sailors, there was none of the relief afforded by battle is highly valid. It would be fair to conclude that from evidence such as this, his argument is vindicated, and represents an accurate depiction of what participating in combat was like for those aboard ships under attack during the conflict. Tragedy and Morale. Every person who sailed south with the task force was affected by the tragedies and loss of life that took place. The unlucky few witnessed these tragedies first hand, or lost friends. Everyone learned of the casualties suffered, and the ships lost, and it is fair to say that all were affected by what they heard. The connection a person has to an event determines how they remember it. Thus we encounter huge variations in the ways in which people recall these horrors of war. In order to present these variations, it is necessary to discuss both the recollections of tragedies that affected the whole task force as well as those that affected individuals. When one examines the huge variety of experiences that people suffered as a result of these events, it becomes clear just how important it is to avoid generalising an individual’s reaction to that of the whole task force. These recollections represent the very ‘human’ side of the conflict, and just how unique the experience was to each individual. To begin with, it is necessary to examine the effect that tragedies had on the feelings of the whole task force. The aim of this section is to examine reactions resulting from a direct involvement in a tragic event as compared with reactions to a more distant event, which was not witnessed or participated in. The conclusions from this discussion will highlight the individuality of this experience, and reveal the way in which although the task force shared a certain common experience of tragedy, each individual directly involved dealt with their experience differently. Furthermore, a consideration of specific examples for the fluctuations in morale will tie these two themes together, and further reveal the influence that a personal involvement or connection had on their experience of the event itself.Hastings and Jenkins sum up the effects that tragedy had on the task force as a whole during the conflict. They point out that positive events, such as successes against the enemy and the arrival of mail “could set the mess decks buzzing with excitement”, whilst a misfortune such as the crippling of Glasgow “made men restrained and taciturn for hours, sometimes days”. Yates account offers several examples of this broad effect. The first is his description of the strongly emotional reaction to the attack on the Sheffield. He noted in particular the commander’s briefing on this event, due to its “sombre, then very angry” tone. He also recalls the shock of witnessing the casualty list following the attack on the Coventry , and the way in which the exocet attack on the Glamorgan “hit us like another hammer blow below the belt… we all had mates on board”. These fluctuations of morale were the principal shared experience that every task force ship had to deal with. Richardson noted this phenomenon aboard Glamorgan, and stated that “it was very disheartening hearing any type of news that impacted the lives of our forces, we had many down days”. This was also found on Invincible. Kessell noted the damage to morale caused by the sinking of Sheffield, and recalls that similar feelings arose following the attacks on Coventry, Ardent and Antelope. Hastings and Jenkins note a particular trend in recollections of these events when they describe the way in which they highlighted the reality of war to those aboard the ships. Until the sinking of the Sheffield, for example, the sailors had been living with “the image, rather than the reality of war”. This example illustrates one of the recurring reactions towards tragedy found across the task force ships. John Lane describes this exact attitude aboard Brilliant, and states that “hearing that the Sheffield had been hit and had suffered casualties brought home the reality that we were at war”. Ellerby also recalls witnessing this reaction aboard Norland, and noted that “the Sheffield tragedy made everyone realise that the war was real”. The recurrence of these broad trends in the experience of these events reveal that there was a shared reaction to tragedy across the task force. Morale was damaged by hearing about the horrors faced by other vessels of the task force. Tragedies brought home the reality of war to many throughout the ships. Nevertheless, these broad trends do not necessarily consider those who were directly affected by tragedy. When these accounts are investigated, it can be seen that personal experience greatly diversifies individual reactions to tragedy and disaster.No personal reaction to a tragedy is better illustrated than that of Sam Salt, Captain of Sheffield. Following the loss of his ship, he recalls feeling that “you lose everything. And of course you all keep saying ‘what could I have done to prevent it”. Contrast this with the reaction of Woodward, who from early on had been arguing that the loss of ships was very likely. He states “I would consider myself a great deal less shocked than some. I had been expecting this, or something very like it, for several weeks, and I thought I was quite prepared mentally to face the loss of life and ships”. Aboard the Sheffield itself, there were many extreme reactions to the trauma the men had just experienced. Peter Walpole recalls witnessing the missile gun director, incensed by the attack, leaping up onto the upper deck and, without his glasses on, immediately manning a 20mm cannon, “firing at the first aircraft he saw”. Walpole himself recalls feeling the enormity of the tragedy setting in, and recalls the intense urge he felt to have a shower, “to get rid of the horrible smell of smoke”. Indeed, the stress that individuals who had to face these events were under was such that some bizarre reactions could be found on ships that were attacked. Following the Bluff Cove disaster, Robin Green, captain of RFA Sir Tristram, upon finding himself on land, found himself feeling stubborn to the point of refusing to take cover from another air attack, on account of the mud! Aboard Glamorgan, the tailors shop was looted following the exocet attack, and Inskip recalls his bewilderment at this reaction. “The same thing happened in other ships. I don’t understand it; if a ship goes down, you can’t take it with you; and if the ship doesn’t go down, the proverbial is going to hit the fan. What’s the point?” He explains this behaviour as a way for some to come to terms psychologically with being hit. Inskip himself offers a particularly vivid recollection of the exocet attack on Glamorgan. He recalls the actions he took on detecting the incoming exocet missile, and his role in the fire fighting that followed. With harrowing details like a description of the dead or injured crewmen he encountered whilst fighting the fire, the trauma of such an event is very clear. Indeed, he writes that “every moment of that action is vividly riveted in my memory”. It is this variety of traumatic experience that has led so many Falklands veterans to suffer from post traumatic stress disorder , and the strength of their effects cannot be overstated. In his book Ordeal by Exocet, Inskip sums up the influence of these events on the individuality of a person’s experience of them. He points out that “the only training you can have in losing shipmates is to experience it and the shock of the night’s events was affecting every member of the crew, albeit in different ways.” There was certainly a huge variety of ways in which people came to terms with witnessing these tragedies, and besides the obvious emotions associated with these horrific events, it is true to say that there was no single common experience of those affected by them. Inskip argues that “it is apposite to recount a selection of individual experiences to give an impression of what occurred and what was achieved that night”. He is correct, in the sense that you cannot generalise any single experience to that of a whole crew in such a moment of disaster. What recounting individual accounts has achieved in this case is to prove his statement correct; besides the obvious shock, trauma and sadness that accompanies terrible events such as these, there was no single way of perceiving them, and individuals caught up in these tragedies each had a unique experience. It could be concluded that tragedies affected everyone, but an individual’s personal involvement had a much greater influence on the likelihood that the event would be perceived differently from that of others. A huge variety of experiences and ways of recalling these events post war suggests that each person dealt with these events differently, and thus has their own unique perception of the tragedies they faced.In considering the eight themes discussed so far, the objective has been to establish the extent to which there was a general experience of the war at sea for those aboard task force ships. The conclusions from discussion of each of the identified themes can now be brought together into a complete image of the overall perceptions of the task force. A presentation of such an image must avoid generalisation, and should aim to consider all of the variations between individuals and ships that made life unique for each section of the task force. Important influences on the variations in experience can be pointed out, and this will contribute towards achieving the objective of providing a useful starting point for future investigations into the naval history of the Falklands conflict by accounting for the centralised perspective of the currently memoir-rich historiography.It has been shown that the majority of sailors were not so preoccupied with a ‘cold-war mindset’ that they felt it would harm their chances in a conflict with Argentina. Those who were concerned about training techniques which dealt with a very different kind of threat to that which they faced were in the minority. Although it may have been the case that the Royal Navy’s preparations for war against Russia limited their comparative effectiveness in the Falklands conflict, the sailors themselves were confident in their training, and felt well prepared. These findings offer a balance to claims made in the historiography by authors such as Rossiter, that the mindset of the Cold War offered a serious concern to the task force. This research presents a fairer view that worries surrounding a ‘cold war mindset’ were of the greatest concern to those servicemen most closely involved in the Cold War itself, such as submariners. The majority of the task force were subject to a wider range of roles and training, and were not as preoccupied with training centred on countering the Soviets.It has also been demonstrated that although the living conditions aboard each ship varied significantly, they did not exert a large influence on the perceptions of the crews themselves. Crews were experienced, and well used to long periods of time at sea. The overall image presented by the accounts investigated suggests that they considered their living conditions an inevitable fact-of-life. More influential in altering perceptions were situational factors brought about by the war itself, such as food rationing. The interpersonal relationships of crewmen were generally highly positive. Ships were crewed by close knit and functional groups of men, who worked well together. The only caveat raised by this discussion has been a counter to the idea that all crewmen were close friends. It is more realistic to state that, as has been shown, sailors had many acquaintances but a much smaller group of close friends. The individuality of each crewmember’s unique relationship with the rest of the crew has not in this instance resulted in a separate perception of this aspect of life aboard ship, and it is, therefore, reasonable to argue in general terms that crewmen enjoyed a positive working relationship with their shipmates.The presence of soldiers on board ship had little influence on the experience of the majority of crews. With the exception of several individual examples, the majority of sailors simply had too little contact with soldiers to influence their experience of the conflict. Out of those who did have contact with soldiers, there were occasionally examples of sailors forming friendships with soldiers, which created anxiety for their safety once they departed from the ship. If an example of this was encountered in a memoir type source, such as that provided by Yates, it would be easy to assume that this was a general occurrence on board task force ships carrying soldiers. This research has shown, however, that this is the exception rather than the rule, and that it cannot be generalised across the whole task force. More influential was the relationships that sailors had with their officers. Accounts show that the manner in which officers across the task force led their men was an inspiration, and resulted in a very positive perception of their relationship during the conflict. The individual styles of leadership each officer used do not appear to have resulted in a varied experience of leadership. Overall there was a very positive perception of the relationship between officers and men across the task force. An important issue raised by this research challenges the historiography. It has been shown that senior leadership, such as that of Sandy Woodward, was less influential in determining the experiences of those aboard task force ships than that of crew’s own individual leaders. This offers a contrast to the majority of existing works, which strongly emphasize the role of senior leadership. From this discussion, it could be argued that their relationship with crews has been overemphasized in the historiography of the conflict, and it would be fairer to emphasize the influence of individual leadership when discussing the way officers were viewed by their men.

If officers enjoyed a positive relationship with their crews, the same cannot be said for the media representatives attached to task force ships. In examining the accounts available for this study, it has become clear that the media were regarded with almost universal negativity. With only a few exceptions, the media were regarded as, at best, an inconvenience, and, at worst a threat to the safety of the ships they were aboard. Despite the intentions of the media representatives themselves, their presence proved harmful to morale, and their reporting was often a source of stress and concern. Whether crewmen were personally involved or separated from media representatives, it is clear that the media exerted a negative influence on the experience of task force crews overall, thus bringing into question the practice of having media representatives on board ships during combat situations.It can be seen that each sailor had a very unique expectation of what the conflict would be like. It is fair to say that this was in fact the most individual aspect of their experience of the conflict as a whole. In terms of their actual experience of fighting, it has been shown that combat was horrific for those who witnessed it. This discussion concurs with the suggestion offered by McManners that those sailors able to man guns and ‘take the fight to the enemy’ had a much more positive experience of combat to the larger majority who were unable to take part, and instead were forced to endure great tension and fear without any possibility of relief. With regards to the tragedies suffered by crews, it can be seen that there is, again, a large degree of variation in how these were experienced. There has been a tendency in the historiography of the conflict to generalise reactions to tragedy across the task force, and it can be seen that this is not as valid as would be apparent. Tragedy did affect the whole task force, but personal experience of a tragic event had a much greater influence on the resulting reaction. There is a huge reported range of experiences and ways of recalling these events. It is, therefore, fair to conclude that tragedy affected the whole task force, but it is not always appropriate to generalise the experience of individuals. Each person dealt with these events differently, and has their own unique perception of the tragedies they faced.This project has achieved its objectives in that it has challenged the way that memoirs and narrative type works offer a limited perspective which tends to generalise the experience of a single individual or ship to the entire task force. To a significant extent, there were indeed several common experiences of the war at sea across the task force. It is important, however, to avoid generalising any one of these experiences to the whole task force. This has important implications for those wishing to use the existing memoir-type historiographical works in a future study. It has clearly been shown that in certain important contexts, generalisation of perceptions is an error that could be made. Considering the lack of analytical works currently existing in the historiography, future works will benefit from considering this important factor when interpreting the existing resources. Approaching the 30th anniversary of the conflict, an increasing number of veterans are producing their memoirs or telling their stories. When analytical histories begin to emerge and take prominence in the historiography, it will be important to avoid making errors in analysing the testimony of those who were there. To do justice to those servicemen who risked their lives in this conflict, it is crucial to ensure that their stories are placed in the correct context. It is hoped that the results of this study will aid those attempting to do so.

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