The author, Mike Rossiter, brings a completely new perspective to The Falklands Campaign in his book Sink The Belgrano. By assembling the ships' logs and interviewing both British and Argentinian members of the armed forces as well as their political masters, he reveals, but for the courage and ingenuity of those on the front line, just how close the conflict came to ending in disaster and humiliation for the UK.
I remember the event well as I was on the floor of the old Stock Exchange working for a firm of Jobbers trading UK Government Gilts (I still have a working knowledge of my 1/64th times table as a result). What is striking about the narrative, which centres around the nuclear powered submarines, are the clear and shining examples of how egos, poorly designed chains-of-command, and seemingly insignificant mistakes, can converge to scupper a whole endeavour.
For example the powers-that-be insisted that the chain of command for the submarines remained directly in the UK. This was despite the fact that satellite communications designed for operations in the North Atlantic were incapable of working reliably in the southern hemisphere as the satellites effectively went over the horizon. The command and counter-command that resulted from the delays thus introduced, wasted valuable resources and at one time opened up a whole flank of the Task Force that could have been disastrously exploited by the Argentinians. Finally, the simple bending of an aerial housing on the external skin of the submarine, unless repaired, caused cavitation so severe that instead of being weapons of stealth meant they could be heard 200 miles away.
The parallels between armed conflict and commerce remain powerful. Everything matters, but when they do go wrong, as is inevitable, you still need a commander and crew prepared to make the best decisions under the circumstances as they wrestle with conflicting priorities and incomplete information.
This book is written with pace and authority, which makes it a good read in its own right. It also holds a good degree of fascination for students of history, and some behind-the-scenes lessons applicable to life and business. If you can’t find a copy, let me know and we’ll make arrangements for you to be able to borrow it from our library.