Dear readers and fans of all things mad and military – it has been just a wee while since I last wrote and for the entirely plausible reason that I have been hard at work writing. So I thought I would take some time out from writing and…well…write a bit more here! Writers do that.
The new book is going well…amazingly well. Better even than I could have hoped. I used to say that I can picture every book I am writing long before I begin it. I can turn the pages in my mind and know what is on each one. But this new book has just amazed me. I should add to that that it has actually done something even greater than that though. Where to start?
What’s the book?
The new book “The First Casualty” is the untold story of the Falklands War. It is the first book which focuses solely upon the events of April 1st-April 2nd 1982 – the day that Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands. It is the story of seventy Royal Marines who had to face an armada and the full and unstoppable juggernaut of a country at war, alone and unsupported. The book is a ‘first-person’ history drawn from interviews and written accounts of the Royal Marines who were there – think ‘Band of Brothers’ or ‘Pegasus Bridge’ and you are more or less ‘on the money’ – however unlike no book (ever, I believe) this is the first book to take this from BOTH sides.
We get to know the men of both sides – British and Argentine Marines. We laugh with them and we fear with them, we worry for them and we take pride in them. Far from glorifying war, we find these men whom we have travelled with and shared their most intimate thoughts now pitched against each other in the maelstrom of war. We find that ‘the enemy’ has a face and a name – and oddly that we like them, regardless of uniform or nationality. This book – in both English and Spanish, will delight readers and it has been a privilege to speak to, meet with and work with so many of the protagonists from both sides.
What’s in the name?
I have often described this action as “D-Day versus Rorke’s Drift” – to me that’s what it was. Imagine a vast armada – and it really was an armada – of ships, aircraft, armour, artillery and men…an avalanche of military power rumbling down onto less than a company of Royal Marines. Now at Rorke’s Drift we all know that the British were vastly outnumbered but at least they had the modern weapons – imagine the Zulus turning up with rifles, machine guns, armoured vehicles and an aircraft carrier (which would be an interesting prospect) – amongst many other weapons of war! Well that’s what happened.
So you would expect a walk-over wouldn’t you? – Let’s be honest. And if you look at the history anywhere on the internet (and I do mean Wikipedia as well) this is exactly what you will find. A ‘token defence’ – a few shots fired in the air and then it was all over. Well what if I told you that it was nothing like that at all? What if someone newly-discovered the battles of Rorke’s Drift or the Alamo about which nothing had previously been known? What if I told you that the truth had been buried for reasons both ‘official secret’ and political? What if there is a story which is so vastly different from what we know that it will force us to look at a whole war differently? – Well it exists.
Hence the name; for the first casualty in war is always the truth, and nowhere more so than in the story of the defence of the Falklands in 1982 by a band of men who were determined to do their duty to the last bullet.
Why is it important?
This book is the story of men in combat. It is the story of mates facing death and the ultimate challenge, together. Without a hope or a prayer the men whom one of their gracious enemies referred to as “The finest Marines in the world” stood and gave their all against odds and against hope – and they did a bloody good job. Yet history and politics denies them their story. They are ‘ghosted out’ of history with this tired old ‘token defence’ story which everyone believes. They have spent over 34 years knowing what really happened that night and yet still feeling ‘ashamed’ – in their own words, because of what the Falkland Islanders and their mates and families back home must have thought of them when their story was erased and replaced with what we think we know today.
All of that is about to change. These guys – who have taken the spiky-haired Londoner who was not yet four when they fought their epic battle, into their trust – are magnificent men. Yet they are humble. Not one has boasted. Not one has claimed a single thing more than he did. They felt forgotten – an embarrassment (again using their own words) – a footnote in history, not a chapter or even a page. This book is important because it heals that wound. I want people to think. I want people to see…not in my words but in the words of the men themselves and their opponents, exactly what happened when these wonderful men went to war. The truth is so far removed from what we understand and I believe that it is time that these amazing guys had their story.
Is anything far-fetched?
I have been asked many times if this is some ‘conspiracy theory’ or attempt to rewrite established history. To this I say no – absolutely not. There is nothing in this book which I would wish to be true or to insert for my own purposes. It is the words of the men themselves, from both sides, often facing each other and, where two opposing accounts collide irreparably, I have gone through every detail and every finite moment to ensure that it is correct. It is easy, sometimes, to write ‘alternative history’ or to poke holes through the established history but the real test comes when you replace it with your own version and then compare to the original – this is how conspiracy theories come apart. However, the ‘established history’ is in fact the one which doesn’t stand up to scrutiny and the truth just seems to reinforce itself at every point. Even if (which would be ridiculous) every single man of the Royal Marines were lying as one man, then the accounts of their opponents, of the hospital staff, of the Falkland islanders and more would be enough to tear holes through what we think we know. The truth is that nobody has ever challenged it. People see what they expect to see and why would anyone question it? Luckily for the Royal Marines, I question everything.
What do the Argentines think of it?
I have to say that the response from the Argentine veterans has been excellent. I have had the pleasure of talking to several of them and in particular two of the most key characters who fought there and saw the most pivotal parts of the action from the planning stage through to the end. They have helped immeasurably with interviews, accounts, contacts, information, maps, diagrams, personal photographs and more. Even these great men (and dare I say great friends too) feel that the ‘token resistance’ story should be rewritten. It does, they say, no credit to the Royal Marines or to the men who fought against them. The Argentine veterans are eager to know the names, thoughts, words and actions of those whom they fought against. They want to know how they did. They want to know who these people were…and who they are now. It is a thing they share and which they are eager to share.
What do the Royal Marines think of it?
To a man, I can say that the guys I have spoken to of the Royal Marines have been wholeheartedly supportive, enthused, helpful and above all, relieved that someone wants to tell their story and can actually see it for what it was, not what it is. Some are acquiescent – they would like the story told as it was and should be. Some others have said that they don’t feel ashamed any more; that they know that the ‘token resistance’ story is about to end. Their honour is being restored. They now know the thoughts of the people of the Falklands – for whom they are supermen. They actually thought they had let these people down because of this rotten falsehood of a story which has lingered for nigh-on thirty-five years too long. They are interested and many quite fascinated to know what the Argentine Marines were thinking, saying and doing. They actively want to know how they did and who those people were…it really is a shared experience.
I could go on all day, really. Anything else? – Yes actually. Something people can do for me and for the heroes of the Royal Marines of Naval Party 8901….firstly but the book! It is priced at £25.00 (subject t change but that’s where we are aiming at) and will not break the bank. It will be out this year – we are still dicing between Christmas or March next year to coincide with the 35th anniversary. I am hoping for Christmas (a nudge to Ian my publisher) It is the words of these men – it is their book. It is a whole new history. That’s got to be worth every penny.
Next I would ask anyone to talk about it. To tell people that there is a different story. None of these guys would say they are heroes at all…it is the one thing I disagree with them on. With this in mind, if you buy it and like it then pass it on. Don’t let the ‘established history’ creep back. Don’t let the ‘token defence’ story linger just through longevity, please.
Next bit – the person who alters Wikipedia for good will be my absolute hero. It is only Wikipedia we know – but it has to have sources and references and it is also the single most accessible history site in the world. I can’t change it and quote my own book (oddly enough) so anyone who is quite nimble on their system (which i am not) and who knows how to use references to back it up and not have it removed straight away…well I will worship you in the street…that is all.
An important point – I have, in my writing, taken two very large swipes at people (and we know the people I mean) who will try to make this ‘mean something’ – the word ‘Falklands’ seems to automatically polarise a lot of opinions and get people jibing at others “We won – you lost” or yelling “Propaganda” or making it ‘all political’. Let’s try to leave that bit. In meeting the men of both sides, there is no politics, no jibing, no propaganda and no ridicule. Let’s try to stick to their example. This is the real story of fighting men in combat, not some political statement.
Finally – Yes this has an end – us writers don’t earn much. Military History is a bit ‘niche’ and so we are not all JK Rowling, JRR Tolkien or EL James (having read that back, I think I need some more initials, there may be something in this!) – so review it when it comes out. Share it from your social media and join me on my own as well. It isn’t hard to find me Ricky D Phillips – Military History Author on Facebook – there is so much new stuff coming up into 2017 and beyond. This is what I do for a living; I look at history and find those questions we don’t know the answers to and then take the reader on a journey if discovery. I never say “I know the answer” – only “Let’s find out together” – this way you know it is good stuff and you can believe it. from Alexander the Great to Hannibal, the Romans, Napoleon, Wellington or the Falklands War, if there is something out there which is not the true or the full story then I tell it. For me, it is about getting the history right. Always the history – the truth, should be what is left to us.
I really hope you enjoy this one…I am loving every word I write.