There’s something interesting and alluring about a book which ‘they’ don’t want you to read, isn’t there? Well, “The First Casualty – The untold story of the Falklands War” definitely fits into this category and for reasons more interesting and complex than you might imagine.
We all know the story (as we are supposed to know it) of April 2nd 1982, the day Argentina invaded the Falklands. The story and the famous photographs of the 69 men of the Royal Marines, overwhelmed by 2,800 Argentines with warships, armoured vehicles, artillery, landing craft, helicopters and more, is one which was splashed across every newspaper and magazine in the known world showing images of the Royal Marines being laid face down in the road (below) with their triumphant foes posing over them, with headlines such as “Surrender”, “Shame” and perhaps the most shocking one of all; “Royal Marines surrender without a shot fired.”
Well…..that’s what “They” would have you believe….I’m going to tell you it wasn’t true.
It started with a blog post (here of all places) when I had started to work out that so much of the ‘approved’ account of this story simply didn’t add up and the more I looked, the less it added up at all. The official accounts give losses of but 1 Argentine killed and 3 wounded. Heck, if you look on the Spanish language Wikipedia it will deny one of those three men too! The Royal Marines lost not one man killed or wounded (again Spanish Wikipedia says “Two slightly wounded” – there were none) and more to the point can anyone really fire six and a half thousand rounds of ammunition and a dozen anti-tank rockets and come out with but four credible hits? – You could do more blindfolded – and these were professional Marines who had all seen combat before…it doesn’t really add up.
Still, by the end of the day of blogging (and I should say that, having no idea of writing it as a book, there were in the original blog posts some glaring errors which, with a full study I grimace to read now) a few of those Royal marines had found my post and were actually talking to me! I couldn’t believe it! These real-life heroes were here in person, and though I had had my suspicions that all was not right with the official story as we are supposed to know it, what each and every one of them said was shocking; “At last! Someone believes us! THIS is our story! The one we have been telling for 34 years and nobody will believe the truth!”
I started to realise that the story went deeper than ever I suspected….
In quick time, a blog became a book with several working titles until it hit me; that old misquote of “The first casualty of war is the truth” and the name was born “The First Casualty – The untold story of the Falklands War” – with a nice double-meaning being as Pedro Giachino – the only man they admit being killed (and what a suitable martyr he was, being Argentina’s superman) is still known by many in Argentina as “The first casualty of the Falklands war” – the name couldn’t have been better!
Working with the men of the Royal marines Naval Party 8901 who defended Stanley on that day, I began to gather interviews. Many wrote down their experiences, there were emails, private messages, hundreds of phone calls, hand-drawn maps, every piece of information fitted into a collage which told a different story – and many of these guys haven’t spoken for over thirty years. Then came the people of Stanley who were there that night and NOW we got interesting; personal accounts, private diaries from the invasion, photographs…more than has EVER been said about this! But THEN came the real shocker…the Argentines turned up!
It seems that they weren’t happy with this story of a mere ‘token defence’ or walk-over. It was something they had trained for their whole careers and pulled off, now dressed up as little more than a sham or an armed parade and now they too started to give their stories. I was lucky enough to meet with a few of them in person and myself and Commander Hugo Santillan who led the planning through to the amphibious invasion up the Yorke Bay beaches spent many hours in a hotel lounge in London until the next morning, going through accounts, maps, books, reports and more. We still speak most days via email and he has been my rock in so many things along with several other key characters. The story was still different to what we know today. This time there was no denying it; something different HAD happened!
From conversations with combatants and the civilians who were there that night have come interviews with the KEMH Hospital staff on duty that night, the original section reports, the final official report, Flash telegrams and encrypted Signits between London and Stanley, photographs we were never meant to see…in short, the project has grown exponentially. What it reveals is a story the likes of Rorke’s Drift or the Alamo, not some token defence or walk-over…a story which should be known the world over, of how 69 men took on an armada and dealt the Argentines not just a handful of casualties but a lot. I can count where 83 individuals fell and the real figure was, in my estimation and in that of the Royal Marines, at least 100. These aren’t just opinions; there are photographs, hospital records, physical proof, accounts from both sides…the list is endless.
So why don’t we know this story?
It seems that BOTH the British and Argentina governments had a lot to hide on that day. Oh yes, us Brits don’t come out of it clean either! – In fact I have had two actual death threats from what i would consider ‘my own side’ out of this. In Argentina this history as we are supposed to know it has also become something akin to ‘Holy writ’ and now I am actually under ‘cyber attack’ from paid Argentine Government ‘Trolls’ with my social media being attacked, reported, hacked and taken down by a country now desperate to hush the truth…never has one book caused so much controversy since Salman Rushdie decided to upset Islam! So this is the book ‘They’ don’t want you to read….”They” are always grey, faceless, nameless individuals, as we know, but it seems that what I have found and what I know – of a battle going on outside of the battle the combatants of both sides saw…is upsetting someone. It reminds me of an old quote I have used below:
Quite what people are scared about from “The First Casualty” is yet to be seen…the British took the curious step of burying our records for 90 years until 2072. In Argentina this is seen as an act of sacrilege, to dare to change the history which they hold most dear and the day upon which they mark their own veterans day – it’s like taking Christmas away!
There is ‘something’ in this story of the Rorke’s Drift of the South Atlantic which both governments don’t want us to know. Yet it is a story which should be known. The guys who were there have been saying it for what it now almost 35 years, despite being told to say absolutely nothing to the press whilst still serving. Well soon, on February 28th 2017 the world will know the truth. The real story of the Falklands War; of an epic defence, of bravery, loyalty, grit and determination, of friendship and loss and also of humour…if anything, the combatants of both sides are very funny men. We laugh with them and cry with them too…they tell the story. I just take the reader to the action and follow up with the historical notes and appendices…that’s one hallmark of my work; I always take the reader through the evidence and the research, so they can see the whole process for themselves. I want this to be undeniable…as it should be. There was a second Rorke’s Drift and we don’t know about it. And people are doing everything short of shooting me to keep this quiet. If I ask my readers anything it is this; don’t let them. Share this post, tell their story. Give these men back their story. They bloody earned it.
I gave the draft of this to fellow military historian (and one of the top naval historians in the world) Angus Konstam to review…here’s what he said:
“I thoroughly enjoyed it. This is a terrific work of narrative history, and your style of delivery suits the subject to perfection. In fact it was pitch perfect. This is a real shining example of what narrative history writing is all about. It is bloody good and fast-paced narrative history – “gutsy-great”. You have told the story well, and both the Argentine and British marines should be very happy with the result. In all, this is superb – and I feel it will do very well. It reads like a novel but is all the more potent because it is non-fiction. You really feel you were there and in the minds of the combatants. I would give this five stars on Amazon any day and I really enjoyed it!”
I guess that’s a good enough recommendation?
So be prepared to challenge everything you thought you knew about this first day of the Falklands War, day which gets a page or two at best in any book upon the war as a whole. Now the men of both sides are telling it as it should be told, with their own accounts, their own photographs, their own stories, and me commenting from the proverbial ‘peanut gallery’ fitting all the pieces together for the reader. With nine close up battle maps and 36 photographs, many never before seen and even some stunning new revelations from both sides, it will soon be time to read the untold story of the Falklands War.
This is the book ‘They’ don’t want you to read…..all the more reason to do it.