“The First casualty” – The book ‘They’ don’t want you to read!

Image result for the book they don't want you to read

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.”

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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:

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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.

 

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14 thoughts on ““The First casualty” – The book ‘They’ don’t want you to read!

    • Hi Jan, I should say thanks for your message to my professional page too – sadly our ‘friends over there’ have actually spammed this account and is is locked until December 17th. I asked some of the guys today if they could reach you! The book is due for publication February 28th and can be bought via the Navy Books website. You can, of course, buy it from Amazon, Waterstones or whomever after that…but being blunt, us authors and our publishers earn pittance that way! Come March it will have been a year without a steady paycheck…it costs a lot to be a writer!! But subscribe to the Navy Books site or ‘Like’ my page Ricky D Phillips – Military History Author…I’m also in touch with all of the guys so you won’t miss it, I promise 🙂

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      • Thanks Jan (I’m assuming Mrs Geordie?) – Yes unless you’re JK Rowling you don’t earn a lot, and military history is pretty niche. But it is my life. I gave up a new book on Hannibal for these boys! I really love them, it’s more than a job. I have been told in no uncertain terms; “You’re coming to the reunion and you’re not leaving us after that. You’re one of us now!” – It’s humbling really…I have a new family. I think most will read the book and be yelling out “What the *!*?” throughout it…what they saw was one thing but what was going on outside of the view of the guys was something else. There was a larger battle happening around them which nobody saw the full picture of. Without the Argentines, this book would be half a story. They saw so much other stuff which they probably couldn’t connect to a wider picture. I’m happy to report that the ones I have spoken to are wonderful people. Commander Santillan is a great friend of mine in particular. I make no odds that there is a natural bias, that it is the 8901 story, but there’s the story and then there’s the history. I let the guys tell the story and I just chime in usually with an asterisk and a historical note at the back, or a wider Appendix where appropriate. Will I see you at the 35th reunion? Also we are trying to get the book launch at the RM Museum in Portsmouth in early March if you’re about? Trust me, you won’t miss the book…when is G’s birthday?

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      • Jan says:

        Hi Ricky,
        Yes, I’m Mrs Geordie!
        I must say I’m looking forward to reading your book after my husband has finished it of course!
        I think it’s going to be interesting finding out what the reactions are to your book. For too long the guys have felt cheated and their sacrifices (although they wont admit that as they’re pretty self effacing) have been belittled. It’s almost as if they should feel ashamed and that’s something that really hurts.
        As my husband says, ‘I knew I was going to die’ and couldn’t quite believe it when he didn’t.
        I will try and make the re-union. I guess you know the Bootneck sense of humour is second to none. The stories get longer and more detailed and the drinks flow freely, very freely!
        If they have accepted you then you are part of the family for life, that’s the one thing I’ve found, if I need help from anyone, call on a Bootneck, regardless of when or how long since you saw them, they’ll be there for you.
        I look forward to meeting you, and I wish you all the best for your up and coming book.
        With my very best regards,
        Jan

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      • Thanks Jan…actually my brother in law Chris is a bootie and my wee nephew Jake is always a hopeful. He looks good in the beret. We all have out own skills. Mine, I like to take on those dusty old gits who put a history book down and say “It is so!” – I bet it bloody isn’t. They never found Hannibal’s first battlefield for 22 centuries until I came along, so there’s always more to write down. Yes it’s a family…and I’m happy for that. I don’t have a big one, most of them have gone. The guys fit with my moral code; always be there, always a part of it and never let the other guy down. I’m probably from the wrong century or something. But the truth is the same as the boys have always said (the biggest surprise is that they have ALWAYS said this and nobody listened) the same as Nick and Mike shot that odious Carslisle man down with in 2012 with his traitorous book about them…that LCVP landing craft – fact. I’ve got the pictures. The LVTP-7 Amtrack APC – fact – I’ve got the pictures, the guys they took down, fact, I’ve got interview, hospital reports…heck even the Argentina tailor in my little village in Scotland knows a couple of guys that didn’t come back that day. I say it here and in the book, nobody wants to be Rambo, nobody wants to be a hero…but 35 years of having them caled “The cowards who surrendered” – not on my watch, Jan 😉

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      • Jan says:

        Thanks Ricky,
        I admire your tenacity, it’s obviously something you feel strongly about. Again, I certainly look forward to meeting you next year, should prove to be a lively re-union!
        Till then, take care
        Jan

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    • Thanks Peter, yes I earnestly hope that it will be confirmed as the venue, probably it will be the first week of March that we do it! I will be announcing it on my LinkedIn and also on my professional Facebook ‘Ricky D Phillips – Military History Author’…I really can’t wait and I think a lot of the stars of the book are going to be there also.

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  1. Peter Booth says:

    Fascinating. As a military historian I attended a potential officer’s week with the Royal Navy in late March 1982 when I was in my second year at Durham. I was on board HMS Leander when the captain read out his opinion of the infamous John Nott defence white paper. That evening I was chatting with some officers at HMS Drake and I raised my concerns that scrapping our one and only ice patrol ship was waving a white flag over Port Stanley. I was assured that a frigate would be used instead but I stressed that even if that were the case no one out there knew that. I explained that this was like the East of Suez white paper from the 50’s but this was now a south of Gibraltar one! I celebrated my 21st birthday pm 1st April 1982 and then on the 2nd collected my little brother from Cubs and told him we were at war and that we would win but good men on both sides would die. In April I was out shooting with the NUOTC shooting team at Ponteland and we were joined by a sub-lieutenant who had been in the shooting team two years before. He explained that he served on one of the new Type 22 frigates and it alongside another had been steaming south in late March but had to turn back when its radar systems crashed. What that did do was confirm that the MOD was aware that things were hoting up in the South Atlantic but their response was too little and too late. At Durham, a university with very strong military connections, we watched the war unfold. One friend was on HMS Penelope, another close friend had served on HMS Ardent before Durham and another had both her brothers down there with special forces. I was at Tidworth before Bisley when 3 Para cam back and I have never seen eyes and expressions as I saw that day. In September I qualified at Warminster and one day we had two SAS officers speak to us. These were people from a different world and all had seen death. I believe that the truth needs to be told and no British government should ever, for self convenience or embarrassment, be allowed to tarnish the names of our elite service men and women, especially the Royal Marines, without whom we would not have the freedom that we take for granted every day. Freedom in not a God given right, it has to be won and then defended and those that do that for us have the right to be respected by everyone.

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    • Wow…a very moving story and thanks for sharing. yes our RM’s were sacrificed on the altar of political convenience… more to the point they weren’t, and that was the problem, so their story had to be. It was ‘Rorke’s Drift 2’ which was not what we wanted at all…we wanted Isandhlwana (to go with the same analogy) – so we went with the argentine story of April 2nd which is all you will read today, from Wikipedia to very informed works…..I am happy to report that the watch-word is ‘not for long’. Now both sides, British and Argentine (as well as a third, the people of Stanley) are telling the story which gives us a 360 view of a battle which, they still say, never even happened….the truth is amazing 😉

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