Sunday 26 June 2011

Not Mentioned in Despatches

In my day job I'm paid to challenge the status quo. So you can imagine that Not Mentioned in Despatches by Spencer Fitz-Gibbon would be right up my street. It is a forthright read that challenges the accepted mythology that has built up around the battle of Goose Green in 1982.

Or is it. Challenge it certainly does and there is a lot that needs to be said and exposed for critical re-evaluation. For us as historians and thinking wargamers, it's a worthwhile tome even if it just forces us to remember that we can't believe everything we read. Simply because something is in print, doesn't make it a tablet of stone.

But you know, the same is true of revisionist history. Rather than a new eye-opening account of the battle from a fresh perspective, I found a book that was far from objective, and miles away from Hugh Bicheno's very even handed, critical account of the Falklands in Razor's Edge The Unofficial History of the Falklands War.

Funnily, Not Mentioned in Despatches encouraged me to rethink Goose Green, but not in the way you might imagine. Rather than think in strictly military terms, I put my professional project management hat on and looked at the pressures, challenges, assumptions, planning, command and control of the battle all in the guise of a government project. The results were really interesting and made me more understanding about the initial planning and handling of the battle from Colonel Jones's perspective (taking the personality out of the equation). I might only have to face verbal and email bullets but at it's very basic level it's still about how to get a job done to your seniors expectations, facing known and unknown challenges, using the people and resources at your disposal.

It's easy to take Goose Green out of perspective, throw our hands in the air and wail at the fact it wasn't the boys own victory we all secretly cherish. I am both equally amused and dismayed at the popular line of thinking in recent years that a relatively cheap victory, form whatever historical period is somehow sour and tarnished. Regardless of whether you see Goose Green as a battle lost by the Argentinians rather than won by the British, it was a victory nevertheless and an important one. It demonstrated lessons that would be applied in the hill battles that brought the war to an end.

Not Mentioned in Despatches, certainly a worthwhile read and fresh analytical approach but don't allow it to blind you into throwing the baby out with the bathwater.



  1. When it comes to warfare, victory often goes to the least incompetent.

  2. Hello, Mark

    Sounds interesting. I had it on my Amazon wishlist for about six months now, but had not got around to ordering it.


    Sapper Joe