A blog about miniatures, wargaming, and the people driven to ruin by them....

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Book Review: Green-Eyed Boys (Mount Longdon)


I have been busy, so am a bit late on this review,

Green-Eyed Boys, 3 Para and the Battle for Mount Longdon, by Christian Jennings and Adrian Weale.  This is another book about events during the Falklands War.  It starts by describing the culture of the Paras (which, honestly, seems mighty familiar in some ways to the culture of any "hard core" military organization).  "Green-Eyed Boy" refers to a soldier who really gets into the violent side of elite soldiering... these are soldiers who sometimes are a pain in the ass during peace time, but are absolutely crucial during times of war.

The book is well written, and includes so many personal stories that ring true, I'd say its a good book to have.  But, this is also one of the books broaching the subject of wartime atrocities committed by British troops.  Ear taking, execution of prisoners.  I wasn't there, but it appears to me that enough men who were can say that at least some of this actually happened.  It always seems like an understatement to say "these things happen in war".... the statement is not an excuse, but an observation of what war can bring out of humans (the best and the worst, sometimes in the same person).

Overall, though, the story of the taking of Mount Longdon is a reiteration of every large land battle in the Falklands:  an element of overconfidence in the British commander, a brutal nearly won fight, and ultimate British victory at high cost.

I've often wondered where the story of "the Args will run after a few rounds" came from.  This book seems to place that with Col Jones (2 Para) at Goose Green.... though I am not certain that he didn't get that opinion elsewhere.  For whatever the cause, in each of the three large land battles I have read about (Goose Green, Mount Longdon, Tumbledown), the British commanders seemed to think the Argentine forces would run away after a few shots.  Of course, despite the incompetence displayed by Argentine commanders, it was proved again and again that the Argentine troops would fight very hard from defensive positions.  At Longdon (as on Tumbledown and elsewhere), positions had to be taken by British bayonets. 

When you have to take ground with bayonets, that is a clear indication that your opponent is not interested in running.

3 Para, with great courage and spirit, did take Longdon... it strikes me again that the men who had to do the taking did so with great courage, but they also deserved to have commanders more willing to be cautious, and conservative with their men's lives (of course, the narrow window of operation was a legitimate concern for the British.... forcing them to push for victory in as short a period of time as possible).

One thing this book does, is provide some negative opinion on some British commanders.  It also suggests that the British troops had trouble transitioning from peace time to war time.  In some cases, they were very lucky that the Argentine forces were unable (unwilling) to capitalize on those instances... those delays.

Another thing that strikes home in this book is just how young some of the British were too.  I have seen many (many) accounts on the Falklands describing how young the Argentine conscripts were.  At Mount Longdon, 3 Para had 17 and 18 year olds fighting and being killed.  Young men on both sides.

In summation, this is a great book.  The assault is detailed enough for any "combat junkie".... but it is also critical enough, and explicit enough in its description of the cost, to remind the reader that this was anything but a "fun time".  Brutal.  Absolutely brutal.

I'd hate to leave the review on a complete depressing note, so here is a charming anecdote from LCpl Lee Fisher and LCpl Trussler.  While "supposedly" forming recce during the long march, they entertained themselves with the fantasy that they were Germans, marching away from Stalingrad

"...our heroes used to be the German Paras in the war and this was like the retreat from Stalingrad we were on; we weren't actually in the Falklands, we were in the Soviet Union as part of the Sixth Panzer Army with guns on our shoulders and we were having a hell of a time.  It was like, 'Shut up and behave, you two!'  Trying to sing German songs as we marched, 'cause a lot of the time we were just tabbing [marching], we weren't soldiering, it was just; 'Go!'  But me and Trus [Trussler], we were having a great time in von Paulus's army with the T-34s on our tail."

While I have no real idea of what kind of soldiers Fisher and Trussler were, I do know that on the long, boring expanses of what most soldiering really is.... sometimes you need some guys with senses of humor, old enough to support you in a fight, but young enough to still laugh, joke, and make the hours go by a little easier.  Even if it means pretending you are retreating from Stalingrad, instead of marching into the assault on Mount Longdon.

Green=Eyed Boys, it won't sit well with every reader, but its another good book to have on your shelf.


1 comment:

  1. Hi, if you want to read a more accurate account look no further than Three Days in June it gives a unique insight into the 3rd battalion The Parachute Regiment during the battle Mount Longdon and the last three days of the Falklands war, in fact this is the definitive account.
    Also available on kindle Ebook, please read the reviews on Amazon.