One Hundred Days: The Memoirs of the Falklands Battle Group Commander
By Admiral Sandy Woodward with Patrick Robinson
Hardcover in dustjacket, 360 pages, photographs
Published by Naval Institute Press April 1992
Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.8 x 9.5 inches
Admiral Sir John “Sandy” Woodward was the Royal Navy’s Battle Group Commander during the Falklands war, this is his autobiographical account of the Navy’s preparation and conduct of that war. The first chapter is a detailed account of the loss of HMS Sheffield, ironically a ship which Woodward had commanded earlier in his carrier. Even though I was familiar with the circumstances of the Sheffield’s sinking there are many details and nuances in this account which were new to me. With the hooks firmly set, the authors then describe Woodward’s earlier career (mainly as a submariner) leading up to his being on exercise in the Mediterranean at the time of the Argentinian’s seizure of the Falklands.
Woodward’s account describes the various options and difficulties inherent in every decision an Admiral and his staff are required to make. There are advantages and liabilities in each option, and matters are often decided with incomplete information while under a strict timetable. These are all well laid out for the reader which gives ample insight into just how hard a job it is, a cautionary exercise for the armchair Admiral who might be inclined to second guess history with the benefit of hindsight.
While the Royal Navy’s Officers and men are superbly trained and did an outstanding job, I was surprised at the number and frequency of technical and mechanical issues suffered by their ships. Much of the later half of the campaign was fought with ships which were only partially operational due to mechanical failures or battle damage. I was also quite shocked to see how much valuable strategic and tactical information was supplied to the Argentinians by the BBC. This included the arrival in theater of the Amphibious Task Group, the timing of the Paratroop Regiment’s assault, and the fact that many of the bombs dropped by Argentinian aircraft were failing to explode after hitting British ships due to improper fusing.
I found this book hard to put down. It offers a unique insight into the mind of a battle group commander conducting a sustained campaign at sea. There are useful lessons for leaders both inside the military and in civilian life for planning and setting objectives. This is also one of the best historical accounts of the air and naval portions of the War in Falklands, as you would expect from the Admiral in overall command of the effort. Highly recommended.