The First Casualty: Book Review
Updated: Nov 29, 2020
The First Casualty: The Untold Story of the Falklands War by Ricky D. Phillips.
Kindle Edition. Published 20 March 2018
Reviewed May 2020 by W.S. Petty
April 2nd 1982 – the day that the Falklands War erupted. Until recently, what has been largely believed to have been a token defence and quick surrender in the face of overwhelming opposition, was anything but. This book tells the true story of the Royal Marines of Naval Party 8901 and their heroic defence of the Falkland Islands, thirty-eight years ago in what the book calls, the battle of Stanley.
“The first casualty, when war comes, is truth” Hiram Johnson, US Senator.
The author, Ricky D. Phillips is open from the start that he is British, however he does not show bias in any way to either side when researching the events which lead up to and during the invasion. Indeed, the Spanish translation is designed to be as accessible as possible and is hoped to be accepted by the people of Argentina. Unfortunately, the book is up against decades old, deeply established propaganda which is still accepted, even in the UK, to this day. It’s a story that nether the British nor Argentine governments wanted to be told at the time. It’s a battle denied, a battle which – we were told – never happened.
But of course, the battle did happen and this superbly researched book tells the story not only of the Royal Marines, Sailors and Falkland Islands Defence Force; but also, the Argentines and the Falkland Islanders themselves. The First Casualty: The Untold Story of the Falklands War, truly is a well-researched and well-presented historical document.
I’m pleased this tale has been told. Operation Rosario, the Argentine invasion, is a point in history; the details of which have been largely overshadowed by the retaking of the islands by the Task Force of Operation Corporate. It’s also been downplayed and even denied, the mystery caused by the Junta’s propaganda which has been perpetuated by stories of disgrace and surrender in tabloid newspapers around the world. The book gives details of why the British Government may have gone along with the untrue version of events too. The Argentine story is in itself truly remarkable. They launched an amphibious assault the likes of which was probably not equalled since Normandy in 1944. The massively outnumbered Royal Marines, put up an awe-inspiring defence, truly epitomising the esprit de corps one would expect from such a world renown fighting force. The Argentines fought with tremendous bravery, because let’s face it, you’d have to be brave knowing you were going against Royal Marines. For this battle to have been swept under the carpet is a disgraceful contempt for the men of both sides who fought and to the memory of those who died.
There is still a great deal of information that remains unknown to the wider public. The involvement of both UK and Argentine special forces, submarines and espionage. The book covers what is known, drawing on eye witness accounts which allows the reader to draw their own assumptions outside of the main action.
As a former member of the British Royal Navy myself, I was a little disappointed not to hear more about the exploits and fate of the eleven sailors, put ashore from HMS Endurance, who assisted the Royal Marines during the fighting. All the while I was reading the book, I wondered how I would have coped being put ashore in similar circumstances, probably not very well at all!
Update 02/06/20: In response to this, the author Ricky D. Phillips said on Twitter...
"I spoke to a lot of the matelots from Endurance and mostly they didn't want to take away from what the Royals did however much I begged!"
All in all, a superbly researched, unbiased and outstanding account of the events of April 1982. The book puts politics and sovereignty aside in order to get to the truth, as did I while reading and reviewing this book.
I read the Kindle version, but if you intend to study this book in any detail, I’d recommend the paperback so you can flick between the narrative and the references with ease.
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