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Close Run Thing Twenty five years ago, this week, over three days of a desperately fought battle for control of the skies over the Falklands, the Argentine Air Force sank four British ships – HMS Ardent, HMS Antelope, HMS Coventry and the MV Atlantic Conveyor – in San Carlos Waters. The British Task Force eventually won the air-war by a whisper and managed to establish a beachhead at San Carlos. After the battle for the Falklands was over, Admiral John ‘Sandy’ Woodward, commander of the 1982 British taskforce admitted that the conflict was ‘a lot closer run than many would care to believe’. As a Royal Navy commander, Woodward was very conscious of the role that a jingoistic British media had played during the war in highlighting the successes of Britain’s Royal Marine Commandos, Parachute Regiment, Scots Guards and Ghurkhas – all elite units of the British Army - in the ground phase of the war. Gritty accounts written by some of the 29 journalists ‘embedded’ with the taskforce contemporaneously described the desperate infantry battles at Goose Green, Darwin, Mount Kent, Mount Longdon, Two Sisters, Mount Tumbledown and Port Stanley as heroic, classic old-style infantry engagements. These battles, whose names are etched permanently into the British Army’s collective martial psyche, are often portrayed as the decisive elements of Margaret Thatcher’s Falklands war. British victory in the Falklands however was essentially decided by a narrow air superiority enjoyed by the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force. It was also far from assured and the deployment of the taskforce – to a remote archipelago 8,000 miles from Britain – was at all times fraught and problematic.
Clonan, T., 2007: The Falklands War: Closer Fought Than Commonly Understood, Dublin: The Irish Times.