Document created: 1 March 06
Air & Space Power Journal - Spring 2006
Ordeal by Exocet: HMS Glamorgan and the Falklands War, 1982 by Ian Inskip. Chatham Publishing (http://www.chathampublishing.com/index.html), Park House, 1 Russell Gardens, London NW11 9NN, 2002, 320 pages, $14.95 (softcover).
Although the Falklands War has been eclipsed in the public eye by larger and more recent operations in the Balkans and Middle East, one can still learn lessons from it. This is immediately evident from a reading of Ian Inskip’s Ordeal by Exocet. On 12 June 1982, as she returned from a bombardment in support of the last major battle of the Falklands War, county-class destroyer HMS Glamorgan was struck by an Exocet missile launched from a mobile launcher near Stanley, capital of the Falkland Islands. Unlike the Sheffield and Atlantic Conveyor, sunk during the previous month by air-launched Exocets, Glamorgan remained afloat, making her the first ship in history to survive an Exocet hit. Ordeal by Exocet is her story.
Ian Inskip, then a lieutenant commander, is well qualified to tell that story. As the ship’s navigating officer, he was on the bridge not only for the missile attack but also during Glamorgan’s numerous shore bombardments and replenishments. Using his own detailed diary and those of four shipmates, along with verbal and written contributions from numerous other participants, he chronicles the previously untold story of Glamorgan’s role in the Falklands War.
Undoubtedly, one finds the highlight of the book in the two chapters dealing with the missile attack and subsequent damage-control efforts, discussed in terms of lessons learned from the sinking of the Sheffield and Atlantic Conveyor as well as the evolution of tactics to combat the Exocet threat. However, despite the book’s provocative title, it is not only, or even primarily, about the Exocet strike and the destroyer’s subsequent struggle for survival. Rather, it covers Glamorgan’s entire cruise, from the exercise in which she participated before the Argentine invasion to her return to Portsmouth following the war. Thus, Inskip affords the reader a day-by-day view of life aboard a Royal Navy ship at war, including the normal routine of sailors and operations such as replenishment at sea, escort duty, and naval gunfire support. In addition to military operations, he provides detailed insight into how families of the ship’s crew dealt with the deployment, a topic rarely mentioned in writings on the war, as well as extensive discussions of post-traumatic stress disorder—a condition mostly ignored by military historians (with the exception of Hugh McManners’ Falklands Commando), despite its effect on numerous Falklands veterans.
As a whole, Ordeal by Exocet is well written though somewhat uneven. Because it progresses chronologically, portions of the narrative dealing with relatively slow times such as the transit to Ascension Island are somewhat disconnected. On the other hand, the account of the Exocet attack is engaging and difficult to put down. Inskip includes enough background information to make the book as accessible to general readers as it is to serious students of the Falklands War—and each group would likely benefit from the perspective he offers. Overall, Ordeal by Exocet is a worthwhile and relevant contribution to students of both military history and the effects of war on society.
Robert S. Bolia
Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio
The conclusions and opinions expressed in this document are those of the author cultivated in the freedom of expression, academic environment of Air University. They do not reflect the official position of the U.S. Government, Department of Defense, the United States Air Force or the Air University.