ROLAND WHITE reviews the weekend’s TV: Wars often don’t go according to plan… sound familiar, Mr Putin?
Falklands War: The Untold Story
Edward VIII: Britain’s Traitor King
Somebody should have arranged a preview screening of Falklands War: The Untold Story (C4) for President Putin last month.
It would have been a timely lesson that wars rarely go to plan. The 1982 battle for the Falkland Islands was no exception.
A parade of grey-haired, steely-eyed men revealed just how close the margin between victory and humiliating defeat was.
A delay of just ten minutes in setting up Argentine defences meant the British were able to capture a vital hilltop overlooking Port Stanley, the capital.
It would have been a timely lesson that wars rarely go to plan. The 1982 battle for the Falkland Islands was no exception
It was like watching a court martial. According to this account of the conflict, the command chain was ‘dysfunctional’.
There was a shortage of equipment. Soldiers were stretching 24-hour ration packs over three days and drinking from puddles. One Scots Guards colonel complained: ‘The only real intelligence we got was off the BBC World Service.’
The SAS were invited along belatedly, and 22 SAS commander Lt Col Michael Rose (now General Sir Michael) claimed the only orders he received were: ‘Please do the best you can.’
He was able to organise transport for his men because a helicopter commander had been to the same school. And he only won approval for a mission to destroy enemy aircraft on a small island by pretending there was also a radar station there.
After the mission, senior officers were keen to learn the fate of the radar station. ‘What radar station?’ said Lt Col Rose, possibly with a mischievous grin.
This account, which also featured interviews with Argentinian soldiers, gave a real feeling of what planning a battle is all about — and what it’s like at the sharp end.
It was impossible to watch troops being rescued from the burning RFA Sir Galahad — one man on a stretcher seemed to be missing his lower leg — without a lump in the throat.
Let’s now switch to an earlier war. One of the many downsides of being dead is that people can say what they like about you.
Over the years it has been claimed that Edward VIII was rubbish in bed, that his wife Wallis Simpson was a hermaphrodite, and — with somewhat more solid evidence — that he was a Nazi sympathiser.
Edward VIII: Britain’s Traitor King (C4) suggested that his Nazi links were so close, he was lucky not to be executed for treason.
There was shocking evidence that in July 1940 he suggested to a Nazi agent in Portugal that ‘severe bombing would make England ready for peace’. Severe bombing duly took place.
He was also accused of carelessly passing on intelligence about French defences to the Germans when he was the Army’s liaison officer in Paris.
Yet I couldn’t help thinking that naive, vain, weak-willed Edward was pushed into the arms of the Germans by his family and the British government. Hitler lavished attention on Edward. King George wouldn’t even take his brother’s phone calls.
The star of the show was a magnificent lady called Sara Morrison, a plain-speaking family friend. Fed up one day that Edward started every sentence with ‘When I was King’, she retorted: ‘You crammed in an awful lot, considering you were only King for ten minutes.’ He sulked for the rest of the morning.
If only more of his friends had treated him like this, perhaps history and Channel 4 might have been a little kinder.
Bad timing: Eamonn Holmes and Ruth Langsford visited Dubai in How The Other Half Lives (C5). TV has been fascinated with the wealthy since the days of Alan Whicker, but do they need the publicity? Life in the spotlight is now very uncomfortable. Just ask any Russian oligarch.