Perspectives on the Falklands War from Joint Headquarters, Northwood
By Wing Commander Peter Desmond, RAF
I was involved in the Falklands War from a safe distance. I was an RAF exchange officer on the staff of the Maritime Tactical School (MTS) at HMS Dryad and we moved lock stock and barrel to Joint Headquarters (JHQ) at Northwood to act as contingency planners. We covered most aspects of military operations and we had contacts who could fill in the gaps.
The losses of Coventry, Sheffield, Sir Galahad and the frigates in San Carlos Water were deeply felt because their Captains and senior officers had just completed the recent 6 week MTS course and were well known to us as friends as well as colleagues. I knew many of the aviators, including a very good friend Lt Cdr Gordie Batt who was killed flying a Harrier with a full bomb load at night. He was drafted from the Harrier familiarisation course at Yeovilton when the conflict started, and the course didn’t include flying off a heaving flight deck, with a full load, at night. This was his undoing.
We all learned a lot from Admiral Fieldhouse who maintained his calm exterior, buoying up the morale of his staff when we took the succession of blows, admittedly at a distance. I learned a lot about leadership in those few weeks.
I made a point of going down to the Round Tower to welcome home every victorious ship coming in to Portsmouth. I had to. My respect for the Royal Navy knows no bounds.
Editor: Peter Desmond lived with his wife, Shirley, in Rowlands Castle for thirty-six years, from 1980 until 2016. During this time, he was Member and Chairman of the Parish Council for seven years. He and his wife recently moved just east of Chichester, to be nearer their family.