Book Review – Across an Angry Sea: The SAS in the Falklands War

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Across an Angry Sea is an account of the role of Britain’s D Squadron, 22 Special Air Service Regiment during the 1982 Falklands War by its then Officer Commanding. 

D Squadron had a eventful war; taking part in the liberation of South Georgia, raiding the airfield at Pebble Island, covering the amphibious landings with a feint attack at Darwin/Goose Green, launching a coup de main on Mount Kent that allowed the seizure of key terrain and finally conducting an abortive raid on the Port Stanley on the closing night of the war. The squadron also took heavy casualties amongst the 20 members of D and G Squadrons lost at sea in a helicopter crash and one of its troop commanders killed during the compromise of an Observation Post on West Falkland. 

This book is a relatively rare account of a contemporary special forces campaign written by its commander. Delves is honest about his and the squadron’s failures during the campaign including where an aggressive approach almost resulted in disaster twice during the insertion of reconnaissance patrols in South Georgia. It is also of interest for the significant levels of mission command allowed to the squadron and its freewheeling interpretation of the very loose commander’s guidance it received. Its bias for action is revealed in the way Delves essentially talked the commanders of the South Georgia mission into taking the squadron which had not been formally force assigned. 

The book also reveals the risks Delves was willing to take as a commander, including with the co-option of one of the vital aircraft carriers to conduct the insertion of the Pebble Island Raid. It also shows his ability to balance the need for detailed reconnaissance and planning with the requirement to seize opportunities and act. Above all the book reveals the squadron’s focus on the psychological aspects of warfare, leveraging his small force for maximum effect. 

Delves writes with warmth and humanity displaying no malice and a great deal of sympathy towards his Argentine opponents. He readily evokes the hardships of operating in the South Atlantic which caused such problems for his operations and ultimately killed so many of his soldiers. His reflections on his soldiers and the other servicemen he fought alongside are also heartfelt, in particular in his abiding affection for some of the warships such as Antrim and Brilliant as well as the helicopter pilots of the Fleet Air Arm who enabled his operations.  

This book is highly recommended for those interested in the Falklands War, the conduct of special operations and operational leadership.     

About the author:  Daniel Hebditch is an engineer officer. He has masters degrees in Military History and Defence Studies.

Across an Angry Sea: The SAS in the Falklands War by LtGen Sir Cedric Delves, Hurst & Company, London, 2018. ISBN 9781787381124