REVIEW: A Falklands Family at War – Diaries of the 1982 Conflict (2021)

A book by by Neville and Valerie Bennett, edited by Rachel Simons

The Falklands War is something I should know more about, but sadly am pretty ignorant on aside from the absolute basics. I was born in 1982, and am in the United States, so I don’t have the cultural memories of the conflict in any way shape or form. However, watching as much UK-based media as I do, the topic routinely comes up, so being more well-informed is always a nice thing. For those on my page that are unaware, the short version of the events are: Argentina was ruled by a military dictatorship from 1981-2. During this time, patriotism was whipped up to such a degree that the long-disputed territorial claims for islands around Argentina became fair game for pollical gain. After diplomacy failed, Argentina invaded the Falklands and a few other small islands and set up ten weeks of harsh military rule on the islanders, many of which had ancestors migrate to the islands 100 years prior. After enduring months of naval and land defeats against Britain’s far more well-equipped armed forces, Argentina surrendered to Great Britain, ending the Falklands War.

“Many military accounts of the British side of the Falklands War have been published as well as memoirs written by servicemen who took part, so this aspect of the story of the Argentine occupation and the British liberation of this remote territory in the South Atlantic is well known. But little attention has been paid to the Falkland islanders who had direct personal experience of this extraordinary crisis in their history. That is why the previously unpublished diaries of Neville Bennett and his wife Valerie, a fireman and a nurse who lived with their two daughters in Port Stanley throughout the war, is such vivid and revealing reading.

As chief fireman Neville was frequently called out to deal with fires and other incidents during the occupation, and each day he recorded what happened and what he thought about it in his sharp and forthright way. Valerie saw a different side of the occupation through her work at the Stanley hospital where she had to handle the Argentines as well as daily accidents and emergencies.

Their joint record of the exceptional circumstances in the Falklands in April, May and June 1982 gives us a fascinating inside view of family life during the occupation and of their relations with the Argentine soldiers and commanders. It is engrossing reading.”

This book is a series of diary entries that the editor, Rachel Simmons, put together from diaries her parents had kept during the war. At the time she was a very young girl and has limited recollection of most of the events. Her parents did a great job of keeping the children safe while a full-on warzone was going on outside. Valerie, the mother, was a nurse in the local hospital, and Neville, her father, was a fireman. The entries alternate between harrowing accounts of being dragged through the street with armed guards, to mundane weather reports and the like. It goes to show that Neville and Valerie tried their best to just live their life as if they wouldn’t be shot at any minute for disparaging the nations flag, or saying bad things about the Junta leadership.

Overall, this was a very interesting book. Generally one reads war accounts from the POV of a military officer separated from the actual combat and situation on the ground. Even so, we rarely get an account from the normal everyday people enduring the hardships of something like a military occupation. I think Holocaust memoirs may be the only exception. I may have to get a book related to some of the battles in this war, as the history seems very interesting for something most seem to have completely forgotten about. Over here, we had the Invasion of Grenada, another war that I never hear anyone discuss – maybe that will be another topic to look into. Pen and Sword once again delivers an interesting history book on a topic you don’t see too often – great work as always!

NOTE: I received a free preliminary, and likely unedited copy of this book from Netgalley for the purposes of providing an honest, unbiased review of the material. Thank you to all involved.

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