1982. The Falklands are invaded by Argentina. 8,000 miles away from Britain, and at least 4,000 miles away from the nearest friendly base, and in the middle of massive defence cuts, the Armed Forces struggle to find a way to quickly hit back at the invaders.
Enter the iconic Vulcan Bomber. Designed in the 1950’s with a radical and futuristic Delta wing design, the huge jet carried the UK’s nuclear deterrent for decades. So important was this role, that the crews never even practised conventional bombing. Their air-to-air refuelling fittings had been disabled years before and the filler was hurriedly chipped away. When the ground crew couldn’t find a vital fitting, it was later found in the Squadron base being used as an ashtray.
Within a month, four crews had trained and prepared to launch the most remarkable British air operation since WW2, and until 2003 the longest bombing raid in History. And not only was it a story of bombing: 14 huge Victor tankers were required to carry enough fuel for ONE Vulcan bomber to reach the Falklands from Ascension Island. And succesfully drop a stick of 1,000lb bombs on Stanley Airport, cratering the runway and preventing the Argentinans from launching fast, high performance jets from the Islands. Not only that, but the Argentinians feared a raid upon mainland Argentina itself, keeping many jets back to defend their homeland.
Rowland White’s epic story weaves together the key strands of the operation, Black Buck, and the people. Far too often the operation overshadows the people, or we only get to hear about the crew themselves. But as White shows here, when it comes to ingenuity and backs-against-the-wall heroism and true grit, the RAF has got it in spades. And behind the one bomber reaching the Falklands, there was a veritable army of tanker crews, ground crew, families and senior officers.
White’s excellent book does this heroic feat more than justice, in a writing style very reminiscent of Cornelius Ryan. This book deserves to become an aviation classic alongside Reach for the Sky and Memphis Belle.