Have you been in a war at sea? Very few in our Navy of today have, including me. By reading about combat at sea from those who have experienced it, we can harden ourselves for combat in the maritime environment.
Capt. David Hart Dyke was commanding officer of the HMS Coventry, a Type 42 destroyer, which played a critical role during the 1982 Falkland Islands War against a bold and capable Argentinian military. Four Weeks in May is an enthralling recount of the events and emotions experienced by Coventry’s captain and crew.
The book follows them from the time they first learned of the invasion of the United Kingdom-owned Falkland Islands by Argentina, to their preparations for entering the unanticipated war, and then to actual combat operations. HMS Coventry proved her grit in repelling and enduring many fast and furious air raids by enemy forces, but on May 25, 1982, she succumbed to a tenacious attack by two Argentinian tactical aircraft and was sunk after sustaining extensive battle damage.
Dyke’s frank talk about the strain of being in a combat zone for prolonged periods of time had a powerful impact on me. He freely shares his thoughts on the struggles of a ship captain juggling how best to meet the missions assigned to Coventry, missing his family back home, and his concerns for the well-being of his sailors.
He identifies poignant aspects of leadership that are applicable to modern-day warfare at sea such as the importance of putting on a confident face for the crew when confronted by uncertainty; being prepared for the varying ways people will react when in high-stress combat; and insight into the emotional rollercoaster crewmembers go through when they witnessed other units in the Task Force took battle damage, sank, and watched their fellow shipmates too die.
Four Weeks in May presents to the reader real world challenges faced by the Royal Navy during the war in 1982 that are quite relevant to our Navy today.