You do get what’s on the rather stylish tin; it is a pacy and thrilling read, not short of the clichés that go with the territory. Airframes shudder and judder as streams of 30mm Aden cannon shells lance their way to their targets, missiles spear through the air and so forth. When it comes to the action, we’re placed right into both sides’ cockpits as Argentine pilots jink and dive, usually in vain, to avoid their aircraft being shredded by the Harriers’ Sidewinder missiles. Harrier 809, though, is a lot more than an airborne first-person shooter. Taken with his Vulcan 607, to which this book is essentially a sequel, Rowland White has written a fine popular history of the air war for the Falklands.
The historian in me would like to know how White accessed not just dialogue but also the thoughts of men under stress nearly 40 years ago. (‘You fool, he berated himself, as he flicked the Harrier into another hard turn to port.’) This is not a book that makes plain its source material: there are no footnotes or bibliography. Rather, it is a military adventure, written with expertise, for those who share these passions. It is a tale of initiative, skill and courage, of pushing beyond the rules. It is not about dull and petty politics.