Book review – Four Weeks In May

Shortly after returning home, Captain David Hart Dyke committed his memories of Coventry’s war to a series of audio tapes and also wrote a series of articles for various naval publications. These formed the basis for his book, which he describes as “not a history book”. Despite that, it is a brilliant history of one ship’s contribution to the campaign to liberate the Falkland Islands and never falls into the trap that other similar works have of concentrating too much on either the overall conduct of the war or of the minutiae of day to day life onboard ship.

The story is begun with sufficient background about the Type 42 in general and the Coventry in particular to give those unfamiliar with the subject a good idea of the ship’s capabilities and her vital position within the Task Force. Building up to the start of the war with a mixture of anecdotes and observations, the book really does a superb job of giving a good idea what it must have been like to be onboard at such an uncertain time. Always readable, never bogged down in detail or repetitive, it is the sort of book that grabs you from the beginning and may well not let go until you reach the final page.

The book stands out for me in two ways; first of all the Captain manages to keep it centred on Coventry while filling in enough background about what is happening to other ships to ensure you are always aware what part Coventry is playing. Secondly, the account of the final fateful half hour of the ship’s life is obviously the result of a great deal of research which must have been painful. As the son of a crew member, I was familiar with Coventry only from a few visits as a child – I well remember running up and down corridors and occasionally getting lost deep inside the ship. I am humbled to read the accounts of the heroics of the crew that searched through that complex interior with smoke, fire, holes blasted by bombs and a rapidly increasing list turning it into an inferno that any sane man would want to get out of immediately.

There are a few small errors – the crew list and roll of honour both contain mistakes that will no doubt be corrected in the next edition, but they should not detract from an excellent work that is a fine tribute to the heroes of the day, and the crew members who remain forever on patrol Down South.

Four Weeks in May was published on 12th April 2007, and is currently available – click here to buy from Amazon UK.