BBC Radio 4, 5 June 2012
In trhis dramatic recreation of a major campaign during the Falklands
War of 1982, Jolyon Jenkins' production told the story of a bombing campaign, carried out by ageing Vulcan bombers that flew
8,000 miles on a round trip from Ascension Island to the South Atlantic, with the express purpose of bombing the runway at
The campaign was a hazardous one: not only were the raids difficult to accomplish,
but the task of refuelling the Vulcan planes in mid-flight was equally fraught with danger. It required considerable pluck
on the pilots' part to negotiate the operation without fearing for their lives.
However the play took time out to question the validity of the entire mission: was
it entirely necessary, or did it simply provide a pretext for the RAF to glorify itself in a conflict increasingly dominated
by the Army and the Navy.
While appreciating the sincerity of Glendinning's purpose, my reaction was perhaps
not what one might expect. As I listened to the cast delivering their lives, my memory went back to other great docu-dramas
of the 1950s - for example The Cruel Sea, Charles Frend's epic film of the Nicholas Monsarrat novel from 1953. The
dialogue between Glendinning's characters bore strong resemblances to the film: I kept wondering whether Jack Hawkins would
rise from the grave to offer reassurance to the worried pilots.
Broadcast on the final day of the Queen's 60th birthday celebrations, Operation
Black Buck was a worthy effort, but perhaps rather old-fashioned in approach.