He lists his recreations as shooting and fishing (WW)
Having grown up steeped in military romance, Hastings joined Charterhouse’s cadet force, thoroughly enjoying training exercises. (GTWp1-6) He was, however, troubled by his conviction that he was a coward. (GTW p7). In 1963, shortly before leaving Charterhouse, a number of cadets, including Hastings, were invited by the Parachute Regiment to take the basic training and parachuting course, with a possibility of joining 10 Para, a Territorial Army battalion. (GTW p7) Hastings attended and passed the course at No 1 Parachute Training School, Abingdon, receiving the red beret and winged arm badge of a trained parachutist.(p9-14)
Hastings became an officer cadet with 10 Para, training on weekends and evenings while working full time as a researcher at the BBC, a job his father had found for him. (p15) Hastings took a few days out to take, and pass, the entrance exam to read history at University College, Oxford the next year. (p16) He also began contributing to a London newspaper, the Evening Standard.(p28)
In October 1963, while still working for the BBC, Hastings was invited to join 3 Para on attachment, for an exercise in Cyprus. (p17) Hastings found this exercise in November extremely tough; details of his conduct, including an incident where he procured extra water for himself because of the heat, were reported to his commanding officer. On his return to the UK, he was asked to resign as an officer-cadet. (p23-25)
Hastings left Oxford after his first year to join Evening Standard as a full-time journalist. In 1967 he travelled to the USA to study as a fellow of the World Press Institute. He stayed in the United States to cover a number of stories for the Evening Standard, including the rioting in Memphis on the day of Martin Luther King’s death. (p28-29). On his return to the UK in the autumn of 1968 he wrote a book on the US;(p31) he would later come to view it as callow.(Editor, p 23).
Hastings spent much of the rest of 1968, and 1969, covering The Troubles in Northern Ireland. On 14 August 1969 , he was in Belfast when sectarian rioting erupted. He was present when a RUC armoured car opened fire at Divis Tower, fatally wounding a nine-year old boy. Hastings went into the tower block and helped bring the boy to an ambulance behind RUC lines. Hastings’ dispatch on the night’s event was the front-page report for the Evening Standard on 15 August. (p32-47)
Hastings covered the closing stages of the civil war between Nigeria and the secessionist Republic of Biafra in 1970. Together with John Clare of The Times, Hastings successfully reached Biafra, by first hiring a taxi from Lagos , and then arranging access with Nigerian Army units on the banks of the Niger. They were the first journalists to report how close Biafra was to defeat. By stopping in Benin, Hastings was able to print his report earlier than Clare, gaining an Evening Standard front page labelled as the “first eyewitness story”. (p55-65)
In May 1970, 24 Hours, a BBC TV current affairs programme, invited Hastings to present a series of programmes in Indo-China. With the Standard’s permission from the Evening Standard, he flew out to cover the South Vietnamese and US incursion in Cambodia. He did his first piece to camera while taking cover from an ongoing firefight.(p69-89)
After a second temporary assignment with 24 Hours, Hastings left the Evening Standard for a full-time television post, although he would continue to post occasional reports for the paper. He covered Indo-China for Midweek, the successor to 24 Hours, in the spring of 1971,(p96-115) followed by covering the India-Pakistan war in December. (p116) He married his first wife, Patricia Mary Edmonson, in 1972. After further work for Midweek, he returned to the Evening Standard in the summer of 1973.
The Yom Kippur War began on 6 December 1973, and Hastings flew in as the Standard’s correspondent two days later, first interviewing Israeli soldiers in the Golan Heights.(p131-139). On 10 October, he joined Richard Johns of the Financial Times, and together they drove to the fighting in the Sinai. In the confusion, they were only prevented from driving past the Israeli forward line by some nearby soldiers. (P141-146) On a second trip to the Sinai, Hastings interviewed an Israeli captain, who claimed that Israeli prisoners had been found bound, mutilated, and shot in Syrian forward positions. His report on this after the conflict produced a flurry of controversy, with the Syrian authorities denying the claims, and the Israeli government producing documentary evidence.(p147-148).
As the war developed, Hastings reported his analysis that the Israeli military were attempting an ambitious exploitation of their attacks across the Suez Canal, several days before the extent of their manoeuvre was widely known. (p157)
By 21 October the final remaining prize for reporters was to view the Israeli bridgehead over the Suez canal. Not invited with the official party, Hastings and Johns circumvented them and successfully drove to the bridgehead through a military-controlled area, crossing over to Egypt on foot before returning to file the first reports from Israeli-occupied Egypt.(p158-162) After the conclusion of the war, Hastings wrote an opinion piece for the Evening Standard, praising Israel’s conduct. He was denounced as “a blatant propagandist for the Israelis”, inciting further coverage and controversy. (p165-169)
Hastings travelled to Rhodesia on 24 July 1973, hoping to cover the Zanu guerrilla offensive against the white-controlled Rhodesian government. As conventional journalists were being denied access to the Zambesi valley, he used a fictitious cover that stated he was writing on sports for The Field, a British paper on rural pursuits. He was able to travel freely, and uncovered the extent of Rhodesian military incursions across the Mozambiquan border.(p170-179)
Hasting’s coverage of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in August 1974 left him with serious qualms about his future in conflict reporting. He was held at gunpoint by Turkish soldiers who showed little respect for his Turkish accreditation papers, and gave every indication that they were considering executing him, along with an ITN news crew. They eventually decided to hand their captives over to their superiors, who quickly disavowed their subordinates’ actions. (p190-194)
Hasting’s final work from Indochina saw him covering the battle for Ben Cat, followed by leaving Da Nang on the last scheduled plane before its capture. (197-207). The day before the fall of Saigon, Hastings joined the last-ditch helicopter evacuation from the American embassy, while many other journalists remained.(209-227)
Although Hastings did further foreign journalism, including a 1976 interview with President Savimbi of UNITA, then in conflict with the MPLA in Angola, he was looking for a change. His biography of Montrose led to a deal to write a World War 2 history book, Bomber Command.(p252) A few weeks later, in January 1977, he was offered another commission; a life of Colonel Yoni Netanyahu, commander and sole casualty of the Israeli force that had stormed Air France flight 139 in Entebbe six months earlier.(p251) With two books to write, he uprooted his family to County Kilkenny, Ireland in March 1977.(252) After extensive interviews with Yoni Netanyahu’s family members, friends, and colleagues, he delivered a manuscript portraying Netanyahu as a tragic figure. Both the Netanyahu family and the Israeli government refused to sanction it. With Bomber Command not yet complete, and little other income, Hastings gave in to considerable pressure and agreed a deal where, in 1979, a bowdlerised version was published as Yoni: Hero of Entebbe. (p253-267).
Hastings continued to take journalistic assignments; in the summer of 1977, he made a further visit to Rhodesia. His second stay, in 1976, had covered the increasing success of Zanu guerrillas.(p179) This, his third visit, was brief; shortly after arrival, he was summarily deported.(185-186)
The publication of Bomber Command shortly after Yoni was a critical and commercial success, winning the Somerset Maugham Prize. Hastings returned to Northamptonshire from Ireland, and until 1982 worked primarily as an author, publishing two more World War 2 histories; he also wrote a column for the Daily Express(WW)
In April 1982, as the early events of the Falklands War unfolded, Hastings decided to postpone his current book in favour of covering the conflict. The Evening Standard agreed to appoint him their correspondent, and he sailed with 3 Commando Brigade on Canberra.(p271-274) Few experienced war correspondents had sailed with the task force, expecting to be able to join later. When no further journalists were permitted, Hastings found he had few experienced competitors, while his military connections were helped him build relationships with the commanders of several units.(p282-288)
Having already interviewed Michael Rose, commanding officer of 22 SAS,(p317) Hastings was able to persuade Rose to allow him join the SAS as they supported 42 Commando’s attack on Mount Kent.(p326) This entailed leaving 40 Commando, and several journalists attached to 42 Commando attacked Hastings for breaking with media arrangements.(p328) Hastings joined D Squadron SAS close to the summit of Mount Kent for an uncomfortable night in the field, before ascending to the now-secure summit on the morning of 31 May. He was able to file his story using an SAS satellite phone, which led to rumours that he had been granted special access beyond other journalists. (p329-334)
Hastings was assigned by the taskforce to cover 45 Commando at Teal Inlet on 3 June. (p337-341) A week later, he rejoined 10 Commando in the first phase of their attack on the hills around Port Stanley, the capital of the Falklands and the final position of the main Argentine force.(p352) (perhaps reword with a little campaign background?) The following day he covered the successful night attack on Mount Harriet by 42 Commando.(p355-361) Having returned to San Carlos Bay to file a story on 12 June, he then covered the attack on Wireless Ridge by 2 Para. (p365-370)
As Argentine forces retreated on 14 June, Hastings caught a lift in a Scimitar armoured car to join A company of 2 Commando (commander Dair Farrar-Hockley – check right unit) as they moved into the outskirts of Port Stanley. The unit was ordered to halt, and then received word that Argentine forces had agreed to surrender. After only moving a short way further into Port Stanley, British forces were ordered to halt while the organisation of the surrender was negotiated.(371-375) Removing as much military apparel as possible, Hastings set off into Port Stanley ahead of the military. As he approached Government House in the centre of Port Stanley, he met first a group of Argentine soldiers, and then a group of Falklands civilians. He interviewed an Argentine colonel, who believed a full surrender was imminent. He then entered the Port Stanley hostelry, The Upland Goose, and had a whiskey while speaking with the locals. He returned to British lines, and then travelled to the tanker Olna, in San Carlos Bay, carrying his dispatch along with those of several other journalists. After waiting through a communications blackout while the Argentine surrender was announced in the House of Commons, he was able to transmit his report. It formed the Evening Standard’s front page, under the line “The First Man into Stanley”. (p375-379)
Because of the system of pooling all reporters’ copy and making it available to all titles, Hasting’s reports had received considerable space in most titles. As this became apparent, some reporters claimed he had conspired with his military connections to suppress their reports. One tabloid journalist printed the accusation, while another, in the Upland Goose, charged Hastings with a bayonet, only to be led away. Mike Nicholson, of ITN, described the charges as absurd, saying Hastings’ success was a result of limited competition, hard work, single-mindedness, and legitimate use of his connections. (p381-383)
After covering the Argentinean surrender on Pebble Island, Hastings returned to the UK. (p380-383) Along with other members of the press corps, Hastings received the South Atlantic Medal, a campaign medal. (p386)
His father died 4 months after the Falklands. (p383)
Highly critical of civilian MOD press “minders” throughout campaign.(p345-346)
Hastings returned to writing military histories, including co-authoring an account of the Falklands conflict with Simon Jenkins. He also presented several TV documentaries, and in 1985 he was recruited as a part-time contributor to the Sunday Times. (WW)