This, the third of eight volumes in the 18-volume official British History of the Second World War, dealing with the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern theatres, describes the nadir of British fortunes in the region. Covering the year from September 1941 to September 1942, the book opens with the latest round in the ding-dong battle in North Africa with ‘Operation Crusader’, Britain’s bid to relieve the besieged port of Tobruk and chase Rommel from the western desert. The authors emphasise how Britain was hampered by obsolescent equpiment such as the Crusader tank. Despite this, British, Australian and South African forces relieved Tobruk and entered Benghazi on Christmas Day 1941 – only to evacuate it after Rommel’s swift recovery the following month. At sea, the Royal Navy suffered serious blows with the loss of ‘Ark Royal’ and ‘Barham’ and a daring Italian ‘human torpedo’ attack on British ships in Alexandria harbour. Axis air attacks on Malta and convoys supplying it reached their peak in April, and the island was awarded the George Cross for its gallant defence. Rommel counter-attacked in the desert in May, defeating the Eighth Army at Gazala, and on June 21st Tobruk was lost. But the Axis attempt to take Cairo was stalled at the battle of Alam el Halfa, and after General Auchinleck was replaced by General Montgomery, the Allies prepared to go back on the offensive. With 11 appendices, 40 maps and diagrams and 40 photographs.
We have taken the opportunity with our 2021 editions of the OFFICIAL HISTORY OF THE SECOND WORLD WAR – UNITED KINGDOM MILITARY series to redesign the covers and print on 140g silk paper.