The first of eight volumes in the 18-volume official British History of the Second World War covering the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern theatres. After setting the political and military scene the authors open the action with Italy’s declaration of war and France’s collapse in June 1940. Britain’s painful neutralisation of the French fleet at Oran and Alexandria is followed by the first blows against the Italian empire in East Africa and Italy’s attacks on Egypt and Greece. The Fleet Air Arm’s triumphant attack on the Italian Fleet at Taranto masterminded by Admiral Cunningham is trumped by General Wavell’s even more successful Battle of Sidi Barrani in December when vast numbers of Italians were captured for negligible British losses. The victory was followed up by Britain’s capture of Bardia and Tobruk and the founding of the Long Range Desert Group - the germ of the SAS. The mopping-up of Genertal Graziani’s forces in Cyrenaica however ominiously resulted in Germany’s decision to rescue their ally with General Rommel’s Afrika Korps. However the volume concludes optimistically with the successful campaign against Italy in Ethiopia in which General Orde Wingate’s irregular Gideon Force plays a prominent part. The military narrative is accompanied by descriptions of diplomatic developments and technological innovations such as the arrival of the Hurricane fighter plane the Matilda tank and radar. The text is accompanied by ten appendices 30 maps and diagrams and 43 photographs.
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