Captain F.C. Flynn, R.N.
Brigadier C.J.C. Molony
Air Vice-Marshal S.E. Toomer
C.B., C.B.E., D.F.C.
The authors of the Military Histories have been given full access to official documents.
They and the editor are alone responsible for the statements made and the views expressed.
Page Introduction xiii CHAPTER I. THE PLAN FOR HOLDING THE DESERT FLANK
The forces for the defence of Cyrenaica 1 The role of the 2nd Armoured Division 6 Evidence of increasing Axis forces 9 The formation of the Deutsches Afrika Korps 12 The Germans occupy El Agheila 15 CHAPTER II. THE LOSS OF CYRENAICA
The German advance begins 19 Reasons for the British reverse 24 General Rommel seizes his opportunity 25 The withdrawal from the Jebel 28 The part played by the air forces 30 Measures to safeguard Egypt 33 The first attempts to capture Tobruk 35 The work of the Inshore Squadron 39 Misgivings of the enemy's High Command 40 CHAPTER III. MALTA UNDER ATTACK
The place of Malta in Middle East strategy 43
The defence of Malta 44
The use of Malta for attacking enemy shipping 52
CHAPTER IV. MATAPAN AND THE START OF THE GREEK CAMPAIGN
The action off Cape Matapan 61 Attempts to concert plans with Yugoslavia and Turkey 70 The Yugoslav coup d'état 72 The Italian Offensive in Albania 75 Implications of holding the Aliakmon position 76 CHAPTER V. THE CAMPAIGN IN GREECE
Summary of the campaign 83 The withdrawal to the Olympus-Servia position 85 The withdrawal to Thermopylae 90 The decision to evacuate the British forces 93 The emabarkation 96 CHAPTER VI. THE BOMBARDMENT OF TRIPOLI
AND THE PASSAGE OF THE 'TIGER' CONVOY
The plan to attack Tripoli 107 The bombardment 110 The results 112 The passage of the 'TIGER' convoy 114 CHAPTER VII. THE LOSS OF CRETE
The British attitude to Crete 121 The German preparations 128 The loss of Maleme airfield 131 The Navy prevents the sea-borne landings 135 Further fighting and the decision to evacuate 140 The embarkation 142 Some aspects of the Greek expedition 148 The position of Dominion Forces in the Middle East 150 CHAPTER VIII. THE DESERT FIGHTING IN MAY AND JUNE 1941
Visit of General Paulus and the failure of the attack on Tobruk 153 The work of the Inshore Squadron 157 The British probing attack ('BREVITY') 159 Preparation for a British offensive ('BATTLEAXE') 163 Failure of 'BATTLEAXE' 172 CHAPTER IX. THE REVOLT IN IRAQ
Rashid Ali seizes power 177 The siege of Habbaniya 181 Command in Iraq reverts to the Middle East 184 'Kingcol' crosses the desert 186 The capture of Falluja 188 The advance on Baghdad 191 Axis hekp to Iraq 193 CHAPTER X. THE CAMPAIGN IN SYRIA
Fear of German control in Syria 199 Preparations and plans for the invasion 203 The campaign 205 The end of hostilities 221 CHAPTER XI. THE CONTINUED REINFORCEMENT OF THE MIDDLE EAST
The problem of the Army's rearward services 223 The growth of the base 226 Methods of reinforcing the Royal Air Force 229 The beginnings of American aid 231 CHAPTER XII. CHANGES IN THE ORGANIZATION AND HIGH COMMAND
Air Chief Marshal Longmore's recall and the problem
of aircraft maintenance
235 The experiment with an Intendant-General 237 The creation of a Minster of State 239 General Wavell leaves the Middle East 243 CHAPTER XIII. THE CONSEQUENCES OF THE GERMAN ATTACK ON RUSSIA
The threat from the north 247 Preventive action in Persia 252 Conflicting views on an offensive in the Western Desert 253 The problem of the enemy's High Command 256 German plans after the conquest of Russia 260 German reinforcements 262 CHAPTER XIV. THE STRUGGLE FOR SEA COMMUNICATIONS (July-October 1941)
The position at sea after the fall of Crete 265 Reinforcements and supplies for Malta 266 The Italian E-boat attack on Malta 270 Further operations to supply Malta 272 The attack on the enemy's sea communications 278 CHAPTER XV. THE GROWTH OF THE MIDDLE EAST AIR FORCE (June-October 1941)
The need for expanding the air force 285 The implications of the projected expansion 288 Army co-operation 294 Air operations from mid-June to mid-October 1941 296 CHAPTER XVI. THE FINAL CAMPAIGN IN EAST AFRICA
The situation after Amba Alagi 303 The operations in Galla-Sidamo 304 The capture of Gondar 311 The problem of French Somaliland 322 CONCLUSION 324 CHRONOLOGY OF MAIN EVENTS FROM MARCH TO NOVEMBER 1941 326 INDEX 373
Page APPENDIX 1. Text of the Armistice with Iraq, 31st May, 1941 332 APPENDIX 2. Hitler's Directive No.30, dated 23rd May 1941 333 APPENDIX 3. Agreement for the cessation of hostilities in
Syria and The Lebanon
335 APPENDIX 4. Strength of the opposing Fleets during 1941 338 APPENDIX 5. A note on tanks, armour,and anti-tank guns 341 APPENDIX 6. Some particulars of British and enemy aircraft 347 APPENDIX 7. Arrivals of reinforcement aircraft, January to October 1941 361 APPENDIX 8. Principal Commanders and Staff Officers in the
Mediterranean and Middle East
364 APPENDIX 9. Principal Italian and German Commanders and Staff Officers 369 APPENDIX 10. Operational Code Names 371
MAPS AND DIAGRAMS
1. The Mediterranean and Middle East theatre of war Frontispiece Page 2. Cyrenaica in March 1941 1 3. Central and Eastern Mediterranean 9 4. Lines of advance of General Rommel's columns, April 1941 25 5. Malta, showing airfields in spring 1941 43 6. Fleet movements leading to the Battle of Cape Matapan 61 7. Battle of Cape Matapan: the night action 66 8. Greece and the Balkans 69 9. Northern Greece 83 10. Southern Greece and Crete 95 11. Maleme-Galatas area: situation on morning of 20th May 131 12. Positions of British warships sunk during the campaign in Crete 139 13. The route to Sphakia 145 14. Tobruk perimeter, April-June 1941 154 15. Bardia-Sollum area 161 16. Diagram of operation 'BATTLEAXE', 15th-17th June 1941 163 17. Syria and Iraq, mid-1941 177 18. Lake Habbaniya and the Ramadi-Falluja road 180 19. Falluja-Baghdad road 190 20. South-Western Syria, mid-1941 203 21. The crossing of the river Damour 218 22. Routes to the Egyptian Base Area, June 1941 223 23. Turkey and surrounding countries, mid-1941 247 24. Central and Western Mediterranean 265 25. Radius of action of aircraft from Malta in relation to the Axis shipping routes: summer and autumn 1941 279 26. Ethiopia, April 1941 303 27. Galla-Sidamo, April 1941 305 28. The Gondar sector 311 29. The capture of Gondar, 27th November 1941 319
Most of the photographs are Crown Copyright and are reproduced by courtesy of the Imperial War Museum and the Ministries concerned. No. 4 is from the painting by Rowland Langmaid. For permission to reproduce Nos. 6, 14 and 29 the authors are grateful to the Australian War Memorial, Canberra; for Nos. 9 and 17 to the New Zealand War History Branch, Wellington; and for No. 12 to the 'Topical' Press Agency, Ltd.
1. Vice-Admiral Sir James Somerville following page 64 2. H.M.S. Renown and Ark Royal following page 64 3. The Bolzano attacked by Fleet Air Arm Swordfish, 28th March 1941 following page 64 4. The battle of Cape Matapan, 28th March 1941 following page 64 5. British troops disembarking at Piraeus following page 88 6. Piraeus on the morning of 7th April 1941 following page 88 7. A rough landing ground in Greece following page 88 8. Greek transport on the move following page 88 9. The coast of Platamon following page 88 10. The Vale of Tempe following page 88 11. Thermopylae, from a captured German photograph following page 88 12. The Corinth Canal following page 88 13. Crete: ships on fire in Suda Bay following page 136 14. German parachute troops landing near Suda Bay following page 136 15. Maleme airfield, showing wrecked German aircraft following page 136 16. Admiral Cunningham, General Freyberg, and Vice-Admiral Pridham-Wippell following page 136 17. Crete: Askifou Plain from the north following page 136 18. Crete: Sphakia, where most of the British troops were taken off following page 136 19. Mast-head attack by the R.A.F. against shipping in Tripoli harbour following page 136 20. Malta, showing Hal Far airfield following page 136 21. The bombing of Rutba Fort following page 188 22. Habbaniya airfield and the plateau on which the Iraqi troops deployed following page 188 23. Men of the Arab Legion and the debris of an Iraqi transport column following page 188 24. Floods along the banks of the Euphrates following page 188 25. Falluja and the bridge over the Euphrates following page 188 26. The grounds of the British Embassy, Baghdad following page 188 27. Warships off the Syrian coast following page 188 28. R.A.F. Tomahawks in formation over the Lebanon following page 188 29. Syria: a rocky slope near Jezzine following page 208 30. Australians bridging the Litani near Merjayun following page 208 31. Air Chief Marshal Longmore, General Wavell, General de Gaulle, and General Catroux following page 208 32. Palmyra following page 208 33. Colonel Collet's Circassian Cavalry at Damascus following page 208 34. A scene on the river Litani (the old Leontes) following page 208 35. Shell-fire during the Australian advance on Beirut following page 208 36. Broken bridge at the mouth of the river Damour following page 208 37. On board H.M.S. Manchester, just after she had been struck by a torpedo following page 308 38. Malta: the Grand Harbour from seaward, showing the scene of the Italian attack of 26th July 1941 following page 308 39. Ethiopia: bad going in the Lakes district following page 308 40. View on the road near Debra Tabor following page 308 41. View across the valley of the river Omo following page 308 42. Patriots crossing the Omo following page 308 43. Fantastic road up the Wolchefit barrier following page 308 44. Gondar: view at the foot of the Lower Daflecha following page 308
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