Desert Armour; Naval Battle of Crete 1941

Being there . . . . on 9 th July 1943, when Admiral Sir Andrew Cunningham sent this message to all
his ships, “We are about to embark on the most momentous enterprise of the War – striking for
the first time at the enemy in his own land”. Not Europe, but North Africa, on the very morning
which Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Field Marshal Sir Alan (Viscount Alanbrooke)
Brooke left Washington, after the 600 miles of the English Channel had been swept by the Royal
Navy allowing the first British convoy to pass through the Mediterranean since 1941 reached
Alexandria without loss. The attempt of the Italians and Germans to make that sea an AxiL lake
and break across the Nile Valley into Asia, so nearly successful, had cost Herr Hitler nearly a
million casualties, 8,000 aircraft, 2,500 guns, 70,000 trucks, and 2,400,000 tons of shipping. Its
defeat was as momentous as Stalingrad and achieved at a far lower cost. From Alamein and the
first “torch” landings in November, 1942, to the final surrender in May of ’43. The Allies had lost
little more than 2% of the ships they had sent into the Mediterranean and only 70,000 men,
including wounded. By it reopening they reduced the strength of the passage from Britain to
the Middle East from 13,000 to 3,000 miles, a saving of 45 days on the average time of every
convoy, thereby gaining the equivalent of at least a million tons of shipping. It was this, and the
sudden defeat of the German Navy’s U-boat campaign that aroused Hitler’s fears causing him
to shout and scream. The Atlantic, which he had described as his first line of defense in the
West, had ceased to be a defense line at all. As the threat from the West grew, the ring of sea-
power round Hitler’s Europe simultaneously tightened from the south. And with the whole
Mediterranean littoral exposed to attack thanks to Alexander’s victory in Tunisia allowing the
Royal Navy and the British and American air forces control of that sea, Allied insiders knew
Hitler’s defeat was inevitable, especially after Stalingrad. What happened after it all started on
that fateful July 9 th ? Be there to read why and how the tide of Nazism changed so suddenly in
North Africa and the southern seas of Crete . . . .
TO WIN THE DESERTS OF EGYPT, LIBYA, TUNISIA, AND MOROCCO BY DRIVING THE GERMAN
ARMIES AND THEIR PANZERS INTO THE MEDITTERANEAN, THE ALLIES, VIA OPERATION
“TORCH”, HAD TO CAPTURE OR KILL ROMMEL. AT TOBRUK, THE GENERAL SKEDADDLED TO
FIGHT AGAIN, MORE DANGEROUSLY THAN EVER. BUT, AT EL ALAMEIN, BRITISH TANKS AND
TANKMEN AT STOPPED HIM COLD. WHEN SUMMONED PEREMPTORILY BEFORE HITLER TO
EXPLAIN HIMSELF, THE FUHRER ACCUSED THE ONLY GENERAL CHURCHILL ADMIRED OF
DISLOYALTY, DIS OBEDIENCE, TREACHERY, AND COWADICE . . .
Reviewed and Highly Recommended by Don DeNevi
“DESERT ARMOUR – Tank Warfare in North Africa, From Beda Fomm to Operation Crusader,
1940 – 41”, by Robert Forczyk. OSPREY PUBLISHING, Bloomsbury Publishing Plc: 2023, 336
pages, 8” x 10”, hardcover; $45. Visit, www.ospreypublishing.com.

“NAVAL BATTLE OF CRETE 1941 – The Royal Navy at Breaking Point”, by Angus Konstam,
Illustrated by Adam Tooby. OSPREY PUBLISHING, Bloomsbury PUBLISHING Plc: 2023, 96 pages,
71/2” x 10”, softcover; $25. Visit, www.ospreypublishing.com.
Writes author Forczyk in “DESERT ARMOUR”, “Deserts tend to excite the imaginations of
armored tacticians who envision the wide-open spaces as perfect for swiftly manoeuvring large
mechanized forces. However, both Allied and Axis commanders found their pre-war
assumptions surrounding warfare challenged by the opening campaigns in the desert”.
Thus begins one of the best books on tank warfare in North Africa in WW II yet written. A
partly mechanized Italian army was destroyed in the first three months of the war. It was then
the Deutsches Afrika Korps entered the theatre with a battle-proven doctrine for conducting
combined arms warfare, tanks that were effective with well-trained leaders and crews, only to
find itself undone by a combination of Rommel’s unsuitability for independent command and
insufficient Axis theatre logistics. The British Army started the campaign with two different
concepts of how to use armor – either as fast, independent mechanized units capable of rapid
manoeuvre or as plodding tools on infantry support. Both concepts worked well against the
Italian Army, but then frequently misfired against the Afrika Korps.
In this book, Bob has examined all these forces and operations to provide a focused analytic
account of armored operations in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, and Morocco, placing the emphasis on
the tactical and operational-level perspectives of both Allied and Axis combatants.
In “NAVAL BATTLE OF CRETE 1941”, Angus Konstam chronicles how in April 1941, following
the Axis invasion of Greece, the British Mediterranean Fleet was ordered to evacuate Allied
survivors, many of whom were taken to Crete. The Luftwaffe established itself in airfields on
the Greek mainland, then formed plans to invade Crete by air and sea under the cover of 500
fighters and bombers of the Fliegerkorps VIII. Facing them were a small and scattered garrison
on the island, a handful of under-strength RAF squadrons and the hard-pressed warships of the
Mediterranean Fleet. What happened next was a costly, but ultimately inspiring, naval battle in
which Royal Navy crews were placed under intense strain.
World-leading maritime historian Angus Konstam uses period photographs, superb
battlescene artworks, detailed maps, and an authoritative narrative telling the enthralling story
of how Allied ships failed to repulse the Axis invasion convoys bound for Crete. He then covers
the successful evacuation of troops from the island, all the while under relentless Luftwaffe
attack. “Despite a heavy butcher’s bill of dozens of Royal Navy ships lost and damaged, and
hundreds of Luftwaffe aircraft destroyed, the Royal Navy Mediterranean Fleet would live to
fight another day”, Angus writes.