The extraordinary drama of Malta's WWII victory against impossible odds told through the eyes of the people who were there.
In March and April 1942, more explosives were dropped on the tiny Mediterranean island of Malta - smaller than the Isle of Wight - than on the whole of Britain during the first year of the Blitz. Malta had become one of the most strategically important places in the world. From there, the Allies could attack Axis supply lines to North Africa; without it, Rommel would be able to march unchecked into Egypt, Suez and the Middle East. For the Allies this would have been catastrophic. As Churchill said, Malta had to be held 'at all costs'.
FORTRESS MALTA follows the story through the eyes of those who were there: young men such as twenty-year-old fighter pilot Raoul Daddo-Langlois, anti-aircraft gunner Ken Griffiths, American Art Roscoe and submariner Tubby Crawford - who served on the most successful Allied submarine of the Second World War; cabaret dancer-turned RAF plotter Christina Ratcliffe, and her lover, the brilliant and irrepressible reconnaissance pilot, Adrian Warburton. Their stories and others provide extraordinary first-hand accounts of heroism, resilience, love, and loss, highlighting one of the most remarkable stories of World War II.
From British journalist Holland comes this superbly engaging history of Malta, the island that was bombed more heavily than any other territory during World War II. Lying in a strategic position between Sicily and Africa, Malta oversaw the shipping routes that supplied the Axis campaign in North Africa, routes that the British were determined to control. Thus, they insisted on holding the island as a base, despite a prolonged aerial bombardment that nearly destroyed the garrison and subjected the island's population to famine. Dismissing the controversy over whether Malta and the Eastern Mediterranean were really worth holding on to during the war, Holland focuses on the people who lived and fought on the island. Drawing on dairies, letters and interviews, he reconstructs the stories of RAF pilot Alex Mackie, who was killed in his Hurricane over Malta, and the legendary photo-recon pilot Adrian Warburton, among many others. The sea and air battles around the island are also vividly depicted, but the real value of this book lies in its rare, intimate description of the Maltese perspective on the siege. Turning the last page, one understands why the island of Malta was collectively awarded the George Cross, the highest British civilian award for heroism.
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My dad was on the Ledbury, one of the 2 ships that towed the Ohio during 'the convoy that saved Malta' so this was an indispensable read to me. Absorbing and really nicely written using personal stories of heroic individuals, rather than just statistics. One of the very few books I'll be happy to read again.