The Fleet that Battled to Malta 1942
By Max Hastings
Published by William Collins/Harper Collins
RRP $34.99 in paperback | ISBN 9780008364953
On 10 August 1942 the largest fleet the Royal Navy had committed to action since Jutland in 1916 entered the Mediterranean to fight a four-day battle, the objective of which was to pass through to beleaguered Malta fourteen merchant vessels.
Operation Pedestal, as it was known, was a convoy that included an impressive flotilla of British naval assets, including thirty-two destroyers, four aircraft carriers and eight submarines.
They were entering an area defended by six hundred German and Italian aircraft, together with packs of U-boats and torpedo craft.
This is a story of catastrophic ship sinkings, the struggle to rescue survivors and to salvage stricken ships.
Most moving of all is the story of the tanker Ohio, indispensable to Malta’s survival, victim of countless Axis attacks.
In the last days of the battle, the ravaged hulk was kept under way only by two destroyers, lashed to her sides.
In fact, until the very last hours, no participant on either side could tell what the outcome of this epic battle would be.
This book is, surprisingly, a first for Max Hastings, one of Britain’s foremost war historians. It is his first full length narrative of the Royal Navy, which he believes was the most successful of Britain’s wartime services.
VERDICT: With his newspaper background, Hastings has the benefit of years of experience in how to use words wisely. Despite the complexity of his topic, he distills this story into a readable historical narrative that is sure to engage military history buffs across the spectrum of interests.