Despatches from the Front: The War at Sea in the Mediterranean 1940-1944, compiled John Grehan & Martin Mace

Despatches from the Front: The War at Sea in the Mediterranean 1940-1944, compiled John Grehan & Martin Mace

During the Second World War the Royal Navy was involved in a long and costly campaign in the Mediterranean. During that period the Navy carried out the successful carrier attack on the Italian fleet, a series of convoy operations designed to get vital supplies to Malta and clashed with elements of the Italian fleet on several occasions. Smaller forces were involved in coastal actions in the Adriatic, fighting around the many islands off Yugoslavia.

Most of the operations covered were British successes, so it is rather useful to finish with a defeat, the disastrous attempt to occupy a series of islands in the Dodecanese in 1943 in the aftermath of the Italian surrender. This ended as a total defeat, the last significant German victory of the war. The conclusions drawn from this failure are thus of great interest.

This book reproduces the official dispatches produced by the commanders involved in each of these battles. Generally we start with the reports of the commander in chief for any particular operation, and then move on to reports from sub-divisions of the fleet or individual ships.  These reports were clearly not meant for public consumption at the time, as they often include a series of suggestions for improvements and alternative plans, and criticisms of less successful elements of operations.

The overall reports are a valuable historical source, but for me the main strength of this book are those secondary reports, which give us a more detailed picture of how the Navy fought and how big a part individual judgement played in the success or failure of many operations.

1 - The Battle of Calabria, 9 July 1940
2 - Operation Judgement, Fleet Air Arm Operations Against Taranto, 11 November 1940
3 - The Battle of Cape Spartivento, 27 November 1940s
4 - The Battle of Matapan, 27-30 March 1941
5 - Italian Convoy Action, 15/16 April 1941
6 - Mediterranean Convoy Operations, 1941
 Operation Excess
 Operation Substance
 Operation Halberd
 Operation Harpoon
 Operation Pedestal
7 - The Battle of Sirte, 22 March 1942
8 - Coastal Force Actions, February 1943
9 - Naval Operations in the Aegean, 7 September 1943 to 28 November 1943

Compiled: John Grehan & Martim Mace
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 272
Publisher: Pen & Sword Maritime
Year: 2014

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