Published online by Cambridge University Press: 04 June 2020
Despite the qualified successes of Operation ‘Crusader’, Britain was faced with a disastrous turn of events in early 1942. The entry of Japan to the war had compelled a redistribution of force to the Far East, while some key British losses and new in-theatre German commitments had further redefined the Mediterranean balance of power. Chapter 5 outlines how the British were forced to adopt a defensive posture throughout the theatre, as their gains from ‘Crusader’ were rapidly reversed. As the Axis then advanced into Egypt, Malta was subjected to an intense aerial siege and came perilously close to being starved into submission. The difficulties in conducting anti-shipping operations during this period were numerous. Yet in a reversal of the thesis advanced by historians such as van Creveld and Gladman, the chapter demonstrates that significant sinkings (of over 300,000 tons) were achieved during this period. The continued attrition was greatly troubling for the Axis, contributing to a shipping shortage that was to reach crisis point later in the year.