Published online by Cambridge University Press: 04 June 2020
Chapter 6 begins by illustrating the respective positions of each side by September 1942. It shows that while the Axis position can in retrospect be viewed as highly precarious, the British evinced real concern about a complete collapse in Egypt. It highlights the resurgent emphasis that was placed on the Mediterranean from Whitehall, and on anti-shipping operations by the theatre commanders. These attacks were pursued with a ruthless prioritisation; even after clear evidence that some Axis vessels were carrying British prisoners of war. This allowed anti-shipping operations to thrive, aided by the effective use of intelligence to target the most critical cargoes of fuel and ammunition. As a result, over the three-month period, ninety-five vessels of nearly 200,000 tons were sunk, with grave effects on the Axis. These sinkings helped curtail the final Axis offensive in Egypt and contributed to the vital British victory at El Alamein by depriving the Axis of essential fuel and ammunition. In contrast to arguments put forward by scholars such as van Creveld, Barnett and Gladman, the book uses a mix of Italian, German and British material to conclusively show that the supply shortages suffered by the Axis were primarily the result of seaborne sinkings.