Published online by Cambridge University Press: 04 June 2020
After the Italian declaration of war came the period of their short-lived ‘parallel war’, where they attempted to fight independently of Germany in the theatre. Chapter 2 highlights the great numerical disparity between the scarce British and Commonwealth forces spread from the Middle East to Gibraltar versus those of Italy. Despite this lack of resources, British theatre commanders recognised the need to make inroads into Italian sea communications, and they also received clear direction from Whitehall to pursue this objective. Consequently, the failure to do so was not for lack of will at any level of command, but a question of means. The scattered, incoherent efforts that were made are shown to have been completely ineffectual, with British success against the Italians in North Africa during 1940 instead being the product of a series of other factors. Nevertheless, this period set important foundations for an anti-shipping campaign in terms of the recognition of the vulnerability of Italian sea routes and the need for greater resources to prosecute it.