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Other titles in the Forgotten Voices series:
Forgotten Voices Desert Victoryby Julian Thompson
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For Britain in the first half of World War II, the importance of defending the Middle East against the Axis powers was second only to defending the homeland against invasion. Had the Allies lost in North Africa, the vital life-line through the Suez Canal to Australia and India would have been cut. More crucial was protecting the route to the oilfields of the Persian Gulf. Without oil, Britain could not fight. The initial threat came from a large Italian Army, who, from their bases in Libya, were quick to take British-held ground in Egypt. Yet the professional British soldiers, along with tough all-volunteer regiments from Australia and New Zealand, easily defeated the poorly lead Italians. Churchill, confident that this front was secure, transferred troops and equipment to Greece, little realizing what the remaining troops would face when Rommel and his Panzer Division arrived. With their armies fighting over vast distances on rugged terrain, and supply lines often stretched to breaking point, both Rommel and the then little-known General Montgomery had to take huge tactical risks. Good intelligence was vital, so the elite Long Range Desert Group was formed, capable of covert operations behind enemy lines. David Stirling famously founded the SAS in the Western Desert, trained to perform audacious sabotage missions. Told in the voices of the men who were there this is the story of the Western Desert, and how the Allies struck the first successful blow to Axis forces and achieved this remarkable Second World War victory.
"Between Friday and Monday we never slept at all. Everyones face was one mass of sand. . . . The guns were so hot, all the paint had gone." —Bombardier Ray Ellis
Had the Allies lost in North Africa, Rommels Afrika Korps would have swept through the Middle East, cutting the vital supply line through the Suez Canal to Australia and India, and taking the oilfields of the Persian Gulf. Britain would have been isolated, without oil, and unable to fight. These crucial battles of 1940-1943 were fought over vast distances on rugged terrain, with supply lines often stretched to breaking point. It was here that David Stirling formed the SAS to perform audacious sabotage missions, and the Long Range Desert Group collected intelligence from behind enemy lines. This is the story of the Allies first victory against Hitlers army, told in the voices of the men who were there, which proved that the seemingly unstoppable Germans could be beaten.
JULIAN THOMPSON served in the Royal Marines for 34 years, retiring as Major General. He commanded 3 Commando Brigade, which carried out the initial landings in the Falklands conflict and fought most of the subsequent land battles. He is now Visiting Professor in the Department of War Studies, King's College, London and is the author of Forgotten Voices of Burma and the critically acclaimed The Imperial War Museum Book of the War in Burma 1942-1945.
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