When General Albert Kesselring took over command of the German forces in Southern Europe late 1941, his main target was to have the island base Malta put out of use to the British. During the following period, untill the start of the Battle of El Alamein in the Fall of 1942, this was always foremost in his head. He had good reasons for it.
- A merchant freighter entering Grand Harbour, Malta
I like to read books published before the war. Firstly, I find It interesting to compare information and opinions as expressed at the time, with what happened afterwards. Secondly, these opinions are not twisted or adjusted as often happens after any war. As we know, the history is written by the victors. Austen Chamberlain is known to have said: “All our major wars have been fought to deny any great military power to achieve superiority in Europe so that he cannot control the Channel and the Dutch ports”. Trevelyan put it like this: “From the time of the Tudors England has used European politics simply as a means to protect itself from invasion and to forward its own proceedings on the Continent”. They were not alone in this line of thinking.
In modern times (up till WW2) it can be seen, true to this policy, how England has been likely to support Germany when France was stronger than Germany, and the other way around. After the First world War the League of Nations was an admirable tool for such politics, if the League went against the interests of Great Britain they would just ignore it. After the First World War they cleverly had their dominions (and India) aknowleged as separate members which they could normally control and thereby steer the League’s actions. A similar move was denied the Soviets in the UN after the Second World War. As the sanction crisis in connection with the Italian invasion of Ethiopia developed, Walter Duranty wrote that “England was not as keen on a war that they were not willing to fight to avoid it”.
Italy had a much slower start as colonialists go and followed a somewhat different policy, more like that of the German. Theirs was more along the line of real colonization, in the sense that they wanted to draw farmers, investors and specialists of all kinds to their colonies to develop the infrastructure. At the beginning of the 20th century, Italy had also become dependent on the Suez Canal. They had colonies in the North-Eastern corner of Africa (the African Horn) – Italian Somaliland and Eritrea, which were interspersed between the British and French colonies. Their supply lines passed through the Canal and the Red Sea, which were controlled by the British. At the time the great colonial powers (Britain, France, Italy and Germany) were as sympathetic to each other as thieves in a market and as a reward for their taking side with the Allies during that great conflict Italy’s position in the area at the end WWI actually improved. But, their dependence on the Suez Canal only increased with time.