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THE FORTUNES OF WAR, 1942 - A TIPPING OF THE SCALES

End Of The Beginning - Tim Clayton, Phil Craig

A followup to their previous bestseller "Finest Hour", Tim Clayton and Phil Craig have written a comprehensive and deeply affecting book in "End of the Beginning" which spans the period May to November 1942.  A couple of the people both authors had interviewed for "Finest Hour" -- e.g. Edith Heap who has gone on in her role as a member of the Women's Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) to serve with RAF Bomber Command in 1942, and Peter Vaux, who has gone on to fight in North Africa as an intelligence officer in an armored unit of the Eighth Army --- return here and share with the reader their war experiences during this crucial period in the Second World War. Indeed, it is the personal stories of the veterans Clayton and Craig interviewed for "End of the Beginning" - British, American, and Maltese - along with the inclusion from supplementary sources of a number of the primary historical figures on the Allied side (e.g. FDR; Harry Hopkins - FDR's Special Envoy and close friend; Winston Churchill; General Alan Brooke - Chief of the British Imperial General Staff; and 3 of the leading commanders of the Eighth Army) which give this book a poignancy and immediacy that makes the war so vividly real to the reader.

The book's focus is on the period of the Second World War in which the Axis Powers held the upper hand in both North Africa and the Eastern Front. In May 1942, Erwin Rommel, the commander of the vaunted Afrika Korps, unleashed an offensive in Libya with German and Italian forces against the British, which brought Hitler within hailing distance of Cairo, Alexandria, and the Suez Canal over the next 2 months. At the same time, with Axis forces advancing deep into Southern Russia towards Iran (whose oil fields, along with those of Iraq, were vital to the Allied war effort), it seemed possible that Rommel could overrun British and Commonwealth forces in the Middle East (invading and capturing the key Mediterranean island of Malta in the process) and link up with his compatriots in Russia - and ultimately with Japanese forces advancing from Burma to the borders of India.

Britain was faced with a crisis not altogether different from what it had confronted in the summer of 1940. Churchill desperately needed a decisive military victory against the Germans if his coalition government were to remain in power. "End of the Beginning" shows how the fortunes of the war were eventually tipped in favor of the Allies by November 1942, following the Eighth Army's key victory against Rommel at El Alamein and the lifting of the Siege of Malta. Truly, this is an epic book well worth reading.