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War at Sea in the Mediterranean 1940-44 by John Greham & Martin Mace

This book is a unique collection of the actual battle reports from ships and Admirals during the War in the Mediterranean 1940 to 1944. It covers famous events such as the Malta convoys and the Fleet Air Arm action at Taranto through to smaller skirmishes by the coastal forces. There is a short introduction by John Grehan and Martin Mace to set the dispatches in context but the rest of the book is just the reports themselves. It makes for an interest read to see the thoughts of those commanders as they laid out what happened in those difficult years. As the war progress we follow how the tactics and procedures changed and the lesson learnt by the Royal Navy altered the way it fought. There is no additional comments, it is just the thoughts of those there.

This book is unusual in that it is the actual despatches from the Royal Navy in the Mediterranean during WWII. It offers a brief overview in the Introduction but other than that it is the reports from ships and fleet commanders of battles fought or actions taken. The highlights are those from the Malta convoys and the detailed planning and after action reports of the Fleet Air Arms destruction of the Italian fleet at Taranto. The dispassionate tone of factual reporting lays bare the great sacrifice and bravery both these, and other actions, demanded of the Royal Navy.

The book is not a ripping yarn type of affair and, in truth only really likely to get Naval historians excited. But for a naval officer today it shows the value of accurate narratives and their use to highlight weakness and strengths. As the reports unfold we see a Royal Navy quickly learning from its, often fatal, mistakes and tactics changing from battle to battle. We see how the Royal Navy was able to reach back and learn from the lessons, with the view to improving over time.

Who will buy this? Researchers and naval historians interested in this period will definitely want to have this in their collection. It accumulates vast collections of reports in to one handy book. Libraries, absolutely for their history sections. Holiday read? Maybe not.

I give it a 4 out 5 Mushroom heads but that is for the content and the research that has gone in to provide such detailed reports of the this period of the Navy’s history.
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