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Operation Pedestal

The Fleet That Battled to Malta 1942

Max Hastings

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HARPER360
01 May 2021
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The gripping story of an epic battle at sea, from one of Britain's most acclaimed historians of war.

In August 1942, beleaguered Malta was within weeks of surrender to the Axis, because its 300,000 people could no longer be fed. Churchill made a personal decision that at all costs, the 'island fortress' must be saved. This was not merely a matter of strategy, but of national prestige, when Britain's fortunes and morale had fallen to their lowest ebb.

The largest fleet the Royal Navy committed to any operation of the western war was assembled to escort fourteen fast merchantmen across a thousand of miles of sea defended by six hundred German and Italian aircraft, together with packs of U-boats and torpedo craft. The Mediterranean battles that ensued between 11 and 15 August were the most brutal of Britain's war at sea, embracing four aircraft-carriers, two battleships, seven cruisers, scores of destroyers and smaller craft. The losses were appalling: defeat seemed to beckon.

This is the saga Max Hastings unfolds in his first full length narrative of the Royal Navy, which he believes was the most successful of Britain's wartime services. As always, he blends the 'big picture' of statesmen and admirals with human stories of German U-boat men, Italian torpedo-plane crews, Hurricane pilots, destroyer and merchant-ship captains, ordinary but extraordinary seamen.

Operation Pedestal describes catastrophic ship sinkings, including that of the aircraft-carrier Eagle, together with struggles to rescue survivors and salvage stricken ships. Most moving of all is the story of the tanker Ohio, indispensable to Malta's survival, victim of countless Axis attacks. In the last days of the battle, the ravaged hulk was kept under way only by two destroyers, lashed to her sides. Max Hastings describes this as one of the most extraordinary tales he has ever recounted. Until the very last hours, no participant on either side could tell what would be the outcome of an epic of wartime suspense and courage.
By:   Max Hastings
Imprint:   HARPER360
Country of Publication:   United Kingdom
Dimensions:   Height: 234mm,  Width: 153mm,  Spine: 36mm
Weight:   630g
ISBN:   9780008364953
ISBN 10:   0008364958
Pages:   336
Publication Date:   01 May 2021
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Forthcoming

Max Hastings is the author of twenty-six books, most about conflict, and between 1986 and 2002 served as editor-in-chief of the Daily Telegraph, then editor of the Evening Standard. He has won many prizes both for journalism and his books, of which the most recent are All Hell Let Loose, Catastrophe and The Secret War, best-sellers translated around the world. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, an Honorary Fellow of King's College, London and was knighted in 2002. He has two grown-up children, Charlotte and Harry, and lives with his wife Penny in West Berkshire, where they garden enthusiastically.

Reviews for Operation Pedestal: The Fleet That Battled to Malta 1942

Early praise for Operation Pedestal 'Veteran military historian Hastings' first full-length narrative of war at sea measures up to his usual high standards ... Vividly chronicling the sinking of the aircraft carrier Eagle, Hastings initiates 250 pages of gripping fireworks and insights that continue well past Aug. 15, when five battered merchantmen limped into Malta's harbour. Real-world war is sloppier than the Hollywood version, even more so under the author's gimlet eye. Heroism was in abundant supply but not universal. Through Hastings' keen analysis we see how commanders on both sides showed as much bad judgement as intelligence ... Another enthralling Hastings must-read' Kirkus, starred review Praise for Chastise 'A virtuoso performance from a veteran military historian. It is a white-knuckle narrative that brings clarity and insight to a much-loved tale, as well as offering a vital corrective to the drum-thumping conclusions of earlier books.' Sunday Times 'Hastings recounts the actual raids with dramatic intensity ... He brings us into those Lancasters, flying perilously low, straight into flak ... Superb.' Times 'Thoughtful and gripping ... This is a fine book combining great storytelling with a deep appreciation of the melancholy and waste that march in step with glory.' Patrick Bishop, Telegraph 'What is at stake in this revision of the old glorious narrative is something important. The debate over whether this particular raid mattered is, in miniature, the wider historiographical debate over the morals and efficacy of the whole bombing war ... A powerful parable which might instruct us in our own confused times.' Spectator 'Hastings, who is a master of his craft, unfolds the story skilfully ... It doesn't matter how many times you have seen the film, or heard the story, this book is gripping from start to finish' Keith Lowe, Literary Review


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