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Fortress Malta: An Island Under Siege 1940-1943 (CASSELL MILITARY PAPERBACKS) [Kindle Edition]

James Holland
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (74 customer reviews)

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Book Description

The extraordinary drama of Malta's WWII victory against impossible odds told through the eyes of the people who were there.

In March and April 1942, more explosives were dropped on the tiny Mediterranean island of Malta - smaller than the Isle of Wight - than on the whole of Britain during the first year of the Blitz. Malta had become one of the most strategically important places in the world. From there, the Allies could attack Axis supply lines to North Africa; without it, Rommel would be able to march unchecked into Egypt, Suez and the Middle East. For the Allies this would have been catastrophic. As Churchill said, Malta had to be held 'at all costs'.

FORTRESS MALTA follows the story through the eyes of those who were there: young men such as twenty-year-old fighter pilot Raoul Daddo-Langlois, anti-aircraft gunner Ken Griffiths, American Art Roscoe and submariner Tubby Crawford - who served on the most successful Allied submarine of the Second World War; cabaret dancer-turned RAF plotter Christina Ratcliffe, and her lover, the brilliant and irrepressible reconnaissance pilot, Adrian Warburton. Their stories and others provide extraordinary first-hand accounts of heroism, resilience, love, and loss, highlighting one of the most remarkable stories of World War II.

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Product Description


Joss Ackland's rich, gritty voice adds compelling urgency to this dramatic tale. (THE INDEPENDENT)

With a novelist's eye for the human stories, a sure grip of the stern facts of war and a lucid understanding of Malta's place in the scheme of the war, James Holland has written a first-class account of the island's heroic, unbelievably lucky resistance (Toby Clements THE TELEGRAPH)

Book Description

The extraordinary drama of Malta's WWII victory against impossible odds told through the eyes of the people who were there. Abridged edition.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 5848 KB
  • Print Length: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicolson (31 Jan. 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00B1SWW2Y
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (74 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #58,981 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

James Holland was born in Salisbury, Wiltshire, and studied history at Durham University. A member of the British Commission for Military History and the Guild of Battlefield Guides, he also regularly contributes reviews and articles in national newspapers and magazines and appears on national radio. His many books include Fortress Malta, Italy's Sorrow, The Battle of Britain and his fictional WW2 series featuring Sergeant Jack Tanner.

His interviews with veterans of the Second World War are available at the Imperial War Museum and are also archived on He lives near Salisbury with his wife, son and daughter.

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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
4.8 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
49 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Strategic Stepping-Stone 30 April 2003
This is the best military history book to be published since (and I'd rank it right up there with) last year's "An Army At Dawn" by Rick Atkinson. High praise, indeed, since that book won a Pulitzer Prize. If you've read the Atkinson book, you'll find that "Fortress Malta" complements it nicely, since both books end with the Allies poised for the invasion of Sicily. Mr. Holland, to judge by his photo on the dustjacket, looks to be still in his twenties.(This is his first book.) If he is indeed that young, that makes this book even more of an accomplishment. The quality of the writing and the way the book is structured demonstrate a great deal of skill and maturity. This is because the author has a lot of balls to juggle: he has to tell us about the aerial war; the surface naval battles; the submarine war; strategy and tactics, etc. This part of the story is well-told: there are many exciting sequences dealing with dogfights and convoys being stalked by submarines. But what elevates the book to the superior level is Mr. Holland's ability to bring home to us the human element. We get to know a lot of the pilots and submariners as real people- quirks and all. (Two people who "leap out" from the pages are Adrian Warburton and George "Screwball" Beurling. Warburton, despite being a reconnaissance pilot, managed the rare feat of becoming an "ace"- which means he shot down at least 5 planes. He was unorthodox. He once flew over Sicily to take some photographs, then made an unauthorized side trip to Greece to pick up some booze for the boys back at the base. He got away with such behaviour because he always got his photographs- no matter what. Beurling was the highest scoring Allied ace of the war, with over 30 confirmed kills, with an incredible 4 in one day. Read more ›
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39 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best World War II book I've read. 11 Mar. 2004
I normally choose to read novels but during the past year I have also read three books about the Second World War : "Stalingrad" by Anthony Beevor, "A Bridge Too Far" by Cornelius Ryan, and now "Fortress Malta". The biggest compliment I can pay to "Fortress Malta" is that although the other two books have received much deserved praise, in my opinion "Fortress Malta" is the best of the three.
It tells the story of Malta's war from the moment Italy entered the war in the summer of 1940 to the summer of 1943 by which time Rommell had been defeated in North Africa and the Allies were preparing to invade Sicily.
Throughout the book the reader is kept informed of the events in Malta and their relationship to the rest of the War. But the thing that makes this book outstanding is the way the author introduces a wide range of characters : civilian workers, fighter pilots, nurses, sub-mariners etc. and tells the story of their lives.
I found "Fortress Malta" fascinating and each evening when I got home from work I couldn't wait to pick up the book and find out a bit more about Frank Rixon, Nat Gold, Meme Cortes, John Agius, Ken Griffiths et al.
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43 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Maltese viewpoint 9 Aug. 2003
I am Maltese in my late 30s and I always remember my parents talking about the war in Malta. The subject has fascinated me since I was a teenager and I have read a lot about it. James Holland's book is undoubtedly the best one I have ever read. It is authentic and is written with the human touch - often missing in history books. I am amazed how Holland has managed to portray not only the heroism of the persons serving in the armed forces but also of the the ordinary Maltese citizens. It is a worthy tribute to the people of my country 60 years after these dramatic events - well done!
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best World War Two books 2 Jan. 2004
James Holland has created aguably one of the greatest WWII books ever. His interpretation of the devastating seige upon the wonderful island of Malta during the years of 1940-1943 is a stirring and thought provoking tale.
Many colourful and forgotten characters spring to life within the pages. Holland paints a clear and vivid picture of the likes of Adrian 'Warby' Warburton, George 'Screwball' Beurling and George 'Shrimp' Simpson to name but a few.
Malta within three years became the most bombed place in the world, and within the pages of Fortress Malta you get a feel for the emotions expreienced by members of the RAF, the Navy and the citizens of Malta.
The most important aspect of the book is that Holland maintains the fact that there was always hope in this island of heroes and heroins.
If I could i would give this book more than 5 out of 5.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very compelling read - highly recommended 30 July 2003
By Jeppo
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Anyone with the slightest interest of the war in the Mediterranean should find this book a staggering achievement. It effortlessly combines the best elements of social and military history to provide a lucid and enthralling account of Malta's struggle to survive 1940-43. By following the lives of various people on the island we are given different perspectives of what life was like for those living through Malta's dark period of bitter struggle. I wasn't so sure that such an approach to writing history could be so rewarding for the reader, but Holland has done superb job. Not only do we get all the usual details of military problems (convoys/lack of military hardware etc..) but also the personal struggles of the pilots and ordinary folk living on the island. I knew that the people of Malta suffered terribly during the war, but this book also made me realise how remarkable their victory against overwhelming odds actually was. In retrospect Malta should have been a pushover for the Axis powers (the island was a low priority during the Battle of Britain), but the fact that it held out for so long is testimony to the strength and determination of it's people. This book is a fitting tribute to those who gave themselves to this struggle and a reminder of why the whole island was awarded the George Cross - the highest honour awarded for civilian bravery.
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