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the u boats
on 19 April 2012
This author takes the usual line in that the Med was essential for trade and for the defence of the UK during WW2. By 1925 the importance of India had declined and was openly being admitted as "an expensive liability". There was little trade between the UK and India but nearly one third of the peace time army strength was still being stationed in India with little for it to do apart from patrolling the North West Frontier.
The three main naval bases in the Med had originally been set up as coaling bases for ships but with the the newer longer ranged oil fired ships, these bases had declined in importance. The Italian naval contribution to any war was likely to be small and could be contained by fairly modest warships operating from these bases.
The Admiralty, following experience of WW1, therefore wanted to keep any likely Med contribution fairly low key and concentrate its forces in the Atlantic to fight another inevitable Uboat campaign.
This sensible strategy was completely over ruled by Winston Churchill, the arch imperialist, who considered that a life line to India, via the Suez Canal, was essential. The result of this decision and the ensuing course of the naval war in the Med would see the loss of the greatest number of British warships than any other campaign.
Even the land battle at El Alamein involving 200,000 British and 100,000 German troops, compared to the 900,000 Germans and 1.3 million Russians at Stalingrad was described by the Russians in Tehran as "a skirmish".
Compared to the ferocity of the Battle of the Atlantic and Stalingrad, the Med campaign was a secondary theatre. Overall and following the invention of the ocean going submarine, by 1900 the Med was becoming a naval backwater.