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on 20 July 2017
First non-fiction book written by Holland, and sets the standard/style by which his later books build. It largely concentrates on the 'little people' in any conflict, but does give coverage to the publicly recognised hero's and war commanders. However it his small stories of individual fortitude and bravery that fills in the gaps of the greater story unfolding; namely, the survival of an island and its people right under the noses of the Axis powers in the Mediterranian. Its a small miracle how it survived, with the story building up to the make or break convoy (Pedestal) taking in essential supplies. Never too technical that it would not be enjoyed by a non-military enthusiast, it unfortunately had just insufficient 'action' for me, therefore knocking a star off, but for a first book, it was an excellent read. Having read many others of his fiction and NF books, I like his style, but if forced ranked, this is not one of his best.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 25 February 2013
I read probably more than one thousand books on World War II in the last 30 years or so and this is one of the best!

"Fortress Malta" tells the story of Malta between June 1940, when Italy declared the war against France and United Kingdom to July 1943, when the last of 3340 Axis air raids against the island took place. The incredible strategic blunder of both Mussolini and Hitler who didn't seize the island immediately in June-August 1940 allowed the reinforcement of Malta in September and October - after that the eventual invasion of island became a much more difficult business and ultimately it was never attempted. Instead a 30 months long siege began, during which Malta was bombed relentlessly, on an almost daily basis, by both Regia Aeronautica and Luftwaffe. The island was also blockaded by Axis submarines and fast torpedo boats and the neigbouring waters were mined. Supplying the besieged island became more and more difficult until the great crisis in August 1942 and the dramatic and bloody sea and air battle during operation "Pedestal".

During those 30 months of siege, resupplying Malta cost Royal Navy one battleship (HMS "Barham"), two aircraft carriers (HMS "Ark Royal" and HMS "Eagle"), five light cruisers (HMS "Cairo", HMS "Hermione", HMS "Manchester", HMS "Neptune" and HMS "Southampton") and 17 destroyers. Two more destroyers were lost by allied navies, Australian HMAS "Nestor" and Polish ORP "Kujawiak". Dozens of transports and some tankers also perished in fierce convoy battles.

But Malta was not just a besieged fortress - it was also a base from which operated allied air forces, submarines and fast torpedo boats, which mercilessly harassed and as result greatly disrupted Axis communication lines between Italy and Lybia. Allied submarines based at Malta were particularly succesful and they inflicted crippling losses on Italian and German shipping. Rommel and other German and Italian commanders cursed daily Malta and its submarines and planes when seeing how little of precious fuel and munitions they received. Malta played ultimately a key role in stopping Rommel from reaching Alexandria and Suez Canal and then assuring Axis defeat in Africa in 1943. The price paid for it was however very high. Between 1940 and 1943 no less than 38 British submarines operating from Malta were lost, frequently with all hands (including the archi-famous HMS "Upholder") and two more were lost by allied navies, "Le Narval" (Free French Navy) and "Glaukos" (Greek Navy).

This book tells this great story in a very reader-friendly way. It is really well and profesionally written, with a great care about details and respect to historical reality, but also with a considerable literary talent. This is by no means a purely military history book, as it also describes the hardships the civilians went through and the important role played by frequently forgotten people, like the Malta stevedores who in many occasions unloaded transports under bombs... Hunger, disease, privations and all other kinds of miseries on the besieged island figure prominently in this book. Author also included many real anecdotes about real people, which, albeit without great importance for the big picture, make us feel closer to the defenders of this brave, isolated allied outpost.

I greatly enjoyed reading this book and I learned a lot from it. It is a really impressive achievement by James Holland! I am keeping this book preciously - to read it again one day and for my children after that. Enjoy!
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on 6 October 2017
An excellent addition to the study of the recent history of Malta.
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on 5 March 2015
Good history of Malta during WW2. The people suffered great hardship during the Siege. But don't lose sight of the fact that the locals had little choice because Malta was so vital to the Allies in WW2.
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on 2 September 2016
Straightforward detailed account of Malta's part in WW2. The follow up information about what happened subsequently to the people involved was a welcome addition
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on 12 May 2017
good price, prompt delivery.
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on 24 August 2017
James Holland never fails to impress. The use of personal narratives to illustrate the strategic picture is excellent. It brings home the real impact of the war to this small but strategically important island.
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on 3 May 2017
Perfect gift.
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on 21 November 2016
excellent factual book, well worth the read
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on 14 February 2018
A very detailed exploration of the experiences of some of the people, Maltese and British throughout the siege.
Inspiring and sad right from the beginning.
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