1941. Before Montgomery’s victory at El Alamein and the American entry into the war, Britain and her Empire stood alone and on the brink of defeat. As Hitler launched Barbarossa, a triple threat emerged from the Middle East – nationalists in Iraq sought an alliance with Germany, the Vichy regime in Syria was ready to welcome Nazi troops and Iran’s neutrality threatened supply and communication channels to the Empire and the ailing Soviet Union.
Further, control of the Middle East meant control of oil, the essential lubricant of modern warfare. For the British war effort, the cost of defeat in the region was unthinkable.
Churchill was wrong when he famously pronounced ‘Before El Alamein Britain never had a victory; after El Alamein she never suffered a defeat’. In First Victory, the acclaimed historian Robert Lyman tells a
gripping narrative of a series of vital victories that heralded the real turning point in Britain’s fortunes. Until now, these extraordinary events have been relegated to the footnotes of history, overshadowed by the fearsome advance of the German war machine in Europe and North Africa.
Shedding new light on the inner workings of Churchill’s war cabinet and its relationship with the overstretched outposts of the Empire, Lyman reveals the fraught negotiations, rapid manoeuvring of meagre troops, and the additional improvisation and good luck that enabled British forces to construct a series of unlikely victories which effectively secured Britain’s future in the war.