Churchill’s Folly, The Battles for Kos and Leros, 1943

The Allied efforts to eject German troops from the Eastern Mediterranean after the surrender of the Italians has not received much coverage and this book a timely correction. The author has provided an incisive account of the actions . Highly Recommended.

NAME: Churchill's Folly, The Battles for Kos and Leros, 1943
FILE: R2432
AUTHOR:  Anthony Rogers
PUBLISHER: The History Press
BINDING: soft back 
PAGES:  288
PRICE: £18.99
GENRE: Non Fiction
SUBJECT: Eastern Mediterranean, Aegean, WWII, World War Two, Second 
World War, World War 2, Crete, Dodecanese, German forces, SBS, air 
ISBN: 978-0-7509-6835-5
IMAGE: B2432.jpg
DESCRIPTION: The Allied efforts to eject German troops from the Eastern 
Mediterranean after the surrender of the Italians has not received much 
coverage and this book a timely correction. The author has provided an 
incisive account of the actions . Highly Recommended.
'Churchill's Folly' may not be an entirely fair description, but 
actions in the Eastern Mediterranean were not a success and may seem 
something of an indulgence when the priority was to push on up through 
Italy and land a significant force in France, across the Channel.

There have been many who  have maintained that, after the victory in 
North Africa, and surrender of Italy with it joining the Alliance, 
nothing should detract from a 100% concentration of thought and 
resources on the Normandy Landings. Many had also thought that even 
the invasion of Sicily and Italy was an unwanted diversion of 
resources. Before that, a number had considered the Torch Landing in 
North Africa was ill-considered because it again detracted from a 
major landing in France.

In fact, the situation was infinitely more complex. A failure to 
land troops in North Africa, to march East to link up with the 
victorious 8th Army coming West at speed after its victory at El 
Alamein, could have proved fatal to the Allies. As the 8th Army sped 
West, its supply lines became stretched and every Italian, German and 
British army had come to the point where supplies were outrun at a 
time when the enemy was enjoying short supply lines, able to halt 
the advance, before starting its own rapid advance. The British were 
in a much stronger position than any earlier army of either side 
because Montgomery had insisted in building up large reserves before 
he attacked, British air superiority gave a further significant edge, 
and submarines, fast patrol boats and aircraft from Malta were making 
mincemeat of Rommel's supply convoys from Sicily and Italy. However, 
a significant landing in the West had the great advantage of making 
the Germans fight on two fronts, for US troops to be blooded ahead of 
the Normandy Landings, and the inevitable advantage of squeezing an 
enemy between two forces.

Having not only beaten the Germans in North Africa, and captured the 
large number of encircled German troops, there were voices calling 
for the action to switch to France. Churchill argued his corner and 
it was agreed to postpone the Normandy Landings for a year, while 
the forces in North Africa were lifted to land in Sicily and then 
onto mainland Italy. It was a hard decision because the Allies knew 
they were short of landing craft and ships for Normandy and there 
was no guarantee that rapid advances could be made up Italy and into 
France and the Balkans. German resistance was fierce after the 
surrender of their Italian Axis Partners and the long slog North 
was a painfully slow process for the Allies. This was particularly 
true for the 8th Army who had been used to very fast advances through 
the desert but were now managing only a few miles a day into the 
Italian winter.

However, the invasion of Italy had already succeeded in detaching 
the Italians from the Axis, ensured that there was no longer a risk 
of Japanese troops crossing Indian and linking up with the Germans 
and Italians, and was now sucking large numbers of German troops 
away from France and Russia into Italy.  When the Normandy Landings 
eventually took place, the German force facing them was reduced and 
what could have been a very close run action tipped over into 
establishment of beach heads and breakout into France and towards 
Germany. This further helped the Russians as they advanced towards 
the German homeland and Berlin.

Against this experience, new action in the Eastern Mediterranean 
appealed very strongly to the gambler in Churchill. He knew that 
there were very few resources available and a lack of heavy 
amphibious landing equipment as it was then being held for Normandy. 
Against that, he knew that the Italians had ceased to be the enemy 
and the German forces were weak on numbers. The one item that rang 
alarm bells was the lack of air power to cover British troops, but 
the possibility of using the action to bring Turkey in on the Allied 
side was very attractive, together with making the whole Mediterranean 
an Allied lake.

In the event, the best efforts of the small British force were unable 
to survive with air superiority laying with the Germans. In three 
months, the Germans had seized almost all of the Dodecanese and were 
able to hold the territory to the end of the war. 

The failure to defeat the German forces was not necessarily all bad, 
in that it ensured a further valuable German resource was tied down 
and neutralized, unable to deploy to France or to the Russian Front.

The author has laid out the sequence of events and offered fresh 
insight. The text is supported by a monochrome photo-plate section.