Among the deluge of books published each year about the Second World War, accounts of naval convoys are few and far between. With the exception of the disastrous PQ17 convoy, whose grim fate in the Arctic Ocean has been often retold, these essential supply lines are generally deemed too unglamorous to explore. The very word “convoy” conjures an image of lumbering merchant ships ferrying food and supplies. It’s hardly the stuff to set the pulse racing.
The veteran historian Max Hastings wants to redress this misconception with his latest book, Operation Pedestal. Admittedly Pedestal was no ordinary convoy: it was a desperately needed lifeline to the beleaguered island of Malta, whose 300,000 starving inhabitants were close to surrender in the summer of 1942.