In this issue we cover:
The Mafia and the Allies
Tim Newark argues that contrary to popular belief, the Americans did not do a deal with the Mafia in the 1943 Sicily Campaign.
History of the British Army in 25 Battles – Delhi, 14-20 September 1857
We explore how the British assault on Delhi, the turning point of the Indian Mutiny, was a close-run thing.
British Volunteers in Spain – the Carlist Wars
Jules Stewart recalls the service of British volunteers during the Carlist Wars in the first of this two-part series.
David porter reports on how, after initial shock, the Germans learnt to deal with British and French tanks.
Brunanburh – AD 937
Jeffrey James details a ferocious battle in the far north against 10th-century invaders.
Also in this issue: War Culture, Museum Review, War Zone, and Book Reviews.
We lead this issue with an old controversy. It begins with the very different experiences of British and American forces during the first re-entry into Europe – the invasion of Sicily in July-August 1943.
Montgomery’s 8th Army had a hard time fighting its way from hill to town to defended bridgehead up the east coast of the island. It came to a virtual halt in prolonged fighting in the urban sprawl of Catania as it was funnelled between Mount Etna and the sea.
Patton’s US 7th Army, by contrast, stormed across the centre of the island, occupied Palermo, and then swept east to reach Messina on the far north-eastern tip of the island just ahead of the 8th Army. ‘Where’ve you tourists been?’ was the tactless question to the ‘late’ arrivals.
Monty’s men had found themselves fighting a lot of Germans, Patton’s mainly Italians. A good proportion of the Italians, moreover, were Sicilians, most of whom seem to have disappeared to their homes at the earliest opportunity.
Western Sicily was (and is) the home of the Sicilian Mafia. The minimal resistance the Americans faced has long been attributed to a deal done with the jailed US Mafia boss Lucky Luciano.
What is certainly true is that the US helped the Mafia back into power from 1943 onwards, using them as a fist to knock back a radical peasant land-reform movement linked to the Communist Party immediately after the war.
But that is not the same as cutting a deal during the war to ensure mass desertion by Sicilian troops. And it would hardly have been necessary. Italian Fascism was a spent force. The great majority of Italians wanted an end to the war – and the regime that had caused it.
Crime and military historian Tim Newark is convinced the wartime deal never happened. We publish a key extract from his recent book The Mafia at War offering a very different interpretation of events in remote central Sicily in July 1943.
We also have an analysis of German anti-tank tactics in the First World, an account of British volunteers’ service in the little-known 19th century Carlist Wars, a description of the 1857 storming of Delhi in our British battles series, and a reconstruction of a major Dark Age battle to prevent a Viking takeover of the North in the 10th century.