One dawn last week cold enough to make a man's nostrils stick together, the Albanian coast appeared as a thin line over the sea in the east to a silent row of British battleships approaching Valona. Not far inland, the Greeks were slogging slowly ahead with their mountain warfare through deep snowdrifts. The sea was cold, grey and unusually calm for the Adriatic. Just before sunrise Admiral Sir Andrew Browne Cunningham ordered: "Open fire." The big ships belched thunderously and shook.

About 100 tons of shells flew into Valona, the Italians' best debarkation place in Albania. They smashed into what the...

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