The French surrender on June 25, 1940, placed the entire burden of controlling of the Mediterranean sea lanes on the Royal Navy.

Libya xxx photo-1

6/12/2006 • World War II The battle for North Africa was a struggle for control of the Suez Canal and access to oil from the Middle East and raw materials from Asia.

Oil in particular had become a critical strategic commodity due to the increased mechanization of modern armies.

Britain and Italy were now at war in the Mediterranean.

On paper, at least, Italy enjoyed a considerable advantage over Britain in the Mediterranean theater of operations.

If the Italians remained neutral, British access to the vital sea lanes would remain almost assured.

If Italy sided with Germany, the powerful Italian navy had the capability to close the Mediterranean.

Britain, which was the first major nation to field a completely mechanized army, was particularly dependent on the Middle Eastern oil.

The Suez Canal also provided Britain with a valuable link to her overseas dominions–part of a lifeline that ran through the Mediterranean Sea.

Inland, a sharp escarpment rose to the 500-foot-high Libyan Plateau.