In early June 1940 the Italian Royal Air Forces attacked and besieged Malta, a British possession. The siege lasted from June 1940 to November 1942, the fight for the control of the strategically important island of the British Crown Colony of Malta, which pitted the air forces and navies of Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany against the Royal Air Force (RAF) and the Royal Navy. By May 1943, the Allied forces had sunk 230 Axis ships in 164 days, the highest Allied sinking rate of the war. The Allied victory in Malta played a major role in the eventual Allied success in North Africa.
Later on, 11 June de Gaulle attended the meeting of the Anglo-French Supreme War Council at the Chateau du Muguet at Briare. The British were represented by Churchill, Anthony Eden, John Dill, General Ismay, and Edward Spears, and the French by Reynaud, Pétain, Weygand, and Georges.
Churchill was determined to fight back and ordered the commencement of the Western Desert campaign on 11 June, an immediate response to the Italian declaration of war. This went well at first while the Italian army was the sole opposition and Operation Compass was a noted success.