In the 1930s the Royal Navy faced the problem of defending its empire in eastern Asia and Australia against the formidable naval power of Japan. How they responded to this threat in the final years of peace and the first years of the Second World War, is the subject of Andrew Boyd
's book The Royal Navy in Eastern Waters: The Linchpin of Victory, 1935-1942
(Seaforth Publishing, 2017; distributed in the US by Naval Institute Press). As Boyd explains, the challenge was one of defending British interests against a modern fleet that was qualitatively the equal of theirs. Efforts to implement a strategy, though, were disrupted by the growing threat of war in Europe, and the fall of France in the summer of 1940 forced the British to reassess their strategic assumptions. The growing priority the British gave to their interests in the Mediterranean and the Middle East during this time came at the expense of their preparations against Japan, leading the British to seek greater cooperation with the United States and others to protect their possessions in the region. Though these attempts to establish an effective defense were incomplete when the Japanese onslaught came at the end of 1941, Boyd shows how the planning and preparation for it laid the groundwork for the successful defense of the Indian Ocean region, which ultimately proved strategically vital to Allied efforts to defeat the Axis powers.