The British Empire and the Second World War
In 1939 Hitler went to war not just with Great Britain; he also went to war with the whole of the British Empire, the greatest empire that there had ever been. In the years since 1945 that empire has disappeared, and the crucial fact that the British Empire fought together as a whole during the war has been forgotten. All the parts of the empire joined the struggle and were involved in it from the beginning, undergoing huge changes and sometimes suffering great losses as a result. The war in the desert, the defence of Malta and the Malayan campaign, and the contribution of the empire as a whole in terms of supplies, communications and troops, all reflect the strategic importance of Britain's imperial status. Men and women not only from Australia, New Zealand and India but from many parts of Africa and the Middle East all played their part. Winston Churchill saw the war throughout in imperial terms. The British Empire and the Second World War emphasises a central fact about the Second World War that is often forgotten.
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In the Middle East, alongside Pioneer soldiers from Britain's Indian Ocean and
Mediterranean colonies, and Arab labour units recruited in Libya and Egypt, were
16,500 West Africans, 30,000 East Africans, and 36,000 Southern Africans (from
East African waters were strategically important because of the sea route from the
Cape to the Middle East via the Mozambique ... control of the Red Sea, were all
important tasks for the Royal Navy and locally-raised naval forces in East Africa.
The main use of this enormous African army was for fighting and rear echelon
duties in East Africa and Madagascar (including the provision of garrisons for
Madagascar, Mauritius, Reunion and the Seychelles), as rear echelon troops for