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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allies Australia and New Zealand, and the dozens of Pacific islands that were
part of the British Empire and Commonwealth rarely get a look in. Whilst there
can be no doubt that American military and. industrial power was the
15 The Pacific Church bells were to signal an invasion of Britain, and in Fiji the
beating of drums was to pass the message of Japanese landings from village to
village. Blackout procedure was practised in Suva, Fiji's capital, and Tongans ...
... the Pacific Islanders (Cambridge, 1997), p. 296. The book provides the best
non-military overview of the Pacific islands' region during the war. See also
Among Those Present: The Official History of the Pacific Islands at War (London,