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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The converted whalers of the SDF were better than the coal - burning trawlers of
the Royal Navy for escort work . In May 1940 the SDF began a major sweep of a
minefield off Cape Agulhas laid by the German raider Atlantis , and in November
having sunk many enemy vessels , though it had been transformed from an
adjunct of the Royal Navy to an independent fighting force . At the outbreak of
war Australia had two eight - inch cruisers ( HMAS Australia and Canberra ) , four
Naval Historical Branch , Ministry of Defence , London , Eastern Fleet War Diaries
. 11 . For Somerville , see Arthur Marder , Old Friends , New Enemies : The Royal
Navy and the Imperial Japanese Navy , i , Strategic Illusions , 1936 – 41 ...