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 Burma theatre alone 120 , 000 East and West African infantrymen served (
including units drawn from Northern Rhodesia , Nyasaland , Somaliland and
Southern Rhodesia ) . An example of expansion and far - flung deployment may
supply dumps , transported supplies to combat units in the field , operated as
stevedores running ports like Tripoli and Tobruk , provided smokescreen cover
for infantry landing on the Italian beaches , manned army forage farms , guarded
Ceylonese troops in British uniform served as part of local defence formations to
counter the threat of invasion , as garrison troops for other Indian Ocean islands ,
and as support soldiers for British and imperial fighting units in the Middle East ...