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 Burma and India the British Empire and Commonwealth made a remarkable
contribution to the defeat of Iapan by killing over 200,000 enemy soldiers.
Britain's historic dependence upon its Empire for imports and exports inevitably
Note on the British Empire and Commonwealth Place names are rendered as
they were known to the British at the time of the Second World War. Thus '
Bechuanaland' not 'Botswana', 'Bombay' not 'Mumbai'. The terms 'the British
Empire' or ...
'80 our poor Empire is alone in the world', remarks the first soldier. 'Aye, we are',
replies ... The fighting role of imperial forces such as the Canadians at Dieppe
and the pan-Commonwealth Eighth Army are well remembered. The role of Malta
Numerous other countries not officially part of the Empire also supplied major
military resources. ... Though they were nowhere near as powerful as America or
Russia, the Empire and Commonwealth's contribution to the British war effort was
war Britain and its Empire and Commonwealth mobilized 103 divisions or their
equivalent. Only 47.6 per cent of them were raised in Britain. The Empire and
Commonwealth also provided 39 per cent of the RAF's aircrew.32 During the war
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11 The Islands of the Indian Ocean
12 India and Burma
13 SouthEast Asia and the Far East
14 Australia and New Zealand
15 The Pacific
9 SubSaharan Africa
10 The Indian Ocean