World War II: The United Kingdom and the Empire

Britain alone
Figure 1.--The Germans referred to the British as the English. There was no detailed OKW War olan. Hitler assured his milirary commannders that the British and French would not fight when they invaded Poland. The United Kingdom was, however, much more than just England or even Britain. The British World War II war effort was a combined effort of England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ieland as well as the Dominions and Empire. And many paid a heavy price in this effort. This Scottish and English boy lost their fathers and receive their medals at a ceremony in London. The press caption in a U.S, newspaper read, "Symbols of their fathers' heroism: Brian Boyce (left) of Dudleyand, and Cedric Robinson of Plymouth, hild theur fathers' medals posthumouly awardedthe heroes. who were both killed in action. Awards came at a reent investiture." It was dared Octobe 19, 1941. America at the time was still neutral. The boys' clothing suggest that Brun's father ws in a Scottish regiment anhd Cedric's father was in the Royal Navy.

The Germans referred to the British as the English. The United Kingdom was, however, much more than just the English. Britain includes England, Wales, and Scotland. The United Kingdom includes other assiciated territoties, including Northern Ireland and several smaller territories like Manx anf the Channel Islands. The great bulk of the population of industrial might of the United Kingdom was in England. But put together they added to the U.K.'s potential wage war. In addition there were also natural resources and even more imortabtly strategic benefits as a result of geography that aided the war effort. Thee territories to the north and west of England were beyond the reach of the initial Luftwaffe assult, because the short range German fighters could not escort the bombers. An early unescorted asault on Scotland by Luftflotte 5 was cut to shreads by RAF fighters (August 1940). It was the first and last unescorted daylight raid attempted. When the Germans shited to nighttime raids, but this meant that the bombers could not hit targets of military importance, only cities. Scotland' northerly location provide important air and naval bases that the Luftwaffe could not hit in night raids. While the term "Britain Alone" is commonly used as we have used it. Britain in a very real sence, however, was not quite alone. Even as the NAZIs reached the Channel, the First Canadian Division was braced as the only fully equipped divion in England. In addition to a very sympatheic American president, the Dominions stood by Britain. While each alone were not a major force, the combined strngth of the Dominions was very substantial. In fact is that it likely that without the Dominions, the Axis would have seized the Middle East and gained access to the vital oil resources of Iran and Iraq in 1941. Each of the Dominions as well as India played key roles in the War. Other colonial outposts played various roles in the War. The autonomous British Dominions of Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the Union of South Africa all declared war in September 1939 on Britain's side and stood by her throughout the War. After the fall of France, Britain was alone with the Empire. The British effort was a collective Empire effort.

United Kingdom

The Germans referred to the British as the English. The United Kingdom was, however, much more than just the English. Britain includes England, Wales, and Scotland. The United Kingdom includes other associated territoties, including Northern Ireland and several smaller territories like Manx and the Channel Islands. The great bulk of the population of industrial might of the United Kingdom was in England. But put together they added to the U.K.'s potential wage war. The British Army still recruited regiments from Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, but the Rotal Navy and RAF were a uified force. In addition there were also natural resources and even more imortabtly strategic benefits as a result of geography that aided the war effort. Thee territories to the north and west of England were beyond the reach of the initial Luftwaffe assult, because the short range German fighters could not escort the bombers. An early unescorted asault on Scotland by Luftflotte 5 was cut to shreads by RAF fighters (August 1940). It was the first and last unescorted daylight raid attempted. When the Germans shifted to nighttime raids, but this meant that the bombers could not hit targets of military importance, only cities. Scotland' northerly location provide important air and naval bases that the Luftwaffe could not hit in night raids. Scotland and the Islands provifed important bases for controllig the Western Approaches in the Battle of the Atlantic. Bases in England were vulnerable, bit not the bases in Scotland. The most important naval base was Scappa Flow. It was secure and close enough to the Channel that the Home Fleet could oppose a Cross Channel invasion. Wales offered no important strategic bases, but Welsh coal fueld British industry throughout the war. Northern Ireland was vital in the Battle of the Atlantic. Unlike World War I, he Irish Free State denid the Royal Navy access to Irish free state. This complicated efforts of the Royal Navy and RAF Coastal Command efforts to protect the Western Approches from the German U-boats. The Irish seemed titally unware ofNAZI race policies other than the actions against Jews. The NAZIs ranked Celts low on their racil order and were planning terrible actions in France after they won the war. Northern Ireland was also a staging area for the Americans when they firt arrived in the United Kingdom. This feeed up British troops for deployment eksewhere.

The Dominions

While the term "Britain Alone" is commonly used as we have used it. Britain in a very real sence, however, was not quite alone. Even as the NAZIs reached the Channel, the First Canadian Division was braced as the only fully equipped divion in England. In addition to a very sympatheic American president, the Dominions stood by Britain. While each alone were not a major force, the combined strngth of the Dominions was very substantial. In fact is that it likely that without the Dominions, the Axis would have seized the Middle East and gained access to the vital oil resources of Iran and Iraq in 1941. The autonomous British Dominions of Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the Union of South Africa all declared war in September 1939 on Britain's side and stood by her throughout the War. After the fall of France, Britain was alone with the Empire. The British effort was a collective Empire effort. Canadians were stationed in Britain right away in 1939. The Royal Canadian Navy played a major role in the Battle of the Atlantic. The Air Forces of Britain and the Dominions all trained in the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, which took place in Canada. Many of the Canadians died in the ill-fated raid on Dieppe in 1942. The Germans had not even forseen a Canadian Navy that played suxh an important role in the Battle of the Atlantic. Canadians took part alongside the British in the Normandy Invasion in 1944. South Africans fought in the battles in North Africa, Indians also fought in North Africa and in Burma, while Australians and New Zealanders fought both in the Middle East and in the Pcific. Imperial forces played a major role in the Allied war effort.

The Empire

The Empire was important for the British war effort and largely excluded from the war plan Hitler had in head. Hitler believed that Britain could be knocked out from the War before the considerable resources of the Empire could come into play and by that time, he would have destroyed the Red Army and have the resources of the East to support the German war effort. And the Red Army held before Moscow in 1941 so Hitler was unable to obtain the resources of the East to support his war effort. Of primary importance for the the British was the Dominions, but they were not the only contribution made by the Empire. Britain held in 1940 and was able to mobilize its resources and the resources of the Empire, This would, however, take some time. Britain when it declared war on Germany (September 1939) had only begun to mobilize its own resources. Virtually nothing had been done to mobilkize the resources of the Empire. Each of the Dominions as well as India played key roles in the War. Other colonial outposts played various roles in the War. Congress in India refused to join the war effort when Britain refused to guarantee independence. But the Indian army played a critical role in saving the Middle East and Suez. The Quit India campaign did not include an effort to take control of the Indian Army. India also provided vital natural resources. Congress' 'Quit India' caused problems for the British. It also played a role in the terrible Bengal Famine. Other colonies also contributed to the war effort, but not on the level of the Dominions and India. The primary contribution of the Empire was raw materials. The British also recruited soldiers and laborers from the colonies.







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Created: 1:44 PM 7/25/2015
Last updated: 1:45 PM 7/25/2015