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This article is also available for rental through DeepDyve. View Metrics. Email alerts New issue alert. Advance article alerts. Article activity alert. Receive exclusive offers and updates from Oxford Academic. Citing articles via Google Scholar. A History of Britain, to the Present. By Pat Thane. Christabel Pankhurst: A Biography. By June Purvis. By Rachel Reeves. The Union of Africa had dominion status and was largely self-governing, the other British possessions were ruled by the colonial office, usually with close ties to local chiefs and kings.

France had extensive possessions in Africa, but they played a much smaller role in the war, since they were largely tied to Vichy France.

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  • Portuguese holdings played a minor role. Italian holdings were the target of successful British military campaigns. The Belgian Congo, and two other Belgian colonies, were major exporters. In terms of numbers and wealth, the British -controlled the richest portions of Africa, and made extensive use not only of the geography, but the manpower, and the natural resources.

    Civilian colonial officials made a special effort to upgrade the African infrastructure, promote agriculture, integrate colonial Africa with the world economy, and recruit over a half million soldiers. Before the war, Britain had made few plans for the utilization of Africa, but it quickly set up command structures. The Army set up the West Africa Command, which recruited , soldiers. The Southern Command was the domain of South Africa. In addition smaller more localized commands were set up throughout the war. Before the war, the military establishments were very small throughout British Africa, and largely consisted of whites, who comprised only two percent of the population outside Africa.

    As soon as the war began, newly created African units were set up, primarily by the Army. The new recruits were almost always volunteers, usually provided in close cooperation with local tribal leaders.

    British Empire in World War II

    During the war, military pay scales far exceeded what civilians natives could earn, especially when food, housing and clothing allowances are included. The largest numbers were in construction units, called Pioneer Units, with over 82, soldiers.. The RAF and Navy also did some recruiting. East Africa provided the largest number of men, over ,, chiefly from Kenya, Tanganyika, and Uganda. They did some fighting, a great deal of guard duty, and construction work. A special effort was made not to challenge white supremacy, certainly before the war, and to a large extent during the war itself.

    Nevertheless, the soldiers were drilled and train to European standards, given strong doses of propaganda, and learn leadership and organizational skills that proved essential to the formation of nationalistic and independence movements after There were minor episodes of discontent, but nothing serious, among the natives. His government closely cooperated with London and raised , volunteers , were white, or about one-third of the eligible white men.

    Serious tension erupted over American support for independence for India , a proposition Churchill vehemently rejected. The American position was based on principled opposition to colonialism. It fought as part of the Japanese invasion of Burma and eastern India.


    There was a large pacifist element, which rallied to Gandhi's call for abstention from the war; he said that violence in every form was evil. For the first time the Muslim community became politically active, giving strong support for the British war effort. Over 2 million Indians volunteered for military service, including a large Muslim contingent. London used the religious tensions in India as a justification to continue its rule, saying it was needed to prevent religious massacres of the sort that did happen in The imperialist element in Britain was strongly represented in the Conservative party; Churchill himself had long been its leading spokesman.

    On the other hand, Attlee and the Labour Party favoured independence and had close ties to the Congress Party. The British cabinet sent Sir Stafford Cripps to India with a specific peace plan offering India the promise of dominion status after the war. Congress demanded independence immediately and the Cripps mission failed. Roosevelt gave support to Congress, sending his representative Louis Johnson to help negotiate some sort of independence.

    Churchill was outraged, refused to cooperate with Roosevelt on the issue, and threatened to resign as prime minister if Roosevelt pushed too hard. Roosevelt pulled back. Meanwhile, wartime disruptions caused severe food shortages in eastern India; hundreds of thousands died of starvation. To this day a large Indian element blames Churchill for the Bengal famine of The 2 million Indian soldiers were a major factor in British success in the Middle East. Muslim support for the British war effort proved decisive in the British decision to partition the Raj, forming of the new state of Pakistan.

    The formal surrender of the occupying German forces in the Channel Islands was not until 9 May The signing of the surrender document occurred on 2 September Most of these military administrations were handed over to old European colonial authorities or to new local authorities soon after the end of the hostilities. Commonwealth forces administered occupation zones in Japan , Germany and Austria until World War II confirmed that Britain was no longer the great power it had once been, and that it had been surpassed by the United States on the world stage.

    The image of imperial strength in Asia had been shattered by the Japanese attacks, and British prestige there was irreversibly damaged. The deployment of , Africans overseas from British colonies, and the stationing of white troops in Africa itself led to revised perceptions of the Empire in Africa. In terms of actual engagement with the enemy, historians have recounted a great deal in South Asia and Southeast Asia, as summarized by Ashley Jackson :.

    British historians of the Second World War have not emphasized the critical role played by the Empire in terms of money, manpower and imports of food and raw materials. As Ashley Jackson has argued," The story of the British Empire's war, therefore, is one of Imperial success in contributing toward Allied victory on the one hand, and egregious Imperial failure on the other, as Britain struggled to protect people and defeat them, and failed to win the loyalty of colonial subjects.

    In addition, the colonies mobilized over , uniformed personnel who serve primarily inside Africa. The contributions from individual colonies, dominions, mandates, and protectorates to the war effort were extensive and global. Further information about their involvement can be found in the military histories of the individual colonies, dominions, mandates, and protectorates listed below. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Main article: Fall of Singapore.

    Further information: British Raj.

    British Empire in World War II - Wikipedia

    The Canadians at War — Penguin Group. The Hinge of Fate, Volume 4. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, p. Africa and the Second World War Clymer, "Franklin D. Kimball Bosworth and Joseph A.

    WW2 British Army Weapons

    Maiolo, eds. Bousquet, Ben and Colin Douglas. World War II and the Caribbean Edgerton, David. Winston's War: Churchill, — Jackson, Ashley.