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 (1939-1945) WWII Battles    
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anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
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Great Britain and her Commonwealth in WW2 from 1939-43
Posted on: 10/12/2017 7:50:47 AM
From 1939 to the end of 1942 Great Britain and her Commonwealth had stood alone against the might of the Axis-with Japan throwing her lot in with Germany and Italy in December 1941.

GB had escaped from the debacle of France via Dunkirk,fought the Battle of Britain and won,faced invasion by Germany in Operation Sealion,the Blitz,fought against Germany in Norway -another disaster,fought to save the Suez Canal from the grasp of the Italians and then the Afrika Korps and beat them.Lost Hong Kong,lost the East Indies. Malaya and fought a war in Burma to save that country. .

Together we fought at sea in the Arctic, Atlantic and Indians Oceans as well as the Mediterranean.In the air we fought a Strategic Bombing Campaign against Germany

As I said at the beginning of this preamble- we were not alone altogether= we had many thousands of willing hands from the Commonwealth

Question is- How well or otherwise- did we treat these willing hands; and more importantly THEIR governments .We had been a an Imperial Power for centuries and "old habits die hard"

NB.The above includes primarily the Governments of Canada,Australia,New Zealand ,South Africa and India

Regards

Jim
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anemone
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Re: Great Britain and her Commonwealth in WW2 from 1939-43
Posted on: 10/12/2017 10:22:41 AM
It has to be said that The catastrophic British defeats in Europe and Asia between 1940 and into 19420 destroyed its financial and economic independence, the real foundation of the Imperial system.

Britain had survived the war, but its wealth, prestige and authority had been severely reduced and it also erased the old balance of power on which British security - at home and abroad - had largely depended.

Although Britain was one of the victorious allies, the defeat of Germany had been mainly the work of Soviet and American power, while that of Japan had been an almost entirely American triumph.

How did this affect the Commonwealth????

Regards

Jim
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George
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Re: Great Britain and her Commonwealth in WW2 from 1939-43
Posted on: 10/12/2017 10:50:20 AM
You've tipped your hand Jim. But don't be too harsh toward your country. There was a war to fight and when the French went down, GB was the last man standing.

The Empire may have been experiencing its last gasps but the concept of a Commonwealth of Nations was growing as the former colonies became more independent. In 1949, the Commonwealth of Nations became a reality.

There were times when the Canadian government decided to be "hard bargainers" on certain developments like the BCATP.

At other times the Canadian military acquiesced to British demands that it should have said "bugger off" to. Hong Kong is one example.

However, Canada participated in this war willingly. The rather odd relationship between a former colony and the mother country was still strong even as Canadian nationalism grew.



So even though the government was determined not to be dragged into another European war to experience the same losses as in WW1, it soon became apparent that the people, the Anglo people anyway, felt that the war was righteous and Canada was drawn in deeper and deeper. It was our choice and participation was requested by the British. We complied and for a country of 11 million, made a huge commitment in troops, air crew and naval forces to fight the Battle of the Atlantic. It was a good show by us.

It is also true that Canada played no part and was rarely asked to comment on the direction of the war. That did lead to some friction.

It is also true the British on too many occasions chose to blame the Canadians when objectives were not reached. Canada had to push back to make sure that blame was shared or placed where it should have been.

British officers tried to blame the Canadians for the Hong Kong defeat when in fact it was the Canadians who engaged in more company sized attacks than any other. The Canadian CO Brig. Lawson was killed in action fighting it out with the Japanese.

Monty tried to tag the can to Canada in Normandy where Canada and the UK lost a lot of men, and most gallingly at the Scheldt where the Canadians, I thought, were amazing in appalling conditions. That the Germans were permitted to consolidate and beef up defences before the taking of the Scheldt was ordered seems to have been lost on Monty.

On the other hand, he was effusive in praise at Canada's efforts in the Rhineland and in the crossing of the Rhine.

So yes, there was friction at time. Canadians liked the English people and got on well with the rank and file. Some British officers pissed them off and they loved some others. They did not respond well to snooty attitudes or condescension.

But and I reiterate, Canada and I presume the other Dominions were in this because they wanted to be there and felt that it was the right thing to do.
Until the very end of the war, all Canadian service people were all volunteers. 1.1 million in uniform out of a country of 11 million. That always astounds me. Only a very few of the conscripts made it into combat and they were all army.

Unlike WW1 when "King and Country" was the motivation, in WW2 there was a sense or realization that something was very wrong in Europe and in Italy and that there was a job to do and we had to go and do it.

Cheers,

George

anemone
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Re: Great Britain and her Commonwealth in WW2 from 1939-43
Posted on: 10/12/2017 11:36:26 AM
Most pleased to receive your down to earth comments George-I did very much hope that you would.

I remember much of past conversations re. Hong Kong,Dieppe,Falaise and the Schrldt. All of which I would call "raw deals".My admiration for General Montgomery evaporated in Normandy and worsened thereafter.I was genuinely sorry for General Crerar-he was used as a whipping boy by Montgomery.

The RCN were badly used by the RN-holding back on ships and electronic equipment; but still won through despite them.

I have always said that Canada by our government and wondered why there was not more said but as you have pointed there was a war to win and as I have said GB was in a parlous state-broke,Empire gone along with its credibility.Requiem for the Mother Country.

Regards

Jim
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BWilson

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Re: Great Britain and her Commonwealth in WW2 from 1939-43
Posted on: 10/12/2017 12:22:29 PM
From 1939 to the end of 1942 Great Britain and her Commonwealth had stood alone against the might of the Axis-

Jim,

 Um, no, I think that phrase needs a bit more bounding. The bulk of Axis power in from mid-1941 was in action against the Soviet Union, and by the end of 1942, the Soviets had encircled some 300,000 German and other Axis troops at Stalingrad.

 Not to mention that in the Pacific, the bulk of Japanese troops were in China ... not Burma or Malaya. By mid-1942, the Japanese Navy was gutted at Midway and by the end of 1942, Japan was throwing forces into an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to hold the Solomon Islands. The "hot" island at that time was Guadalcanal. Not to mention that Americans and Australians were also advancing in Papua.

 "From October 1939 to mid-1941, Great Britain and her Commonwealth had stood alone against the might of the Axis in the Mediterranean and in Europe" ... is something I could agree with, although one should recall the French were there too from late 1939 through mid-1940.



Cheers

BW
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George
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Re: Great Britain and her Commonwealth in WW2 from 1939-43
Posted on: 10/12/2017 12:59:01 PM
BW when the French went down, it seemed that the British were the only ones left to challenge Hitler.

The French capitulated on June 24, 1940.

Hitler invaded Russia on June 22, 1941.

We know that the war after the French fell was characterized as phoney.

But to say that the Brits stood alone at that time with the support of the Commonwealth countries is the common descriptor and I would say accurate even given the timeline that you have given.

The war in China was more regional at that time, don't you think?

The Commonwealth navies and air forces would attest that a real war was under way.

I think that we have to list the combatants after the fall of France to see that GB and the Commonwealth were quite alone.

And they were desperate to get the US on board but that wasn't going to happen. The Japanese attack, as terrible as it was, was fortuitous for the British and Commonwealth.

Cheers,

George

anemone
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Re: Great Britain and her Commonwealth in WW2 from 1939-43
Posted on: 10/12/2017 1:02:47 PM

Quote:
"From October 1939 to mid-1941, Great Britain and her Commonwealth had stood alone against the might of the Axis in the Mediterranean and in Europe" ... is something I could agree with, although one should recall the French were there too from late 1939 through mid-1940.


Yes Bill-I should have been more guarded in how I described GB's stand against the Axis- which I did become-as per above.The USSR was a long way off and she was in 1942 fighting to oust the enemy out of Stalingrad-a war of defence.As to France -she had capitulated. So that left us and the Commonwealth to fight the war in the West.GB's war in Burma commenced in December 1941.

Regards

Jim
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BWilson

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Re: Great Britain and her Commonwealth in WW2 from 1939-43
Posted on: 10/12/2017 1:19:29 PM
Jim,

 Yes, the Devil is in the detail as far as history goes. "The war in the West" is a different statement and one I would credit Great Britain with mainly conducting from mid-1940 until sometime in late 1943 or early 1944.

Cheers

BW
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BWilson

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Re: Great Britain and her Commonwealth in WW2 from 1939-43
Posted on: 10/12/2017 1:23:41 PM
We know that the war after the French fell was characterized as phoney.

Hi George,

 The Phoney War was from September 1939 until 10 May 1940, when Germany invaded the West. After France fell, the war IMO was on quite in earnest for Great Britain. I would not be comfortable attempting to describe when each Commonwealth nation began to sense that "we're at war". I have a notion about that, but it is purely speculation.

The war in China was more regional at that time, don't you think?

 Up until 7 December 1941 ... but Jim's original statement included the period until the end of 1942 ... thus my comment.

Cheers

BW
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John R. Price
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Re: Great Britain and her Commonwealth in WW2 from 1939-43
Posted on: 10/12/2017 1:34:06 PM
Jim,

First let me say that I admire the fact that Great Britain did stand and did not capitulate and it certainly was one of its finest hours. With that said the idea that it was alone in more perception than fact. You had the USSR and each and every conquered country of Europe had exiled governments and military contingents contributing what they could. Then also there was the US basically in a economic war against the Axis with Lend Lease going to the Allies, the extended Atlantic patrol zone, the escorting of convoys, the freezing of funds, confiscation of assets and the embargo against the Axis. The US wasn't "all in" like GB but the USSR and all the exiled contingents certainly were and should be recognized as such.
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BWilson

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Re: Great Britain and her Commonwealth in WW2 from 1939-43
Posted on: 10/12/2017 1:42:07 PM
Question is- How well or otherwise- did we treat these willing hands

Jim,

 I'll leave the "governments" part alone. We have Canadians and Australians on MHO who are doubtlessly better qualified than I to comment in that regard. As far as the troops themselves go, some observations:

* Postwar, Canadian authors have indicated discomfort with how their troops were used. My own read of the campaign in NW Europe has led me to believe the Canadians were used in infantry-casualty-intensive operations because of the British manpower (read: "infantry reinforcements") limitations placed upon FM Montgomery by PM Churchill. There is also the matter of Dieppe ... which I will leave to the Canadians to comment upon should they wish to do so.

* The Australians, if I recall correctly, were not pleased with how their troops were employed in the Mediterranean.

* The South Africans were also displeased at times with British command.

* India is a special case. Because of nationalism, there are many voices in India who prefer not to speak of the sacrifices of Indian troops in the Second World War, believing that they were plainly used for British purposes and not primarily for Indian interests. Personally, I have a difficult time assessing this situation because IMO there was significant variation in Indian troop quality and performance. Some of their formations were good as gold while others were apparently not so.

Cheers

BW
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anemone
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Re: Great Britain and her Commonwealth in WW2 from 1939-43
Posted on: 10/12/2017 2:13:32 PM

Quote:
India is a special case. Because of nationalism, there are many voices in India who prefer not to speak of the sacrifices of Indian troops in the Second World War, believing that they were plainly used for British purposes and not primarily for Indian interests. Personally, I have a difficult time assessing this situation because IMO there was significant variation in Indian troop quality and performance. Some of their formations were good as gold while others were apparently not so.[


Careful Bill-the devil's in the detail

In March 1944, the Indian National Army with the help of Japan crossed into India and advanced as far as Kohima in Nagaland. This advance on the mainland of South Asia reached its farthest point on India territory, retreating from the Battle of Kohima beaten by British 2nd Inf Div in June 44 and from Imphal on 3 July 1944 purdsued by the British Indian Army after a major battle on the plain of Imphal back across the Irrawddy into Burma and finally driven out of Burma by July/Aug 1945 by General Slim's 14th Army.

Regards

Jim
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George
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Re: Great Britain and her Commonwealth in WW2 from 1939-43
Posted on: 10/12/2017 2:37:37 PM

Quote:
The Phoney War was from September 1939 until 10 May 1940


Quite right. Thanks for the correction.

I often wonder who coined the phrase. Was it the absence of land battles that defines the phoniness of the war?

As mentioned, I think that the men involved in the Battle of the Atlantic and in the air war would object to the use of the expression.


When did Canada first note that it was at war?

Well, Sept. 10 was the date of declaration.

In truth, Canada had been mobilizing for war well before that.

But the first Canadians to die were on SS. Athenia, sunk on Sept. 3, 1939.

50 of the people killed from that action were Canadian, nearly half the total.

You can imagine that Canadians were shocked and upset at this development even as Parliament prepared to discuss whether to declare war.

The first Canadian service person to die was flying in the RAF, bomber command. He was Sgt. (pilot) Albert Stanley Prince and his Blenheim went down on Sept. 4, 1939. He was the first of 10,000 Canadians to die in BC. He is buried at a cemetery in Germany. (BECKLINGEN WAR CEMETERY)

So I think that Canadians knew that there was a war on.

BTW. The first Canadian infantryman to die was Private Gray who was captured and executed by the Japanese on Dec. 13, 1941 during the Battle of Hong Kong.

The Canadians had been the first of the Commonwealth troops to arrive in Great Britain to great fanfare. The first contingents arrived in Nov. of 1939. By Dec. , 1st div, was in the UK.

I think that the experience of the first war meant that Canadians were not naive about this sort of thing. The losses from that war were still quite raw in the minds of many.

And so the Canadians approached this war resolute and resigned.

Cheers,

George


Michigan Dave
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Re: Great Britain and her Commonwealth in WW2 from 1939-43
Posted on: 10/12/2017 3:08:44 PM

Quote:
From 1939 to the end of 1942 Great Britain and her Commonwealth had stood alone against the might of the Axis-with Japan throwing her lot in with Germany and Italy in December 1941.

GB had escaped from the debacle of France via Dunkirk,fought the Battle of Britain and won,faced invasion by Germany in Operation Sealion,the Blitz,fought against Germany in Norway -another disaster,fought to save the Suez Canal from the grasp of the Italians and then the Afrika Korps and beat them.Lost Hong Kong,lost the East Indies. Malaya and fought a war in Burma to save that country. .

Together we fought at sea in the Arctic, Atlantic and Indians Oceans as well as the Mediterranean.In the air we fought a Strategic Bombing Campaign against Germany

As I said at the beginning of this preamble- we were not alone altogether= we had many thousands of willing hands from the Commonwealth

Question is- How well or otherwise- did we treat these willing hands; and more importantly THEIR governments .We had been a an Imperial Power for centuries and "old habits die hard"

NB.The above includes primarily the Governments of Canada,Australia,New Zealand ,South Africa and India

Regards

Jim
--anemone





Jim,

With so many instant sources for military aid, it helped to have a "Empire that the sun never sets"!?

MD
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George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
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Re: Great Britain and her Commonwealth in WW2 from 1939-43
Posted on: 10/12/2017 4:46:23 PM

Quote:
With so many instant sources for military aid, it helped to have a "Empire that the sun never sets"!?


Not the case Dave.

Willing but not able is the way that I would describe it, at least for Canada.

Canada's mighty little army of WW1 was almost completely disbanded in the 20 years between the wars.

The build-up to war capability was quite a feat for my country. We started with very little in terms of men and equipment.

Even the US was not as strong as they needed to be when the war began for them.


EDIT: Canada spent a fortune on the war but was also dependent upon the Brits for some equipment and logistical support especially in the early days.

The ramp up in military production in Canada was remarkable and eventually we were producing a lot of food and war materiel, more than we needed for ourselves.

I can't speak for the Australians, New Zealanders or the Indians.


brian grafton
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Re: Great Britain and her Commonwealth in WW2 from 1939-43
Posted on: 10/12/2017 6:58:36 PM
Dave, I'm gonna use you to get into this discussion. Because the idea of "an Empire upon which the sun never sets" was part of my early education (I started school in 1947. All those "pink" areas on standardized world maps were proof. And, at best, misleading, though it took me some decades to realize exactly how large the lie was.

Wanna do some point-form things, in no order and with no connection.
• it can be argued that the British Empire actually existed as a meaningful body only from about 1837 to sometime after WW1. There is a difference between economic cannibalism and empire, and the Brits only got that during Victoria's reign. The rest, including WSC's best rhetoric, was post-reality.

There were sensible, forward-looking and honourable men (yes, preponderance of males duly noted) who did attempt to energize and transform those nations flying versions of the Union flag. They did some remarkable things in the face of covert opposition from the British Home Office, Foreign Office, Colonial Office and the like. But what might be considered brilliant and forward thinking after the Boer War was not necessarily worth consideration in 1935.

Dave, the sun had already set on the British Empire when war broke out, though most of the toffs in Westminster didn't know it or didn't believe it. It took Tobruk, and Hong Kong, and Singapore, and the realization that the RN could not continue to tie things together by "sending a gunboat", to realize that.

I'm a slight bit off Jim's initial post, but I'll go back to it and try to fill out my understanding of it.

Cheers
Brian G
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brian grafton
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Re: Great Britain and her Commonwealth in WW2 from 1939-43
Posted on: 10/12/2017 8:40:50 PM
Jim, I know this has been gone through already. But I want my understanding out front before I make too many comments.

Until Dec 7, 1941, WW2 was pretty much a European War. Japan had its own war with China, but despite the diplomatic agreements between Germany and Japan there was little coordination between the two.

In fact, until June 10, 1940, this European war was at first a 3-to-1 affair, and then after the fall of Poland, a 2-1 affair. Germany was the one, against two reputedly fierce foes: France and Britain. Most people forget, but things changed not on May 10 but on 9 April, 1940. It wasn't the invasion of France and the Low Countries that was the trigger, but the German invasion of Denmark and Norway. I honestly can't speak for French intervention in Norway, but British attempts were at best misdirected and at worst totally ineffectual. This was WSC's baby, and how he became PM after both Gallipoli (WW1, but only 20+ years distant) and Norway still eludes me, except that Chamberlain was even more inept.

Italy became a belligerent on 10 July, 1940. France capitulated on 25 July, 1940. Other than government- in-exile (and there were a host of them, all with few troops and little money) Britain finally stood alone (with, of course, her faithful commonwealth and colonies).

She faced the BoB. They won. They faced Seelöwe. They didn't have to fight. The faced the Blitz, which ran from early September 1940 to 10 April 1941. They survived. They faced increasing aggression at sea, with mixed results. They were successful against Italian troops in North Africa, and were beaten soundly by the Germans in April 1941 in Greece. And on June 22 1941 the Germans implemented Barbarossa, and the Western Front was suddenly a side show.

So really, we have simply one year when Britain stands "alone" (with whatever colonial/commonwealth forces it has drawn to its side by mid-June 1940). It's navy – the largest and most reputable in the world – is less than paying its way, though it is getting some great assistance from Oz and NZ.). Some few successes (e.g., Bismarck) but a number of failures (effective closure of the Med; disastrous results from convoying; effective closure of the English Channel to British shipping). Its army (and those of the Colonies and Commonwealth) remain, for the most part, less than fully equipped even a year after Dunkirk (Canadian artillery units are being supplied with Pre-WW1 French guns, with five rounds per gun!). North Africa and Malta continue to get out-dated or obsolescent a/c for defense (i.e., Gladiators and Hurricane Mk Is), and the RN is sorely tried to supply the island with basic necessities. At home, Fighter Command has received all the kudos WSC can grant by his oratory, but Bomber Command still can't find a target three times out of five (as the Butt Report shows in mid-1941).

Try this for a statemen:. Without Nazi idiocy in thinking it could defeat Soviet Russia, Britain would have been in the toilet by mid-1942. I offer that because I think Jim's question has to be seen in this time-frame and with these realizations. 1939 is the beginning of the war, but not the beginning of Britain standing alone. 1943 is not the beginning of US involvement, though it may have been chosen because of the joint assault in North Africa. The first US bombers attacked the European continent on July 4, 1942. Americans love that kind of national symbolism! It was a small raid, and the casualties were high. But they were there.

Cheers
Brian G
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BWilson

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Re: Great Britain and her Commonwealth in WW2 from 1939-43
Posted on: 10/13/2017 1:52:08 AM

Quote:

Quote:
India is a special case. Because of nationalism, there are many voices in India who prefer not to speak of the sacrifices of Indian troops in the Second World War, believing that they were plainly used for British purposes and not primarily for Indian interests. Personally, I have a difficult time assessing this situation because IMO there was significant variation in Indian troop quality and performance. Some of their formations were good as gold while others were apparently not so.[


Careful Bill-the devil's in the detail

In March 1944, the Indian National Army with the help of Japan crossed into India and advanced as far as Kohima in Nagaland. This advance on the mainland of South Asia reached its farthest point on India territory, retreating from the Battle of Kohima beaten by British 2nd Inf Div in June 44 and from Imphal on 3 July 1944 purdsued by the British Indian Army after a major battle on the plain of Imphal back across the Irrawddy into Burma and finally driven out of Burma by July/Aug 1945 by General Slim's 14th Army.

Regards

Jim
--anemone


Hi Jim,

 I was unclear. I was writing of postwar, post-partition nationalism on the part of Indians.

Cheers

BW
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BWilson

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Re: Great Britain and her Commonwealth in WW2 from 1939-43
Posted on: 10/13/2017 3:52:08 AM
 As far as "willing hands" go, I think it fair to mention the New Zealanders, and more importantly in terms of formations and manpower, the colonies in Africa. The latter were a significant presence in the East Africa Campaign (a largely unheralded, but important, British/Commonwealth/Empire victory) as well as in operations in Burma.

 Obviously, Poland was not a member of the Commonwealth, yet, under British command, fielded a corps in Italy and an armoured division in NW Europe (as well as a parachute brigade). My take in Poland's case is they did not take great issue with British command during the war, but were bitterly disappointed in 1945 when they realized Poland's fate was to become a satellite of the Soviet Union.

Cheers

BW
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anemone
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Re: Great Britain and her Commonwealth in WW2 from 1939-43
Posted on: 10/13/2017 4:20:30 AM
Polish Independent Carpathian Brigade (Polish Samodzielna Brygada Strzelców Karpackich, SBSK) was a Polish military unit releaded by Stalin.

The men and women were captives of Stalin who ultimately release them to fight in North Africa.This group force narched out of Russia and into Syria where they formed the Carpathian brigade.


The brigade fought with distinction in the North African theatre of World War II, notably during the Siege of Tobruk. In 1943 it formed the backbone of the 3rd Carpathian Rifle Division in Italy.

NB. I knew Mr and Mrs Kruszewski very well. Frantisek was a tanker in the Kresova Division and Stella was an ammunition lofrry driver in the Carpathian Division- both now deceaswd

Regards

Jim
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anemone
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Re: Great Britain and her Commonwealth in WW2 from 1939-43
Posted on: 10/13/2017 6:25:57 AM
The Greece/Crete Fiasco

Freyberg and Blamey also had serious doubts about the feasibility of the operation but failed to express their reservations and apprehensions.

The campaign caused a furore in Australia, when it became known that when General Blamey received his first warning of the move to Greece on 18 February 1941, he was worried but had not informed the Australian Government.

He had been told by Wavell that Prime Minister Menzies had approved the plan-but was this true ?????

Regards

Jim
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Michigan Dave
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Re: Great Britain and her Commonwealth in WW2 from 1939-43
Posted on: 10/13/2017 9:20:01 AM
Jim, & Brian G.,

Your rather tough on GB & the Commonwealth!?

surprising coming from both of you!?
a frightened,
MD
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anemone
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Re: Great Britain and her Commonwealth in WW2 from 1939-43
Posted on: 10/13/2017 10:35:46 AM
Missed your most interesting post Bran However I disagree that the Hed was closed to us; although our Malta Convoys faced great danger but scraped through,Screwball Buerling was flying Spitfires out of Malta and our Cruiser Force K was a scourge to Rommel's convoys-the RN won the battle of the Med but agreed -only just

How come the Channel Dash closed The English Channel to our shipping??-it is just as well this a monumental overstatement if ever there was one. How did D Day occur did the Germans give us a let.???

You go on to say that had not Hitler not undertaken Operation Barbarossa= UK would have been in the toilet by 1042=I am treating that as a jibe, as you presented no hard evidence as to why this we would have been occupied by Germans.--

However-Britain’s war cabinet of 1940 was convinced that, while Britain retained air superiority, an invasion was unlikely to succeed: in fact, the war cabinet was so convinced of this that it was believed that an an invasion would be a good thing, because it would fail so calamitously.

On the German side, there were similar opinions. The German navy, especially, did not look forward to ‘dying bravely’ at the hands of the Home Fleet: the German army was (understandably) confident that it could finish off the mauled British army, but was worried about getting to Blighty with its feet dry.

In 1942 say-the venture would have been much more difficult


My Regards

Jim
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brian grafton
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Re: Great Britain and her Commonwealth in WW2 from 1939-43
Posted on: 10/13/2017 8:55:08 PM

Quote:
How come the Channel Dash closed The English Channel to our shipping??-it is just as well this a monumental overstatement if ever there was one. How did D Day occur did the Germans give us a let.???[/quote}
Jim, I can't find what I must have written suggesting this. I think the Channel was effectively closed to British shipping from the time of the Kanalkampf, though a couple of convoys were sacrificed to keep that recollection from the public. I'm not suggesting that the RN lost all control of the Channel because of German presence in coastal France, but for a variety of reasons (many of them utterly sound), Germany was in "joint ownership" as of mid-July 1940. German fliers bailing out or ditching and ending up in the Channel during the BoB were being routinely picked up by both German a/c and E-boats, though they often came under fire.

The Channel Dash, as you know, took place on 12 Feb 1942. It involved sailing three capital ships (battle-cruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, with light cruiser Prinz Eugen, with 46 attending ships, mainly destroyers and E-boats) from Brest to Germany. Dash is misleading, of course. This was a small armada of 49 warships, complete with air cover totalling 284 a/c, sailing through the English Channel and all the way to Germany (what are we talking ... 600 miles? 800?). Opposing them, as representatives of the mightiest navy in the world, are 6 destroyers, 3 destroyer escorts, and 32 MTBs. Together with, it should be noted, some 450 a/c.

Was this a naval engagement? Ships, water, ports, enemies ... should have been. Yet there are only 9 RN craft that rate the label "ships", together with 32 "boats". Hell, the German ships were only discovered by accident, and that not until they were almost through the Straits of Dover. I think it fair to ask why there were no RN capital ships present: not from Plymouth; not from Portsmouth; not from any south-England naval base. I think it fair to ask why neither Chain Home nor Chain Home Low stations noticed a swarm of a/c moving up the Channel at some 30 kts for close to 12 hours.

Jim, I'm not trying to get in a fight over this. But I honestly believe, had the German invasion of Russia not occurred, Britain would have been fatally crippled. The Blitz, discontinued to move a/c to the Eastern front, would have continued. And British cities – not so much London as the smaller, more tightly packed cities such as Coventry or Plymouth or Liverpool – were starting to crack after 9 months. Give it another 9 months, and who knows what might happen. Ship-building on the "red" Clyde could easily have ground to a halt, which would be catastrophic. Convoying was not able to overcome U-boat tactics, both because the RN (and associates such as the RCN) had insufficient ships suitable for oceanic convoy duties.

I agree wholeheartedly with you that air superiority in 1940 was essential to staving off invasion. But the RAF barely maintained that superiority: by a little more than a whisker, they outlasted the Luftwaffe assault in preparation for Seelöwe.

I don't think one can bounce from the Battle of Britain to the entry of Russia to the war thinking nothing changed. U-boat kills were up, straining British supplies. German bombing campaigns were damaging the UK nightly, while RAF raids remained ineffective and costly in aircraft and crew. German troops, as late as April 1941, had yet to be bested in combat. British Army troops were successful against Italians in North Africa, and some of those troops were decent fighters. I find it strange that once the British defeated them they became a mockery: was this a case of hinting the British Army couldn't defeat a real enemy?

At any rate, Churchill did not have a confirmed control on the British war effort or direction until Tobruk. I don't think the UK would have been beaten in the field by Germany, but I think there remained as late as the debacle of Greece and Crete certain factions which might have been prone to discuss truce and eventual peace with Germany. That may have become even stronger in some of the more radical right circles once Russia became a British ally sharing war goods from the US.

Sorry. Long-winded, as usual.

Cheers
Brian G
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Re: Great Britain and her Commonwealth in WW2 from 1939-43
Posted on: 10/13/2017 9:39:36 PM
Dave, is looking at weaknesses and errors being hard on something? Is going to war for reasons you have little control over being hard? Is submitting to the yoke of folk who balance decency and politeness with arrogance and condescension being hard?

British and French connivance allowed Munich to happen. Canada wasn't asked. Nor was Czechoslovakia. British and French "unity" of purpose led to promises to Poland which could not be met, but in truth were never going to be met. Poles were not advised of this.

A strong and active political group in England were, ever since initial successes with a smaller plan in South Africa, trying to establish a true "commonwealth" of British-born nations. But with headquarters in London and initially under British Colonial Office control. Didn't happen.

A British committee attempted for some years to establish what became BCATP (British Commonwealth Air Training Progam) in Canada, with commonwealth funding but British control. Didn't happen.

I'll admit I'm talking as a Canadian here, but I'm certain Ozzies and Kiwis and whoever you want to welcome into the gang would have similar complaints.

The other side of the coin, of course, is that – with the exception of India – the large, "white" nations moving from colonial to independent status (each at its own pace) were prepared to back Britain. Why that is so is hard to determine, but it has something to do with family or personal history, previous links with the "Old Country", or even previous service under the Crown.

In Canada, we had a rather interesting problem, which I'm going to simplify to such an extent that other Canadians will probably want to kill me. Officially, we were (and remain) a nation of two founding people and two languages. That had huge meaning in 1939, as it still does (for somewhat different reason) today. Not so much for the majority, anglophone population, but for the francophone community. They saw a huge difference between fighting "For King and Country" and fighting for Canada. This wasn't just a language issue, because others felt going to war at the behest of a foreign nation (e.g., Britain) was unacceptable. So Canada's PM had to find a means of making this Canada's war, and to provide a means by which folks could serve simply by protecting Canadian soil. It almost worked, and Canada came through the war with some scars but no terminal wounds.

To be honest, Dave, I think many folks – and, yes, maybe they are US – don't understand the relation between commonwealth and colonial governments and the UK. We're not slaves. The authority of the Crown is often lip-service, but it is a valued service. I have served the Crown as a civil servant, and I have signed contracts with Her Majesty to provide services to the Crown. When we go to war, we do so in the name of our Queen. But she doesn't own us, or order us, or direct us, or force us to do anything. We do it out of history, and an odd kind of love (that is really better described as "honour"), a host of other reasons.

I don't think we're being particularly hard on GB or the Commonwealth. We went into a war that was created by forces we could not control. We entered it with (at least in Canada) some questions and with issues inside our own dominion.

Yep. Lotta shit happened once Canada went to war in support of Britain. That's what I think you're picking up in comments from Jim or me, or any other poster. I'd love to hear Wazza's sense of it all, or Riain's. Most of the time, this is just family bitching. I think the US is the sadder because it doesn't have a few sister countries to share with.

Cheers
Brian G

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Phil andrade
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Re: Great Britain and her Commonwealth in WW2 from 1939-43
Posted on: 10/14/2017 3:18:19 AM
Brian,

Without Nazi idiocy in thinking it could defeat Soviet Russia, Britain would have been in the toilet by mid-1942 .

Let me suggest this for a question :

Had it not been for that Nazi aim, would there have been war in the first place ?

Regards, Phil

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anemone
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Re: Great Britain and her Commonwealth in WW2 from 1939-43
Posted on: 10/14/2017 4:31:09 AM

Quote:
Jim, I'm not trying to get in a fight over this. But I honestly believe, had the German invasion of Russia not occurred, Britain would have been fatally crippled. The Blitz, discontinued to move a/c to the Eastern front, would have continued. And British cities – not so much London as the smaller, more tightly packed cities such as Coventry or Plymouth or Liverpool – were starting to crack after 9 months. Give it another 9 months, and who knows what might happen. Ship-building on the "red" Clyde could easily have ground to a halt, which would be catastrophic. Convoying was not able to overcome U-boat tactics, both because the RN (and associates such as the RCN) had insufficient ships suitable for oceanic convoy duties.

I agree wholeheartedly with you that air superiority in 1940 was essential to staving off invasion. But the RAF barely maintained that superiority: by a little more than a whisker, they outlasted the Luftwaffe assault in preparation for Seelöwe.

I don't think one can bounce from the Battle of Britain to the entry of Russia to the war thinking nothing changed. U-boat kills were up, straining British supplies. German bombing campaigns were damaging the UK nightly, while RAF raids remained ineffective and costly in aircraft and crew. German troops, as late as April 1941, had yet to be bested in combat. British Army troops were successful against Italians in North Africa, and some of those troops were decent fighters. I find it strange that once the British defeated them they became a mockery: was this a case of hinting the British Army couldn't defeat a real enemy?

At any rate, Churchill did not have a confirmed control on the British war effort or direction until Tobruk. I don't think the UK would have been beaten in the field by Germany, but I think there remained as late as the debacle of Greece and Crete certain factions which might have been prone to discuss truce and eventual peace with Germany. That may have become even stronger in some of the more radical right circles once Russia became a British ally sharing war goods from the US.


Sorry. Long-winded, as usual.

Cheers
Brian G

Brian- many thanks for our further thoughts on this given subject-which I have to say that you have paid scant attention to.

Be that as it may-I have to accept that given the UK was under a prolonged threat of invasion by Germany -this would undoubtedly have changed the course of the war; but as it did not happen, and me not being clairvoyant nor clever enough -I cannot say what would have been the outcome but rest assured we would have fought tooth and nail to maintain our sovereignty,

Cannot argue much about out conduct of the war from 1940--42--it was a tough time on land, at sea and in the air;-absolutely nothing to brag about as WSC monkeyed with war policy; as he did -aye in spades.I was pleased wjen his war cabinet included Alanbrooke,Cunningham and Portal but disappointed in his blind faith in Mountbatten.

Unce Barbarossa had begun -there was no question of not aiding the USSR-had Germany defeated the Red Army-"the Cat would have been among the Pigeons"-fortunately the tide turned at Stalingrad and Churchiil shook his feathers and changed the entire North African Command structure and from El Alamein-- we seldom looked back..

Regards

Jim






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George
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Re: Great Britain and her Commonwealth in WW2 from 1939-43
Posted on: 10/14/2017 7:06:13 AM
One comment is as important as ten, Jim. Brian's points are worthy of consideration.

I know that it is difficult to hear that some people were convinced that GB was going to fall.

Certainly the Americans were being fed that information, giving support to those in the US government who wished to remain neutral.

My Dad and his brothers were in England when the invasion scare was in full force. The Canadians were zipping here and there in anticipation of an attack somewhere on the SE coast. The 1st Div was acting as a mobile reaction team.

Dad said that things looked pretty grim but that the English were resolved to fight. Churchill's speech in which he spoke of "fighting on the beaches etc", did not ring hollow. If the Germans even had the equipment needed to cross and if the RN and RAF didn't destroy them on the way over, it would have been a bloody fight. A lot of "ifs" there, I realize.

But is it not more likely that had the Germans decided not to invade the USSR, that some sort of uneasy peace would have been negotiated?

I am not sure that Hitler sought to destroy the British culture but to ensure that he dominated on the continent.

With his invasion of the USSR, surely some pressure was taken off the British and Commonwealth.

Cheers,

George

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Re: Great Britain and her Commonwealth in WW2 from 1939-43
Posted on: 10/14/2017 7:55:05 AM

Quote:
One comment is as important as ten, Jim. Brian's points are worthy of consideration.


George-I really do not see where I have ignored any of Brian's points in the two replies I made-I have tried hard to be even handed=where we fell short in our prosecution of the war -I have laid that on the lime ie. Our achievements, after the Sealion cancellation; were indeed poor on land and in the air.

Your father and his brother were soldiers in England at the critical time of imminent invasion-my father was at sea in a corvette; and I lived in the extreme north of E,gland aged 9 years. probably oblivious as to what was happening on the South Coast and nothing happened.So the question of What if did not arise but I di say that if Germany tried to invade the UK after 1940-they would have been up against even stiffer resistance from all three Forces the Home and Mediterranean Fleets-one either end of the Channel,Bomber and Coastal Command.On shore minefields, fire traps, much artillery and men to fight.We would never surrender.

Regards

Jim
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George
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Re: Great Britain and her Commonwealth in WW2 from 1939-43
Posted on: 10/14/2017 9:48:48 AM
OK Jim, I just thought that you got an unnecessary dig into Brian with this,


Quote:
Brian- many thanks for your further thoughts on this given subject-which I have to say that you have paid scant attention to


It sounded like damning with faint praise. If I am wrong, sorry.

Cheers,

George

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Re: Great Britain and her Commonwealth in WW2 from 1939-43
Posted on: 10/14/2017 10:44:35 AM
Well Yes George that is true; but it was only a reminder of what the thread was all about-GB's stand alone with the aid of Dominion Forces for almost half of the war in the west.IMO I did not think that we had used them well and what would be their government's reaction to any highhabdedness eg the Dieppe Raid and Greece/Crete fiasco.

Instead I was fielding shots about the closure of the Med and the English Channel and the invasion of the mother country-I guess Brian put me on the back foot but that does not worry me at all and all Idid was try to set the record straight and certainly not to cause offence.

Regards

Jim
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George
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Re: Great Britain and her Commonwealth in WW2 from 1939-43
Posted on: 10/14/2017 12:01:38 PM
Thanks Jim.

You know the Canadians cannot plead that they were innocent children sent to the slaughter by an indifferent master, Great Britain.

While Canada was out of the loop on the direction of the war for the most part, and unlike the first war, they were approached about specific battles and missions.

So the Canadian military is complicit in the Hong Kong disaster in that Harry Crerar recommended that we send a couple of battalions. I don't think that he understood the risks. Should Canada have said "bugger off" and refused the request. For sure.

But Canada was looking to get its troops involved and with too much reliance on British intelligence regarding the capabilities of the Japanese, it was agreed to send troops to Hong Kong. Sacrificial lambs.

By the time of Dieppe, Canada was itching to get men into the fray. The reputation of the Canadian Corps in the Great War had preceded them and the country wondered why our men were languishing in England. Hell, even the Yanks got their men into North Africa while our troops continued with endless training.

So when approached, Canada jumped at the opportunity. Other raids that were to have involved Canadians had been altered to the point that they were not combat missions or scrubbed, sometimes with troops in the water, ready to land.

In hindsight, and with the changes to the Dieppe raid between initial plan and the remounting, the Canadian Army should have said again, "bugger off" to special operations.

But that would not have looked good. I think that the Canadians knew that this raid was poorly planned and mounted but still they went, didn't they?


Cheers,

George

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Re: Great Britain and her Commonwealth in WW2 from 1939-43
Posted on: 10/14/2017 1:07:15 PM
Thank you George -not a lot that I can say in the way of input-except to maintain that you Canadians are a remarkably resilient people- who do not baulk at the impossible-GB were very fortunate to have your officers and men alongside.


Regards

Jim
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Phil andrade
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Re: Great Britain and her Commonwealth in WW2 from 1939-43
Posted on: 10/14/2017 1:43:06 PM
Right now we in the UK are undergoing something of a trauma about our identity.

Brexit syndrome : some of us are defiant and optimistic ; many of us are shitting conkers.

We need the narrative of Commonwealth and seek refuge in reassuring reflections on WW2.

Tilting at windmills ?

Regards , Phil
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Re: Great Britain and her Commonwealth in WW2 from 1939-43
Posted on: 10/14/2017 2:20:52 PM
Tilting at windmills ?

Hi Phil,

 I think not. We record the events of history in order to understand who we are. Britain has historically been an entity apart from the European continent (and paid the price, re: Vikings, Saxons, and Normans). Part of the discussion today that goes unmentioned is that Britain's commitment to the continent is largely, dare I write, a relic of the 20th century. Before that, Great Britain had regarded the affairs of the continent with exceptional skepticism. Have we reached a point (again) in which the U.K. is content to monitor events on the continent and intervene only when absolutely necessary ? (My opinion: No, but the political evolution of the EU has brought to the fore some pressing questions that must be decided before "business as usual" can continue.)

Cheers,

BW
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Re: Great Britain and her Commonwealth in WW2 from 1939-43
Posted on: 10/14/2017 3:24:02 PM
Thanks Bill.

It wasn't my intention to subvert the thread by dint of discussing current affairs, but I can't escape the feeling that right now we need some reassurances about notions of Commonwealth.

I suppose that our thread might be defined by the existential struggle in the first half of the war, followed by revival and resurgence in the second part, with 1943 being a good jumping off point for that resurgence.

In which of those two parts did the Commonwealth play the greater role ?

Regards, Phil
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BWilson

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Re: Great Britain and her Commonwealth in WW2 from 1939-43
Posted on: 10/14/2017 3:41:00 PM
In which of those two parts did the Commonwealth play the greater role ?

Phil,

 If I define the scope for action as northwest Europe ... then I think the first half is when the greater role was played by "other-than-British-troops". By way of example, how many Indian troops fought in NW Europe during the Second World War?

Cheers

BW
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Re: Great Britain and her Commonwealth in WW2 from 1939-43
Posted on: 10/14/2017 3:51:28 PM
Bill,

Indians 1939-42 : North Africa, East Africa and the Malaya/Burma campaign ; 1943-45, North Africa and Italy, and, very prominently, Burma.

I'm going to look at CWGC data and see how India's war dead are distributed in those two parts.

Edit - this is revealing. From 3 September 1939 to 31 December 1942, Indian dead, all forces, all causes, all theatres : 25,920.

From 1 January 1943 to 12 September 1945 ( Japanese surrender at Singapore ) : 49,311...pretty well two thirds of all deaths attributable to the later phase, which was a significantly shorter time span. The burden on India fell more heavily in the resurgence than it did in the struggle for survival.

Small wonder that the Independence came within two years of the war's end.

It might be revealing to see how the other nations fared in this respect.

Editing again, with another interpretation : in the existential phase of the war, 76% of all Commonwealth war dead - including civilians and merchant seamen - were from the UK : in the resurgent phase, that figure dropped to 63%. The preponderance of UK dead in the earlier period is very marked. It needs to be noted that UK includes colonies and crown territiories. Roughly one fifth of all the dead in the first phase were civilians, and one tenth were merchant marine, with the UK accounting for nearly all of these. So might it be said that the British Isles did the surviving, while the Commonwealth did the winning ?

Regards, Phil
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"That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."

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brian grafton
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Re: Great Britain and her Commonwealth in WW2 from 1939-43
Posted on: 10/14/2017 10:52:20 PM
Jim, I'm not trying to ignore what you seem to see as the discussion you have raised. I'm trying to clarify what that discussion implies from my point of view.
You say, even in your most recent post:
Quote:
Well Yes George that is true; but it was only a reminder of what the thread was all about-GB's stand alone with the aid of Dominion Forces for almost half of the war in the west.
I honestly don't accept your premise. Sept 1939 to end of 1942 is not the same as July 1940 to July 1941.

So I posited what I thought was a possible outcome had Britain and here Commonwealth truly been fighting alone to the end of 1942. My point was I think Britain would have made peace rather than face collapse. How are my comments not relevant to your proposal?

You say:
Quote:
IMO I did not think that we had used ... [ed.: colonial/commonwealth troops] ... well and what would be their government's reaction to any highhabdedness eg the Dieppe Raid and Greece/Crete fiasco.
I agree with you. My point is that the British didn't use their own troops all that well either, whether at the most basic levels or at rather high levels of command. I mentioned the inability of the Brits to keep the Channel open after Kanalkampf; I mentioned their inability to use the RN effectively early in 1942 to stop a German fleet from using the Channel. I have not raised their utter misreading of the difference between theory and practice in air warfare, and their utter lack of a Plan B for bombing policy. I have not raised their utterly disgusting treatment of Dowding and Park, who saved their bacon during the Battle of Britain. If this is how they would treat their own armed forces, why would one assume they would treat "Colonials" any better.

Jim, I don't know whether you want to talk about how well Britain did while fighting the good fight "alone". I don't know whether you simply want some Blighty bashing from ex-colonials like me. I do know that, even with German pressure removed because of Barbarossa, Britain was less than effective for some time into at least 1942. The "Millenium" raids of BC in May-June of 1942 were a desperate attempt to keep Bomber Command from being disbanded and an ineffective fighting force, for God's sake. And every bit of ineffectiveness impacted all troops under the general aegis of British command: all Commands of RAF; various elements of RN strategy (convoy work using RCN sailors and vessels is one thing; use of heavy ships against raiders around the world is another); even the use of "ex-colonial" troops in East Africa, North Africa, Greece and the Middle East.

I apologize for putting you "on the spot":
Quote:
Instead I was fielding shots about the closure of the Med and the English Channel and the invasion of the mother country-I guess Brian put me on the back foot but that does not worry me at all and all Idid was try to set the record straight and certainly not to cause offence.
Jim, I honestly believe a forum has to deal with views other than the person who posts initially.

I didn't care if you fielded my comments or not. I simply wanted to point out that there were concrete indications that the British were not winning the war at any stage of their "solitary" defence of democracy, with the possibility of the Battle of Britain. Example after example of my point can be brought to mind, and that's germane not just in how Brits used "colonial" assets but whether the Brits were equipped – materially, strategically, logistically, or culturally – to beat the combined Nazi powers. Even after having their war turned into a side-show, the did not demonstrate any great military capability.

I think we would all agree with the following points:
• The RAF had a huge contingent of "colonials" in every branch of the service. Keep in mind that 6 Group (RCAF) Bomber Command didn't come into existence until 1 Jan 1943: Canucks, like Kiwis and Aussies and South Africans, were in RAF squadrons with little to differentiate them from Brits. Canucks got different wages, but that's about it. I've also heard (don't know how true it is) that instead of the "independence" Canada's PM demanded, Kiwis and Aussies simply threatened to bring their boys back home if there were a problem.
• The RN relied on "colonials" from the outset. New Zealand and Australian ships (mainly cruisers) freed the RN from patrolling much of the Pacific. Graf Spee would not have been sunk without "colonial" ships.
• The military were using "colonial" troops, largely under British command, through North Africa and Greece. Later, the same thing applied to Egypt. And Tobruk was being held by Aussies who knew their homeland was damn near undefended.

I could probably go on for quite some time. But my basic points are quite simple.
• Britain did not stand alone from 1939 to 1943. She stood alone from July 1940 to 1941.
• During that time, with the exceptions of some naval successes (the River Platte amongst them), the obvious BoB, and the successful campaigns against the Italians in East and North Africa, British capabilities appeared lacking, British stategy appeared misdirected, and British war making appeared ineffective.

I don't like how untrained Canadian troops (meant only for defensive service) ended up in Hong Kong, whether Pm King or Gen. Crerar were responsible or it was all WSC's fault. I don't like the fact that officers of the defenders of Singapore were not allowed admittance to Singapore clubs, because they weren't "gentlemen" (which I assume, in the case of Indian Army officers, meant "were of the wrong colour"). But Canucks were not the only soldiers in Hong Kong who were being told that Nipponese were night blind, and short-sighted, and small and timid. And when it comes to Singapore, there were a lot of matelots who went down as two capital ships with no air cover entered Japanese controlled waters.

I guess I wonder how the British survived so long, and I'm amazed that there aren't more discussions about how long it took for Britain to turn into a fighting force not controlled by class and school and family and tie.

Sorry Jim. I can't talk about how the Brits treated "colonial' forces without considering how the Brits treated the world, or exactly how many "colonials" they would kill on the periphery in order to protect the homeland with home troops.

Sorry for any offence I have offered. I just read my history this way.

Cheers
Brian G
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Phil andrade
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Re: Great Britain and her Commonwealth in WW2 from 1939-43
Posted on: 10/15/2017 3:20:59 AM
Brian,

How was George Orwell depicting events at the time ?

He knew all about class and school and family and tie, and about the treatment of " wogs " as well.

Who could forget his book Burmese Days ?

He himself was an Old Etonian.

Quite a turn around there, then.

Regards, Phil

---------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!"

"That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

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