Britain never really “stood alone” at the beginning of WW2

Iconic propaganda poster from World War 2 calling for the unification of the British Commonwealth in what was termed at the time in South Africa by Jan Smuts as the “fight for the freedom of the human spirit” – essentially against Fascist and Nazi ideologies of the time.

It’s widely reported now that Britain “stood alone” at the beginning World War 2, but that is not strictly true (for a short while after the fall of Dunkirk, it may have felt like it, but it was not the case) very quickly coming to aid Britain “in her hour of need” and reinforce her troops, airman and seamen where the armed forces of the British Commonwealth – and not only the armed forces but also the raw materials and industry of the likes of Australia, India, South Africa and Canada – an all in effort to aid the United Kingdom, push back the advances of Fascist thinking and change the course of European history.

It’s generally misunderstood – but within a day of the United Kingdom and France declaring war on Germany on 3 September 1939, New Zealand and Australia had declared war on Germany as well.  It was just 3 short days later that an independent parliament in South Africa declared war on Germany on the 6th September 1939 (very early on if you think about it – the fifth country to declare war on Nazism).  Quickly followed by Canada who just four days after South Africa’s declaration also declared war on Germany – 10th September 1939.

In context – the United States of America came to the table much later on declaring war on Germany on the 11th December 1941.  In this respect it can be better argued that Britain AND her Commonwealth of Nations stood alone against Nazism and other forms of Fascism for about two years.

Seen in this poster are the United Kingdom’s key ‘dominions’ – South Africa, Australia and Canada feature in the most pronounced positions in this poster as the leading nations of the Commonwealth.

Representatives of Commonwealth Armed Forces marching toward the right, with a Union flag behind the front figures. Left to right they are soldiers from India, East Africa, a South Africa soldier (in his distinctive “Pith helmet”),  New Zealand, a Canadian airman, an Australian soldier (in his distinctive “slouch hat”) and a Royal Navy sailor (in senior position as the Navy is the senior service).

Poster Copyright: Imperial War Museum

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