In this episode we’re looking at how Britain found the manpower to fight the war. By the end at least four and a half million had served from Britain. If we add to that figure Empire and Commonwealth forces, we’re looking at perhaps upwards of ten million. Its an astounding figure….
The great heroic myth of 20th century British history is that after the fall of France in June 1940 Britain ‘stood alone’. This does a great disservice to the millions of men and women from around the world who rallied to the British cause. As in 1914-18 Britain in 1939-45 could call on the human and material resources of the world’s greatest empire, and without them could not have held off Germany and Italy, and later Japan. In the First World War Britain initially depended on volunteers to form Kitchener’s ‘New Army’, but from 1916 it had to resort to conscription. The imperial forces were mainly raised voluntarily although, as in Britain, various forms of social and economic pressure were applied to get men into uniform. In both wars some Commonwealth and Empire territories applied formal conscription. In 1939-45 these countries doubled the military manpower available from Britain itself. This book draws on official documents, diaries, memoirs and other sources to describe how, alongside Britain’s own forces, men and women drawn from the Americas to the Pacific served, fought, and suffered injury and death in Britain’s cause.
I’m joined by Roger Broad.
Rogers New book Volunteers and Pressed Men: How Britain and its Empire Raised its Forces in Two World Wars, it looks at recruitment during both the First and second World War in both Britain and its Empire.