How Significant a Role did Britain Play in the War Against Germany, 1939 – 1945
I am going to try to answer this question with a short essay analysing Britain’s contribution to the defeat of Germany. Obviously, Britain contributed in a variety of ways to the defeat of Germany. Britain contributed in the war at sea, land and air. Britain also played a major part in developing new technology and being an American launch pad. I will try to mention various ways that Britain contributed to the defeat of Germany with as little bias as possible. In 1940, Britain was the only country still fighting against Germany.
If Britain had surrendered after Operation Dynamo then it would have been a lot harder for Germany to be defeated. Had the USA wished to attack Germany if Britain had surrendered the only way would be to send a huge armada of ships and landing craft across the Atlantic Ocean. This would result in huge casualties because there were German U-boats spread across the Atlantic Ocean and so many of the American ships would be sunk before they arrived in Europe. In addition, the Germans would have warning of the imminent attack and could deploy sea, land and air forces in the right places to crush the American attack.
America would therefore probably not declare war on Germany unless there were significant consequences for her not to do so. The only other power capable of defeating Germany was the Soviet Union and they were unprepared for a war with Germany at that time. Indeed, Stalin did not believe that Hitler would attack Russia and so had not made any preparations. Also, if Britain had surrendered then Germany could concentrate her entire war effort upon one front, Russia.
This would have been a massive tactical advantage and it would have meant that Germany could use her entire air force in Operation Barbarossa. Therefore, Churchill’s complete rejection of Hitler’s peace terms in 1940 was very important. Britain won air supremacy on its own. The outcome of the Battle of Britain was to be very important for later Allied operations during the war against Germany. It gave the Allies air superiority and tied up 80% of the German air force defending against Allied bombing raids.
Goering thought he could bomb Britain into submission and then invade. Goering kept on changing his tactics so he was not very successful. He first started attacking Channel ports and ships but as the RAF built up their strength, he started to bomb radar stations and outlying fighter bases. This was quite successful but the radar masts were very difficult to destroy so he started to bomb inland fighter bases and aircraft factories. This was the best strategy he had used so far as it made it hard for the RAF to get enough fighter planes into the air to fight the Luftwaffe.
Goering then gave up with this and started the “Blitz”. This was like an acceptance of defeat as it meant that Britain had air supremacy by day and Germany could only bomb Britain by night. The loss of this battle was to have serious repercussions for Germany as the war progressed. In Operation Overlord Britain was in my opinion the most important country. Britain was very significant in establishing air superiority, which made D-Day possible. The Allies invaded with over 12,000 planes against only 300 German aircraft.
Britain was used as a launch pad for American troops and planes. Britain and its empire provided more than half of the invasion forces and the troops were transported using British crafts. D-Day was the turning point of the land war against Germany. Stalin wanted the Western powers to open up a second front against Germany in the West to take some of the pressure of fighting Germany off Russia. Even though the Western front only tied up 25% of Germany’s armies, it helped tactically because it meant that Germany now had to fight a war on two fronts.
It was also very beneficial because it meant that American troops could now come directly from America to France instead of having to stop off at Britain. British technology was instrumental in the invasion of France. The British cracked the Enigma code so they could tell how the Germans were accepting their misinformation about where the invasion was going to take place. The British invented the Mulberries (artificial harbours), which were used to unload supplies, and they used a pipe under the Channel to provide fuel. British technology was vital to Operation Overlord.
Britain’s land campaign against Germany up until D-Day was not very significant. The British armies were having great success against the Italians in North Africa until British troops were removed and German troops came to reinforce the Italians. The British managed to defeat the Afrika Korps in 1942 with American help but as Hitler had only sent four divisions to North Africa. As Hitler did not consider the campaign very important (he considered it a sideshow), he could not have been very disappointed.
The war on land against Germany was mainly won by Russia. 3. million German soldiers (153 divisions) in three massive army groups attacked Russia in Operation Barbarossa. This was roughly 75% of Germany’s armed forces. However, most of the German air force and a lot of guns were being used against the Allied bombing raids in the West when they could have been useful against the Soviet tanks in the East. During the German invasion millions of Russian soldiers and civilians died. Britain could not have afforded those heavy casualties; it needed the alliance of the Soviet Union. Britain and the United States of America both contributed to the war at sea.
Although America was officially neutral until December 1941, it sold goods to Britain from the start of the war. The US Navy gave Britain 50 destroyers and helped the Royal Navy defend itself in 1940. By 1941 America were providing Britain with vast quantities of war supplies. From the start of the war German warships and U-boats attacked British merchant vessels, trying to starve Britain into submission. By January 1943, the British navy had only 2 months’ supply of oil left. The U-boats or submarines were the main threat as they were harder to detect.
Britain invented Huff Duff (a means of finding surfaced U-boats) and cracked the Enigma code machine so they could find out where German U-boats were being sent. Also the British used long range aircraft as cover for their convoys. These tactics and technologies, combined with America’s huge manufacturing power defeated Germany at sea. However many ships Germany could sink, America could replace them. In conclusion, I think that the war against Germany could never have been won without Britain. Obviously there were other major roles played by the United States of America and the Soviet Union but Britain’s role was necessary to defeat Germany.
Britain may not have had millions of troops to defeat the German army but it played a major part in defeating the German air force and in keeping German U-boats at bay. It also made a land attack with American assistance possible because Britain is only a few miles away from France cross-Channel. Also Britain had a large empire from which it could call troops and resources which supported its war effort considerably. Britain contributed significantly in my view to the wars at sea, air and land especially with technological advances.