When World War II began, it seemed to many that the Commonwealth and Empire were more a liability than a source of strength. It was even larger than it had been in 1914, but its enormous size was out of all proportion to Britain’s strength. Britannia no longer ruled the waves, and it could not maintain a convincing military presence in both Europe and the Pacific. The Empire did provide five million men to fight Britain’s war, but most of these were used to defend the Empire, a task that could never have been effective without the massive, and often reluctant, help of the Americans. Furthermore, the British used more of their own men to defend the Empire than the Empire sent to Europe.
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