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The Battle for Britain

Andrew Stewart investigates the forgotten role of those ‘ideal soldiers of democracy’, troops from Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, who arrived to defend Britain from invasion.

Soldiers of the Canadian Active Service Force arrive in Scotland, December, 1939. (Getty Images)

The summer of 1940 remains one of the most decisive periods in British history. Most often it is remembered for the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) from France, which began in the last days of May, and the battles that were fought in the country’s skies during the period that ran from July 10th until October 31st, commonly referred to as the Battle of Britain. The postwar literature has provided detailed assessments of the role played by the air, maritime and the land forces that were involved. A striking omission, however, is the scant reference made to the contribution provided by the military forces of the Dominions and British overseas colonies. By September 1940 they were engaged heavily in the defence of the United Kingdom.

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