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The British Commonwealth Declares War: The United Kingdom and other independent members of the British Commonwealth, known as the Dominions, declared war on Germany separately, either on the same day, or soon afterwards; these countries were Canada (10/09/1939), Australia, New Zealand (along with the United Kingdom on 03/09/1939) and South Africa (06/09/1939). However, Newfoundland had given up self-rule and was at the time under effective rule from the UK; it did not become part of Canada until 1949. Southern Rhodesia, while self-governing, did not have independence in foreign policy or military matters.

Following the Statute of Westminster in 1931, the Dominions of the British Commonwealth had independence in foreign policy. Australia and New Zealand accepted and reiterated the British declaration of war on Germany. The South African Prime Minister, Barry Hertzog, refused to declare war, leading to the collapse of his coalition government on 6 September; the new Prime Minister, Jan Smuts, declared war that same day. Canada declared war on Germany on 10 September; this was necessary as Canada had ratified the Statute.

The Indian Empire (including the areas and peoples covered by the later Republic of India, Bangladesh and Pakistan) and territories controlled by the Colonial Office, namely the Crown Colonies, were controlled politically by the UK and therefore also entered hostilities with Britain's declaration of war. The Indian Empire contributed about 2,500,000 personnel. It suffered 1,500,000 civilian

Prime Minister Jan Smuts

casualties (more than the United Kingdom), mainly from the Bengal famine of 1943 caused by the fall of Burma to the Japanese and 87,000 military casualties (more than any Commonwealth country but fewer than the United Kingdom). The UK suffered 382,000 military casualties. source

Britain looks to the Empire and Dominions for help: At the start of the Second World War, the British Government looked to the Empire and Dominions for air training help because the United Kingdom did not have the space to accommodate training and operational facilities, and because aerodromes in the United Kingdom were vulnerable to enemy attack. The Agreement was signed by Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand on 17 December 1939, it listed the percentage of trainees each country would send, the percentage of costs each would take on, the training schedule, and the aerodrome opening schedule.

Between 1940 and 1945, some 151 schools had been established across Canada with a ground organization of 104,113 men and women. By the end of the Second World War, the BCATP (Canada) and the EATS (Australia/NZ) had produced 131,553 aircrew, including pilots, wireless operators, air gunners, and navigators for the Air Forces of Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. BCATP/EATS remains the single largest aviation training program in history and was responsible for training nearly half the pilots, navigators, bomb aimers, air gunners, wireless operators and flight engineers of the Commonwealth air forces during the war. source

Robert Menzies

Students from many other countries attended schools under the plan, including Argentina, Belgium, Ceylon, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Finland, Fiji, France, Greece, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, South Africa and the United States. Under a parallel agreement, the Joint Air Training Scheme, South Africa trained 33,347 aircrew for the RAF, SAAF and other Allied air forces[1], exceeded only by Canada, which trained 130,000.[2]. source

Right: On September 3, 1939, Prime Minister W.L. Mackenzie King (right of microphone) and Minister of Justice Ernest Lapointe (left) speak to the nation on the CBC radio network, King in English and Lapointe in French. (Canada)

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This site was created by and information compiled by L.Del Mann - © 2008