Book Review: A Very British Experience: Coalition, Defence and Strategy in the Second World War

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by Andrew Stewart

Eastbourne, Eng.: Sussex Academic Press/Portland: ISBS, 2012. Pp. xi, 248. Illus., notes, biblio., index. . 74.95. ISBN: 184519439X

A Very British Experience takes a look at what might be termed the “British Phase” of the Second World War, the period of roughly 33 months from the Fall of France to the Anglo-American landings in North Africa, when Britain “stood alone” (with help from the Commonwealth and the Empire plus a handful of governments-in-exile, then the Soviet Union, and finally and a slowly growing American presence after Pearl Harbor) against the Axis in Atlantic, Africa, the Mediterranean, and the Indian Ocean. The nine chapters address various aspects of the war, notably defense of Britain, intra-Commonwealth politics, diplomacy, and mobilization, the protracted and overlooked campaign against Italian East Africa as well as the much better documented desert war, plus the political crisis sparked by the fall of Tobruk, and the burden of the war on Britain’s purse. The continuity from chapter-to-chapter is a mite disjointed at times, as some of the chapters first appeared as journal articles, but the individual chapters often offer interesting insights, and the overall story of when Britain more or less “stood alone" in resisting Axis aggression is well told.

A Very British Experience will be useful for those interested in the Second World War, as it throws new light on the inner tensions within Britain and its Empire and Commonwealth that helped shape the war.

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Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   


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