Was Britain prepared for the outbreak of WW2

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  • How prepared was Britain for  the outbreak of WW2.
    • Military prepardness
      • Army(2)
        • Badly perceived at the time and seen as "hidebound and intellectually moribund"
          • LEVY although agreeing with this argues despite clear negelection the army transformed drastically between 1936-39
        • This only changed when Nazi and Japanese aggression shifted
          • Originally meant to ensure peace and cohesion in the empire + supporting imperial defence.
            • 55% stationed in the empire
        • A modern policy for fighting created and modern weapons being produced as they stressed the need for infantry, tanks and artillery work led to the battlefield breakthrough
          • The army was reformed!!!
        • Originally meant to ensure peace and cohesion in the empire + supporting imperial defence.
          • 55% stationed in the empire
        • But the army was still in poor condition and bore the brunt of economic difficulties assuming lowest priority
          • 1938 the German army outnumbered the British by 3 to 1
          • The army was reformed!!!
          • Mowat states "the army was the most negelcted of the services"
      • Navy(3)
        • Like the army concentrated of empiral defence and as a result there was an imperial overstretch and were given low priority
        • Postan "from 1936 the navy was given insufficient financing to adequately prepare for war"
        • The Navy were strong before but different from the army they did not improve- there weapons weren't as lethal as the enemies and British ships were older and less dangerous
          • The navy chose to have a large numbers of smaller carriers when the latter wouldve been more useful
        • The cost of maintenance was impractical and there was insufficient funding
      • RAF(1)
        • The RAF were given above and beyond from the government and as a result were more than prepared for war.
          • Requested only 50 squadrons got near 80.
          • Between 1936-38 given 12000 planes which was 2500 more than the original plan
          • David Dilks argues that the over-estimation of the government was a hindrance to the prepartions for war
        • although showing clear government strategy there emphasis on the RAF directly affected the other services
        • Martin Pugh states "the government in its eagerness to support the airforce neglected the forces, resulting in a dangerously unbalanced form of rearmament"
    • Civil Defence
      • The govt. had good measure in place for civilian defence
        • In 1938 2 million Anderson shelters built and 38 million gas masks produced
        • Wardens trained in everything they might need such as bomb protection and first aid
        • The Civil Defence act of 1939 also saw an increase in public shelters and more funding placed for civil defence
      • Established radar stations a fab thing for  Britain and were something we were one up o n from the Germans
      • Evacuation was in full swing and large numbers of children and pregnant women and sent to the countryside
        • However this did not stay and as a result evacuation failed a bit, as angus calder tells us "evactuation failed.. four out of every ten children...had gone home
      • ANOTHER BIG PROBLEM: class division still very much apart of who got what, the middle and upper class where given more privileges and this was apparent in civil defence
    • Economic Prepardness
      • In the words of Paul Addison "the major criticism of Chamberlain was his refusal to institute stronger co-ordination of the economy"
      • Britain entered the war 'rusting' with a lack of modernisation that resulted in us operating in essentially victorian technology - Corelli Barnett
      • Britain needed to new industries and because they didnt do this struggled to cope with rearmament
        • Calder- "The government knew what had to be done but in the end hovered. They were frightened of interfering with private firms. They were terrified of provoking unions. They were scared of the middle class reaction to rationing and other belt tightening measures"
          • Chamberlain and his govt. did next to nothing to put the economy on a 'war footing'
      • Chamberlain and his govt. did next to nothing to put the economy on a 'war footing'
      • CHamberlain was unable to prepare the economy into reforming into a war economy BUT  the government did manage to for a some what 'miracle' in preparing the industry.
    • Diplomacy
      • It was essential for preparedness for Britain to ally herself with other countries.
        • TO survive the war we needed to obtain allies but very little was done about this
      • The policy of appeasement is largely criticised and many historians argue that it resulted into britain putting her energy into preventing a war rather than preparing for it
        • Although there is truth in that Appeasement did have its advantages
          • As Richie Ovendale argues Chamberlains policy of exhausting all avenues for peace granted Britain the time and leverage it needed to convince the Commonwealth countries of inevitably of war, ensuring that when war came in 1939 the Commonwealth were united.
        • Czechoslovakia was sacrificed for the policy of appeasement
      • We isolated Russia as CHamberlain was suspicious of this communist country
        • Chamberlain failed miserably in discussions in securing an alliance with russia
          • Underestimated what STalin and Hitler would do to get what they desired
        • "I must confess a most profound distrust of Russia..And i distrust her motives"
        • AJP taylor argues that his incompetence prevented a secure military and strageic alliance
      • Spain did not become an ally of Germany but this is one of the only little successes, the lost support of Russia, Italy and -until later- the USA was at our own fault


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