Was WWII neccessary for Britain ?

It wasn’t neccessary for the US for a couple of years after Britain declared war on Germany and then only because of Pearl Harbour.

It would appear that Hitler’s only objective was to consolidate into Germany those countries that included significant numbers of the Volksdeutsche. Sure, world domination was his objective as well, but that could mean simply a powerful economic force like Britain and America were.

Of course that all changed when Britain declared war on Germany.

Was it worth it for Britain ? It is quite concievable that Britain would have been a much more powerful and wealthy country today had they simply let Hilter have his way. Many Brits died. Just what did Britain gain by fighting and winning the war ?

Security. It was obvious that the empire wouldn’t be around for ever, and we couldn’t always rely on having thousands of Commonwealth troops to fight for our survival. A powerful Germany dominating the Continent would have turned its attention to the UK eventually. Britain’s foreign policy had always been to oppose nations dominating the Continent.

Hitler’s objective was to conquer Lebensraum (living space) for the master race. Certainly his principle objective in starting the second world war was to conquer the Soviet Union, which did not have any German population. There’s obviously no way to know for sure how he would have treated Britain if Britain hadn’t declared war first, but certainly Britain’s long-term prospects as a free country wouldn’t have looked good with Germany controlling nearly all of Europe.

The guiding principle of England’s foreign policy was to prevent hegemony on the continent, going back hundreds of years. As a net importer of food and later oil, Britain would have been pretty much at the mercy of any power that controlled Europe.

And any power that controlled mainland Europe was going to see the British Isles as a threat to it’s sea trade, and a potential springboard for an invasion, as well.

In addition to the above, Hitler proved time and time again, he couldn’t be trusted. Great Britian couldn’t believe Hitler would leave them alone.

Hitler also didn’t really have any war aims other than the broad outline he made in Mein Kampf

The truth was by the end of WWI, Great Britian was already in decline. WWII just exhausted it. Their “white colonies,” Canada, Aussie, NZ, South Africa were able to assert their independence within a decade or so and urbanization ended the need to send Europeans elsewhere.

In the scheme of Human History, WWII was just the latest in “Let’s play Empire by conquering our neighbors” which has been going on since before the dawn of time. The Egyptians, the Mesoptamians, the Persians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Chinese, the Mongols…pretty much everyone has played that game at one point or another, thinking that the only way to guarantee their own safety was to be in control of the people that had previously threatened or even just rivalled them. Or merely had the misfortune to neighbor them.

WWII specifically was just the second-to-last gasp of the European Empire Games*, the ending of the whole England-France-Germany rivalry as well as all the other neighboring powers who had been playing along for over 1,000 years.

No way was Britain going to “sit it out”.

  • The last gasp being the Cold War and the whole Nato vs. Soviet Bloc thing.

Don’t forget France. I doubt that France would have declared war on Germany if the British didn’t. That would have left two powers in Europe, and I don’t see any evidence that Hitler wanted to occupy France prior to the war declarations against Germany . Neither do I see any evidence for an inclination towards a Franco-German alliance against Britain.

That does not even suggest a pragmatic justification for Britain opposing Hitler. If Britain stayed out of the opposition to Hitler, there is no reason for Hitler to occupy Britain.

In Mein Kampf, Hitler specifically said that he wanted to declare war against and destroy France.

France was doomed, whether they declared war or not. It was always Germany’s intention to go to war with France and take it, in order to secure their flank before going after Russia.

As for the UK, it’s an interesting question. From Germany’s perspective (and from my own murky memories of Hitler’s views on the UK), I seem to recall that Hitler actually was hopeful that the UK would join Germany as an ally, or at least stay neutral. I recall Hitler thinking that the UK was also an Aryan nation (of course, so was France I think, and I think he always intended to conquer them), and that there should be no reason they couldn’t get along together.

From the UK’s perspective, however, as others have pointed out, I don’t think they had much choice. They probably should have gotten into the war earlier, to be honest, but early or late they were going to be involved to the hilt, as they couldn’t let anyone dominate the continent the way Germany was trying to do. Unless they did join Germany as an ally, even staying neutral would have probably meant the end of empire, regardless.


Stalin didn’t exactly have a good reputation, and the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact was precarious at best as a legiitimate reliable agreement to divide Europe along German Slavic lines.

Yet America wasn’t a threat? I would buy the domination of Europe problem if there was evidence that Hitler wanted all of France, opening a whole vast number of seaports and evidence that the French would submit to being part of the Third Reich.

[quote=“xtisme, post:10, topic:550427”]

And I challenge that assumption. There is no evidence that Hitler wanted all of France.

Well, as others have pointed out, the end of empire was pretty well inevitable regardless.

There was probably a period after Hitlers rise to power when some noted British opinion formers - mainly of aristocratic extraction - would have been quite content to leave Germany to make good on the promis to invade Russia. This was a hangoever fromt eh Bolshevik revolution and the excesses against their more distantly related brethren.

The Germans did have a list of English nobility including some of the Royal family whom they had very good reason to think had some sympathies for the Nazi cause.

This, apart from sheer lack of readiness is one reason that Britain did not get involved directly sooner. There is a case to be made that at the time of Attlee’s ‘Peace in our time’ message that he knew that Britian was simply not ready and could not have intervened - some even go so far as stating Attlee was just buying time and use as evidence a significant miltiary re-equipping programme, personally I think that this is a bit of a stretch and that the re-equipping of the military goes in cyclical stages of advancement and this was one of them.

Life for Brits was pretty tough before WW2, but it got very much harder during the war itself and the 5-10 years after, nor did it lead to the rebuilding of industry in the way that most of the other protagonists did, so I can’t see that it was any direct benefit. Britain divested itself of many serious assets just to survive during htis time, from the computor through to the jet engine along with strategic territorial losses.

In terms of industry and economy, Britain came out as a loser, not as bad as perhaps certain East European nations but from WW2 end onwards it is fair to say that it was pretty much downhill for 30 or 40 years afterwards.

We seem to be debating the merits of the British joining the conflict against Hitler based on British perceptions of the threat.

But was Britain justified? Were they justified on the basis of the damage they caused their economy and the loss of life and civilian casualties that were incurred. I’m looking at this from a modern perspective ( a western modern perspective to be more precise) which looks upon war as a completely last resort. For example, is the preservation of empire (which has been suggested as a legimate war objective) a justification for Britain to declare war on Germany?

The prime minister you refer to is Neville Chamberlain not Clement Attlee.


Because I think that Germany would have backed down if the first time they started pushing their extra territorial agenda the UK (and France) had called them on it. They were most certainly not ready for war (I don’t think they were even ready for war in '39 or '40…IIRC, even Hitlers time table was something like the mid-40’s for the war), and the high command didn’t have anything like confidence when it came to a real confrontation. I think had the UK especially pushed the Germans as far back as '36 when they took back the Rhineland, that Germany would have pulled in their horns, and this might have even lead to the downfall of the Nazi and Hitler. By the time the UK caved in Czechoslovakia it was probably too late (maybe not though, since, again, I don’t think the German high command was all that confident in their ability to fight and win a war against the UK and/or France…I don’t think they gained that confidence until AFTER they had won in France, in fact), but I think that had they been willing to push earlier it might have averted the whole sorry mess.

Of course, had the UK and France not dictated as punitive and vindictive of terms following WWI, there might not have been a Nazi party to take over in Germany in the first place, so…


The UK was even less ready for war than Germany was.

Why has this idea gained so much traction lately? The whole of northern France was destroyed by WW1 and both the UK and France lost a whole generation in the trenches. The Versailles treaty wasn’t vindictive put into its proper context. In fact, one may argue that the treaty didn’t go far enough, in allowing Germany to remain as one nation.

Most Czechs think the UK should have intervened when Germany tried to take control of the Sudetenland and they have a point:

  • there was a lot of heavy industry in the area which could have been used to help Britain’s war effort but instead it was just gifted to the Nazis

  • the Sudetenland was defensible as it was surrounded by mountains unlike Poland which is completely flat

By the time of the German takeover of the Sudetenland it would have been difficult for Britain to have defended it because Germany had rearmed to such an extent by then. However, Churchill was warning throughout the 30s that Germany was rearming (he was something of a lone voice in Parliament) and he would have invaded Germany not long after Hitler came to power if it had been up to him.