In 1939, the British Empire ruled over areas on all seven continents and around a quarter of the world’s population. During the Second World War, British and Commonwealth forces served alongside men and women from across the Empire. Some did so in their own distinct forces with their own units and commands, while others served directly within the British Armed Forces.
Australia entered the war on 3 September 1939 when Great Britain declared war on Germany. By 1945, almost one million Australians, both men and women, served in many parts of the world, on land, at sea and in the air.
Canada and Newfoundland
Canada entered the war on 10 September 1939. Within months they arrived in Great Britain to supplement the BEF. Canadian forces served across the globe in Hong Kong, Italy, North West Europe and the North Atlantic.
With 2.5 million men, the Indian Army of the Second World War was the largest volunteer army in history. Indians served in theatres of war across the world, at sea and in the air, as well as contributing to support and medical care.
During the Second World War, South Africans served all over the world and in many roles. Many died far from their home country and their contribution to the Allied war effort was significant.
At the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, New Zealand formed the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force. The first of several contingents of troops sent overseas arrived in Egypt in February 1940.