Britain, Australia, and the On
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Here, Day (The Whale War, 1987) documents one of the side dramas of WW II--wherein Australians were betrayed by their own country and left to the mercy of the Japanese Navy. Prior to the war, most Australians, typified by their greatest political figure of the century, R.G. Menzies, had an abiding attachment to their motherland--which in time exacerbated their war problems: "Australia's desire to placate British demands and. . . 'buy British' was a factor in the low level of preparedness of the Australian forces in 1939." Feeling secure that Britain would never abandon her (Australians believed that Singapore was centrally placed to provide British naval protection throughout the Pacific, while Britain saw Singapore as the limit, not the center, of her power), Australia's leaders were reluctant to add military burdens to the nation's public purse. Day exposes how Churchill exploited Australia's loyalty and naive trust by utilizing her assistance against the German menace with rash promises to defend her against a Japanese invasion. Churchill's highhanded treatment included pressing Australian troops into service in the Middle East and putting British officers in charge of each of her military services. Consequently, Australia was left defenseless, a great portion of her troops and navy destroyed in far-off British war zones. Only when Australian Prime Minister John Curtin discovered a top-secret British document revealing that Australia would be sacrificed to European war needs (by not reinforcing Singapore) did he manage to step into the breach, mobilize what little resources were left, and save the day. Day offers important new insight into behind-the-scenes gambits in the British Empire during WW II, and reinforces his conclusions with meticulous research tinged with bitterness and pride.

Pub Date: April 10th, 1989
ISBN: 393-02685-X
Publisher: Norton
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