Negotiating Identities in Britain During the Second World War
Imperial settler-regions in the Second World War: The case of British air training in southern Africa
The Second World War was a unique moment in defining and transforming Britishness around the empire. For the global British diaspora, it was reflected, in part, through large-scale participation in the British war effort by overseas Britons, a phenomenon that both cemented the immediate bonds between the metropole and its settler-regions, but also contributed to the transformation of those links during six years of wartime cooperation.1 Membership in the ‘British World’ was also a factor that played into geopolitical and strategic decision-making, especially during the war – while settler-regions enjoyed a privileged status within the British Empire, this attachment to the empire, when manifested in significant military contributions, also had domestic political consequences.2 This chapter will explore the dynamic between the UK and two of its settler-regions in southern Africa, the Dominion of South Africa and the colony of Southern Rhodesia, using the shared experience of training airmen for the RAF as a framework through which to analyse the evolving imperial bonds.
First, I will consider the factors behind the UK’s decision to pursue approval from the Dominions and Southern Rhodesia for the training of ← 235 | 236 → Britons and overseas British as airmen in imperial settler-regions – not just in southern Africa, but also in the Dominions of Canada, Australia and New Zealand. This underpins the importance of these settler relationships to the UK and the special benefits that London perceived in having these regions, and a significant proportion of their populations, tied to the UK by political,...
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