The first point is easiest. The direct material contribution of the Empire to the defence of the UK was, with the exception of Canada, rather limited. That was a consequence both of geography & the insatiable demands of other theatres of war. In 1940 some Australian & NZ army units were present in the UK, along with a handful of Indian muleskinners. Apart from that momentary diversion, it was UK-Canada-Exiles with a substantial presence from the wider Empire only in the air. Almost without exception, the other theatres of war looked rather different. Especially on the ground, there were times & places when it wasn't at all obvious from a list of formations involved in operations that the UK was doing much at all.ChrisDR68 wrote:Did the British Empire do much of anything in practical terms to defend the British home islands from a potential German invasion?amcl wrote:You seem to be forgetting the Empire. No American in 1940-1941 would make that mistake. Indeed, I rather suspect they'd probably overstate its importance.ChrisDR68 wrote:Thanks for those references.
What explains the US public expecting Britain to win her war with Germany?
Germany was the more powerful country in terms of her industrial strength with a larger army and air force. She also had a bigger population by roughly 30 million people.
I would contend that it did not so American public opinion being influenced by the existence of the empire in this context is puzzling to say the least.
On the second point, you're confounding reality & perception. First, the reality. Ignoring the periphery altogether, in the '30s the UK & Canada combined exceeded Germany-Austria in GDP (Tooze, 'Wages of Destruction', Table 3, Maddison's figures) and were well ahead in GDP per capita (ibid.). So, yes, Germany was stronger in 1940, but it wasn't immeasurably stronger. The British Empire was rich & economically powerful. It may not have been as strong as that many Americans imagined, or as Edgerton attempts to portray in 'Britain's War Machine', but with some big help from geography it was clearly no push-over. If Americans thought that Germany would lose and that the USA would stay out of the war, I can only imagine that it must have been the second of Churchill's two "A"s - airpower - that they thought would do the job. (Overestimating airpower? Well, at least politicians and professional military folks would never have fallen into the error.)
On the perception front, the British Empire looked huge on a map & had a population of over 500 million. You know & I know that most of those people lived in relative poverty, but big numbers have power.
So do subjective impressions. Using Walt Rostow's terms (in his creaky old 'The World Economy', conclusions found in Part Five), the UK had joined the USA, Canada, Australia & some fortunate others in the age of "High Mass-Consumption". Germany, like France, had after a brief happy period in the 1920s slipped back and didn't reach that level of economic development again until the 1950s. Using Rostow's suggested dates, Germany was at least 25 years behind the USA in the last years of peace and stuck in the mud while Britain was roughly 10 years behind. To the extent that those match GDP/GNI/NNP/NNI per capita numbers - which is always going to be "imperfectly" - they suggest that a random 1930s American journalist, pundit or author coming to the UK would have seen a quality of life considerably closer to that they knew from home than they would had they gone to Germany.
One final point. It be as unwise to the impact of anglophobia in the USA at this time as it would be to ignore anglophilia. (Historian John Moser, not to be confused with John Mosier, wrote a book about this: 'Twisting the Lion's Tail: Anglophobia in the United States, 1921-1948'. I found it a fascinating read.) Many Irish-Americans had good reason to think badly of the Evil Empire, and they were by no means alone. Moser notes (e.g. pp. 129-130) that professional anglophobes were active in attempting to portray the UK in a bad light. That ought to have been easy enough, given the raw material available to anyone who could read a history book & the intended audience. But it seems to me that there's a case to be made that deep-seated anglophobia & a desire to see the Empire defeated could easily translate into a tendency to overestimate British power. (On which point, see Umberto Eco's essay 'Eternal Fascism: 14 Ways to Recognize a Blackshirt', specifically number 8.)
To paraphrase Mr Pascal, I'm sorry this post is so long, but I don't have the time to make it shorter.