UK involvement in Yugoslavia during WW2

UK involvement in Yugoslavia during WW2

We are searching data for your request:

Forums and discussions:
Manuals and reference books:
Data from registers:
Wait the end of the search in all databases.
Upon completion, a link will appear to access the found materials.

What was the role and the level of involvement of the United Kingdom in Yugoslavia during World War II?

Yugoslavia was established before WW2 (on 3 October 1929 the Kingdom of SHS was renamed to Kingdom of Yugoslavia), but it is true that after the WW2 the entire regime changed. (During and) after WW2 there was communist republic with president Tito, named Democratic Federal Yugoslavia (1943), renamed to the Federal People's Republic of Yugoslavia in 1946.

On 25 March 1941 Hitler made Yugoslavian government to sign the Triparte Treaty. That was followed by huge protests throughout the whole country. Senior military officers were also opposed to the treaty and launched a coup d'état when the king returned on 27 March. Army General Dušan Simović seized power, arrested the Vienna delegation, exiled Paul, and ended the regency, giving 17-year-old King Peter full powers. The new government decided to stay in Triparte Treaty, but at the same time they secretly connected with GB for help in military material (GB was encouraged by events from 27 March). This government also tried to connect with Soviet Union (a pact was made to help each other). Hitler then decided to attack Yugoslavia on 6 April 1941, followed immediately by an invasion of Greece.

The Axis Powers occupied Yugoslavia and split it up. The Independent State of Croatia was established as a Nazi satellite state, ruled by the fascist militia known as the Ustaše that came into existence in 1929, but was relatively limited in its activities until 1941. German troops occupied Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as part of Serbia and Slovenia, while other parts of the country were occupied by Bulgaria, Hungary, and Italy.

The government went to exile in London. The Yugoslav resistance forces consisted of two factions: the communist-led Yugoslav Partisans and the royalist Chetniks, with the former receiving Allied recognition only at the Tehran conference (1943). The heavily pro-Serbian Chetniks were led by Draža Mihajlović, while the pan-Yugoslav oriented Partisans were led by Josip Broz Tito. The Chetniks were initially supported by the exiled royal government and the Allies (before 1943), they but soon focused increasingly on combating the Partisans rather than the occupying Axis forces. From 1941 to June 1944 there was British representative in Chetniks' staff. Axis helped them with material and propaganda system. By the end of the war, the Chetnik movement transformed into a collaborationist Serb nationalist militia completely dependent on Axis supplies. In May 1943 the Partisans army connected with Axis. They got help in food, munition, medicine and so on. The Teheran Conference (1943): The Partisans of Yugoslavia should be supported by supplies and equipment and also by commando operations.

There was some role and involvement of GB in Yugoslavia. The involvement was much bigger after the war for borders, mostly about question of Trieste.

Sources for part of the answer:

Invasion of Yugoslavia

Teheran conference

Yugoslavia was created after WW1 (initially as the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes), and as such had no reason to try and change the balance of power created in Europe as a result of post-WW1 peace treaties. Many members of the country's ruling circles were pro-British, and in March of 1941 they organised a coup d'etat. Hitler's response was to declare war on Yugoslavia. In barely two weeks, the country was overrun by Axis forces, and its government fled to exile in London.

The Communist partisans put up more effective resistance against the occupiers than the royalist/nationalist Chetniks, so the British and their allies gradually shifted their support to the partisans, even though they were communists. The British and the Western Allies assisted with this resistance with support in logistics, equipment, training, and air power. The decision to help the Partisans of Yugoslavia was made at a summit in Tehran attended by Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin in December 1943

WW2 Displaced Persons

This is the story of my parents. I'm writing this because I'm very disappointed in the BBC for not mentioning or covering the fascinating story of the many thousands of WW2 'Displaced Persons', or in other words Asylum Seekers, who were sent to England immediately after the war. This seems to me to be also a very topical story, seeing as immigrants and refugees are so much in the news and on people's minds in 2005. I am 42 years old and my parents, and my mother's parents, were transported to England as displaced persons because they had no home to return to due to their countries and properties being occupied by the Nazis during the war. They were not Jewish - British people mainly don't know the full picture regarding the Nazi occupation and the types of people they displaced into camps - they weren't all Jews or disabled or non-white, the Nazis terrorised all types of people. My mother's parents were originally from Russia and Ukraine - they were living in Yugoslavia where my mother was born when the Nazis invaded. My father was from Russia. Both my parents were teenagers when they came to England and they met and married here. All my family are now dead, and it's a real shame I feel that the BBC doesn't also archive the amazing emotional stories of WW2 displaced persons who came to work and live in Britain. Unfortunately I don't know as much as I should do about my family history, because for one, none of them could manage to retrace their scattered relatives overseas, and for two, it was always too hard for them to talk about the war and what they had to go through. Focusing on my parents, you can imagine how strange it must have been to suddenly find yourself put onto a big ship and landing in a foreign country not knowing what would happen next. My mother told me that it was very much a case of living from day to day and going with the flow. There were no special provisions for refugees at all, not like they have now. There was no housing or support or English lessons or State Benefits. My mother told me that she and her mother were driven to Lancashire immediately after leaving the ship. They had no possessions or spare clothes. There was nowhere to leave, but some very kind people in the area volunteered to offer the refugees temporary rooms in their homes. My mother's father arrived later and lived in a men's hostel. My mother told me that they arrived on a weekend and then on the Monday they all went to work at the local cotton mill, where my mum stayed for about twenty years until it closed, then went on to other employment until she retired. Her parents never really managed to learn much English, but my parents (being only teenagers) were able to pick it up via work and friends and by the time I was born (if not before) they were totally fluent and literate. When my parents married they bought their own house. We were all regarded by our neighbours and community in the same way as everyone else, not as foreigners. I expect this was because my parents had always worked very hard since they came to England, learnt English, stood on their own feet, loved this nation with a passion (more so than many natives), and fitted in with the rest of the working class population. I would LOVE to hear/read the stories of other WW2 refugees who came to England, either from themselves or from their offspring such as myself. I hope all these people will also be remembered by British natives who lived here during WW2 or fought in the war, because in great part it was they who your sacrifice saved, and I know for sure that my family were extremely eternally grateful for being liberated and rescued from the Nazis, and for being offered a new home. I would not be here if it wasn't for Britain's and the USA's involvement in WW2 and their determination to liberate Europe. I feel very emotional and grateful about it, and I hope that what Britain and the USA did for the world during that time will never be forgotten. Thank you for the opportunity to express myself.

© Copyright of content contributed to this Archive rests with the author. Find out how you can use this.

This story has been placed in the following categories.

Most of the content on this site is created by our users, who are members of the public. The views expressed are theirs and unless specifically stated are not those of the BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of any external sites referenced. In the event that you consider anything on this page to be in breach of the site's House Rules, please click here. For any other comments, please Contact Us.

Germans massacre men, women and children in Yugoslavia

On October 21, 1941, German soldiers go on a rampage, killing thousands of Yugoslavian civilians, including whole classes of schoolboys.

Despite attempts to maintain neutrality at the outbreak of World War II, Yugoslavia finally succumbed to signing a 𠇏riendship treaty” with Germany in late 1940, finally joining the Tripartite 𠇊xis” Pact in March 1941. The masses of Yugoslavians protested this alliance, and shortly thereafter the regents who had been trying to hold a fragile confederacy of ethnic groups and regions together since the creation of Yugoslavia at the close of World War I fell to a coup, and the Serb army placed Prince Peter into power. The prince-now the king–rejected the alliance with Germany-and the Germans retaliated with the Luftwaffe bombing of Belgrade, killing about 17,000 people.

With Yugoslavian resistance collapsing, King Peter removed to London, setting up a government-in-exile. Hitler then began to carve up Yugoslavia into puppet states, primarily divided along ethnic lines, hoping to win the loyalty of some-such as the Croats-with the promise of a postwar independent state. (In fact, many Croats did fight alongside the Germans in its battle against the Soviet Union.) Hungary, Bulgaria and Italy all took bites out of Yugoslavia, as Serb resisters were regularly massacred. On October 21, in Kragujevac, 2,300 men and boys were murdered Kraljevo saw 7,000 more killed by German troops, and in the region of Macva, 6,000 men, women, and children were murdered.


Chetniks: Serb Yugoslav troops who had evaded Axis capture © In some ways, however, the Axis victory remained a hollow one. For the writ of the Axis powers ran little beyond the towns and main roads. In the remote mountain regions, embryonic resistance forces soon emerged. But before the Germans could crush these nascent movements, their forces were redeployed from Yugoslavia to the east, in preparation for the now-imminent Operation Barbarossa.

Subsequently, those substantial Axis forces that did remain in the conquered Yugoslavia became locked in a protracted and appallingly brutal anti-partisan war, which raged across much of the territory. The resistance groups divided into two main movements - the Chetniks and the Partisans.

. locked in a protracted and appallingly brutal anti-partisan war .

The first resistance group to emerge were the Chetniks - in Serbian the word means a detachment of men. These bands were nominally led by a former Yugoslav Army Colonel, named Dragoljub ('Draza') Mihailovic, who served the Yugoslav Royalist government in exile.

The original nucleus of these guerrilla bands were the ethnic Serb Yugoslav troops who had evaded Axis capture during the invasion, and then fled to the hills of Bosnia, Montenegro, and Serbia. Mihailovic established his first stronghold in the mountainous Ravna Gora area of western Serbia.

Soon Chetnik numbers were swelled by Serb peasants who had fled from Greater Croatia - non-Serbs were not allowed to join Chetnik bands. Many of these participants sought simply to defend their local village from the terrible brutalities of the Ustase. The latter were so brutal that they even drew protests from the Germans - not on humanitarian grounds, but because Ustase ethnic cleansing was fuelling the resistance movements.

The Chetniks were never a homogenous ideological movement, and many sub-groups paid no more than lip-service to Mihailovic's leadership. Some groups were implacably anti-German, whereas others saw the emerging rival resistance movement, that of the Partisans, as the greater threat. The elements that did unite the Chetniks, however, were their loyalty to the old Royalist regime, and their desire to ensure the survival of the Serbian population.

These disparate groups strove to protect the Serbs from what seemed to be the genocidal intent of the Croats and Germans, plus the hostility of Muslims (both Croatian and Serbian) and Communists. To achieve this goal, Chetniks strove to forge an ethnically-pure Greater Serbia by violently 'cleansing' these areas of Croats and Muslims.

On the other hand, Chetniks were often reluctant to attack Axis targets, in case this provoked brutal Axis retaliation against the local Serb population. In addition, Mihailovic wished to conserve his forces for the general uprising that would coincide with the envisaged Allied invasion of Axis-occupied Yugoslavia.


From 1923, defence of British colonies and protectorates in East Asia and Southeast Asia was centred on the "Singapore strategy". This made the assumption that Britain could send a fleet to its naval base in Singapore within two or three days of a Japanese attack, while relying on France to provide assistance in Asia via its colony in Indochina and, in the event of war with Italy, to help defend British territories in the Mediterranean. [8] Pre-war planners did not anticipate the fall of France: Nazi occupation, the loss of control over the Channel, and the employment of French Atlantic ports as forward bases for U-boats directly threatened Britain itself, forcing a significant reassessment of naval defence priorities.

During the 1930s, a triple threat emerged for the British Commonwealth in the form of right-wing, militaristic governments in Germany, Italy and Japan. [9] Germany threatened Britain itself, while Italy and Japan's imperial ambitions looked set to clash with the British imperial presence in the Mediterranean and East Asia respectively. However, there were differences of opinion within the UK and the Dominions as to which posed the most serious threat, and whether any attack would come from more than one power at the same time.

On 1 September 1939, Germany invaded Poland. Two days later, on 3 September, after a British ultimatum to Germany to cease military operations was ignored, Britain and France declared war on Germany. Britain's declaration of war automatically committed India, the Crown colonies, and the protectorates, but the 1931 Statute of Westminster had granted autonomy to the Dominions so each decided their course separately.

Australian Prime Minister Robert Menzies immediately joined the British declaration on 3 September, believing that it applied to all subjects of the Empire and Commonwealth. New Zealand followed suit simultaneously, at 9.30 pm on 3 September (local time), after Peter Fraser consulted the Cabinet although as Chamberlain's broadcast was drowned by static, the Cabinet (led by Fraser as Prime Minister Michael Savage was terminally ill) delayed until the Admiralty announced to the fleet a state of war, then backdated the declaration to 9.30 pm. South Africa took three days to make its decision (on 6 September), as the Prime Minister General J. B. M. Hertzog favoured neutrality but was defeated by the pro-war vote in the Union Parliament, led by General Jan Smuts, who then replaced Hertzog. Canadian Prime Minister Mackenzie King declared support for Britain on the day of the British declaration, but also stated that it was for Parliament to make the formal declaration, which it did so one week later on 10 September. Ireland, which had been a dominion until 1937, remained neutral. [10]

While the war was initially intended to be limited, resources were mobilized quickly, and the first shots were fired almost immediately. Just hours after the Australian declaration of war, a gun at Fort Queenscliff fired across the bows of a ship as it attempted to leave Melbourne without required clearances. [11] On 10 October 1939, an aircraft of No. 10 Squadron RAAF based in England became the first Commonwealth air force unit to go into action when it undertook a mission to Tunisia. [12] The first Canadian convoy of 15 ships bearing war goods departed Halifax just six days after the nation declared war, with two destroyers HMCS St. Laurent and HMCS Saguenay. [13] A further 26 convoys of 527 ships sailed from Canada in the first four months of the war, [14] and by 1 January 1940 Canada had landed an entire division in Britain. [15] On 13 June 1940 Canadian troops deployed to France in an attempt to secure the southern flank of the British Expeditionary Force in Belgium. As the fall of France grew imminent, Britain looked to Canada to rapidly provide additional troops to strategic locations in North America, the Atlantic and Caribbean. Following the Canadian destroyer already on station from 1939, Canada provided troops from May 1940 to assist in the defence of the British Caribbean colonies, with several companies serving throughout the war in Bermuda, Jamaica, the Bahamas and British Guiana. Canadian troops were also sent to the defence of the colony of Newfoundland, on Canada's east coast, the closest point in North America to Germany. Fearing the loss of a land link [ clarification needed ] to the British Isles, Canada was also requested to occupy Iceland, which it did from June 1940 to the spring of 1941, following the initial British invasion. [16]

From mid-June 1940, following the rapid German invasions and occupations of Poland, Denmark, Norway, France, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, the British Commonwealth was the main opponent of Germany and the Axis, until the entry into the war of the Soviet Union in June 1941. During this period Australia, India, New Zealand and South Africa provided dozens of ships and several divisions for the defence of the Mediterranean, Greece, Crete, Lebanon and Egypt, where British troops were outnumbered four to one by the Italian armies in Libya and Ethiopia. [17] [18] Canada delivered a further 2nd Canadian Infantry Division, pilots for two air squadrons, and several warships to Britain to face a possible invasion from the continent.

In December 1941, Japan launched, in quick succession, attacks on British Malaya, the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, and Hong Kong.

Substantial financial support was provided by Canada to the UK and Commonwealth dominions, in the form of over $4 billion in aid through the Billion Dollar Gift and Mutual Aid and the War Appropriation Act. Over the course of the war over 1.6 million Canadians served in uniform (out of a prewar population of 11 million), in almost every theatre of the war, and by war's end the country had the third-largest navy and fourth-largest air force in the world. By the end of the war, almost a million Australians had served in the armed forces (out of a population of under 7 million), whose military units fought primarily in Europe, North Africa, and the South West Pacific.

The British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (also known as the "Empire Air Training Scheme") was established by the governments of Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the UK resulting in:

  • joint training at flight schools in Canada, Southern Rhodesia, Australia and New Zealand [19]
  • formation of new squadrons of the Dominion air forces, known as "Article XV squadrons" for service as part of Royal Air Force operational commands, and
  • in practice, the pooling of RAF and Dominion air force personnel, for posting to both RAF and Article XV squadrons.

Finances Edit

Britain borrowed everywhere it could and made heavy purchases of munitions and supplies in India and Canada during the war, as well as other parts of the Empire and neutral countries. Canada also made gifts. Britain's sterling balances around the world amounted to £3.4 billion in 1945 or the equivalent of about $US 200 billion in 2016 dollars. [20] However, Britain treated this as a long-term loan with no interest and no specified repayment date. Just when the money would be made available by London was an issue, for the British treasury was nearly empty by 1945. [21]

In June 1940, France surrendered to invading German forces, and Italy joined the war on the Axis side, causing a reversal of the Singapore strategy. Winston Churchill, who had replaced Neville Chamberlain as British Prime Minister the previous month (see Norway debate), ordered that the Middle East and the Mediterranean were of a higher priority than the Far East to defend. [22] Australia and New Zealand were told by telegram that they should turn to the United States for help in defending their homeland should Japan attack: [23]

Without the assistance of France we should not have sufficient forces to meet the combined German and Italian navies in European waters and the Japanese fleet in the Far East. In the circumstances envisaged, it is most improbable that we could send adequate reinforcements to the Far East. We should therefore have to rely on the United States of America to safeguard our interests there. [24]

Commonwealth forces played a major role in North and East Africa following Italy's entry to the war, participating in the invasion of Italian Libya and Somaliland, but were forced to retreat after Churchill diverted resources to Greece and Crete. [25]

The Battle of Singapore was fought in the South-East Asian theatre of World War II when the Japanese Empire invaded British Malaya and its stronghold of Singapore. Singapore was the major British military base in South East Asia and nicknamed the "Gibraltar of the East". The fighting in Singapore lasted from 31 January 1942 to 15 February 1942. It followed a humiliating naval engagement in December 1941 in which two British capital ships were sunk.

It resulted in the fall of Singapore to the Japanese, and the largest surrender of British-led military personnel in history. [26] About 80,000 British, Australian and Indian troops became prisoners of war, joining 50,000 taken by the Japanese in the Malayan campaign. Britain's Prime Minister Winston Churchill called the ignominious fall of Singapore to the Japanese the "worst disaster" and "largest capitulation" in British history. [27]

Africa was a large continent whose geography gave it strategic importance during the war. North Africa was the scene of major campaigns against Italy and Germany East Africa was the scene of a major campaign against Italy. The vast geography provided major transportation routes linking the United States to the Middle East and Mediterranean regions. The sea route around South Africa was heavily used even though it added 40 days to voyages that had to avoid the dangerous Suez region. Lend Lease supplies to Russia often came this way. Internally, long-distance road and railroad connections facilitated the British war effort. The Union of South Africa was part of the British Commonwealth of Nations, and had been an independent self-governing country since 1931. [28] The British possessions in Africa were ruled by the colonial office, usually with close ties to local chiefs and kings. France had extensive possessions in Africa, but they played a much smaller role in the war, since they were largely tied to Vichy France. Portuguese holdings played a minor role. Italian holdings were the target of successful British military campaigns. The Belgian Congo, and two other Belgian colonies, were major exporters. In terms of numbers and wealth, the British controlled the richest portions of Africa, and made extensive use not only of the geography, but the manpower, and the natural resources. Civilian colonial officials made a special effort to upgrade the African infrastructure, promote agriculture, integrate colonial Africa with the world economy, and recruit over a half million soldiers. [29] [30]

Before the war, Britain had made few plans for the utilization of Africa, but it quickly set up command structures. The Army set up the West Africa Command, which recruited 200,000 soldiers. The East Africa Command was created in September 1941 to support the overstretched Middle East Command. The Southern Command was the domain of South Africa. The Royal Navy set up the South Atlantic Command based in Sierra Leone, that became one of the main convoy assembly points. The RAF Coastal Command had major submarine-hunting operations based in West Africa, while a smaller RAF command Dealt with submarines in the Indian Ocean. Ferrying aircraft from North America and Britain was the major mission of the Western Desert Air Force. In addition smaller more localized commands were set up throughout the war. [31]

Before the war, the military establishments were very small throughout British Africa, and largely consisted of whites, who comprised only two percent of the population outside Africa. As soon as the war began, newly created African units were set up, primarily by the Army. The new recruits were almost always volunteers, usually provided in close cooperation with local tribal leaders. During the war, military pay scales far exceeded what civilians natives could earn, especially when food, housing and clothing allowances are included. The largest numbers were in construction units, called Pioneer Units, with over 82,000 soldiers. The RAF and Navy also did some recruiting. East Africa provided the largest number of men, over 320,000, chiefly from Kenya, Tanganyika, and Uganda. They did some fighting, a great deal of guard duty, and construction work. 80,000 served in the Middle East. A special effort was made not to challenge white supremacy, certainly before the war, and to a large extent during the war itself. Nevertheless, the soldiers were drilled and train to European standards, given strong doses of propaganda, and learn leadership and organizational skills that proved essential to the formation of nationalistic and independence movements after 1945. There were minor episodes of discontent, but nothing serious, among the natives. [32] Afrikaner nationalism was a factor in South Africa, But the pro-German Afrikaner prime minister was replaced in 1939 by Jan Smuts, an Afrikaner who was an enthusiastic supporter of the British Empire. His government closely cooperated with London and raised 340,000 volunteers (190,000 were white, or about one-third of the eligible white men). [33]

The Viceroy Linlithgow declared that India was at war with Germany with no consultations with Indian politicians. [35]

Serious tension erupted over American support for independence for India, a proposition Churchill vehemently rejected. [36] [37] For years Roosevelt had encouraged Britain's disengagement from India. The American position was based on principled opposition to colonialism. [38] The politically active Indian population was deeply divided. [39] One element was so insistent on the expulsion of the British, that it sided with Germany and Japan, and formed the Indian National Army (INA) from Indian prisoners of war. It fought as part of the Japanese invasion of Burma and eastern India. There was a large pacifist element, which rallied to Gandhi's call for abstention from the war he said that violence in every form was evil. [40] There was a high level of religious tension between the Hindu majority and the Muslims minority. For the first time the Muslim community became politically active, giving strong support for the British war effort. Over 2 million Indians volunteered for military service, including a large Muslim contingent. The British were sensitive to demands of the Muslim League, led by Muhammad Ali Jinnah, since it needed Muslim soldiers in India and Muslim support all across the Middle East. London used the religious tensions in India as a justification to continue its rule, saying it was needed to prevent religious massacres of the sort that did happen in 1947. The imperialist element in Britain was strongly represented in the Conservative party Churchill himself had long been its leading spokesman. On the other hand, Attlee and the Labour Party favoured independence and had close ties to the Congress Party. The British cabinet sent Sir Stafford Cripps to India with a specific peace plan offering India the promise of dominion status after the war. Congress demanded independence immediately and the Cripps mission failed. Roosevelt gave support to Congress, sending his representative Louis Johnson to help negotiate some sort of independence. Churchill was outraged, refused to cooperate with Roosevelt on the issue, and threatened to resign as prime minister if Roosevelt pushed too hard. Roosevelt pulled back. [41] In 1942 when the Congress Party launched a Quit India Movement of non-violent civil disobedience, the Raj police immediately arrested tens of thousands of activists (including Gandhi), holding them for the duration. Meanwhile, wartime disruptions caused severe food shortages in eastern India hundreds of thousands died of starvation. To this day a large Indian element blames Churchill for the Bengal famine of 1943. [42] In terms of the war effort, India became a major base for American supplies sent to China, and Lend Lease operations boosted the local economy. The 2 million Indian soldiers were a major factor in British success in the Middle East. Muslim support for the British war effort proved decisive in the British decision to partition the Raj, forming of the new state of Pakistan. [43]

On 8 May 1945, the World War II Allies formally accepted the unconditional surrender of the armed forces of Nazi Germany and the end of Adolf Hitler's Third Reich. The formal surrender of the occupying German forces in the Channel Islands was not until 9 May 1945. On 30 April Hitler committed suicide during the Battle of Berlin, and so the surrender of Germany was authorized by his replacement, President of Germany Karl Dönitz. The act of military surrender was signed on 7 May in Reims, France, and ratified on 8 May in Berlin, Germany.

In the afternoon of 15 August 1945, the Surrender of Japan occurred, effectively ending World War II. On this day the initial announcement of Japan's surrender was made in Japan, and because of time zone differences it was announced in the United States, Western Europe, the Americas, the Pacific Islands, and Australia/New Zealand on 14 August 1945. The signing of the surrender document occurred on 2 September 1945.

By the end of the war in August 1945, British Commonwealth forces were responsible for the civil and/or military administration of a number of non-Commonwealth territories, occupied during the war, including Eritrea, Libya, Madagascar, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Italian Somaliland, Syria, Thailand and portions of Germany, Austria and Japan. Most of these military administrations were handed over to old European colonial authorities or to new local authorities soon after the end of the hostilities. Commonwealth forces administered occupation zones in Japan, Germany and Austria until 1955. World War II confirmed that Britain was no longer the great power it had once been, and that it had been surpassed by the United States on the world stage. Canada, Australia and New Zealand moved within the orbit of the United States. The image of imperial strength in Asia had been shattered by the Japanese attacks, and British prestige there was irreversibly damaged. [44] The price for India's entry to the war had been effectively a guarantee for independence, which came within two years of the end of the war, relieving Britain of its most populous and valuable colony. The deployment of 150,000 Africans overseas from British colonies, and the stationing of white troops in Africa itself led to revised perceptions of the Empire in Africa. [45]

In terms of actual engagement with the enemy, historians have recounted a great deal in South Asia and Southeast Asia, as summarized by Ashley Jackson:

Terror, mass migration, shortages, inflation, blackouts, air raids, massacres, famine, forced labour, urbanization, environmental damage, occupation [by the enemy], resistance, collaboration – all of these dramatic and often horrific phenomena shaped the war experience of Britain's imperial subjects. [46]

British historians of the Second World War have not emphasized the critical role played by the Empire in terms of money, manpower and imports of food and raw materials. [47] [48] The powerful combination meant that Britain did not stand alone against Germany, it stood at the head of a great but fading empire. As Ashley Jackson has argued," The story of the British Empire's war, therefore, is one of Imperial success in contributing toward Allied victory on the one hand, and egregious Imperial failure on the other, as Britain struggled to protect people and defeat them, and failed to win the loyalty of colonial subjects." [49] The contribution in terms of soldiers numbered 2.5 million men from India, over 1 million from Canada, just under 1 million from Australia, 410,000 from South Africa, and 215,000 from New Zealand. In addition, the colonies mobilized over 500,000 uniformed personnel who serve primarily inside Africa. [50] In terms of financing, the British war budget included £2.7 billion borrowed from the Empire's Sterling Area, And eventually paid back. Canada made C$3 billion in gifts and loans on easy terms. [51]

The contributions from individual colonies, dominions, mandates, and protectorates to the war effort were extensive and global. Further information about their involvement can be found in the military histories of the individual colonies, dominions, mandates, and protectorates listed below.

Yugoslavia joins the Axis Powers

Yugoslavia, despite an early declaration of neutrality, signs the Tripartite Pact, forming an alliance with Axis powers Germany, Italy and Japan.

A unified nation of Yugoslavia, an uneasy federation of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, was a response to the collapse of the Ottoman and Hapsburg empires at the close of World War I, both of which had previously contained parts of what became Yugoslavia. A constitutional monarchy, Yugoslavia built friendships with France and Czechoslovakia during the years between the world wars. With the outbreak of World War II, and the Anschluss (“union”) between Austria and Germany, pressure was placed on Yugoslavia to more closely ally itself with Germany, despite Yugoslavia’s declared neutrality. But fear of an invasion like that suffered by France pushed Yugoslavia into signing a 𠇏riendship Treaty”—something short of a formal political alliance—on December 11, 1940.

With the war spreading to the Balkans after the invasion of Greece by Italy, it was important to Hitler that the Axis powers have an ally in the region that would act as a bulwark against Allied encroachment on Axis territory. Meeting on February 14, 1941, Adolf Hitler proved unable to persuade Yugoslav Prime Minister Dragisa Cvetkovic to formally join the Axis. The next day, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill contacted the Yugoslav regent, Prince Paul, in an effort to encourage him to remain firm in resisting further German blandishments. It was essential to the Allies that Yugoslavia cooperate with Anglo-Greek forces in fending off an Axis conquest of Greece.

NATO bombs Yugoslavia

On March 24, 1999, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) commences air strikes against Yugoslavia with the bombing of Serbian military positions in the Yugoslav province of Kosovo. The NATO offensive came in response to a new wave of ethnic cleansing launched by Serbian forces against the Kosovar Albanians on March 20.

The Kosovo region lay at the heart of the Serbian empire in the late Middle Ages but was lost to the Ottoman Turks in 1389 following Serbia’s defeat in the Battle of Kosovo. By the time Serbia regained control of Kosovo from Turkey in 1913, there were few Serbs left in a region that had come to be dominated by ethnic Albanians. In 1918, Kosovo formally became a province of Serbia, and it continued as such after communist leader Josip Broz Tito established the Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia in 1945, comprising the Balkan states of Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Slovenia and Macedonia. However, Tito eventually gave in to Kosovar demands for greater autonomy, and after 1974 Kosovo existed as independent state in all but name.

Serbs came to resent Kosovo’s autonomy, which allowed it to act against Serbian interests, and in 1987 Slobodan Milosevic was elected leader of Serbia’s Communist Party with a promise of restoring Serbian rule to Kosovo. In 1989, Milosevic became president of Serbia and moved quickly to suppress Kosovo, stripping its autonomy and in 1990 sending troops to disband its government. Meanwhile, Serbian nationalism led to the dissolution of the Yugoslav federation in 1991, and in 1992 the Balkan crisis deteriorated into civil war. A new Yugoslav state, consisting only of Serbia and the small state of Montenegro, was created, and Kosovo began four years of nonviolent resistance to Serbian rule.

The militant Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) emerged in 1996 and began attacking Serbian police in Kosovo. With arms obtained in Albania, the KLA stepped up its attacks in 1997, prompting a major offensive by Serbian troops against the rebel-held Drenica region in February-March 1998. Dozens of civilians were killed, and enlistment in the KLA increased dramatically. In July, the KLA launched an offensive across Kosovo, seizing control of nearly half the province before being routed in a Serbian counteroffensive later that summer. The Serbian troops drove thousands of ethnic Albanians from their homes and were accused of massacring Kosovo civilians.

In October, NATO threatened Serbia with air strikes, and Milosevic agreed to allow the return of tens of thousands of refugees. Fighting soon resumed, however, and talks between Kosovar Albanians and Serbs in Rambouillet, France, in February 1999 ended in failure. On March 18, further peace talks in Paris collapsed after the Serbian delegation refused to sign a deal calling for Kosovo autonomy and the deployment of NATO troops to enforce the agreement. Two days later, the Serbian army launched a new offensive in Kosovo. On March 24, NATO air strikes began.

In addition to Serbian military positions, the NATO air campaign targeted Serbian government buildings and the country’s infrastructure in an effort to destabilize the Milosevic regime. The bombing and continued Serbian offensives drove hundreds of thousands of Kosovar Albanians into neighboring Albania, Macedonia, and Montenegro. Many of these refugees were airlifted to safety in the United States and other NATO nations. On June 10, the NATO bombardment ended when Serbia agreed to a peace agreement calling for the withdrawal of Serb forces from Kosovo and their replacement by NATO peacekeeping troops.

With the exception of two U.S. pilots killed in a training mission in Albania, no NATO personnel lost their lives in the 78-day operation. There were some mishaps, however, such as miscalculated bombings that led to the deaths of Kosovar Albanian refugees, KLA members, and Serbian civilians. The most controversial incident was the May 7 bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, which killed three Chinese journalists and caused a diplomatic crisis in U.S.-Chinese relations.

On June 12, NATO forces moved into Kosovo from Macedonia. The same day, Russian troops arrived in the Kosovo capital of Pristina and forced NATO into agreeing to a joint occupation. Despite the presence of peacekeeping troops, the returning Kosovar Albanians retaliated against Kosovo’s Serbian minority, forcing them to flee into Serbia. Under the NATO occupation, Kosovar autonomy was restored, but the province remained officially part of Serbia.

Slobodan Milosevic was ousted from power by a popular revolution in Belgrade in October 2000. He was replaced by the popularly elected Vojislav Kostunica, a moderate Serbian nationalist who promised to reintegrate Serbia into Europe and the world after a decade of isolation.

Slobodan Milosevic died in prison in the Netherlands on March 11, 2006, during his trial for crimes against humanity and genocide. Due to his death, the court returned no verdict.

The Resistance Movement in Yugoslavia

The resistance movement of Yugoslavia played an important role in World War Two. Yugoslavia fell to Nazi Germany on April 17th 1941. After this date, two resistance movements developed in Yugoslavia. The first and most successful was led by Josef Tito. His communist ‘Partisan Army’ caused the Germans all manner of problems. The other resistance movement was Mihailovic’s Cetniks, who were royalists and in direct opposition to Tito’s ‘Partisan Army’.

Tito, fourth from left, inspects his troops

Tito was already a wanted man in 1941 – by the authorities in Yugoslavia itself. He was living under an alias – Babić – in what is now Croatia. His ‘crime’ was that he was a communist leader in Yugoslavia. Ironically, in one sense, the Nazi invasion of Yugoslavia suited Tito. The country was in chaos and he was less likely to be arrested while the country was in chaos. However, the German occupiers had divided Yugoslavia into nine regions and Tito had to find a way to keep all of the Communist Party organised across the new nine borders imposed by the Germans.

Tito also had another problem. As of April 1941, Germany and Russia were still in theory allies. Tito took his orders via secret transmitter from Moscow. Therefore, he could not undertake any action against the invaders without the say-so of Moscow. However, Tito did undertake planning for sabotage and the training of people to work in this secret army. He moved from Zagreb to Belgrade where he believed that he would be safer. His first orders went out on April 27th, just 10 days after Yugoslavia’s surrender.

On June 22nd, 1941, Germany attacked Russia in ‘Operation Barbarossa’. Apparently, Tito had been forewarned of the attack when a German army officer boasted about the attack to a lady in Belgrade. However, the troop movements in Yugoslavia would have indicated that a massive attack was going to take place as after the initial German invasion, many German troops were withdrawn for Barbarossa and replaced with Italian, Bulgarian and Hungarian troops.

On June 22nd, Tito, via a secretly printed newspaper, called on the people of Yugoslavia to rise up to help the Russians. On June 27th, the Partisan Army was officially created under the leadership of Tito. The official call to the people of Yugoslavia came on July 4th:

“Peoples of Yugoslavia: Serbs, Croats, Slovenes, Montenegrins, Macedonians and others! Now is the time, the hour has struck to rise like one man, in the battle against the invaders and hirelings, killers of our peoples. Do not falter in the face of any enemy terror. Answer terror with savage blows at the most vital points of the Fascist occupation bandits. Destroy everything – everything that is of use to the Fascist invaders. Do not let our railways carry equipment and other things that serve the Fascist hordes in their struggle against the Soviet Union. Workers, Peasants, Citizens, and Youth of Yugoslavia……to battle against the Fascist occupation hordes who are striving to dominate the whole world.”

This call led to an intensive campaign against the Germans. Tito sent out his best men to the regions – they were usually born in the region they were sent to. Tito himself took charge of Serbia. The response to Tito’s call to arms was huge. Tito could rally his troops via a radio station called ‘Free Yugoslavia’ set up in the Soviet Union.

By September 1941, it is estimated that there were about 70,000 resistance fighters in Yugoslavia. Tito organised them as they were a bona fide army with local commanders who were under a Supreme GHQ led by himself. Tito ordered that the resistance fighters should not attack the Germans when it was clear that the Germans had superior numbers. Therefore, the Partisan Army engaged in classic hit-and-run tactics and when the Germans launched a major offensive against the Yugoslav guerrillas, they simply retreated into the mountain ranges of Yugoslavia. The Germans frequently responded with punitive action against local civilians, but such a tactic only hardened the determination of the guerrillas. General Keital wrote:

“In order to nip disorders in the bud the sternest measures must be applied at the first sign of insurrection. It should also be taken into consideration that in the countries in question a human life is often valueless. In a reprisal for the life of a German soldier, the general rule should be capital punishment for 50-100 Communists. The manner of execution must have a frightening effect.”

In Serbia, Keital’s order was taken very literally where 6,000 were shot in Macva, 7,000 shot in Kraljevo and 2,300 at Kragujevac. All this did was to drive even more people into the Partisan Army.

In Montenegro, the Italian Army was driven to the Adriatic Sea by what was essentially a popular uprising that was inspired by Tito’s call to arms. 4,000 Italian troops were captured. Their weapons were taken and the prisoners were released.

Tito had also ordered that the energy of the uprising had to be directed against the occupying armies only. He had specifically ordered that the resistance units loyal to him should not use their local power to enforce communist ideology onto the people who lived in that area.

In mid-September 1941, Tito met Mihailovic, leader of the Cetniks, for the first time. A united front against the Germans and other occupying forces was an obvious desire. However, Tito had communist aspirations while Mihailovic wanted a return to a royalist state – the two were not compatible. At their second meeting in November, the two sides fell out. Both men essentially failed to agree on any major point. However, the Cetniks were already helping the German and Italian troops, receiving money and equipment for their services. By the end of 1941, the Partisan Army was fighting the Cetniks as well as the occupying forces. Some senior Cetniks leaders did cross over to Tito’s side but others saw Tito as a bigger threat than the Germans.

Tito was seen as such a threat by the Germans that they put a reward of 100,000 Reichmarks on his head – dead or alive.

The first major German attack against Tito took place in September 1941 and continued throughout the winter. The Partisan Army was pushed out of Serbia and in to Bosnia. In this retreat, Tito lost 20 high-ranking officers and 3,000 fighters. By the end of January 1942, Tito realised that he needed to greatly reform the Partisan Army into a more modern fighting force. The vast bulk of his force had been men and women who had a loyalty to a small geographic area where they lived. When the Partisan Army retreated, Tito used this opportunity to create a professional army that was mobile and not mentally tied to one area of Yugoslavia. He also insisted that even while the Partisan Army retreated, they should attempt to get some victories against the Germans as he knew the importance of keeping up morale. He appointed to the highest posts in his new army men who were skilled in guerrilla warfare, especially those who had fought in the recent Spanish Civil War. By November 1942, Tito’s army stood at about 100,000 soldiers and was known as the People’s Liberation Army. It had its own college for training officers, women’s and youth organisations and even a naval section that operated along the coast of the Adriatic Sea.

1942 was mostly spent evading German forces. Tito maintained his belief in avoiding an all-out frontal fight against the enemy.

Discipline in the People’s Liberation Army was very strict. All food acquired in the regions had to be paid for, either in cash or in promissory notes that were to be honoured at the end of the occupation. Behaviour amongst his soldiers had to be exemplary when they were based within a local community. Looters from the army were shot as an example to others. Special Operations Executive officers who were later attached to Tito’s army were highly impressed with the disciplinary standards of the PLA.

When the Allies started to plan an attack on mainland Italy, the Balkans became a vital part of their strategy. It was now that Tito got any real interest from the Allies. Up to 1943, the Allies had supported Mihailovic as the Yugoslav royal family had based itself in London. Also the Cetniks had sent grossly inflated reports of their successes against the occupiers to London. They had also sent reports about the failings of Tito’s army. It was only when SOE sent back more detailed reports about the Cetniks collaboration and the success of Tito, that the Allies decided that supporting Tito was their best bet. A drive up Italy into the ‘soft underbelly of Europe’ required that as many Germans were tied up outside of Italy as was possible. Tito’s PLA was tying up as many as 500,000 Axis forces in Yugoslavia. A SOE officer attached to Tito’s headquarters, Captain Frank Deakin, reported directly to London about the skill and bravery of the PLA. This bravery was especially seen in the summer of 1943 when the Germans launched their fifth attack against the PLA. Trapped in the mountains of Montenegro, the PLA had to fight its way out to safety against overwhelming odds – 20,000 PLA soldiers against 120,000 Germans, Italians and Bulgarians. That they managed it is a testament to the leadership of Tito and the standards he had instilled into the PLA.

With the attack on Italy, and in 1944 the invasion of Normandy, the German time in Yugoslavia was limited. By the time German troops withdrew from Yugoslavia, Tito was the undisputed leader. He was a communist – but by 1945, he was independent from Moscow. He felt deeply let down that the Russians had failed to support the PLA despite the pleas from its leadership. In 1942, the Russians had promised all manner of supplies but after waiting 37 days for them, they failed to materialise and no explanation was given. It was a general belief in the PLA that Moscow, and especially Stalin, should not be criticised. But this one incident left a deep scar. When the war ended, Tito led Yugoslavia but he was not willing to let Stalin rule his country. Having rid Yugoslavia of one invader, he was not prepared for another foreign nation to control his country.

The Breakup of Yugoslavia

Over the course of just three years, torn by civil conflict and war, the Kingdom of Yugoslavia disintegrated into five successor states: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Slovenia, and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (later known as Serbia and Montenegro). Click on the interactive map to see how this unfolded.

GIF Hoshie/Wikimedia Commons

Over the course of just three years, torn by civil conflict and war, the Kingdom of Yugoslavia disintegrated into five successor states: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Slovenia, and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (later known as Serbia and Montenegro).

The Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, founded in 1943 during World War II, was a federation made up of six socialist republics. From 1960 to 1980, the country was something of a regional power and an economic success story. Following Tito’s death in 1980, ethnic nationalism began to rise. As the communist states in Eastern Europe weakened, symbolised by the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the crisis deepened, and from 1991, the country began to disintegrate along ethnic lines. Slovenia and Croatia declared their independence on 25th June 1991, prompting war.

On 29th February, and 1st March 1992 a referendum on independence was held in Bosnia. 99.7% voted “Yes”. Independence was declared on 3rd March 1992. The Serbs in Bosnia then declared the independence of the Republika Srpska. Almost four years of a brutal war followed until the Dayton Accord was signed on 14th December 1995.

Remembering Srebrenica remains committed to honouring the victims and survivors of the genocide.

Make a difference, support our charity and all those affected by the tragic Genocide of Srebrenica. Pledge for our cause now.

Remembering Srebrenica newsletter allows you to keep up to date with latest news, events and how you can support us.


Our editors will review what you’ve submitted and determine whether to revise the article.

Resistance, also called Underground, in European history, any of various secret and clandestine groups that sprang up throughout German-occupied Europe during World War II to oppose Nazi rule. The exact number of those who took part is unknown, but they included civilians who worked secretly against the occupation as well as armed bands of partisans or guerrilla fighters. Their activities ranged from publishing clandestine newspapers and assisting the escape of Jews and Allied airmen shot down over enemy territory to committing acts of sabotage, ambushing German patrols, and conveying intelligence information to the Allies.

The resistance was by no means a unified movement. Rival organizations were formed, and in several countries deep divisions existed between communist and noncommunist groups. Initially, the communists took a pacifist line, but, after Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941, they joined the underground and in some areas became dominant in it. In Yugoslavia the Serbian nationalist Chetniks under Dragoljub Mihailović and the communist Partisans under Josip Broz Tito fought each other as well as the Germans, and the two major Greek movements, one nationalist and one communist, were unable to cooperate militarily against the Germans. A similar division emerged in Poland, where the Soviet Union backed the communist resistance movement and allowed the Polish nationalist underground, the Home Army, to be destroyed by the Germans in the Warsaw Uprising of autumn 1944. In the Ukraine, where the Germans were at first welcomed as liberators, the Nazi treatment of the Slavic peoples as inferior races provoked a national resistance movement that fought not only the Germans but also the partisans organized by the Soviets to harass the long German supply lines to the Eastern Front.

In Belgium a strong communist-dominated resistance movement coexisted with a resistance group constituted by former army officers. The main Norwegian and Dutch organizations, on the other hand, were closely linked with the royal governments-in-exile. The Germans’ dismissal of the legal Danish government in 1943 gave rise to a unified council of resistance groups that was able to mount considerable interference with the retreat of German divisions from Norway the following winter. Communists dominated the resistance movement in northern (occupied) France, although both there and in southern France (ruled by the puppet Vichy regime) other resistance groups were formed by former army officers, socialists, labour leaders, intellectuals, and others. In 1943 the clandestine National Council of the Resistance (Conseil National de la Résistance) was established as the central organ of coordination among all French groups. Early the following year, various belligerent forces known as maquis (named from the underbrush, or maquis, that served as their cover) were formally merged into the French Forces of the Interior ( Forces Françaises de l’Intérieur [FFI]).

Many of the resistance groups were in contact with the British Special Operations Executive, which was in charge of aiding and coordinating subversive activities in Europe and the British, Americans, and Soviets supported guerrilla bands in Axis-dominated territories by providing arms and air-dropping supplies. After the Allied landing in France on June 6, 1944, the FFI undertook military operations in support of the invasion, and it participated in the August uprising that helped liberate Paris. Resistance forces in other northern European countries also undertook military actions to assist the Allied forces.

Watch the video: Jugoslawienkriege: Konflikte ohne Ende?