Book Review: Forgotten Allies: The Military Contribution of the Colonies, Exiled Governments, and Lesser Powers to the Allied Victory in World War II

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by J. Lee Ready

Jefferson, NC.: McFarland, 2012. Two Volumes. Biblio., index. $40.00. ISBN: 0786471689

British historian J. Lee Ready’s t Forgotten Allies: The Military Contribution of the Colonies, Exiled Governments, and Lesser Powers to the Allied Victory in World War II first appeared in 1985, and was followed two years later by his two volume Forgotten Axis: Germany’s Partners and Foreign Volunteers in World War II. 

These now rare works addressed the role of the many “minor” actors in the war who often gave good service yet had been largely overlooked in postwar histories.  Some of these minor actors made significant military contributions to either side, such as the Polish exiles, the British Dominions, India, or the Italian Liberation Army to the Allies, and Hungary, Finland, Fascist Italy, or Romania to Germany, while others played smaller, but often valuable roles, including British colonies such as Basutoland, Nigeria, or Malta, and the smaller victims of Axis aggression, such as Norway, Greece, the Philippines, the Netherlands, or Belgium, and others, as well the volunteer, puppet, and collaborationist forces that served Germany.

  • Forgotten Allies: The Military Contribution of the Colonies, Exiled Governments, and Lesser Powers to the Allied Victory in World War II, by J. Lee Ready.  Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2012.  Two volumes (c. 768 pp.).  Biblio., index.  $40.00 paper, the set.  ISBN: 978-0-7864-7168-3 / e-Book 978-0-7864-9344-9.
  • Forgotten Axis: Germany’s Partners and Foreign Volunteers in World War II, by J. Lee Ready.  Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2012.  Two volumes (c. 680 pp.).  Maps, appends., biblio., index.  $40.00 paper, the set.  ISBN: 978-0-7864-7169-0 / e-Book 978-0-7864-9345-6.

There are some flaws in these works.  The omission of Japan’s smaller allies from the Axis volume is unfortunate, especially given that the Allied volume includes the lesser-known actors in that theater.  In addition, while including them in a survey account of the war, the German volumes have short overviews of each contingent, which is not the case with the Allied volumes, so one has to hunt a bit to determine the full size and role of each contingent.  Naturally in the nearly 30 years since these volumes first appeared some attention has been paid to some of the minor actors by other works, such as Ashley Jackson’s 2009 The British Empire and the Second World War or Halik Kochanski’s 2012 The Eagle Unbowed: Poland and the Poles in the Second World War. 

Despite these new works, most of the “forgotten” actors in the war are still forgotten, making Ready’s four volumes invaluable for any serious student of the war.

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Reviewer: A. A. Nofi   


Buy it at Amazon.com




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